Time work
Keeping up appearances
in A table for one

In the texts analyzed in this chapter, single women reveal their hesitations and obstacles of appearing in public ‘on their own’. This chapter offers a temporal reading of everyday social interaction by employing a Goffmanesque analysis of the ways in which single women attempt to control their impression management during public interaction. Concepts such as participation units, loss of face, civil inattention and impression management are used to examine the temporal dimensions of the presentation of the single self in public. In this way, attention is drawn to the temporal context within which social interaction takes place and demonstrates how time marking mechanisms assumes overwhelming importance.

This chapter also relies on Durkheim’s (2008) and Zreubavel’s works (1981) on temporal demarcations. By examining the social meanings attached to time units such as night and day, the week and the weekend, normal days and holidays, It is argued that these time conventions have important bearings on the single woman’s opportunities for appearing and interacting in public. It is also claimed that the temporal interpretations of time during holidays such as New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s day, weekends or dinner time have important bearings on the single women’s visibility and impacts their ability to orient their appearance, and consequently their sense of self agency, in public settings.

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A table for one

A critical reading of singlehood, gender and time

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