Joan Smith: Don't demonise singles: there's a lot of us about

Share
Related Topics

Are they going to be issued with cats? More middle-aged men are living alone, according to new figures, and it goes without saying that they must be just as miserable as all the middle-aged single women we've heard about for years.

These newly single men in their late 40s to early 60s face a lonely future, according to the popular press, and the really good news is that it's all their own fault. Yes, once again, the baby boomers have proved themselves – I should say ourselves, since I'm one of them – selfish and useless at relationships.

More than two million of us now face a lonely old age "with no relationships", according to gleeful newspaper reports last week; what else do we deserve after half a lifetime of enjoying ourselves and showing a marked reluctance to get married? I suppose we'll just have to count the passing years, gazing enviously at the happy families whose lives are chronicled in self-congratulatory detail by so many lifestyle columnists.

Actually, you don't have to be a single baby boomer to rejoice in not being entirely focused on people with titles like Him Indoors, Senior Daughter and Second Son; the comings and goings of other people's children are not at all fascinating, and neither are endless accounts of the trials of "juggling" and "work-life balance". Figures showing that the number of people living alone in middle age has risen by almost a third in a decade (to 2.3 million, according to the Office for National Statistics) are empirical evidence of changing lifestyles. But despite almost wholly negative coverage, the figures say nothing about how the people concerned feel about their living arrangements.

First and foremost among the dodgy assumptions is that no one would ever choose to live alone. The range of attitudes to single life is much wider than we're led to believe, and hugely affected by economic circumstances; living alone in a comfortable home, with room for friends to stay, is a different prospect from struggling to survive on a low income in a cramped flat. Single life is more expensive, but that's also the case for people who ha have chosen the living-together-apart option – having a partner but keeping separate establishments.

A fifth of women now reach the age of 40 without giving birth and for many it's a positive choice; my observations of older friends who don't have children do not suggest that they're lonelier than those who have. Living alone is different, requiring a degree of thinking ahead that couples tend not to bother with. But its pleasures, such as spending an entire day in bed reading novels and eating chocolate, are overlooked. So is the freedom it offers: for my parents' generation, marital misery stayed behind closed doors and we simply don't know how many unhappy spouses would have left if they had the option.

There's a ranking of living arrangements which puts marriage at the top, cohabitation a long way down the list and single life (or being a single parent) a very poor third. I don't think this reflects the experience of real people, as opposed to stereotypes, and I also don't think we're going to return to a society composed almost entirely of married, heterosexual couples with children. One way forward would be to stop demonising single people and find out what would make single life easier, although I can imagine the outcry that would follow. Excuse me now, but I need to go and have a few words with the Senior Cat.

www.politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Telesales & Marketing Opportunities

£10400 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £38,000

£22000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role is a mixture of office...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

£17100 - £20900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
A Del Tajo la Reina's bull falls during the second  

Spain's torture of bulls has hit a gruesome peak this year – and no thanks to the EU

Mimi Bekhechi
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests