Feb 2, 2024

Single and Not Ready to Mingle

Attending a wedding in Uruguay without a partner, Cleo Daly navigates the societal and family pressures of being single.

Cleo DalyMagazine Editor

They say weddings are the best place to find a partner, however as an individual who is against incestuous relationships, I’d have to disagree. 

I had the pleasure of travelling to Uruguay for my cousin’s wedding during the break, as she had kindly chosen me as one of her bridesmaids. The discussions of the wedding had been ongoing for many years, and the last time I had seen my cousins I had miraculously been in a relationship. They had been delighted at the news, and insisted I bring him as my guest to the wedding. I however don’t have the best track record in terms of relationships that outlive a fruit fly (I feel disinclined to disclose the length of their lifespan due to my dignity), so I was quite certain the man would not be stepping foot on Uruguayan soil anytime soon. When the news broke that I’d be attending the wedding single, my cousins rushed to set me up with someone they believed to be my own age (he was, in fact, not my age, I’m not even sure it was legal). They did the same for my other cousin who was also (thank God) attending the celebrations by herself. As the wedding approached, I had hoped they had given up on their quest to wed us off, but soon enough, videos and photos of the boys arrived in (most likely taken against their will), and the list of people to avoid at the wedding began to form. My cousin’s supposed partner was, it turns out, related to us (through marriage), and I didn’t even want to ask about my partner’s connection to the family. It was at the wedding rehearsal that I discovered that my partner was now in a relationship, and that myself and my cousin were to walk down the aisle together. The news was something I was overjoyed with, as I had not fancied trying to make small talk with someone who likely didn’t speak the same language as myself, but I also found myself slightly disappointed. We ended up walking in a four, ourselves and two other women, separate to that of the other bridesmaid and groomsmen. I felt as if we were the single parade at the back (turns out the two other women were not single, and that some of the couples consisted of single individuals who had been put together, but at the time I was not aware of this). But why would being seen as single disappoint me, and why did I feel somewhat ashamed that I hadn’t found a serious partner who was prepared to fly across the world with me? Answer: societal pressure — but we will get back to that in a bit. 

The news of my failed partnership wasn’t something that I shared with my friends in fear of disappointing them with the news that a Uruguayan romance was off the table. However, I should have known my cousins better, because directly after the rehearsal I was introduced to my new potential “partner”. I say introduced, but really my cousin pointed at me, said my name, age (actually the same as his this time), and that I was single (announced to the whole restaurant). I soon learned that he had little to no English, and my relationship status had not been understood. I don’t know how many times I was re-introduced to this poor man (pushed in front of him), and all we could exchange were some awkward polite smiles. A lovely man, I’m sure, but I was not going to be finding that out. 


The big day rolled around, and I found myself further questioning this notion of finding your partner at a wedding. By the time I had reached the dimly lit dance floor (optimal partner-finding time, apparently), I had had one too many drinks and I was certain if I kissed someone, I would find out the next morning that we were in fact related. During the dinner portion of the wedding, my cousin and I had been seated amongst a slew of couples. It seemed the majority of people had brought their partner, or had been invited via their partner. I was much too afraid to look anyone in the eye, in case their romantic plus one materialised behind me, and I found myself in an unwarranted fist fight. My cousin and I stuck quite closely to one another for the majority of the wedding until she too found a partner (miraculously not related to her), and I was left to fend for myself. This fending for oneself consisted of ordering drinks until I felt confident enough to dance with strangers (whether much dancing was achieved I would not know as I blacked out and was taken to A&E, but that is aside from the point). When the news broke the next day that I had in fact not kissed the man I had so much in common with (both single, both twenty one), I was met with a series of why nots. I pointed out that we had no way of communicating with one another, but as that apparently had nothing to do with kissing, my argument was swiftly shot down. There had been a bouquet toss at the wedding, and I had hidden at the back, in fear they’d force myself and that poor man to slow dance if I had caught it. Luckily, I can’t catch. However I was still met with multiple “it’ll be your wedding next”. Unless there isn’t another wedding for at least another ten years (and perhaps not another one ever), that would be incredibly unlikely. I had once mentioned that perhaps I’ll never get married, but that was just met with “of course you will, don’t be worried”. Why is it that we always respond to someone being single with pity or worry? Why is it that society sees a life without a partner as an unhappy one? Why can’t one be happy on their own? 

I’ve been asked on many occasions if I want kids (a question I feel women are asked a lot more than men), but no one ever asks if I want to get married. It seems to be something that is presumed. I think I’d like to get married if I met the right person at the right time, but I’d have to be certain. I’ve never understood this rush to get married at a certain age, to keep up with your friends. It seems foolish to do so with something that will impact your life so greatly. It seems ridiculous to me that everyone is expected to find their life partner all at the same point in their lives. Statistically speaking it should be almost impossible. With marriage, even relationships, comes great sacrifices and endless commitments. With modern dating culture, relationships are expensive and incredibly time consuming. There’s pressure on couples to go on lavish dates, buy one another costly gifts and go on trips abroad together. Technology and smartphones result in constant texting and video calls when in-person meet-ups can’t be arranged. It’s nearly impossible to set boundaries in relationships, to take time for oneself. Space is always seen as a bad thing, as a sign that the relationship is on its last legs, but we as people need space sometimes, and having someone constantly on our minds can cause more distress than enjoyment. 

Society puts an abundance of pressure on young people (women in particular) to be married off, and to provide their parents with grandchildren. All throughout history spinsters have been blamed for their absence of a partner and looked down upon by society, deemed as being past their sell by date. In many East and Southeast Asian countries, a new concept of renting a romantic partner has appeared. Singletons who feel pressured to bring a date to events, and bring a partner to meet their parents, can now rent someone to pose as their loved one. For one to feel the need to go to such extremes to hide their lack of a relationship highlights the extensive levels of failure associated with being on your own. I can understand for financial reasons why having a partner can be a necessity, but if that’s not the case, why burden people with such unwarranted stress? Modern day technology allows for single parents to raise their own family, and they shouldn’t be expected to have a partner if they believe they are capable of managing on their own. 

I’ve pondered the question of whether I want children many a time, and I’ve concluded that it’s similar to that of my answer to marriage — if the time is right and I believe it’s the best thing for me, then sure. We should alter this mindset that getting married and having children is an automatic path that we take in life. Instead, it should remain like many of our decisions in life — just that, a decision. One that we make of our own accord, one we decide based on our own circumstances and our own wants and needs. Our choices in life should all lead to one thing, and that is personal happiness and satisfaction. One should be free to control how it is they live their own life.

Sign Up to Our Weekly Newsletters

Get The University Times into your inbox twice a week.