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 Whatever it takes…walking life as single women

A photograph of a woman’s silhouette against a pink and purple sky.

Relationships and singlehood. When do we ‘enter’ singlehood, when we are already born into a relationship of ‘family’[1]with our parental figures? How does one ‘enter’ singlehood, when we are constantly socialised to be in relationships byfamily, friends, school, etc.? In that sense, how and when do we begin to understand the meaning of a relationship of a certain kind, the absence of which is assumed to be singlehood? When does a relationship with ‘the One’, the ‘soulmate’, override all the other ‘relationships’ that we have grown up with? And, as if in finding ‘the One’, one manages to cross the big hurdle of singlehood. It is perhaps in this obsession with ‘the One’ that we have messed up both the understanding of being in a relationship as well as being single. And, that one can be both single and in a relationship at the same time. It is really about how we define both being single and being in a relationship for ourselves and not by the standards given to us by society at large.

I begin with this reflection on ‘relationship’ and ‘singlehood’, to really understand how we end up in this trap of singlehood (hood really means something that covers, a cover that we need to be freed of by a relationship with ‘the One’). It is to also reflect on relationships and how humans are ‘wired’ to be in relationships, to be interdependent[2], and yet, we face a demand of being in a relationship with ‘the One’, especially more so as women. Perhaps this is where it becomes important to reflect upon how the understanding of relationships itself remains gendered, and singlehood (or singledom) becomes a baggage for women that they need to be freed from carrying. Moreover, this demand that gets placed on women to free themselves of their singlehood also manufactures loneliness. A feeling of loneliness that the world creates for the single woman, a feeling of ‘incompleteness’ without ‘the One’. In other words, it is as if it becomes the projected desire of a paternalistic culture that a woman who is single should also in turn be lonely. As if a woman’s desires can only be articulated by this patriarchal culture and this is how a woman’s relationship to the world also gets gendered. Life seems possible only in relationship with ‘the One’ and being single is considered mostly unimaginable. Moreover, perhaps this is why women often tend to lose out on a relationship with their own self, or with their own needs and desires, because singlehood becomes a lonely, scary, and insecure space to occupy[4]. Also because ‘love’ is often an absent commodity in our growing up years. The absence of the love that takes care of us at a psychic level perhaps, that makes us loving and caring beings, love that holds us to become fulfilled beings, is often unavailable as we grow up as women. Perhaps this is why the understanding of the relationship takes the form of ‘the One’ (maybe because we are always looking for the ‘absented’ love in our lives) as opposed to understanding relationships as interdependent. Inter-dependence, where the sense of self and of the other is clear or is in the process of being so, where there is a sense of boundary as well as relating and mutual dependence on each other. And dependence is not considered a bad thing (in a world which pushes consumerism as well as individualism), because there is respect and care for each one’s needs.

So, in that sense, what I am proposing here is to look at being in a relationship and being single together because what is important here is the idea of ‘be-ing’ as opposed to the stereotypes and perceptions attached to our relationship with ‘the One’ or to singlehood. ‘Be-ing’ brings forth the idea of a state of continuity, where one continues to evolve and change, that is not fixed to the ideas of ‘the One’ or the loneliness of singlehood. In other words, being in relationship(s) becomes about relating, caring, loving, with everyone who is significant in one’s life and not only in one’s romantic relationship. And being single perhaps becomes about the choices that we make as women, of choosing how we want our romantic as well as other significant relationships to be and to evolve in them, of choosing single-ness[5] as opposed to singlehood, of choosing to be in a continuously evolving state/space as opposed to being in a condition that one needs to be freed from. Nonetheless, the point is not to say that this shift in perspective will take away the need and desire of being in a relationship or a romantic companionship. But perhaps it might help in understanding how we relate to self and to others and therefore what choices we then make. In that sense it is perhaps finding freedom as we learn to be and to become, as women in our relationships and in our single-ness, and to find love in relation with the self and with other(s).



[1] One is aware here of the possibility of the absence of a traditional family unit and/or parental figures.

[2] Brene Brown talks about humans being wired as inter-dependent beings.

[3] This is also a journey that I have had to make in life, from feeling ‘lonely’ because I was not in a relationship with ‘the One’, or for that matter, not in relationships at all for the longest time. From having dealt with feelings of self loathing, of waiting for someone who could sweep me over…to making sense of one-self, my relationships, understanding relationships and understanding single-ness in the process. The journey continues and the feelings of alone-ness (different from loneliness, though) continue, but a continuous process of self- awareness just allows for some better possibilities of imagination to pursue.

[4] And, of course, there are various other factors that often lead to not managing to have that relationship with one-self or with feelings of insecurity because of the way women are brought up in our kind of patriarchal cultures.

[5] Some (rather, most) of these reflections come from my friendship with a dear friend, Bhavya Chitranshi, and the work that she does with single women in a village in South Odisha. These thoughts are a product of our many, many conversations as we have grown and worked together as single women, along with our other women friends from the village who have taught us so much about relationships, friendships and ‘single-ness’.

Cover Image: Unsplash

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