Twelfth Night

In 2018, my New Year’s resolution was to fall in love with a man who had his own parents so I didn’t have to spend Christmas with mine. You might think criteria that consists of ‘no orphans’ would do the trick but twelve months on I’m still as solitary as the fairy on top of the Christmas tree.


This week I read a ponderous article in The Atlantic (is there any other kind?) that restated the cliche that the Millennial and I hate above all others: ‘dating is a numbers game.’ According to this theory, you’re single because you’ve not met enough men, when our problem is we’ve met far more men than we can stand already. The Millennial, for instance, dated relentlessly throughout the whole of his twenties and is rewarding himself on his 30th birthday (happy birthday heavenly Millennial) by giving up like all the rest of us. By rights, there ought to be a thousand think pieces about how the singles have all gone on strike against the apps that oppress us. Instead, there are just endless articles about how Millennials aren’t having any sex anymore, which only causes me to wonder who the hell they’re surveying since Tinder has unleashed, to my certain knowledge, a chaos of sex unrivalled since the dying days of Ancient Rome.

Yes, here I am, as stuck as the scratched Blondie record my mother gave me for Christmas, going on and on and on about how we’ve Bumbled and Happnd and Pofd for so many years it no longer makes sense. Dating is only a game if that’s how you define roulette, played out in the grottiest, least fun casino on earth. Sure, when we first approached the table, it was all very exciting. We had hope – that’s the chips. And we swiped so fast – that’s the spinning of the wheel. And any match might be our lucky number…

Only they weren’t. We staked our bets and lost. Our stock of chips runs down. Which only inspires desperation. You like the look of a number and pile everything on it, thinking to win back everything you’ve lost. We see other players screeching with happiness and making a great fuss. With this number – that looked so promising in the half-light – our hopes are up. But no, it goes the same way as all the others. We feel so embarrassed… Start to blame ourselves. Conscious that we need to keep a portion of our hope to deal with everything else that’s going on in our lives. That’s why we’re retiring, in ever increasing numbers, and if this were anything but metaphorical, and we’d lost all our money, casual observers would congratulate us for kicking a habit so manifestly depleting our existence.

And so we do, we serial daters, want to stop, we’ve had enough. In no other realm of human endeavour would we be congratulated for doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. ‘Albert Einstein said that was lunacy,’ says the sleepy Millennial, yawning and falling asleep on my sofa.

‘Perhaps,’ I reply, packing up my fairy in a box. ‘That is why they call me batshit crazy.’ 

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The hidden, horrifying costs of being single

The Guardian – 5th September 2018

Ordinarily, we like to scare the bejesus out of our youth, in the hope they’ll turn out even more boring and compliant than we are. (“Sex’ll give you gonorrhoea. Drugs’ll kill you. Rock’n’roll died with Amy Winehouse – here’s Ed Sheeran!”) And there’s another kind of aberrant behaviour that society wants to prevent. Kids be warned – we’ve made singledom appallingly expensive!

According to research carried out by the Good Housekeeping Institute, “being single carries a price penalty of at least £2,000 a year per individual”. Totting up the figures, I beg to differ. That is a conservative estimate.

First, the government is intent on creating an anti-single state. The most egregious example of this is council tax: on average – in a band D home – you must pay £835 per person if you are married, and a whopping £1,235 if you live on your lonesome. Tory governments, usually so in favour of cutting taxes no matter the social cost, just love keeping them high for singletons. Is it fair to financially punish those who have failed to find true and lasting love?

Our gym memberships are more expensive, our wills are more expensive, even our single person-sized milk cartons are, you guessed it, more expensive. And that’s without examining all the small print. On holiday, we pay extra to sleep alone, fly alone and eat alone.

Then there’s the issue of insurance premiums. “According to insurers, I’d be a better driver tomorrow if I got hitched today,” the financial journalist Emma Lunn has complained. “You can put it to the test by comparing quotes with identical details except marital status.”

Even on a train journey we’re fleeced more offensively for the sub-standard service. The “Two Together” railcard entitles anyone who has someone to hold hands with to a third off off-peak fares. No, there’s nothing to stop two friends buying one together – but how many of us singletons spend every weekend away with the same friend? Why do we get charged more per person by gyms and the National Trust for membership than couples taking out a joint membership?

Of course, things could be worse. We might be living in America. A 2013 survey of the costs of being single found that, factoring in the price of healthcare, “over a lifetime, unmarried women can pay as much as a million dollars more than their married counterparts”. No wonder that every time Beyoncé sings about single ladies the chorus consists of a load of “uh-oh’s”.

Some might argue we shouldn’t worry about the single premium: we’ll all be cajoled into marriage at some point and so rid ourselves of it eventually. But, as Rebecca Traister pointed out in her book All the Single Ladies, there are more unmarried women alive today than at any point in history – and we’re a powerful demographic.

If a woman is single past a certain age, society heaps all the blame – for blame is what it insists on heaping – on her. The birth rate is said to be falling not because many men don’t want to commit but because women are too busy or too picky or too high-powered and put off having children.

Actually, my single friends and I have invested heavily in trying to find a partner we love who loves us so much we become pregnant. On top of all our other single-centric outgoings, according to we spend on average £1,280 a year on dates (mine have been utterly parlous). I’ve been searching for love since Tinder was invented and all I have to show for it is the lousy state of my bank account. Along with my best friends, I’m fretting about how to have children if conditions don’t improve on the love front. And yes, a single woman’s fertility treatment will cost her twice as much as if she were going through it with a partner.

In the meantime, we’ve also spent a fortune celebrating everyone else’s happinesses – buying house-warming gifts, engagement presents, splurging on hen dos, weddings, christenings. Once, I found a card in a shop that read: “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have spent your life with a psychopath.” And I wish I’d punched the air and borne it home because it’s the closest any cultural artefact has come to celebrating me and my life choices (aside from a book that I wrote myself).

And we’re not just made poorer financially – we’re all but bankrupt culturally. In the 90s, there was Kim Cattrall vamping it up on HBO proving we weren’t sadsacks; now the closest thing we have to a standard bearer for our generation is Fleabag, and who would want to be her?

If you’re past a certain age, everyone expects you to be married with children and if you’re not, complete strangers will demand to know why. Staying single is presented as petrifying on all fronts. The crippling price of remaining so is only one – significant – part of it.


i column for website

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This may shock you, but I am in my mid-30s and am perfectly happy to be single.

And I refuse to whip myself up into a frenzy of hand-wringing just because I never seem to have a boyfriend, never mind a husband.

It’s true that, if I judged my whole life according to my search for love, I could make myself miserable. But just because I have so far failed to find Mr Right does not in any way make me a failure as a human being.

My 80-year-old grandmother is appalled by my attitude, and thinks I ought to be taking drastic steps towards settling down.

But I shouldn’t be valued solely for my ability to attract a man — I’m a successful journalist, a good friend and sister — and I’m not going to conform to some ‘desperate’ vision of how a single woman should behave.

Frankly, such stereotypes no longer match the reality. Single women are no longer outcasts, or even unusual; in Britain today, there are more of us than at any point in history, more and more of us in our 30s, 40s and beyond.

If you’re aged between 25 and 44, you’re also five times more likely to be living alone than you were back in 1973.

And yet the way we talk about single women has been slow to catch up.

The most familiar ‘singleton’ in fiction, for example, is still the hapless Bridget Jones — a character more than 20 years out of date, who popped up married and with a baby in the latest celluloid instalment of her story.

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Bad Romance is coming…