‘Poor Jen’ Headlines Are Misguided. Single Women Have It Good.

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Feb 21, 2018

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I was that rare bird in 2005 – one who wasn’t TeamJen or TeamAngie. I’ve never cared much for Brad Pitt, and somehow it seemed pointless to get excited over people I’d never meet or be able to borrow money from.

Last week, everyone dusted off their TeamJen hashtags again. Jennifer Aniston has split from her husband of two years, Justin Theroux. And people have gone crazier than usual. Now, I know we’re all looking for reasons to avoid talking about saffron brigades and the Cheeto Monster. But is pitying Jennifer Aniston for being single really the way?

Aniston is beautiful, rich, has a successful career despite clunkers like The Bounty Hunter (Jen, I’ll be on your team if you give me my Rs 500 back from that movie). She vacations in Cabo and other sunny, beachy places that cost more than a house. She wears tiny bikinis and looks amazing in them while we wipe last week’s pizza sauce off our faces. And she’s “alone again.” Celebs, they’re just like us.

Why does any single woman attract this much attention and censure? (I’m looking at you Rich Uncle, stop telling me I’m going to die alone, or I’ll make sure you do – tonight.) The consistent focus and humiliation of Jennifer Aniston alone has been an ongoing saga for years; not only did Aniston endure thousands of Internet pages’ worth of speculation about her marriage and subsequent dating life, but she just might be the World Record Holder for Most Tabloid Pregnancy Covers While Not Pregnant.

The ordeal prompted the actor to speak out about it in 2016: “’If we don’t have a baby, or white picket fence, or a husband then we’re useless and we aren’t living up to our purpose… The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty.” Okay, now I’m Team Jen.

Meanwhile, George Clooney (to name just one guy) went gadding about till he was well over 50, and no one ever said “Poor George.” Is anyone putting Justin Theroux and his hipster sleaziness on a cover with the words, “POOR JUSTIN ALONE AND UNLOVED AGAIN”? Why ever not?

Listen, wives do not have it good. Being in a relationship is hard work – especially for the woman. Not only do women have to do more domestic chores, but they also carry the burden of caring for children and extended family. All those people who think that married couples are happier? Yeah, not so accurate. Married men, in fact, are as happy as single women are.

Of course they are. Married men create seven hours of housework every week – which their wives then have to do. Researchers also found that having children increased the amount of housework done by women, but seemed to reduce the amount done by men. And husbandly involvement in housework was negatively associated with wives’ psychological distress, marital dissatisfaction, and overall unhappiness. Basically, wives whose husbands did something — anything around the goddamn house — were sort of happier. Wives whose husbands did almost nothing (read: wet towel on floor) were 1.60 times more likely to be distressed, 2.96 times more likely to be uncomfortable with their husbands, and 2.69 times more likely to be unhappy.  I bet hernias would be a lot less troublesome than husbands.

Let’s not even talk about India, where the men spend just about 19 minutes every day on domestic work — compared to 161 minutes in the US, and a rich-country average of 139 minutes. Indian women spend about 352 minutes (that’s 5 hours, darling) per day on household chores compared to 248 minutes by their counterparts in the US. And if you’re a man and you want to dismiss this study as ‘that must be women in villages,’ to quote Aniston’s co-character from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, “No no, no no.”

A National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report said that 64% of urban women were engaged in domestic work, compared to 60% of women in rural areas, aged 15 and above. The urban women had to do so because there was “no other member to carry out domestic duties.”

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) survey, done in 1999, also showed that men in India dedicated themselves to “talking, gossiping and quarrelling,” categorised under “personal care and self-maintenance” — spending almost eight hours in a week on this activity. (I wonder how they categorise oral sex?)

One of the most common reasons justifying the need for a husband is that women need support. But studies show that widows cope better with life and take better care of themselves as compared to women whose husbands are still alive. In fact, in many cases, it’s the woman who takes on the role of supporter; older women with living husbands often find themselves thrust in to the assistant role, one which prevents them getting the attention they need. (Another reason to roll over with a large pillow during the night and claim you were sleep-strangling.)

Statistically, women are actually better off single. They’re able to maintain social ties and thus remain in networks that benefit them, unlike men, who depend on their wives to stay connected to the community. Conversely, as much as society wants to vilify single women, they’re the ones that actually trying to make a communal difference. Single women also have less anxiety, greater job satisfaction and higher activity levels at work. Single people also have more sex than married people. It makes sense; if you aren’t doing 352 minutes of housework per day, you’ve got more time and energy on your hands.

Across the world, surveys are telling us that more and more people are electing to live on their own, in single-person households, and adulting like they mean it.

So, can we please stop saying Poor Jen? Say Lucky Jen, in tones of envy. And if I may, as a long-time fan, end with this little ditty. I think you know the tune:

Married people, no one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A. It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear. When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year – we single people will be there for you.

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Written By Akhila Vijaykumar

Akhila Vijaykumar is a writer with experience across advertising and journalism. Occasionally, the crossover does make her demand truth from soap and try to cajole quotes into starbursts, but no harm no foul. She loves books by Terry Pratchett, dogs and pizza, often at the same time.

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