The Scent of Desperation

It’s funny how people tend to change their tune, depending on what they think will portray them in the best possible light. In the Maltese language, there is the very expressive word ‘pinnur’. On the surface, this word translates as ‘wind-vane’, however what it actually represents when one takes it into specific contexts, is this kind of behavior – when an individual first says one thing, but then when circumstances change, acts as though his past behavior never happened, and takes the exact opposite stance.

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Without delving into the obvious example of politics, let me take another one.

I’ve never actually understood why many people think that being single is something shameful, as though the single person has something lacking just because s/he has not found a partner s/he likes yet. Unfortunately however, this mentality has pervaded our society so much, that people with low self-esteem tend to believe it hook, line and sinker, which is why many tend to fall into depression after long periods of singleness.

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These low self-esteem singletons generally try to cope with this socially induced stigma by using a number of self-convincing ideas, for example maintaining that ‘being single is much better than being in a relationship’, or (in the case of women) saying that ‘men lie anyways, so why bother’, or (in the case of men) saying that ‘most women just want your money’. There are many who take the stance of ‘why would I want to live my life having to coordinate everything with another person and find a middle ground when, being single, I can do whatever the heck I want?’ Thing is some people are HONESTLY happy being single, others however, say such things as some sort of sop to try to convince themselves of their happiness in view of their enroaching desperation. If you are not happy, why not just say so and try to find a way to improve your life, yourself, or your attitude? Why hide it as though it was something to be ashamed of?

So, how does one tell the difference between people who are honestly happy being single and those who are just trying to lie to themselves? Here is where the ‘pinnur’ ideology comes into play. Just take a look at what happens to the ‘desperados’ when they actually DO manage to find a partner. Suddenly, there are photos of them strangling their partner in a ‘you wont escape’ hold all over social media. We are told again and again of how happy they are now that they have found ‘true love’. We are barraged by memes of how beautiful it is to be in a relationship. 

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Gone are the OTHER memes saying ‘single is best’. Gone is the argument that it is better not to have to compromise, or that being single means you don’t get dragged by your boyfriend and his friends to watch footy games even though you hate it (someone told this to me once, then she got a boyfriend and started suddenly ‘loving’ football). Suddenly the proud ‘I’ becomes a gushingly repeated ‘we’, as the individual tries to find every possible excuse to show the world that he or she now has a PARTNER and is no longer the loser s/he was before.

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Of course, probably no one thought they were a loser because they were single, except, obviously, themselves.

So, this is the definition of ‘pinnur’. Of course, there are different levels of desperation, usually depending on the individual’s age (older people, especially women, start getting depressed when they realize they are approaching non-child-bearing age and are still far from getting married), income (especially if people need another person’s wage to purchase/rent a home and leave the nest), etc. Many people, at least many of those I’ve encountered, also seem to have a ‘life-plan’ which includes getting married by the age of 30 and having at least 2 children by the age of 35. So, obviously arriving at the age of 28 without having a stable relationship starts ringing emergency bells, since one would then have to grab the first person remotely viable and rush him or her into marriage before the ‘deadline’, in order to complete said plan.

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Having known so many people with this mind-set, from work colleagues, to family members, acquaintances and even neighbors, I wonder. Are the ‘life-plan’ and ‘pinnur’ kind of behavior more prevalent in the Mediterranean or Maltese mind-set, or are they just prevalent in those individuals with low self-esteem and a mulish way of following society’s norms, irrelevantly of their country? Either way, it’s sad that society ends up influencing weaker willed people in this manner. Then again, it’s nothing new is it?

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What is so ‘shameful’ about being a Single Parent?

The wise say ‘You can lead a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink’. This could also roughly translate to ‘Society can try to pressure couples with a baby on the way to make a go for it ‘for the baby’s sake’, but if the couple are not good together and not meant to be, they will eventually part ways all the same’. Lengthier, but true.

I see it again and again, two people who would otherwise not continue dating past the third month, try to force themselves into continuing something against their will, heart and mind, just because one of them ‘got’ pregnant. Apart from the fact that it only takes only tiny little contraceptive to prevent this, WHY oh WHY cannot family, friends, and long-nosed push-over’s the world over realize that no matter how much you try to manipulate, stress, and bully someone into doing what is, according to you that is, ‘morally and socially acceptable’, this will not work, unless the two people in question are actually really in love in the first place? In which case, they would continue the relationship naturally, take the baby in their stride (though admittedly, this is not an easy thing to do even when a pregnancy is planned), and evolve as a healthy and normal couple without needing anyone’s pressure or solicitations.

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The worst case scenario is when the two people try to convince themselves that they actually do feel something more than a passing fancy, or a falling-in-lust period, something permanent – since the child is obviously permanent too. You’d think this would be better, as the two would actually be trying to go along – however what this leads to is usually a prolonged period of agony. Sometimes years pass by, the child starts to grow into a sentient being, and soon realizes that something at home is just not right. His parents are different from his friends’. They are not loving towards each other, hardly touch, hardly even speak civilly. In fact, when one is in a room, the other is most often to be found at the other end of the house, if s/he is at home at all. And this takes place if they both, or singly, have not decided to have one or more extra-marital affairs, which is still yet another kettle of fish. Most people seem to believe that all this takes place ‘for the sake of the child’ – really? Do you think a child growing up in this atmosphere of tense unhappiness would be happy himself/herself?

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Others are worried about social benefits, knowing there to be breaches and cases of fraud where people maintain that a child’s father is ‘unkown’, simply to gain a percentage of society’s hard earned cash. Yes, unfortunately it has been known for there to be people who took advantage of the social benefits offered, however does this make it right to put everyone into the same basket? Apart from that, the issue at hand concerns those couples who are forced into a relationship after the beginning of a pregnancy, not those who do not claim parentage.

Why not come out and say it? Single-parenthood, for many, seems to be a shameful smut on the family name, which is why most people simply tell their son/daughter to ‘shut up and take responsibility’. This does not mean ‘pay for your son’s upkeep and schooling and take care of him/her emotionally’, but ‘sacrifice your entire life making yourself and others believe that you love a partner whom you actually wouldn’t spend more than a few minutes with, precluding any chance of happiness with anyone else’. Is this fair? Is this practical? Is this tolerant, understanding and loving? Of course not, and yet, being subconsciously afraid of the stigma, people still do it. Probably I will have to start looking over my shoulder after this article is published – maybe someone will even proclaim that I’m a henchman (or in this case, henchwoman) of endless debaucheries and fornication. Simply put, this is how I see it.

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What on earth is wrong with being a single parent? Both parents could have contact with their child, without the need of forcing themselves into enduring years and years of wasted life ‘shared’ with someone who’s less important to them than their favourite pair of socks! There is nothing wrong with a single parent enjoying a healthy relationship with his/her child. Does anyone tell off widowers/widows who take care of their children alone after a loss? No! Everyone considers them to be heroes for being so brave, strong and efficient and tackling the upbringing of a child on their own. So, why isn’t the same measure used for ALL single parents? The issue, once more, has got to do with the sex-taboo prevalent in many societies. Why let an issue which is present mostly due to lack of sexual education and awareness cloud our judgement and influence the life of many people so negatively?

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We tiptoe around it, trying not to look, trying not to acknowledge this mentality which, unfortunately, is still here in this day and age. Isn’t it time we looked straight at it and tackled it heads-on?

—- A version of this blog article was published on the online magazine EVE here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/07/21/what-is-so-shameful-about-being-a-single-parent/