Tuesday 2 September 2008

And Just WHICH Type of Single Are You?

Don't you just love answering questions to utility companies and other corporations over the phone?

Frankly, I'm so tired of the time wasted by the ingratiating unctiousness of the call centre employees at the other end and I'm used to what the questions will be, that I simply reel them off like a hail of bullets.

First name, surname, postcode, first line of address, home telephone number, mobile number, work number, e-mail, then...


And I remember in the days when I used to process loan applications we'd always get the ones who'd say 'I live with my partner.'

That wasn't the question. In fact, for the purposes of that particular question, it is irrelevant. The options are 'Married, Widowed, Divorced....or Single.'

So for me, the question will never, ever need any thought. For these sorts of purposes, my official status is, and always will be, single.

But of course, this is why so many people feel the need to tell the person asking about their attached status.
Because they see themselves as 'attached'. But for the purposes of the question being asked, they're single.

Being single is a complex thing. Being single comes in many vibrant colours and several shades of grey.

And some of those types of single aren't actually so very single at all.

'Single' means, my life is my business. It doesn't concern officialdom and it doesn't concern you.
Even when I've been attached, I've never felt the need to say 'Well, I live my girlfriend'. Why tell them? They didn't ask. You have the option to use the 'Mind your own business' answer, revel in that freedom.

This is one of my gripes against 'Miss' and 'Mrs'. Women now can use 'Ms'. They have the option not to show their marital status in their title. I tend to have little respect for a 'Mrs' because she is someone quite happy to advertise the fact she's given up her own birthname and taken on that of a man. And a 'Miss' to me, is someone who one day wants to be a 'Mrs'. A 'Ms' is relishing the fact no man owns her in that sense, and no man ever will.

My Mum hates the fact I send her Xmas cards and birthday cards to 'Ms Crushed', but fact is, as I tell her, I just don't like using 'Mrs' and will make the political point if I have to.

I suppose really, in many ways, that's one of my main gripes about marriage. Having to make a public statement about it.
I resent having to make a statement about ANY of it.
It's my business, no one else's.

Single. Covers everything.

At one end of the scale is the irresolutely and truly single. The person who really has determined to eschew all human contact of an intimate type. Or the person who just can't, for whatever reason, get that contact.

And at the other end we have 'Well, I live with my partner'.

And in between we have varying levels, the serial monogamist, the person who thrives on one stands alone, and then we have those of us who just go with the flow, drifting aimlessly from one person's arms to another with no rules and no clear plan, sometimes passing like ships in the night, sometimes seeing several people at once with varying degrees of seriousness, sometimes going through periods of relative sparseness but never really nailing our colours to the mast and always ultimately ready to move on.

Single? I'm ALWAYS single. It just means different things at different times.

My friend the Chimney Sweep said of late 'Isn't it about time you sorted yourself some options out? It's not usually like you to go that long without sorting yourself out a couple of girls in the background somewhere?'

And I suppose, yes, that tends to sum up the general median position of my singlehood. A couple of girls in the background somewhere. Never really going anywhere and ready to be jettisoned should it ever look like it might.

I don't really like one night stands over much, but ultimately there's one thing I just fear losing.

The right to use that word.


I remember when I was little you occasionally used to come across people my parents used to call 'Fweinds', pronounced in that way.

What this meant was, this was the eighties. Homosexuality was legal, but outside London, still something that people didn't always shout about.

So in places like the civil service and other professions, it wasn't uncommon to find that there were people who had a partner of the same sex and lived with them, but it wasn't stated, not openly, only to people who knew them well, and even then, the partner wasn't referred to as a partner, but as a friend.

Of course people filled in the blanks correctly. They knew the friend was their partner.

But it was something that wouldn't have come up at their interview where they would have plumped for the 'single' card. And in fact, it might well be something their employer would NEVER know.

And it wouldn't be something they'd tell people when they first met them. They wouldn't hide it, per se, they might, if asked, say they lived with a friend. And in time it might click what type of friendship that was. But it was never stated. And people were enlightened enough to be discreet about what they'd sussed and not push the point.

In many ways, I think they were luckier than they realised. I really haven't a clue why gay rights groups want to push for gay marriage when in fact, they had the best deal.
They had the right to keep their personal relationships private and not have to make a public statement.

It often used to occur to me when myself and D shared this flat that it showed the pointlessness of the distinction.

Me and D shared a flat. It was no one's business. If people asked me about my personal life, I'd state that I was single. If they asked me if I lived alone, I'd say that I lived with a female friend. And I didn't have to say any more about it. Both statements were correct.

Neither of those points were any business of anyone I met. And no one asked questions. No one ever thought that me and D were some kind of inseparable twosome. No one who was asking me if I fancied doing something would feel they needed to factor D in, or vice versa. If I was invited to a party, it wouldn't be assumed I'd bring her, and the same would be true of her.

As far as friends and family were concerned, she was simply the girl I lived with. A friend, in the true sense of the word.

And I often wondered, why would all that change if we didn't just share a flat, but shared a bed?

I guess I would actually like to be able to actually do that- not with D obviously, but with someone- actually be a couple within the flat but present it to the world exactly as it was when I lived with D.

And oh, people would know. People who really knew you would know that you were obviously more than just friends from the way you were with eachother.

But why should you have to state it publicly? Why can't it stay your business and your business alone?

Why should I have to introduce the love of my life to my parents and say 'This is the woman I want to spend my life with'?
I never brought my mates round and said 'Here are the mates I want to have for life.'

The Chimney Sweep they've never even met.

Why can't I just introduce them to my new flatmate and leave it at that. In time I'm sure they'd work it out, but still, I don't see why I'm under any obligation to share my private life with them on whether I do or don't share my bed and my life with her.

And the same goes for my boss, my work colleagues, pretty much everyone.

I like to be able to say that I'm single. What it really means 'My love life is my business, you form whatever theories you want on the basis of what you see, but I'm not telling you either way. It's private.'

Maybe being a blogger makes you lucky. Because yes, when you are in love a part of you does want to shout it from the rooftops.

But to be honest, when It comes to the shouting it from the rooftops, I'd rather do it as an anonymous avatar using a pseudonym from a novel.

In real life, to me, that sort of thing, the person you actually say those three words to and mean them?

That's private.

It's between me and them.

And no one else.


Anonymous said...

There certainly has been times in which I wish that others had less perky ears, particularly when things are going poorly in a relationship. However, I really don't have a problem with people knowing I live with my partner... though it is also not something I broadcast, either.
My annoyance is how, at least in Canada, put "married" on the forms when you have been living together for more than 6 months. Eek!

Anonymous said...

You certainly like to make things difficult for yourself and everyone else.
Actually I use Ms and if I was getting married today I would not change my name, as my daughter did not change hers when she married.

Anonymous said...

You know this is very true. I HATE ticking the box that says "divorced" because right there you are giving people an image of you, a judgement, they are getting something personal. Better to just say single and everybody can mind their own business.

I like this idea I'm going to use it!

Anonymous said...

Crushed. some of your points are good ones...

But honestly sometimes you could make me spit feathers! “I tend to have little respect for a 'Mrs' because she is someone quite happy to advertise the fact she's given up her own birthname and taken on that of a man” did you listen to yourself?

For someone who comes over as being often pretty liberal, you can be real patronising and disrespectful sometimes, and maybe a little sexist too. I am real tempted to think something mean like typical male thinking.

A close cousin to “She must be a lesbian” ‘cos a girl isn’t impressed by being leered at.

Maybe you would not see it as a sign of commitment (there is a scary word) and also a “keep your grubby hands to yourself guys” sign, or a name makeover, or just something nice and traditional. Maybe you think you wouldn’t want to it if you were a girl. But don’t disrespect people who do >:-(

Anonymous said...

Although I appreciate the need for being placed in a box for some legal reasons, I am not happy to tell you my creed and colour before I have met you.
The seeds of prejudice grow from labels.

pee ess - I tend to write 'free spirit' when they ask for marital status!

Anonymous said...

very interesting. i feel a bit of that; had never wanted to be with my ex-bf at first, but the CF teacher caught us holding hands crossing the road, and insisted we make our status known. and the rest is history ;-)

Anonymous said...

Princess P- I don't have a PROBLEM as such with people knowing, it's the having to go round making such a big deal of it.
I resent terms such as 'other half', etc.

Like you, it's not something I've ever felt comfortable broadcasting. especially in my line of work, where like it or not, it looks better to be single.

We don't have such a rule as you have in Canada, thank God!

Otherwise I'd have had to have classed myself as married in the past...

jmb- I don't know whether it's about making things difficult. I just don't seee why the thing has to have status to it.

The question 'Do you live with anyone?' might have relevance, whether or not you shared a bed. But whether or not you share a bed, or anything like that, really should be up to you to declare or not.

Kate- We have one guy at work who's married- he recently did so. And it affects how he's treated- and how he acts within the firm.

For starters, on a Friday afternoon, we have all the 'Carl can't have another one, the wife won't let him' routine, secondly if works piss ups are organised there's a sense his wife has to be invited.

I've been in that situation myself when I was engaged, and to be honest I really didn't like it.

My boss jokes with me because I'm notoriously secretive about my personal life. But that's the way I want to keep it.

Currently he believes I'm sleeping with a barmaid at my local. This is completely untrue, but I'm happy to let him believe it because it keeps him off the scent.

Moggs- OK, maybe a bit harsh...

I admit I probably am a little bit of a fanatic on the 'Ms' thing. I have aq tendancy to champion such ideals, perhaps to sometimes extreme positions.

Actually, I resent the idea that anyone should wear- let alone embrace- a 'keep your grubby hands to yourself guys/girls (delete as appropriate) sign'.

If such a sign is needed, it's to serve the jealousies/insecurities of the other party. And I don't like that idea.

I'm not sure if it's a concept I particularly want to maintain.

Minx- I agree. s far as I am concerned, such things should be a matter for those who know you well. Though my creed and my colour are self-evident on this blog.

Free spirit- I like that, maybe I should start using that.

Eve- Why did you have to make your status known?

Seems an odd position for a school to take.

My view is there's no point in making things public until you're comfortable.

But those who know you well will pick these things up.

I just feel, I tell those people it's appropriate to tell. And not those it isn't.

After all, I don't expect to list in a document somewhere everyone I go out drinking with either. Or introduce them to all my family.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I prefer 'Miss' to 'Ms'. I don't see anything wrong in being identified as married or not.

Anonymous said...

I to marry you to marry no mor? Single sadness grows acreep by the end then and the start of it!

Anonymous said...

I think my CF teacher thought I was in a relationship without my parents' knowledge (thing is, I hadn't made up my mind to even be in a relationship at all!). She insisted that I tell my parents (cos she's also a discipline teacher), or she would do it herself. So that's how I ended up in a relationship; it was just assumed, and then we were forced to acknowledge it ;-) ah well :-)

Anonymous said...

TY you say you were a bit harsh. But it is not so much the severity of how you say it, as disappointment that you are thinking that way.

You are only seeing it from one point of view, your own point of view, seeming not to think there may be another.

Take your comment: “If such a sign is needed, it's to serve the jealousies/insecurities of the other party. And I don't like that idea.” You see it from a (blinkered?) point of view of ownership. Granted you clearly don’t approve of ownership and guys who do think in those terms, but still you interpret it through that set of filters.

I got news for you. A keep off sign can make a difference with the more unreconstructed guys. Maybe some of us are lucky enough that they never have to worry about that sort of thing. It can save you hastle. I am not saying this fact is good, just like it or not, that is the way the world is. So you don’t necessarily cater to insecurities or otherwise in your ‘other party’, more that it can be a useful strategy.

Surely someone can back me up here..

Coming at it from another angle. You were talking of the beauty of surrender/practically worship in a previous post. I guess any prospective devotion on your part would fall short of changing your name. You would not be willing to openly show commitment to someone that way…

I make these points to show there are other ways of looking at the issue, not just the maybe (parochial in some ways ) direction you came at it.

Also I must say I agree with oestrebunny on this.

Anonymous said...

Oestrebunny- Well, it's not something I have to worry about. But then I even got annoyed being called 'Mr'. I find it archaic. I don't really se the point of an appellation I share with every single other male in the world.

I prefer to be dressed by my first name, full stop.

Except in the blogosphere obviously :)
Then it's a no-no.

Mu- The day I marry, will be the day Birmingham City win the FA cup, Elvis and Lord Lucan emerge from hiding and the Gray aliens land on the White House lawn.

Eve- Do you know my parents have only ever met one of my girlfriends? And only then because we lived together and got engaged. (No, I'd never get engaged again).

Actually, they kind of met a girl I slept with. And they walked past Joanna in a corridor and asked if it was Joanna. I pretended it wasn't.

Moggs- You seem not to see the sign a wedding band says to some of us...

A woman who is married is what some of might call 'safe sex'. You know damn well if she's dissatisfied, there's a fling for the taking, without fear of commitment rearing it's head...

I know, that's a terrible way of looking at it, but as reconstructed men are just as cynical as the unreconstructed ones sometimes.

Even divorced is safe, from my point of view. Ultimately I'm totally protected from talk of commitment. It's against my religion :)

Devotion yes, it's the openly thing I wrestle with...

Note I'm quite happy to talk about devotion, but I would be distinctly uncomfortable to do so if I and they were identifiable.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you - I am very private person in all sense. Ppl who know me and care about me will find out the status of my life, whether it is jobwise or familywise, but others, they have no right to my life.

But then again, thats just me. I think ppl should do whatever they please - if the wanna write Mrs, Ms or Miss or change their surname.

But i do hate that we are so keen on labeling ppl. thats simply narrowminded.

I guess I'm like that, I'll always be me - no matter what surname i'll have or what box i'll cross in those forms.

Anonymous said...

Oh Crushed, I am not daft.

What do guys say? They seldom yell, never tell... and grateful as hell?

Something like that.

I still say if you are telling a guy to get lost a wedding band and a 'Mrs' helps a lot. Also there is no reason to look down on someone for having them.

As for Mr. You may not fancy it, but a lot of guys see it as a sign of respect and react badly to a greater or lesser extent if it is not used. I think you are in the minority there.