‘The single thing” is how we headlined the opener of the series. But the point was that in Ireland singlehood is not a singular phenomenon. Far from it. As Laura Slattery put it: “There’s happy to be single, and happy despite being single. Permasingle. Single again. Single and looking. Single and incomplete. Single and free. Single by day. Single, but it’s complicated. Single and heartbroken . . .” And she was only getting going.
Yet the shared experience that many of the singles who spoke out bridled against was stigmatisation of the state as a kind of personal inadequacy worthy of pity and by which they had become defined. “Being single is a state, not a condition. Singlehood is not a disease,” Susan Conley insisted, while Arminta Wallace complained that “the very word ‘single’ implies that something is missing . . . The idea that somebody might choose to be single is so outlandish we dont have a word for it.”
Wake up Ireland and smell the coffee. Singlehood is part of what we are. Single-person households account for almost one in four households (23.7 per cent). The number living alone, by choice or not, has increased by 43 per cent in the past 10 years, and is likely to continue to rise to European levels – the EU average 30.5 per cent, with Denmark at 46.5 per cent.
The reasons are as varied as Ireland’s social mix. There’s widowhood. Or the postponement of marriage. Or the rise in divorce and separation (the numbers in broken relationships up 22.3 per cent in a decade). Or lack of opportunity. Or simply a personal calculation by more people that independence is worth more than committed companionship, and easier. But for many the tyranny of coupledom in society is isolating, the loneliness crippling. Some just do not do well by themselves. The business of finding a partner has for many busy people also become more vexed – the new internet opportunities, a blessing and a curse. A better awareness and willingness to talk about the challenges they face would be a help.