Ten ways the world is wired for coupledom
First, take two singles
'And partner' Really?
Blessed are godparents
Single room, double price
Single people don't want to be godparents, hate paying more for holidays and don't need any advice, thank you
1Rectangular dining tables This appalling design feature demands that dinner guests turn up two by two, as in Noah’s ark, making singles about as welcome at a dinner party as the winter vomiting bug. Should dinner invitations be forthcoming at all – and anecdotal evidence from the recently widowed and the recently divorced suggests they’re rarer than hen’s teeth at a vegan barbecue – your host will almost certainly have resorted to an old recipe: take two of those pesky singles, seat them together, and voilà! You have a couple. Whatever happened to round tables?
2Language The very word “single” implies that something (ie, half) is missing. Society regards singledom as something unfortunate. Connected to loss if you’re divorced or widowed, temporary if you’re between relationships. Maybe even, God help us, contagious. The idea that somebody might choose to be single is so outlandish we don’t have a word for it. Old maid? Rebel? Oddball? Bachelor girl? Celibate? Yuck. There has been a half-hearted move to reclaim one of the most offensive words of all – spinster – and recycle it as “spinsta”, as in spinster with attitude. Which has a certain ring. But maybe only if you’re an oddball already.
3Baptisms Married friends have a new baby. (Aww.) A couple of weeks later, you get an excited phone call: “We’ve decided to invite you to be a godparent!” (Ewww.) Gawd. Not only will you have to go to church and promise to instruct the growing infant in a religious tradition that is increasingly alien, probably misogynistic and almost certainly homophobic; you will also have to pair up with a potentially godawful godparent of the opposite gender. The underlying cultural message here is that not only is it not okay to be single, but it’s also not okay not to have kids.
4Prizes “Congratulations! You’ve won our top prize: a trip for two to the Maldives! Which lucky person are you going to bring with you?” Big prize fades to booby prize as the camera pans the audience in search of a smiling, applauding partner while you stammer and sweat and make excuses. Actually, single people don’t seem to enter this kind of daft telly quiz show. And now you know why.
5Wedding invitations Oh, for goodness’ sake. Is it really mandatory, when filling these things in, to write “and partner” – even when the invitation is going to be posted to somebody who hasn’t had a partner since 1947?
6Per person sharing The single supplement is the single most obnoxious aspect of Irish tourism, putting our poxy weather in the halfpenny place. You hear an offer on the radio. It sounds fantastic – until it gets to the PPS at the end, when it becomes clear that it’s not really saying, “Two nights plus one dinner plus a free spa treatment,” but, rather, “What makes you think this applies to you, weirdo? How dare you attempt to occupy a room all by yourself? We have ways of making you pay (double).” Because it’s not just a couple of extra quid, is it? It’s a punishment, not a supplement.