Not mine. I haven’t been in that state for 26+ years.But singleness, the vocation to the single life, and where singles “fit” have been in my mind recently. This morning, I listened to a podcast from the BBC’s Thinking Allowed program. It was the December 9th edition, and discussed the increase in the number of people living alone in the UK. For women, there was a sense that singleness was somehow a “lesser” state. One of the discussants, Dr. Jan Macvarish (University of Kent, Canterbury) did a qualitative study of a small sample of single women (What is “the problem” of singleness?, Sociological Research Online, Volume 11, Issue 3 ). From paragraph 1.32:
One [study subject], who had been married for a short period more than two decades earlier, while in her early twenties, confessed that she sometimes used ‘divorced’ rather than ‘single’ to describe herself, to convey a ‘sense that she had a history’. This seemed to be motivated by concerns of self-presentation. However, she was also dissatisfied with being single and recounted how, in other circumstances, she would describe herself as ‘single at the moment’ because she does ‘not like to think of her singleness as a permanent thing’.
In the abstract to another paper (Intimacy in the 21st Century: The Negotiation of Divergent Rationalities), Macvarish writes
In the context of weakened shared meanings of love, commitment, partnership and children, the affirmation of the identity of the ‘successful single’ and the endorsement of the individual who protects the self before risking the vagaries of intimate interactions with others, are relatively strengthened. In rationalising their singleness, the interviewees were able to draw upon many culturally affirmed claims, such as the inadequacy of men, the unpredictability of relationships and the burden of children. Such claims seemed to be both culturally prevalent and powerful relative to more nebulous, individualised and partial desires for relationships. The interviews revealed that singleness may rarely be experienced as a choice and that there are limits to the capacity of the ‘single lifestyle’ to provide a valued and fulfilling sense of self and social identity.
Nowhere in the discussion was there any allusion to the concept of singleness by choice: of a vocation to the single life. That people who live the single life simply “give up hope”.The second place where this came up was at an executive meeting of the women’s group in our parish. There had been some feedback given to the President that an event to which we had invited members of the organization and their families was excluding single members. Apparently, a few (one or two?) ladies did not have any family and so could not bring anyone. This event was a pot luck lunch after a brief ceremony for the membership, which was held after a Sunday mass. The lunch was arranged to accommodate those who would be coming to mass with their families, and it was our last meeting before Christmas. It was a wonderful event, with people of all ages, with lots of fellowship. So, now we find ourselves stepping lightly around our planned Valentine’s Day blessing and wine and cheese event for couples after a Saturday mass next month. In the meeting, I stated that our organization has, in it’s statement of objectives, the mission to “exemplify the Christian ideal in home and family life” and that we are called to support marriage and family in any way we can. We are organizing other events that will be for ladies of all ages (a High Tea) and people of all vocations over age 19 (a pub/karaoke night). Have we become such a politically correct society that we cannot address the needs of one group without alienating others?
Finally, on a happier note, Catholic writer (and blogger) Dorothy Cummings’ book Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life is due out March 1, 2010. It’s a humorous look at the single life, sort of The Rules with a Catholic bent. Even though I’m not in the target audience, I’ll be picking up a copy! I enjoy both her blogs. She’s a devout Catholic with a terrific sense of humour. We’re not that rare!