The benefits of being single

The benefits of being single

Not so long ago I found the courage to try stand-up comedy. My opening line was this: “Hi I’m Kelley, I’m 40 years old, I’ve never been married and I have no children, so I guess I’m what you would call…happy.” I didn’t mean it too come across as facetious as it did (well actually I did, it’s the whole point of comedy) but the truth is that there are so many benefits of being single that it’s time somebody sang its praises.

Whether you’re newly single or you’re contemplating it, or you’ve been single for a while like me this one’s for you – a reminder of why you should embrace this time in your life rather than fear it.

Even if you’re happily married you should still read it too, for the day will come when he pops his clogs and you’ll be glad you were prepared.

Benefit #1: No bloody questions

It is my observation that when you’re in a relationship you must be prepared to answer a lot of questions over and over and over again, like:

‘Where are you?’

‘What are you doing?’

‘Who are you with?’

And even when you answer all of them adequately –

‘I’m at work/in the garden/picking up the kids/on the loo.’

‘I’m working/gardening/picking up the kids/guess.’

‘I’m with my colleagues/the plants/the kids/the newspaper.’

– still, the questions don’t stop there…

‘Why are you doing that thing you’re doing?’

‘What time will you be doing the next thing you’ll be doing?’

‘Did you ask me if you could do that thing you’re doing?’

This kind of daily exchange between couples is so incredibly stimulating that I’m surprised there are as many divorces as there are. No really, who doesn’t love being interrogated every few hours? It’s fun being overly domesticated. Here’s a little experiment for you: Try going one day without asking your partner anything – not one question do you hear me??? Just leave them to go potty alone and not text you from there, okay? You’ll be fine I promise. Anyway, it’s just a matter of time before you can trace your partner’s whereabouts via microchip, so hang in there.

The truth is we love it. We love being asked all these inane questions because we think it means somebody gives a hoot that we exist. Being single means nobody gives a shite where you are, what you’re doing, or that you need a lift to the airport, but at least you’re not being micromanaged by the hour.

Benefit #2: No judgement

It makes sense that if no one is in the room with you watching your every move then there is no one there to scrutinize or judge your actions or lack thereof. I like this a lot because you won’t get that look from your partner that says:

‘Why are you so attached to your duvet today?’ = lazy beeyatch

‘Are you really going to eat that entire pack of Romany Creams?’ = fat cow

‘Why haven’t you fixed that thing you promised to fix?’ = lying bastard

Just think about it – when you’re single and unemployed it’s no problem; when you’re in a relationship, suddenly not doing things like paying the rent becomes a huge problem. When you’re single and haven’t bathed for two days it’s no problem; when you’re in a relationship, suddenly it’s a big smelly problem. The presence of another brings all kinds of judgement about how you choose to spend your time. I don’t like this.

If all these questions and judgements aren’t invasive enough, this next one is surely the ultimate killjoy in a relationship (mostly used when a woman can’t stand a man being quiet for too long):

‘What are you thinking?”

What we really mean is, ‘It’s not enough that you have chosen to be with me and spend time with me; I need to get inside your brain and control your thoughts too (particularly if those thoughts are not about how fantastic I am).’

I know, I’ve asked a million men what they’re thinking and ladies, I think we all know the answer to this one, don’t we?

Being single means I’m not put under the microscope in my own home and I like that. I don’t need another person to judge my every move when I have that critical voice inside my head doing it already, thank you very much.

Benefit #3: You get to be selfish

Hang on to your rosary beads because I’m about to confess a biggie here: I AM SELFISH AND I LOVE IT CLAP YOUR HANDS!!! The best thing about being single is that you get to be unashamedly selfish. It’s a loaded word for some I know but I’m here to shout it from the rooftops because I think the biggest cause of misery is that we are not selfish enough. I have learned that the secret to being happy is making myself happy first. Being single makes that a lot easier because you have the time and space and air miles to figure out what makes you happy (and a whole lot of what doesn’t), and when you hit that sweet spot it is utterly delicious because you realize that it’s nobody else’s responsibility to make you happy (although it really should be, don’t you think?)

Benefit #4: Freedom

This is my favourite F word. Freeeeeedooooom!!!!!

Just shouting out the word feels so friggin’ fabulous. All together now George Michael style: ‘Freeeeeeedooooooom!!!!! ‘

One of the most vivid moments I can recall when I felt freedom rushing through my veins was when I was at a meditation resort in India. I’d made friends with one of the locals who ran the guesthouse and one evening, whilst walking outside the centre, I saw him standing on the side of the road. He recognized me too and we stopped for a chat. I told him I was on my way to the restaurant next door for a quiet dinner alone. He smiled his adorable twenty-three-year old smile then said, ‘do you want to go for a ride on my motorbike instead?’ Of course I said no, it didn’t make sense to jump on a complete stranger’s bike in a foreign country at night and whizz around the back roads of India without a helmet…so…of course I said YES!!! (Damn all young men with dimples and adorable smiles and motorbikes!!!)

Oh what a night!!! Late December back in ’63…no really, what a friggin’ night!!! I’ve never felt so free as I did that night and it’s because I remember thinking, ‘not a single soul knows where I am, who I am with or what I am doing, I could be splattered on the road and nobody would know I died here,’ and for some reason that thought brought me freedom – I FELT SO ALIVE!!! We live in a world where we are constantly checking up on each other to make sure the other is safe; we are overprotective to the point of stifling one another’s freedom; we are easily ‘findable’ with FB and social media; all of this can be a serious hindrance to freedom. That night in Pune reminded me that it’s totally exhilarating to go off the radar for a while – in fact I think it’s totally bloody necessary for our sanity. Being single and unanswerable to anyone made it a lot easier.

Benefit #5: You realize how resilient you are

In the past when I’ve been in a relationship I have had a tendency to forget my true nature: that I’m an independent, capable, strong, resilient person. It’s all too easy to become dependent on another for validation of all these qualities that we are born with – even if we have our own careers and earn our own money there is still an insecurity deep down that ‘if the other person leaves, I’ll be nothing without him/her.’ This is such a false premise that you only truly learn when you’ve lived on your own for a period of time and just got on with it and faced all your fears. It’s such a liberating feeling knowing how resilient you really are on your own (and it’s mainly because you have to learn to kill your own spiders).

Benefit #6: You realize that being alone is nothing to be afraid of

I don’t know why but most of us think we’re going to DIE if we’re left alone too long. I think it’s because growing up the only people we knew who lived alone were old people, and they always looked severely depressed. And look, there are days when you do feel so utterly alone you want to just dissolve into the floorboards, but if you just do what I do and eat chocolate when you feel that way you’ll soon realize that it’s not so bad – and the eating disorder you’ve developed is a small price to pay for the freedom you eventually feel when you find yourself dining alone, walking alone, watching movies alone, going to restaurants alone, travelling alone, making conversation with yourself…(please excuse me for a moment, I just need to fetch something from the kitchen).

Benefit #7: You are forced into a new relationship…with yourself

As cheesy as it sounds you really have to become your own best friend when you’re single, and it’s both terrifying and wonderful. It’s terrifying because most of us can’t stand our own company for too long because somewhere along the way we developed loathsome opinions of ourselves. I’ve no idea where that came from or who we can blame (let’s find consensus on who to blame right now – I say our parents – okay great) but it’s true. Being single means you are forced to listen to critical inner dialogue more frequently because there’s nobody around to distract you from it – the good news is you get to work on that slowly and gently until you turn it around to self-like, self-respect and self-love (you’re welcome to borrow one of my three hundred and sixty self-help books).

Over time you’ll come to realize that you are your own best friend and you have to have your own back, and be your biggest cheerleader, because the greatest relationship you can have is with yourself first and then others.

I believe that learning to love who we are is the most important work we can do. I really mean that. Cheese or no cheese, it’s a game-changer. Being single has brought me the gift of self-reflection and the opportunity to do ‘the work’ (and keep doing ‘the work’) and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

And that, folks, is why being single is so absolutely scrumptiously fabulous, and I would recommend it to everyone…well, only until a relationship comes along of course. Duh!

PS Look out for my next blog entitled ‘the benefits of being childless…’

Kelley Thorrington
natalie@thecreativelab.co.za