In a media landscape where single people of a certain age are often characterised as quietly tragic, it’s nice to see one’s relationship status (intentional or circumstantial) celebrated rather than treated as some sort of growing scourge.
So it was last week when UC Santa Barbara social scientist Bella DePaulo sang the praises of single people, writing that the unattached “are more likely than married people to encourage, help and socialise with their friends and neighbours. They are also more likely to visit, support, advise and stay in touch with their siblings and parents.” (We’re also much better at regularly doing our civic duty and volunteering; you’re welcome!)
Though the tone of DePaulo’s piece is upbeat – given she’s “America’s foremost thinker and writer on the single experience”, I’d expect nothing less – there was a lack of emphasis on how career aspirations factor into the aforementioned “single experience”, something I’ve been considering since my decision to focus on career goals has seen dating take a back seat.
The question of whether or not we can “have it all” became a feminist media trope way back when nominally feminist commentary was first monetised by women’s magazines, and is still a hot issue years later.
Don’t ask law professor and think-tank boss Anne-Marie Slaughter, whose infamous mega-bummer 2012 Atlantic essay “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” last year turned out to come with a big asterix: she now doesn’t think men can have it all, either.
The “lean-in” model, which continues to feed us the lie that we can have it all if we try to make macho business power structures seem as non-threatening as a trip to Kikki-K, offers the late-capitalist opposition to Slaughter’s take; witness this near-satirical Fortune piece about Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert. (I’m sure a Big Four executive-level salary would help nearly any woman on earth have it all.)
I don’t see pursuing love and career as a zero sum game; if anything, expanding my work horizons is one way to gain entry into bigger and better dating “pools”, to borrow from Sex And The City‘s Enid Frick.
As my recent work will indicate, I haven’t given up on love; I’m still hopeful that I’ll run into that special person, even though the likelihood of this happening may be Tattslotto-level odds.
Would it be nice to have someone to “share the load” with? Sure, but making romantic choices based on rent and bills has led me down some dark paths in the past. Working on my career has the potential to eliminate that variable; as my personal financial advisor Missy Elliott put it, I “got better shit to do: get more paper.”
As I get older, the pursuit of further education and a deepening of my creative practice feels more pressing than the hunt for a fulfilling relationship. My 20s were chock full of relationships, yet my career (music criticism) didn’t progress more than a few rungs up my chosen ladder.
It was around the same time I realised I didn’t want my then-engagement to progress to marriage that I rekindled my love of cinema via film criticism. My dating life started to drop off from serial monogamy to occasional casual dating as I entered my 30s, when what began as hobbyist screenwriting led to competition successes and encouraging professional feedback.
These days, an hour of tepid small-talk feels like sand plummeting through the hourglass of my creative and professional dreams.
My work offered the possibility of creative fulfillment; dating only offered the possibility of a relationship that may or may not go the distance.
In 2015, I returned to uni for the first time in over a decade, and spent much more of my spare time reading scripts and pursuing every professional development opportunity I could get my hands on. Was it a coincidence that I only went on three dates that year? (And let’s face it, one was such a fizzer it might as well have been two.)
I’ve long since jettisoned the “it’s good material” approach to dating. These days, an hour of tepid small-talk feels like sand plummeting through the hourglass of my creative and professional dreams.
Given the choice between a parade of balding so-so OkCupid dudes or one very particular golden bald dude named Oscar (whom I’ve already touched once, an experience I’m keen to repeat), at almost 35 I know which option wins out. For now.