A couple of weeks ago BBC Radio Four broadcasted a series Singles’ Week as part of the Woman’s Hour programme. The guests discussed the difficulty of being single in this post-Bridget Jones age (from a pragmatic twenty-tens point of view, rather than that of the previous century of the two Mr Darcies)
I was able to listen to the whole series, as I spent four days a prisoner in our one bedroom flat spooning Calpol into a child with a chest infection, and reviewed risk assessments for work.
Singles are (understandably) pissed off with the ‘hard-working families’ political mantra that is equally loved by the left and right, particularly when they need the votes of just about most people, but haven’t bothered to do a more sophisticated demographic segmentation / can’t afford a targeted campaign. Hence, the only people who then don’t get the cross-party sympathy are – this level of analysis you learn from working for a consultancy firm, but I won’t charge you – people a) who are not families whether they work hard or not and b) who don’t work hard but are families.
And because while the latter don’t get any sympathy from anyone, they get too much of other goodness, such as social housing and – the papers tell us – the latest gadgets and free anti-depressants, the singles feel left out. No Valentines card and no lurv from the society either:
- As single you are not the equivalent of 50% of a couple, and you pay 75-100% on most things relating to housing, holidays etc.
- You face annoying intrusive questions about your private life.
But now my analysis falls apart, because I don’t seem to fit in any of the above. I dare say I work pretty hard, even if I procrastinate every so often by, for example, writing a blog. I’m definitely not a family, as God and David Cameron intended. And I could identify with all the problems faced by the single people, apart from holidays, as I don’t get to go on one. But I couldn’t identify with any of the benefits of singledom, all of which were identified as different expressions of freedom.
In the current political discourse, single parenthood is a proxy for all social ill. The socio-political term is the “troubled family” and a special “troubled family unit” dedicated to kicking these good-for-nothing people back to work/school. They might have been knocking on my door too, but we don’t get back from work and school until in the evening.
But in case they catch me at home listening to Woman’s Hour, procrastinating, I will show them this
…because at least one of us works hard.
And finally, there are definitely some benefits to being a single mum:
- I have both single and family friends, and we can bitch about the same problems.
- I can make all decisions. Except the ones she wants to make, and they have more to do with the choice of breakfast cereal than whether we should sell the car.
- She says: “You are never alone. I’m always here.” But these days I can almost shower uninterrupted.
- I’m free to move to Mexico if I want to.
(Finally, the song stuck in my head this evening is ‘Workin Woman Blues’ performed by Valerie June)