I don't know if I mentioned before, but I never really told people when the ex and I broke up. I just updated my relationship status on Facebook and resumed life as usual. Little did I know that after the initial 'so sorry to hear that' comments from ex-colleagues and girls you sat next to in year 8 maths (mutual friends all diplomatically refusing to comment in a public forum, of course) ticking that little box has deeper implications. The Internet now knows you are single. And that my friends, starts a freaky self-aware turn of events in which the Internet has now proclaimed itself your very own Cilla Black (or Paddy McGuinness for those of you who didn't grow up in the 90s).
Friends and family and their offers of setting you up on blind dates, invites to dinner so you won't be dining by your sad little self and platitudes about fish in the sea (or the local nightclub) are easily dismissed with a martyr-like sniff, a comment about just being there for your kid and maybe a mention of 'when I'm feeling up to it' and then they leave that train of thought and go back to offers of 'anything I can do to help'. But the Internet, our spiritual home, infects every social network you visit with reminders of your sorry ass single status... promising introductions to Mr Right based on your 70% matchability with their online dating algorithms or similar.
Where once targeted marketing would suggest writing courses and meditation retreats based on my Facebook 'likes', or a tea cannister I had coveted on the Anthropologie online store would systematically crop up in the sidebar as I was checking my e-mails like a retail minded stalker whispering 'I know you looked at me once, now part with your cash bitch' - now I receive daily suggestions of dating sites, potential matches and hundreds of spam e-mail offering me 'hook-ups with singles in your area' (and, believe me, being from this area, is the one thing I will most definitely be avoiding in future hookups or otherwise).
Most bizarre are the daily onslaught of e-mails from Christian dating sites - ChristianMingle.com being the worst offender. Seriously, who have I pissed off to end up on their mailing list? My friend asks if I've been wearing too much gingham lately. I am sorely tempted to reply, explaining that after years of a dead-end relationship the only kind of man I'm looking for right now is one who is entirely un-christian. And yes, there are dating sites dedicated to that too. They've been in touch. As have several single parent dating sites - including pages that cater for single, childfree men, expressly wishing to date a singlemom (and I shudder at the reasons why that might be), uniform
fetishists enthusiasts and a charming site that offers to match wannabe vampires with sympathetic donors (not sure about the match criteria for that last site, though I'm sure being on the organ donor list is a positive).
But it is not the reminders of my unending loneliness or the entirely unsuitable range of suitors sent my way that bothers me, as much as the fact that these sites have taken my 'single' status as though it is something to be fixed. As though it is something I should want to get out of as soon as possible.
Nevermind the narrow choice between 'single and looking' and 'single-not looking' where is the box that encompasses so many people who are somewhere around 'not actively looking, not put out by my single-ness, wouldn't mind if someone did come along right now, but don't mind terribly if they don't either'. I am writing to FB to offer some suggestions - perhaps 'plans to die alone surrounded by empty bottles of gin and old love letters', they could put that option next to the 'has a 100 cats' tickbox.