I’ve spent the last 15 months learning to live alone, a process I am not enjoying, neither am I doing very well at it. I still think as half of a couple and I daresay I always will to some degree. However, the bitter fact remains that now I live alone and some of the revelations that have come with that have shocked me to the core – not least because of how lacking in awareness I was before.
This is not going to be an account of the emotional ups and downs, rather a venting of the growing outrage I feel at the total marginalisation of a substantial proportion of the population. A sector which is discriminated against at will, milked financially and treated with contempt socially. It seems that if you are single you should expect to be treated in ways that would cause outrage in any other minority group, and what’s more, you should be grateful for such treatment!
The first thing that struck me was the difference in the way you are treated when you go out, going into a Restaurant, Bar or such like. You take a seat and you wait, and wait, and wait until eventually you go and find someone. Attracting the attention of a passing member of staff is impossible if you are on your own. The response to a polite ‘Could somebody take my order’ almost always results in ‘Oh, thought you were waiting for someone, I’ll come in a minute’. Whilst single discrimination is not a gender issue in most areas, it surely is in this situation. A single man will invariably be approached eventually, rarely the single woman unless it is to mutter ‘I’ll come for your order when you’re both here’ because you had the temerity to sit at a table for two rather than allowing yourself to be shoved in the dark back corner by the Toilets.
Then we come to shopping for one. Living alone is incredibly expensive. You try doing a supermarket shop for one and you will soon find out. All the supermarkets trumpet their special offers – ‘Buy one, get one free/half price’, ‘Three for the price of two’, ‘Megapack’ and so on. What is the good of that to one person. I like Pears but I can’t eat two bags before they go off, why not reduce the price? It will take me months to get through three packs of Spaghetti, why not reduce the price? I like chicken but I don’t want three at once, why not reduce the price? I realise that supermarkets are geared up to the bulk shopper and to fuel the growing obesity trend by encouraging over eating, but to ignore the needs of 29% of households cannot be good for long term business. They are discriminating against many of the most vulnerable in our society making it impossible for them to shop economically and maintain a healthy diet. I hate throwing food away, especially in the current climate where the prices seem to rise daily but it is almost impossible for me to shop in a way that I can avoid it. In many cases it is actually cheaper to buy a big pack and throw half away than it is to get just what I need. I’m not talking about the price per 100 gms here either, but the actual, physical price of an item.
The next thing to arouse my ire was the dreaded ‘Single Supplement’. I realise for many people a holiday is a luxury – and if you are solo traveller it’s a luxury you have little chance of affording. When you live alone a holiday, even just a few days away is important because there is no respite in your daily life. If you want a cup of tea, you have to make it because there is no one else there. If you don’t feel like cooking – tough, if you want to eat you have to cook – going out on your own is expensive and you are treated like a social pariah. You are responsible for everything and you have to do everything. I found a holiday the other day, £589 was the headline price which is just about affordable – until you say you are going alone then suddenly it is £1,629. It seems that as a solo traveller, not only do I have to pay for a holiday out of a single income but from that reduced income I have to pay nearly three times as much as one half of a couple! I’m told I am paying for the lost opportunity of the holiday company to sell ‘extras’ but how many extras that I can’t use am I expected to pay for?
Single person households make up 29% of all households in the UK, a figure that is rising. Around 7.7 million people live alone. I’m not even going to try to work out how many single people live in shared households, or are still living with parents etc because the numbers are horrifying enough as it is. Many of those single households are vulnerable, older people. Many of us who live alone would love to still have the other members of our family with us but through no fault of own we do not, instead we are expected to quietly accept that it is officially acceptable to discriminate against us and treat us with contempt. Even our government is now actively discriminating in favour of the family unit. Any other sector of society that is so discriminated against would rise up in arms, demanding legal redress, complaining of human rights violations, and demanding equality but those of us who live alone, often not by choice, are expected to just quietly sit there and accept that we are lesser beings, social pariahs and second class citizens to be fleeced at will. We are told that ‘that’s just how it is’ and expected to accept it.
I am hereby serving notice – I am single, not stupid and I will not accept it!