Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


The case for remaining single

  • 03 October 2014

When Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney tied the knot the other day, my social media feeds lit up with all kinds of celebratory yearning. Her dress! they said, her impressive job! But most resonantly, they seemed totalised by her husband. Her rich, handsome, famous husband. 

A few days before the wedding, I went for a walk down the river with a mate. She’s a new-ish friend, an artist, and we’re still in the early stages of our friendship. While illegally picking flowers, she and I discussed the blocks we come up against in our work. Mine usually centre on not feeling like a strong enough writer, and worrying that readers will think I’m stupid or shallow. Her blocks, she said, often came back to a fear of not finding the right person to share her life with. Both of these inhibitors are about other people validating us, and both are silly in the sense that they are invented by feelings of inadequacy. But their affect is different.

Years ago, I remember going to a party directly after an ex-boyfriend and I had broken up. Once there, I didn’t know what I was doing at this party, I was nervous and uncomfortable, and didn’t really feel like having fun, so I told a friend what had happened. What if that’s the last person I connect with like that? I asked her between deep sips of wine. What if I never find someone like them again?, and other such clichés. Because I felt sad and dejected, I was more terrified of being alone than I was being with someone I didn’t get along with for a million reasons. She said, well, maybe you won’t. Who cares? 

She was callous, but right, and I didn’t entirely understand that that until maybe a few years later. The couple occupies the most prominent space in our culture, and it’s abnormal to not aspire to it. The couple is the location of progenation, new life, it’s the institution that makes it possible to live in a capitalist economy by sanctioning the sharing of resources, and dramatically, it’s the centre from which all tension is drawn. 

One troubling aspect of this cultural fixation on the heterosexual couple is that it is also the most sanctioned place for women’s private labour to make men’s public work possible. Even if marriage were to expand, legally, to include same-sex unions, the institution would still