We’ve all googled that, right, as a joke?
OK, maybe not even as a joke. Google knows everything. Dr Google, Professor Google, Lord and Lady Google; Fellow of the Royal Society of Googling. Bring me your wisdom O omniscient sage of the interwebs, and predict my romantic future.
I never got a satisfactory reply.
My father used to call me a “spinster,” for a joke. He meant no harm, but I think he knew on some level that I was going to remain so, against my will, and found the idea amusing, in the same way that we laugh at others’ misfortunes that aren’t really all that bad-like labelling our little niggles and annoyances #firstworldproblems, or falling over in a comedy, You’ve Been Framed sort of way, in such style as to cause maximum humiliation but minimum injury. It’s all right to laugh. It isn’t really All That Bad.
The truth is, from a young age, I had a palpable sense that I was unlovable. Not in a genuinely horrifying, neglected sort of way-I had a perfectly happy childhood-but in the sense that I think I always knew I was destined to be alone. More unmarriageable, then, than unlovable. Perfectly at home with family and friends, but somehow unable to make that romantic connection, like an overeducated and not-quite-pretty maiden aunt with an annual income of only thirty pounds a year in a Jane Austen novel.
As we grow up, we are sold the dream. Marriage, babies, a nice house in the suburbs; and most of the time I took it for granted that would be my lot in life too, but somewhere at the back of my mind was the fear that perhaps it wouldn’t. Perhaps I was just, well, never going to meet the right person. And sure enough, as I grew older, the fear started to grow, steadily at first, until it became an all-encompassing terror, and then I accepted that it was never going to happen at all. And now? Well, now I fear that I am truly destined to be alone in perpetuity, and perhaps I’m better off that way. Perhaps that’s just the way things are meant to be. Marriage, coupledom, it isn’t for everyone, and maybe I would be happier living the life of spinster of the parish.
Today I read a blog post that bewailed the fact that to men us single mothers must appear imperfect, used goods bearing the scars of doomed romance with someone else, the blemishes of childbearing that created and nurtured another man’s child, left over on our bodies like a regrettable tattoo from a more youthful time.
Of course, in my case there was no man, and no doomed romance, so that view would be wildly inaccurate, but still I wondered, is that how men see me? As damaged goods, as a leftover who tried and failed to achieve the white picket fence that we are programmed from infancy to see as our manifold destiny?
I’m not sure that men even see me at all anymore. I certainly don’t see them. I don’t go out socially, and internet dating is both a disaster and a desert. I am officially over the hill, according to an article I read in the Guardian. THANK YOU, THE GUARDIAN! Not content with lifting the rose-tinted scales from my eyes so that I now see the world in its true fetid form as a den of iniquity filled with misogynist Tories, it is now also telling me that the peak online dating age is between twenty and twenty-three. I may as well shut up shop now and go and live in an attic in a yellowing bridal gown. There is nowhere to meet men. How do other single parents do it? Is it because they have exes who share the responsibility for their children and hence get a free evening or two here and there, whereas I rely on nothing but the good will of my mother? Is it because Piglet will not sleep without me and therefore I cannot leave him overnight anyway? This morning I felt terrible as I failed to hear his cries for less than a minute as I got up before him and went downstairs to eat my breakfast, and he then awoke, on his own in the huge bed in the loft room, thinking I must have abandoned him, and wailed and wailed, and he sounded so far away that I mistakenly thought the howling was coming from another child, next door or down the street, and when I realised-after what must have felt like forever to him-that he had woken up, I rushed upstairs and he looked utterly broken, as though he thought I had left him alone forever. How am I ever going to have the stomach to let him sleep fully alone, in his own room? How married parents manage to resume marital relations in any sort of relative privacy I have no idea.
All I see stretching out in front of me are years of singlehood. And that’s OK, most of the time. I don’t spend my days pining for a man. That would be pathetic, and I am perfectly capable of living my life and being happy without one, but then I read about how in another city another single mother has had sex-actual sex!-with men who she has met since her child was born, and they are in the PLURAL not even the singular, suggesting that this has happened on more than one occasion, and I think of my years of enforced celibacy and I feel like a complete and utter failure. I have failed, again. Just like I failed to birth my child naturally in the way that my hypnobirthing books told me he deserved. Just like I failed to provide him with a conventional two parent family, or even a father at all, and just like I failed to do my familial duty of time immemorial and walk down an aisle in a white dress whilst my relatives beamed with pride and cried tears of unrelenting joy. FAIL, FAIL, FAIL.
All people see when they look at me is someone who failed to get married. And now I will never have sex again. THANK YOU WORLD.
And so what if the answer to my opening question is indeed yes, I will be single forever? Will I wither away and die alone, to be eaten by alsatians, as Bridget Jones feared? Will I be forever pitied as the “spinster” my father imagined in jest? Or will I just keep on living and being absolutely fine, normal and content?
I think I’ll manage. One in three marriages ends in divorce anyway. Before long the alsatians will have eaten the lot of us and taken over the world.