Book Review : The Unexpected Joy of Being Single By Catherine Gray

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As you all know by now, #englishrosiee recently took a much-needed sabbatical from the world of online dating.  As I found myself contemplating my Tinder hiatus, I stumbled across this book titled The Unexpected Joy of Being Single by Catherine Gray. To be completely honest, as much as I hated/hate the rigmarole of the dating game, I did find myself scoffing at this ludicrously titled book.  Although my initial thoughts were that this would be some silly Feminazi justification for spinsterhood, I knew better than to judge a book by its cover (quite literally) and seeing as the author is a Sunday Time’s Bestseller, I figured she probably had something worthwhile to say and there probably was no more appropriate time to read such a book than during a self-imposed period of singledom.

So, the book is part auto-biography, part self-help but with lots of factual insights into the realities of modern dating and being single. It starts by putting things into perspective – apparently more than half of Brits aged 25-44 are single. and increasing numbers of people are putting off marriage and babies till later in life (if they choose to pursue that at all). It’s reassuring to know, especially when you consider the stigma attached to being single. I mean, it’s normal for everyone and their dog to offer you dating advice and tell you not to fret because Prince Charming will fall from the sky when you least expect it. Ugh, not so long ago a Sri Lankan waitress in a Thai Restaurant offered to set me up with some dude from India (who can speak English – how lucky am I!!) because according to her my life would be OVER if I wasn’t married and knocked up by the age of 35. Sigh. Exactly.

I think there are probably single women in their 30s that will be able to resonate with the content. At first I literally felt the book was written for me and sent a friend a picture of one of the chapters titled something along the lines of A 33 Year Old Spinster (yup, there are days when I think that is me!).  The basic gist of the story is how the author goes from being a love addict (having desperate need to always be in a relationship for validation) to confidently embracing her single status.

The book also explore how, thanks to popular culture, we’ve been led to believe that single life is inferior to the traditional package of marriage, kids and happily ever after. It is also touches on some interesting economic perspectives as why people (may) feel more motivated into pursuing a relationship rather than remaining happily single. For example, single life tends to be more expensive. In many western metropolises, it is difficult for single people to get onto the property ladder. Its also more expensive to travel solo versus splitting the costs with a man-friend. But as she points out there are always ways around these thing.

In essence, the message behind the book is well intentioned and gives you a lot to think about. It is also reassuring to realise that you aren’t alone as 30-something singleton, and there is really nothing wrong with you (you really aren’t single because you are morbidly obese, ugly and dumb). However, I think it is mainly written from the perspective of a well educated, white, middle class woman in her mid/late 30s living in an affluent western city. In other cultures, it would be more difficult to have this ‘I am a strong liberated woman’ attitude when you factor in cultural, religious and various family pressures.  I think we are lucky in that while they can get irritating, most of the comments we get from family and friends are somewhat LOL-worthy and easy enough to fob off but I think in other societies the pressure would be more real.

So while I do agree with what Catherine Gray says about having to be a sorted single person before you can expect to be a functional part of a happy relationship and how people should try to date in moderation rather than out of desperation. There is a lot I don’t agree with. Of course its nice to believe that there are other forms of love – from your family, friends, dogs and various other sentient beings. But lets be real none of these compare to romantic love. Yeah, yeah I know what you are thinking. We live in an age where you can easily pay for sexy time if you have the cash money, hit up Anne Summers or use your trusty hand if you really are broke. But you already know my thoughts on the whole WISO way of thinking. Even beyond those basic animal instincts though, there are other elements of romantic relations that can’t be replicated elsewhere. So while periods of singledom are well and good, I don’t think this should ever be a permanent state of affairs.

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve probably had both my happiest times and most heartbreaking times thanks to relationships. Having a fulfilling single life can certainly save you the emotional rollercoaster that comes from engaging in human relations. But to me its, just that a happy medium, a safe haven essentially. And I think we should always strive for more. So yup, the #tinderhiatus was a good thing on many levels and as much as being back in the game will get infuriating, I’ll keep tindering along while still finding time to all the other stuff that life requires till Prince Charming makes an appearance.

Rinsers. Give me your thoughts on single life. Is it something that should be embraced and seriously considered as an alternative to the happily ever after BS fed to us by the media? Do you think people these days are legitimately single out of choice, or because basically they are unwanted, fussy or lazy? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

 

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