More and more people are opting to stay single. GEETA PADMANABHAN on what it means to go soloCoupledom is a strange place. Here promises of everlasting love and loyalty quickly switch to squabbles over the remote; moonlit nights and candlelight dinners slip into who will make the morning coffee. A brave, new world where you vow to share your thoughts and feelings before you scream at your partner for reading your e-mail. To marry or not to marry? Ponder these points before you take the plunge. In Singleville, no one explodes if you press the toothpaste tube in the middle or leave dirty clothes on the floor. No one will do a hummingbird in the kitchen when you're trying to put together a difficult recipe, nor question you about late nights with friends. You've freedom to sob into your towel while watching mindless TV or throw peanut shells on the bed and sofa. You don't have to be nice to relatives by marriage. You have the TV remote to yourself. And the credit card is all yours."You can give 100 per cent to the work you've chosen, with few distractions," says Dr. Shantha, Chairperson, Cancer Institute. "Marriage brings significant responsibilities and the feelings of the members are not permanent." She finds nothing special in a family situation. For a doctor, the world becomes family. Oh, yes, geriatrics. Who will take care of me in old age? "On Sunday, I was trying to find a hospice for my 102-year-old abandoned teacher. Neither marriage nor staying single is absolute bliss. But if you have a life mission, family takes away time."
Commitment phobiaSettle down? I have a great life, so why bother? What's the guarantee I'll find my soulmate? Or have caring children? Why should I kiss my single days goodbye? Commitment phobia, concluded an Australian study, along with bad experiences and fear of divorce/unplanned expense is why men were putting off marriage. Staying single has a lot to do with upbringing, say a couple of single sisters. "Children are brought up to think marriage is the ultimate in life. We've heard successful people say, `I have to get married, you know' while it's the right choice they should worry about." Spinster frustration is a direct product of lack of a close-knit family network. "It's bliss if you've chosen the right career and are happy spending time with a married sibling's family. Kids? Come on, we're very attached to our pets, yaar." "You're your own master," says Jeeva Raghunath, storyteller. "You learn to face challenges, not to blame others for your mistakes. Remaining single makes you strong. Yes, you miss that solid shoulder to cry on, but that's only for a moment. Paradoxically, I love crowds. And sometimes, I wish I had a clone of myself!" For Sudhersena, a Blue Cross volunteer, singlehood means a sticky wicket. She might have been spared family push a couple of decades ago, but "People think we have no responsibility, implying we should work more. We have other interests, you know." However, 50-plus bachelor (out of "compulsion-cum-choice") E. Ramaswamy feels it's avoiding responsibility. "If you stay single, your range of experiences is limited," he says, an argument likely to be denounced by our wild-party wizards. Happiness or heartburn, family and kids help you face difficulties better. No single parenting for him. "One who's not at peace with himself, doesn't read, doesn't browse or has no hobby shouldn't stay single," he says. "Develop a magnificent obsession and live unmarried."
Companionship"On the face of it, staying single seems better than a stormy marriage," says Mohana Narayanan, counsellor. "But the volatile period blows over and as the sun sets, you'll look for companionship. Only an institution can provide that." What about those engaged in work they're passionate about? "What about coming back home to find no one to share it with?" she countered. "You need someone to pat your achievements, to act as a buffer for anxieties. But you have a low threshold for patience? Well, give nuptials and messy divorces a miss." Writing about singlehood — from that of a widow/widower to that of a True Loner — Radhika Jha says staying single in India makes you `dangerous', an untouchable or worse. What if you "can only bear to be alone"? Mmm... still want to marry? Do it for the right reasons. Don't hitch your wagon to someone because friends have done it, because you are getting older, because your mom is getting older. Or in parties, everyone looks younger.