“You should write a book about your romantic exploits. It’d have reams and reams of blank pages, but occasionally you’d stumble across a right corker.”
Yikes. A two pronged jibe. You’re ALONE. You’re UNSUCCESSFUL. POW POW.
But as my dear old nan used to say, don’t get mad, get vicious. So I yawned all the way through her coupley Ikea anecdote. That’ll show her.
It wasn’t an unfair statement to make. I’m single. A lot. And not Carrie Bradshaw single. Not even Bridget Jones single. I’m more How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? single. If Captain Von Trapp was homosexual. Or Maria was a drunk and swore at the children. Or the Nazis had got there just in time.
The fixer uppers are a bit annoying. “I know someone!” they cry with smug elation. Getting out their iPhones and stabbing them with their nosy little fingers repeatedly, like the person they want to set you up with might die in the next thirty seconds. Or worse, change their relationship status on Facebook. When you’re a woman (and probably if you’re Peter Andre) and you’re on your own, everyone you come across “knows someone” who’s perfect for you. Regardless of whether you want someone or not. In fact, if you don’t want someone, if you’re a bit possessive of your socks and you don’t have a side of the bed and you love shouting along to the same song over and over again, don’t say that. It’s not you explaining that you’re happy as you are. It’s a cry for help. You’ll be inundated with printouts of OkCupid profiles before you can say “meal for one, please”.
Even the bad dates aren’t tear worthy. Even the ones that last twenty minutes. Even twenty minutes of absolute fucking silence. Silence so silent, you wonder if he’s a mute (you met in a club, it’s plausible). It’s so silent, you consider pretending you’re a mute. Tumble weed is too raucous for this silence. The only way out of this now is a meteor, a great big earth shattering meteor, until the silence is finally broken and he says this is rubbish isn’t it? Do you want to go back to his instead? You’ll have to get the train home though, he’s not got the petrol to drop you back.
Nope. All of that’s bearable. All of it’s okay even. The only thing unbearable about being single are The Rules. That set of stupid, unfathomable dating rules that have been ingrained in single culture.
Remember the 1990s? That time we all loved so very much. Well, there was a year that betrayed us. The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right is a self-help book by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, first published in 1995. 1995, we meet again. I loathe you, you know that don’t you? It was in 1995 that the aforementioned queen of Spanx became a household name and marred the mental stability of single women everywhere. It was also 1995 that saw Cher’s comeback album, It’s A Man’s World. We had the opportunity to get rid of Cher before she released Believe, but you cocked it up, 1995.
if you’re a bit possessive of your socks and you don’t have a side of the bed and you love shouting along to the same song over and over again, don’t say that.
So when a new version of The Rules: Not Your Mother’s Rules, was released earlier this year, a loud chorus of “oh no, not this again” echoed around the internet. Sales weren’t great, nobody actually read the fucking thing, so we all thought maybe we’d stomped the final nail in the coffin on this old rules malarky, with our ugly, undateable boots. Yet, seven months on, and another revision of The Rules has hit our shelves. Just in time for Christmas. This edition is helping women to conduct themselves in the digital realm of flirting. You know, texting, tweeting, BBMing, office email malpractices...
The revival of The Rules books might not hold any gravitas, but the philosophy behind them is still very much alive and not kicking. Women who want husbands don’t kick. Fermented by all the single girl’s sex life bullshit that was to follow, society’s obsession with women who live alone and have an ill advised fuck every now and again has never waned. You can’t watch a sitcom without the old “three dates before you bump uglies” mantra being preached at a character who’s over eager to bed the object of her affections.
Yeah, our imagined desires aren’t so blatantly tapered into the marriage and babies package of yesteryear, but a frightening trepidation remains embedded into the psyche of cultural portrayals of single women. We’ve been fighting for equal rights, we’ve made some ground. Lady faces are now seen wearing suits, and overalls and all sorts of magical attire that transforms them into a valuable individual that’s capable of working along side their Y chromosome colleagues. We have the luxury of self discovery, we can read and discuss politics, maybe we even wank, and enjoy it, but our perceived destiny, is still the same; meet The One. Only now, this destiny comes with an accusing warning - by all means girls, humour yourselves. Have your lives. But spend too much time gallivanting in professional or educational or nothingy pursuits and you will end up making the almighty sacrifice of lost monogamy.
But fear not, we can help you if you act quickly. You just need to follow THE RULES....Only answer the phone after ninety four rings, don’t reply to a message for at least a hundred and seventy two hours, never let on that you’re in a bad mood, not even if someone has cancer, always laugh at his jokes, blow jobs do not come under ‘goodnight kiss’, either boobs or legs on show, pick something to eat that won’t make you look like a gluttonous pig, call him by the wrong name to keep him on his toes...
The idea that new age women could end up alone through their own procrastination remains a firm part of our cultural narrative, but I’m not absolutely sure how. Is the rest of the world ignoring us? Why has the caricature of the single girl, desperately grappling for a man who will put up with her quirky, single ways not died an overdue death yet? The pressure to un-single yourself is still lingering, and it comes with a non negotiable paradigm that hasn’t changed in twenty years. Other than adding more ways in which you could fluff it up. Oh, and if you chose to ignore it you will be left sitting on the proverbial bench. Sex and the City might have finished in 2004, but the rules and the cocktails and the “all girlz luv shoes” sway is still milling around the pages of mainstream magazines like a bad eau de parfum.
Women who find themselves single in 2013 should say “do one, 1995”. Because I’m a firm believer that rules are made to be broken. Particularly the really fucking stupid ones.
Sequels and the Single Women
Rule of Dumb
A Single Man is Hard to Find