Why are my coupled-up friends desperate to give me advice?

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  • Eleanor Wood is fed up of her loved-up mates, so for the time being maybe social distancing and self isolating does have an upside


    ‘I’ve met someone. We’ve got loads in common! We both enjoy watching films and eating food!’

    ‘I know I said the sex is a bit boring, but let’s never speak of that again as long as we live because I have decided to make a go of this!’

    ‘The lease is up on my place and he doesn’t like his house share, so we’ve decided to move in together – but don’t worry, nothing will change!’

    ‘I know weddings can be really cringey, but ours is going to be different– it’s just an excuse for a party, really! Would you like to help me to put fairylights in jam jars?’

    And there goes another one friend to the coupled-up side.

    Maybe I’m bitter because literally nobody has ever asked me. Maybe I’m traumatised because both of my parents are on their third marriage, so I had to be a bridesmaid more times than any child should have to be. But I reserve the right to be sad that yet another friend will forget what it’s like to be single as soon as they are not any more. Although I guess I should try to see it less as losing a friend, more as gaining an OK-ish guy with a beard and a Gap jumper, with whom I can make mildly awkward conversation at birthday parties for the rest of our lives.

    married couples

    Eleanor Wood

    I understand that adult life is hard, whatever your circumstances. And that was before coronavirus hit us all and turned our lives upside down. Living with another human is hard. However, living alone is harder. Being in a couple comes with a set of its own complications, and it doesn’t necessarily make life better, but it does make life much easier on so many levels – let’s not pretend it doesn’t.

    Being single-handedly responsible for an entire household – when, for better or worse, the norm is still for this to be split between two adults – is heroic. Council tax is only reduced by a quarter; you’re always having to order more side dishes than you actually want to make up the minimum spend on Deliveroo; not having an automatic plus-one sucks; there’s nobody to share the stress of coronanxiety, or when the boiler/washing machine breaks or there’s a weird noise in the night.

    I’ve done both, so I know. I lived with a partner from the age of 22 to 34. Laughably, during these years, I thought I had already experienced adult single life, because I had gone away to university and then lived in a house share for a year, before moving in with my boyfriend. What a sweet, deluded little baby I was. Spoiler alert: living alone in my thirties was vastly different to living in a squalid party house when I was 21.

    And this is why – when we can start having some semblance of a normal life once these dark coronavirus days have left us – my girlfriends and I have made a solemn vow never to say any of the following to each other:

    ‘Tell me about dating – I need some vicarious excitement!’

    This is usually said by a friend who has been un-single for about five minutes and has instantly forgotten that ‘dating’ doesn’t mean going to fancy New York-ish parties or sexy minibreaks to Paris. They spend a lot of time lamenting the fact that they’re ‘so boring these days’ before cuddling up to their husband as soon as possible.

    married couples

    Eleanor Wood’s Staunch, published by HQ, is out now

    ‘I could never do online dating – thank god Tinder wasn’t even invented the last time I was single!’

    Nobody wants to do online dating. At least not beyond that very first Sunday (it’s always a Sunday) when Tinder was a novel new ego boost and the world, very briefly, seemed filled with possibility. Then it turned out to be filled with mansplainers, ghosters and people all looking for ‘a partner in crime’.

    ‘Going out on a Saturday night? That sounds hideous!’

    Ha! Yes I know, NO ONE is going out at the moment but remember when everyone told you it’s much better to get out and meet someone ‘organically’, well they also don’t want to go out with you any more. This makes it quite difficult to meet anybody who hasn’t already been in your friendship group for at least a decade. I hereby promise that I will always hang out in dive bars with any single friends who want me to, even when I would rather be eating takeaway curry and rewatching Peep Show.

    ‘I know exactly what it’s like to be single – I thought I’d never meet anyone!’

    It should be illegal for this to be uttered by anyone who has ‘settled down’ before the age of thirty-five. Absolute minimum. Actually, make that forty.

    ‘I’d be fine living on my own – I love it when my husband isn’t around!’

    Yeah, cool. That’s exactly the same as single-handedly holding down a household with no emotional or financial support.

    ‘Are you sure you’re not being too picky?’

    Not being funny, but are you sure you were picky enough?

    In fact, my friends and I are so serious about this vow of solidarity, we should probably make it official. Maybe with some sort of ceremony. Now, who wants to help me put fairylights in jam jars?

    *Eleanor Wood’s new novel, Staunch, published by HQ, is available now*

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