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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week