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12:00 AM, January 23, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 23, 2018

Cover Story

Singling out singledom

There is something that rubs an entire segment of people the wrong way when a thirty-something single person is concerned. Push the age to forty-something and you would think the social structure as you know it is crumbling. Even semi-distant relatives or neighbour's friends know of a common individual who has never married, or is single and not looking. Needless to say, the gossip that follows is endless. And let's not forget that these equally hardworking individuals are always on the bad end of being treated as 'lesser humans' who have not accomplished much in life.

Many things are thrown into the path of a single. He or she faces nearly three to four times more sessions of social judgement than the rest of the 'happily-marrieds.' Backhanded compliments and masked concerns become second nature to these individuals who are just trying live their lives, albeit somewhat differently. Conversation with the singles that simply have been through a lot opens up a whole new avenue of talk.

One of the common things that long-term singles face is 'Are you happy being how you are?'

Kashtan Habib, an advertising personnel who loves foods and travelling, when asked if he thinks bachelors are happy replied, “Are married people happy? Just like married people can be happy or unhappy, bachelor people can be happy or unhappy too. No one in this world is just happy or just unhappy.”

On the note of happiness, Sayema Khondoker, who teaches world studies at a community college in Florida, USA, answered, “This is one question I get a lot. Even in Florida, where I have been living for nearly fifteen years, same question from the Bengalis, they also make that 'poor you' expression. Well yes, of course I am. I have a bunch of young people who think the world of me at the community centre I teach. I have money to spare to visit places almost biannually. Just having a spouse and children can't make you happy.”

Tanziral Dilshad, writer and part of a public relations agency, adds that happiness differs from person to person. She mentions, “Happiness is a state of mind that depends on the person's priorities of life, so I cannot speak for others. As far as I am concerned, I have been in relationships, so can't say if I can be called a 'lifelong bachelor', but my long singlehood has been great and I think I have gotten used to with being by myself.”

There is of course, the idea that eternal singles had or have an unrequited love and hence their singleness. 

Aoyon Haque, currently residing in Canada and part of an established mulitinational company, agrees to the 'unrequited' bit, but that was not the reason for his bachelorhood. “My first love, if you put it that way, was a batch mate of mine in BUET. Just months before graduation, she was married off to a doctor living in London. I never got to express my feelings in the first place, so that doesn't count. What counts is that I was resolved to not look for love. And that was it. Love didn't look for me either!”

Habib sees love as an unavoidable part of life. “One can't avoid falling in love. The only way to avoid it would be to fight your internal demons and just not have any contact with that attractive person at all. 

But then again, when love happens, love happens. Enjoy the time, just no need to say 'I do'. The initial steam will die down at some point when it will be easier to move on.”

As the talk of love comes up, immediately the concept of loneliness too crops up. Khondoker this time had a hard interjection to this, “People will always reach for the low hanging fruit on the tree, and that happens to be associated with relationships. As if marriage immediately cancels out the existence of any previous relationship. It's not just unfair, it's downright offending. Ask a single what they love doing, without giving a condescending look of 'oh you only do that because you want to forget you are lonely.' No, I am not lonely, there are families with two kids who never talk to their parents or each other, those pitiable souls are lonely.”



Dilshad also assures that it is never an issue. “It's a situation that many of my married friends go through a lot more than I do. There are so many things to do and see. Where is the time to be bored?”

On loneliness, Habib further adds, “Loneliness can be an issue if one chooses that sad life, whether the person is married or bachelor. I personally have absolutely no time for loneliness at all. There are just too many distractions all around. Friends, 'people we hate', WhatsApp, Facebook, movies and series, games, travelling – who has the time to get lonely?”

Rather than the singles that are fine doing what they are doing, it seems like society and its regulars are more concerned with what they do. 

“The rule is, if you give importance to society, it will haunt you till you are dead. Society will complain about you, but they will give up on you and look for a new prey. Society annoyed me a lot initially, but now it doesn't bother me at all. Society lets me be. And I truly believe society is extremely jealous of my fabulous bachelor life!” says Habib.

“I'm the grey sheep, if you can call it that, in my family. Even my nephews and friends' kids are pre-warned to not be like me” says Haque. “If I had the power to single-handedly convert a generation of screen-swipers into permanent bachelors then don't you think I would be doing something better with my power of influence?” he adds. 

Khondoker mentions that the judgment that society doles out by the spades often makes amiable singles build a thorny personal exterior with a world-weary outlook.

Dilshad too talks along a similar line, “… people by now know not to bother me with their critical thoughts because they do not like the answers I give.”

With this negative mark already on their sides, motivation is bound to be a key factor in assisting the singles with their work and life. Then again, motivation also seems to have its roots in having a family, but is it really so?

Dilshad starts with, “Why would you need a partner to stay motivated? Life has so much to offer, so much to learn, so much to see and so much to do that it's ridiculous to think that you need a partner to be motivated. I have my loving family, great group of friends and work that make my life awesome.”

Habib refers to his freedom, financial savings as well as the absence of worries regarding cheating and sickness as good enough motivators to live an emotionally rich single life. 

Those who have a long-term single person with no intention of tying the knot in their family or social circle, please try to remember that he or she does not require 'careful handling' and definitely does not need a corrective talk-down. They have a perspective on life that most are not privileged to. They are part of their respective families and its extended members. If you think you have the right to judge them just based on this, it is time to rethink your position as a functioning member of the society.

Ask yourself why you are married. Is it just because of love or because you had to fit in? Are you sure you are not thinking of your own life with some particular marital worries and projecting them onto the single in front of you? And as for the singles and bachelors, you are neither inferior nor superior to the people around you. Once you find your own space and stride, there really is nothing to worry about.

Every able human being is his or her own person, and the sensible thing to do is to reach for the best side of that person — married, divorced, widowed, or even, single!

 

Photo: LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne Sayed

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