So you think you might be single. You’ve had a creeping suspicion for some time. Your most frequently called contact is ‘Mum’ and there’s a rainbow array of dating app tiles across your phone screen. Also, no one’s forgotten to put the cap back on the toothpaste. Still not completely sure? The hashtag #SignsYouAreSingle has been trending on Twitter. So, if the absence of a partner isn’t a straightforward tell, here are some other potential giveaways…
But… going on this evidence can you really be 'single'? You don’t seem to tick any of the boxes. There are no long evenings spent sitting at home eating ice cream by the litre. Your house has between zero and one cats in permanent residence and your rich collection of memes has plenty of grateful recipients. On top of all that, you don’t want to make jokes about your 'sadsack single' status at every opportunity. In fact – whisper it – you’re actually pretty happy with how everything’s going.
So, how can you be single if you’re not fulfilling the clichés that paint roughly the 24% of the population in England and Wales who have never married and are not co-habiting with a partner (aka single AF), as loveless losers, cramming deep-dish pizza into their mouths every Friday night while watching rom-coms? Why, in 2019, do the same generalisations and ‘jokes’ about being single still persist?
Every year, as we approach a certain date (hint: it starts with ‘V’ and ends in ‘alentine’s’), the gags ramp up.
But it's not just jokes, it's the pressure to find 'the one' and how you might need to change everything about you to do so. Apparently if you're a single, heterosexual woman who's on the lookout for love you might even need to get rid of that cactus that's innocently sitting in the corner of the room. It could be a 'man-repeller'.
But, in 2017, the population of unmarried people was up by 3.9 million from 2002 while the number of people getting hitched only increased by 1.2 million over the same period. And according to one study of 2,000 people, almost half of single men and 61% of single women in the UK report they’re actually very satisfied with their relationship status, thank you very much. So is the search for a partner actually of Austenian importance in 2019? The reality is that being single is no longer something to dread, and times have moved on since people lived in fear of being compared to Bridget Jones (and, on that point, did Daniel Cleaver suffer from the same negative connotations of singledom? The court of public opinion finds not).
In 2019, it seems riding solo has undergone a reframing. Celebrities like Ariana Grande - who recently responded to a tweet asking "Who is Ariana Grande dating NOW?" with "Spoiler: no one" - and Jennifer Aniston are flying the flag of singledom with pride. Now, being single is touted as an opportunity for growth – possibly thanks to the 'self-improvement' narratives touted by wellness culture - and, psychologists say, the constant barrage of out-dated stereotypes surrounding singledom could actually hurt the quality of our relationships in the long-run.
“Single life is stereotyped in society; people think that if you're single, there must be something wrong with you, and no one wants to feel that way about themselves,” said psychologist Dr Bella DePaulo in an interview with VICE.
“Because there isn't a positive, respectful space for single people, we stay in bad relationships longer."
A study of Canadian undergraduates recently found people who reported themselves as unafraid of being single were less likely to be neurotic, more open-minded and had "higher standards".
People who are single and happy with their uncommitted status are actually good for the continued existence of romance (and friendships - single people are more likely to have wider friendship circles too) - they're less likely to jump hastily into unsatisfying relationships just to fill a void. So why all the targeted jokes?
Perhaps the key lies in making some new stereotypes the punchline. Did you hear the one about singletons being more emotionally in touch with their families? Or more satisfied with their lives? So the next time someone hits you with the "I bet you have cats" cliché, politely ask when they’re planning to bring their witticisms into 2019.
The only bad thing about being single is being subjected to outdated humour. What it means to be alone has evolved; it’s about time the jokes that went with it did too. Scrap your single-hating hashtags: we're #SingleandSatisfied.