2005-11-01

Intolerance: New Male Lifestyle Alone

Look through the pages of an old copy of Mr.PJ O'Rourke's 'The Bachelor Home Companion' is like stepping into a very entertaining time machine.
'How often does a house need to be cleaned, anyway?' he asks. 'As a general rule, once every girlfriend. 'After that she can get to know the real you.'
Mr.O'Rourke's bachelors probably do still exist out there somewhere, living on ketchup sandwiches and picking a paint colour based on its ability not to show dirt, but they're a dying breed. Today's single men have been put through the wringer, but appear to be emerging cautiously optimistic. Blame women, if you will. Ever since women started getting an education, a career, a taste for beer and TV programmes dedicated to showing how you don't need a man as long as you've got fabulous friends and even better shoes, the confidence of some men has been rattled. First, they were told that they should be 'new men': sensitive, caring and never talking about sport or cars. This led to a backlash in the form of 'lad culture' -- 'Loaded Magazine' and 'Men Behaving Badly' encouraged the notion that getting drunk with 'yer mates' and ogling 'burds' was the be-all and end-all of a man's ambitions. Then things got sophisticated -- the 'metrosexual' arrived. This single male was best embodied by Mr.Hugh Grant's character in 'About A Boy' -- selfish and adolescent, but with a great haircut, car and sound system. Things seem to be settling down -- men can just be men. It seems that after a decade of hearing about the exploits of single girls, men are reclaiming their right to be part of a social trend. This time it's for solo living. A study by 'The University of Edinburgh's' 'Centre for Research on Families and Relationships' found that young men (aged 25/44) are twice as likely to live alone as young women. Overall the number of people living alone has trebled since the early 1970s -- most of them in urban areas. So why the rise in bachelor pads? Relationship break-up is a factor. Professor Mr.Malcolm Williams of 'The University of Plymouth' found that one reason more young men are living alone was because when relationships break down, the woman usually stays with the children while the man moves out. Mr.Williams also points out that living alone isn't just a one-off for most men:
'A man might live alone when he's 20 because he's chosen to. 'Later on he might do so again because of circumstance. 'Having said that, if you've lived alone once, our research showed that you are more likely to live alone again.'
We could surmise that having been single once, men are equipped to not only survive without a mother figure, but to positively thrive. Research has also shown that they are as likely to value 'me time' as single women. A study by 'Mintel' showed these men valued domestic freedom highly -- to decide how their home looks, eating what they like when they like and choose for themselves what they watch on TV. Then there'sthe fact that most men are proud to be found in the kitchen. 'Mintel's' research showed that only one in ten men said it wasn't worth cooking properly for only themselves, and half declared that they love cooking. Ms.Tamar Kasriel, the head researcher at trend forecasters 'The Henley Centre', says:
'Men are perhaps less likely to do everyday cooking, but increasingly they enjoy event cooking and will have a repertoire of special dishes.'
Single men seem to be having as much fun as single women, but there are a few areas which seem to give cause for concern. A Government forecast, 'Britain in 2010' by Professor Mr.Richard Scase, concluded that single men in their thirties and forties lacked the social networks and confidence that single women had. Men were seen to define themselves by their work and indulged too much in unhealthy food and drink as a means of relaxing. Mr.Scase says:
'Women have the emotional capital to develop and keep friendships and support networks, whereas men tend to become more isolated when living alone without women to arrange their social lives.'
Earlier research by 'The University of Warwick' concluded that the health benefits of being married are so large that single men are at greater risk of dying early than smokers. This seemed to be because single men had both a less healthy lifestyle and no-one to look out for their wellbeing. 'The Unilever Family Report 2005', released last week, warns that men find living alone harder than women and are less likely to report having positive relationships as a result of living alone. While women reported a boost to self-esteem from living alone, men reported more frequent loneliness and depression. The report's author, Ms.Miranda Lewis, says:
'There's a distinction between men and women. 'It's a stereotype, but I think there is a grain of truth in the assumption that men tend to have narrower social networks than women.'
All of which seems to tell us that the bachelor life isn't quite as perfect as Mr.O'Rourke would once have had us believe, but single Scottish men are catching up with the girls when it comes to enjoying life. No longer having to live up to a macho ideal or play the sensitive guy, they're free to live however they like, whether that's eating pizza and watching 'Top Gear' or enjoying a personal grooming session. And the women who may once have harangued them to settle down and make babies are too busy decorating their own flats and cooking gourmet meals for one to burst the bachelor bubble. 'Bachelor boys' declaration of independence', Louisa Pearson, The Scotsman, 2005-11-01, Tu

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