Lockdown experienced with a family, or even just with your significant other, is obviously very different to lockdown with your cat—but there's a romance to a life lived singlyby Hephzibah Anderson / July 13, 2020 / Leave a comment
The single are used to their private lives being deemed less private than those of their coupled peers. We become adept at sidestepping interrogations from older relatives and accustomed to performing comedy turns at dinner parties, serving up dire online dating debacles as amuse-bouches. When you’re unattached, everyone has a view on your relationship status, and what it boils down to is this: it needs to be changed, quick.
And it’s not just dinner parties: the pressure to pair up is everywhere. Switch on the radio or fire up Netflix, and a torrent of cheesy lyrics and rom-coms will leave you in no doubt that partnering up is what life is about. It’s still, for most, where family begins. The “relationship” is presented as a panacea to whatever ails the soul.
Lately, it’s seemed that pop balladeers and great auntie Sue have found a sly new ally: Covid-19. At the first virtual Downing Street press briefing back in March, Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, joked about starting a new career in relationship counselling by suggesting that those living alone could “test” their nascent relationships and move in together in time for lockdown. Then came June’s #sexban, a hashtag born after the government made explicit what was surely already a given: no sleepovers allowed.
Accustomed though we singles are to having our intimate lives discussed publicly, this intrusion reached surreally disquieting levels. Our government wasn’t alone. In the Netherlands, an equally interfering official took the opposite tack and advised people to find a “sex buddy.” It served to highlight the prurience that so often characterises interest in the exploits of the lonely-hearted.
When we talk of relationships, we refer overwhelmingly to romantic relationships. While in recent years words like “marriage” and “partner” have gone through radical shifts, the word “single” remains largely unreconstructed, its meaning defined through lack, especially where women are concerned. Bachelors have historically been indulged but spinsters are figures of pity at best, their cobwebbed images updated with gaudy, Bridget Jones-style clichés.
But that overlooks the richness of lives lived unpartnered, and obscures, too, the range of human bonds that we all crave. The single may be going without one particular flavour of intimacy, yet their lives are often emotionally full. And as anyone who’s ever found themselves stuck with the wrong person knows, loneliness is…