SIngledom 2020
May 18, 2020 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Any books or advice for women who plan on staying single for current times?

I've come to the conclusion as I approach my 30s that I will be single for long term for now and the future. Currently, a student (English) so no real definite career or investments. My main plan is to rent a studio apt with 2x cats in NYC but that's pretty far away. Most of my hobbies are solitary like reading, drawing, and taking naps. Should I join a club? Take up gardening? I'm asexual too.

So far the most relevant book I'm reading is Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Any similar books about single women would be great or advice/blogs. Thanks.

Not interested in: You will change your mind comments 🧐
posted by chrono_rabbit to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
You'll find many people like yourself here on MeFi (raises hand). We aren't all that visible in books or blogs: our narratives aren't dramatic enough. That being said, I've favorited to see if anyone brings up something I've missed!

Try Vivian Gornick's memoir "The Odd Woman and the City." Gornick was partnered a few times when she was younger but eventually walked away from it altogether.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:09 AM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

This book is from the 1930s but still really relevant: Live Alone and Like It by Marjorie Hills. It's sort of an early self-help book, more aimed at women who are reluctantly single but with surprisingly relevant advice even now! I can't remember whether there's actual overt racism or just a very strong assumption that the women reading the book are White, so keep your tolerance for historical wrongness in mind when deciding whether to read it.

Also (not to spoil it) City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. And actually The Signature of All Things as well. Both have some pursuit of love and/or sex but lots of women on their own.

For advice one thing I will say is if your main activities are all solitary I would think hard about why you want to do them in one of the most expensive cities in the world! Single people generally need to be extremely thoughtful about financial issues - unlike with partnered people there's no second income (or even potential second income) to bail you out. Also, do make friends with as diverse a group of people as you can, and don't be afraid to ask them for help.

I was single until I was 35, and I still miss it. I love my husband but singlehood definitely feels like something I had to give up for him. Being single is great.
posted by mskyle at 6:27 AM on May 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Some essays I like:
Going it Alone by Fenton Johnson
The Case Against Marriage by Mandy Len Catron
The Space Crone by Ursula Le Guin
posted by veery at 6:36 AM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

For advice one thing I will say is if your main activities are all solitary I would think hard about why you want to do them in one of the most expensive cities in the world!

It is socially easier to be single in NYC than almost anywhere else I know of. I go to dinner, even in fancy restaurants, all the time, without attracting any notice. (Or I used to. Sigh.) There are more women like you around than anywhere but in a cloister, so it's easier to maintain a social network. Additionally, it is possible to hire someone to perform almost any task for you (whatever that might be, depending on your skills and physical strength) that otherwise you might need to ask a partner or close friend to do. Transit and taxis eliminate the need to have someone drive you to the airport, etc. NYC is an excellent place to be single if you can manage it.
posted by praemunire at 8:31 AM on May 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

You might enjoy Quirkyalone!
posted by Otter_Handler at 8:55 AM on May 18, 2020

Great question. More researchers and politicians are realizing many Americans live alone and need to make big decisions alone. Here are a few things that have helped me and friends:

1. Get a will and also update beneficiaries on insurance and other important policies. Assume nothing about how family and friends may act in an emergency.

2. Married with kids families will have very little time for you, don't make them the center of your social life. They just don't have the flexibility. You may feel stuck in a rut if you don't maintain a variety of friends.

3. Ask what you are putting off for a future partner. If you make a lot of assumptions about what a partner COULD affect, stop. Adjust how you will meet goals alone like moving, buying a home, changing jobs, changing birth control method, etc.

It affects more than you think!

4. You will probably work past retirement age if you live alone and make an average salary in a large city. This could help you make better education and job decisions.

Basically if you think "I'd do X, but what if I get married..." be strategic and focus on what is truly best for you.
posted by Freecola at 9:08 AM on May 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Agreed that cities are good places to be single. Especially since my other bit of advice is that it's a good idea to build a friend network / community now. You and your friends can be role models for each other, even if they are older/younger and haven't made all the same choices as you. They can also feed your cats if you're unexpectedly not able to. So yes, find a book club. Look for a drawing meetup / adult ed class. Look for an ace community (I'm queer and getting involved in a queer community was so much more helpful than I imagined for seeing some different ways I could run my life). My experience is that it's way harder to find IRL community in small cities and towns if you're not involved with churches and schools. Online community can fill in some gaps, but it's not the same.

That said, I also agree with the necessity of being mindful of your finances so you can handle paying for help if you need to. Budget. Build an emergency fund. Learn to enjoy a frugal lifestyle. Plan for retirement. Develop practical mending / DIY skills. Share skills and resources with that network of friends you developed.

Frankly, I haven't found books and blogs as helpful as actual-human role models - once you open up the priority list from partner and kids, people make a lot of different choices and it's been more useful to me to look for "how did this person pursue our shared interest/goal and how did that work out." As you develop social circles or join groups, you also get the reality check of other people's opinions/knowledge of that person.
posted by momus_window at 9:30 AM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Hello fellow single ace cat lady! I’m about 8 years out from you.

I’m in SF, and the high cost of living is rough. I frequently wonder whether I should move somewhere less single-friendly and somewhere more single-income friendly. I can imagine considering this when my married with kids friends transition to married (?) with adult kids friends. But maybe you have the temperament to go in on a place with platonic roommates that recreates the dual income that’s increasingly necessary in our economy.

The hardest thing is building an intentional community. I have a standing weekly date with a group of single friends. One of them acts as my emergency contact, and I’m his. I moved into a housing co-op, which has helped me form more lasting relationships with my neighbors. (I could have easily done this as a renter. People try not to move in SF or NY) I keep meaning to attend the ace meetups because I do imagine they have a broader acceptance and potential role models for the sort of life I’m trying to live. But the same temperament that makes me happier single keeps making excuses for not meeting so many new people. (One of many reasons I’m so annoyed at naming my aceness later in life!)
posted by politikitty at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Woman Upstairs is a book about a woman who is reluctantly single - might or might not be of interest to you (to me it was powerful).

Someone recently wrote a book about single women - they dove into historical references to include nuns etc - but I can't recall the author or the title of the book. However, searching for that I found Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own.

I'm past 40 and have been single most of my life. I've lived with and without roommates. I get deeply lonely at times - especially during SAH - but I also remember how stifling it feels to be with someone who isn't right for me. During normal times, I have an active social life. I have regular friend dates, group hobby activities, take classes, etc. I've pretty much figured out how much social vs alone time is ideal for me (3-4 nights a week of socializing, the rest at home), and what types of activity help satisfy my need for connection - but that's been a process of self-exploration.
posted by bunderful at 11:20 AM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own isn't really about spinsters--it's half memoir, half reflections on some writers the author likes, all married, and it really got irritating reading about how married women can be spinsters because reasons. I'm going to link to this review of it from LARB because it has a some good reading suggestions, On Spinsters.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:30 PM on May 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

You might find Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies interesting, to learn more about the larger context of single lady-dom.
posted by ferret branca at 1:35 PM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

The main piece of advice I can give is that being single and asexual doesn't have to be synonymous with being alone. It's not a binary, where you can only flip the switch between "coupled up" and "cat lady."

The single best thing I ever did for myself in life is find my real family - the two other single people I've lived with platonically for the past decade, who suit me as well as I suit them, who take care of me like I take care of them, and who make me laugh every day. (Note: we are ALL single cat ladies; we're just single cat ladies together.)

I'm an ace introvert, too, and most of my pursuits are solitary -- but I pursue them alongside people who have my back in life. I would just say that in a life with no romantic partner, there's plenty of room to fill your life with deep, caring, fulfilling friendships.
posted by invincible summer at 6:21 PM on May 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

Metafilter spawned Crone Island, taking back the term for a positive expression of life people might call Crone.
posted by k3ninho at 12:34 AM on May 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Glynnis MacNicol's book No One Tells You This is excellent along these lines. She's very thoughtful , and it was helpful for me in "allowing" myself to be content in singledom.
posted by thoughtful_ravioli at 2:35 PM on May 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I was single, I got a lot out of Sara Eckel's Modern Love essay, and her subsequent book, It's Not You, 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. It helped me realize that it was ok to treat myself with kindness during some of my lonelier and more difficult times as a singleton.
posted by so much modern time at 3:57 PM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you have any interest in living alone in community, don't write off the idea of intentional community even if it's not in a city. Check for a directory of locations.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:34 AM on May 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

You might like Virgina Nicholson's social history book Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men after the First World War.
posted by paduasoy at 9:13 AM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you're still on Facebook, the Community of Single People includes single people both by choice and by circumstance, plus researchers who are giving a less marriage-centric look at single people and the richness of their lives.
posted by answergrape at 1:49 PM on June 15, 2020

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