It's the best time in history to be single
Did you know that 25% of people across the world have said 'yes' to singlehood for life?
A social revolution has happened and is here to stay, but there's no name for it. Such silent social shifts mean that we're not resisting and truly celebrating a new paradigm - life sans a significant other. Today, marriage is optional. It's just one among the myriad choices we pursue as we design our personal journey through life.
Our century is host to customisation - the cycle of study-work-marry-raise children has been broken. Today, you can get married and then study. Or, pursue a degree while your child is in high school. Or, skip marriage and pursue a business plan. This 'unfollowing' of a prescribed life has led to a society where more people are single than married. This has not been true at any other time in history.
According to Euromonitor International, in the next 15 years, single-person households will see faster growth than any other household type globally. An estimated 120 million new single-person homes will be added by the year 2030. Not only are people across the world choosing to stay single longer, they're staying single for life.
One of the biggest reasons, according to the Pew Research Center, is the changing mindset of millennials. Only 30% believe that 'a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life', and one in four will never have married by the age of 50. The increasing numbers are not about the divorce rate (it has remained steady) - previously married people are choosing to simply not remarry. It isn't about people living longer - the upward trend towards the single life is reflected in every generation. It is true across the globe - one in four men and one in seven women in Japan have remained single at age 50, and the 25% single-for-life population is mirrored whether it is the U.S., Ireland or Korea.
The expat population in the UAE turns to a family of choice and are immersed in crafting fantastic life stories that may or may not feature marriage.
There's a whole world out there
With experiences that include climbing to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, diving at the Great Barrier Reef, and literally being 'on top of the world' at the Arctic Circle, 32, year old education professional Carol Pinto loves the freedom to pack her bags and jet set on her own time. She says:
"As a person who has travelled to 34 countries, I think it's safe to say that I love to travel. And, as a 32-year-old single Indian woman, I think it's also safe to say that I love being single."
Want to travel more? Pick a country that's far away for your annual leave. Or, split your leave into two or three shorter periods for a holiday close by. Choose a weekend getaway or a staycation any time of the year. "Travel is not just the privilege of millennials or singletons. You can choose to make travel a part of your life. It has been the most liberating, humbling, and enriching part of mine. I don't judge anyone for the choices they make because everywhere I go, I find that people are driven by the same desires and pursuits," shares Carol.
Echoing these thoughts, Akbar Khan Qureshi, a visionary millennial entrepreneur and ambitious traveller, adds:
"I decided to fly to Sweden after watching an Airbnb advertisement. I was on a flight three days later, when I decided to also visit my family in Amsterdam. Two days in, I thought I might as well visit Germany. I could do this and travel according to my mood - which is what I most enjoy about being single."
Akbar loves hitting the refresh button - travel - when work becomes monotonous. "It's so exciting to meet people around the world and hear their stories. I have no time for boredom," he says.
It is said that it's not what, but who you have in your life that makes for happy living. Sometimes that someone is from a different species and the communication is not dependent on words, but purely emotion.
"It's such a good feeling to know that your arrival is being anxiously awaited when you come home from a long day at work. My cats are my ultimate stress busters - my oldest is 16 and I cannot imagine my life without her," - Hadia Arif, 32, banking professional.
She is also actively involved on social media pages that promote the adoption of pets and finds her life's purpose fulfilled in their company.
Hadia adds, "I can't help but bring home a cat that needs shelter. It's a life that I'm helping make better and my home is in turn filled with more love than the hair they shed!"
Want to bring home a furry companion, too? You can check out The Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter, Friends of Animals - Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Centre or k9 friends. Any of these organisations can help you with the pet adoption process.
We're in a happy place
Darrel D'Souza, 36, a marketing professional, says:
"I have a very spontaneous character, and it is important to me that I have free reign over my choices."
His family has added just the right balance for him at this point in life - sharing household responsibilities and expenses on one hand, and splurging on food or travel on the other. "The economics of being single are mostly favourable in the UAE. It's what works for me for now; tomorrow, who knows," he laughs.
Finding joy in the company of her siblings, Odrin Mendonca, 33, an administrative professional shares:
"I'm quite happy with the way my life is at the moment. After work, I hang out with my siblings. We attend events, watch movies, sample different foods; marriage isn't a topic we discuss. Our life in Dubai keeps us fulfilled, and I don't find anything amiss."
Single and ready to...learn?
It's DIY season all year around. A click of a button, and you'll have everything at your disposal - a guide on how to cook the delectable chicken curry that 'only your mother can cook', a tutorial about an instrument whose name you couldn't even pronounce till a week ago, and a language course to master at least some words before heading to its native country.
There's not a single dull moment in 23-year old Khevna Shah's hectic schedule. She says:
"Recently, I learnt to play the Daf (a Middle Eastern drum) and I'm using those skills in a band I'm a part of now. I'm also trying to master new photography styles."
Single and ready to...learn? The YouTube channel You Need A Budget can help you save as well as splurge wisely. Or, turn into a professional programmer from the comfort of your home with ProgrammingKnowledge's tutorials. The next time you face some gadget confusion, turn to LockerGnome for authentic reviews. Master the art of DIY fashion with Thread Banger's funky fashion experiments. Not all experiments are disastrous - sometimes, they lead to an unforgettable trend. You can pick up a skill you've probably always admired - maybe try fruit art from ItalyPaul.
The solo viewing experience
Does a tub of ice cream, a bucket of popcorn and a can of coke along with Netflix sound like your ideal weekend?
You enjoy discussing the entire episode (sans spoilers, of course) on your WhatsApp groups or in person with a bunch of your friends, but prefer binge-watching solo?
Going to the movies by yourself is a fun activity - for starters, you have all the snacks to yourself! "I enjoy going to the movies alone. Initially, friends never had the time to accompany me for a movie, and I grew to enjoy the solitude and the time I gave myself. It allowed me to heal, de-stress, and enjoy my own company. When I'm not watching movies alone, I have a 'plus one' with me - my mother," says 22-year-old Aishwarya Kumar.
Try a rooftop cinema experience at Outdoor At Galleria (VOX), Galleria Mall if you're looking for unique cinema experiences or spoil yourself with an extravagant culinary and cinema experience at the Theatre By Rhodes (VOX), Mall of the Emirates, Dubai or Yas Mall and Nation Towers, Abu Dhabi. Enjoy free movie screenings at Cinema Akil, Alserkal Avenue and Le Royal Meridien with #DXBExperiments - an open-air cinema concept throughout November and December.
Solo dining in the UAE
Courtney Brandt, author-blogger of A to Za'atar needs only a 4G network and a glass of her favourite beverage to keep her company. She says:
"I would say folly by Nick & Scott, Souk Madinat Jumeirah is one of my favourite places to spend time. Another favourite is Intersect by Lexus, Dubai International Financial Centre for its interiors. The amazing soundtrack and tapas style food presentation at Toro+Ko, CityWalk make it a great option among solo diners."
Solo diners are looking stereotypes in the face and shattering them. Dining solo should not and does not restrict diners only to the options of home delivery and takeaway - 'table for one' and 'individual meals' are popular concepts too. "UAE is a single-friendly country, especially if you have enough to spend. My weekends are usually spent sipping coffee from different cafés, sampling new healthy joints, and working out at the gym," says 22-year-old Gauri Jham.
Counter dining and seating is picking up in the UAE. Dig into your next meal at these restaurants.
Circle Café, multiple outlets across Dubai
The Dubai Media City branch has beautiful interiors and offers an outdoor dining experience by the lake. Perfect for your office lunch break if you work in the area.
Lock, Stock & Barrel, Rixos Premium Dubai, JBR
With a guarantee to make Dubai's nightlife bigger and brighter, the new branch is a must visit if you're looking for good food, great live music, and some sports.
Shakeism, Al Barsha
Hungry, but don't want to feel too full? Grab a milkshake and a sandwich at this tiny outlet. Give solo dining a shot just like Rachel did on F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Carry a book for company or load your iPod with a fun playlist.
Eat Greek, multiple outlets across Dubai and Abu Dhabi
You've always wanted to experiment and try an unfamiliar cuisine? 'No company' isn't excuse enough to toss the idea out of the window. Indulge in some Greek food here and celebrate your own company.
Sushi Counter, multiple outlets across Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Choose from the restaurant's variety of sushi, traditional and California hand rolls, street food, burgers, and platters. There are vegan and vegetarian options as well. Indulge in some fusion foods - go for the sushi burrito!
Spoilt for choice
Be it volunteering, a painting class, trekking or yoga, there are fun weekend activities aplenty that you can indulge in. Rakhshanda Amin, 33, finance professional says:
"I enjoyed my yoga classes so much that I decided to pursue the 100-hour teacher training course. After a full week at work, I'd look forward to yoga on the weekends."
Engaged in work, yoga, travel, and spending time with her family, her schedule is brimming over. She adds, "The UAE has us so spoilt for choice, be it meeting new people or trying new activities; I love how I spend my time."
Bust myths associated with what's perceived as 'couple dance forms' such as ballroom and salsa. Bring your spirit to dance, and not necessarily a spouse, or partner. Bring a friend, find a dance partner in the instructor or leave it to the institute to pair you with another student. Try Dance For You, Barsha Heights or Step N Groove, Bur Dubai and Al Nahda.
Indulge in a weekend day hike or a full weekend excursion with the hiking community, UAE Trekkers. Become a member and explore the wadis and mountains of the UAE - go snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, canyoning, and rock climbing. Surrender yourself completely to nature.
Pamper and groom yourself, and more importantly, rejuvenate with tempting spa offers. Ladies can indulge in some 'me time' at Talise Ottoman Spa, Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa and Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. One & Only Royal Mirage, 1847 and Jazz Lounge Spa are great options for men to spoil themselves.
Use meetup.com to look for book club meetings near you. Safar Dubai Book Club, Dubai Bibliophiles, and TwitBookClub are good options. If you're looking to eliminate the involvement of a reading group for a direct love affair with your favourite books, all you need to do is step into a bookstore - you'll find yourself wondering how the hours fly by like minutes.
What do you enjoy about being single? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org