Pondering the single life

January 4, 2013


What’s it like to escape the dating wilderness and eventually find your life partner?  How do you feel if you are perpetually or reluctantly single?  This chapter contains the views of some who haven’t yet found love and some who finally did.  But let’s start with the comedians’ take on the dating game.


‘Everything was going great until I said, ‘I love you’.  Then he got this look on his face like he’d taken a wrong turn in a really bad neighbourhood.’  Roz Doyle, Frasier, Paramount Television

‘I fall in love real quick, which can scare guys away.  I’m like, ‘I love you, I want to move in with you, I want to marry you.’  And they’re like, ‘Ma’am, just give me the ten bucks for the pizza and I’ll be out of here.’   Penny Wiggins

‘I’ve learned that you can’t make someone love you.  All you can do is stalk them and hope they’ll panic and give in.’   Emo Phillips

‘I’ve never been married, but I tell people I’m divorced so they won’t think there’s something wrong with me.’  Elayne Boosler

‘OK, I want to know the man for a year before I get engaged, another six months before I get married.  Then, after a year, we have our first baby, then two years later we have another one… so, by then I’ll be… Good God, I need to meet my husband tonight!’  Monica, Friends, Warner Bros

‘Somehow a bachelor never quite gets over the idea that he is a thing of beauty and a boy forever.’   Helen Rowland

‘Homosexuals and single women in their thirties have natural bonding: both being accustomed to disappointing their parents and being treated as freaks by society.’   From Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, Picador 2001


– Boyfriend:  Do you want a lift/ lunch/ to go out tonight?

– 37-year-old girlfriend:  ‘NO! I WANT A F***ING BABY!’

From Channel 4’s Spoons


‘Odds on meeting a single man:  1 in 23; a cute, single man:  1 in 529; a cute, single, smart man: 1 in 3,245,873 when you look your best:  1 in a billion.’  Lorna Adler


– Why is it so difficult to find men who are sensitive, caring and good-looking?

–  They all already have boyfriends.’  Jane Caron


‘If he hasn’t called you in about three weeks and you have no idea where he is, the chances are he’s not in an emergency room moaning your name.’   Diane Conway

‘I waited for the phone to ring, and when at last it didn’t, I knew it was you.’  Karen Muir

‘If you love someone, set them free.  If they come back, great.  If they don’t, they’re probably having dinner with someone more attractive than you.’   Bill Greiser


And for those who have not yet found love …

‘Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.’  Mark Twain

 ‘Single women are frightening. If you get to 41 as a single man, you’re quite battle-scarred.’  Hugh Grant

‘My baby clock’s not ticking and I don’t have the marriage gene.’   Lucy, 35

Quirkyalone stands in opposition to saccharine, archaic notions of romantic love.  It stands for self-respect, independent spirit, creativity, true love and confidence.  People are hungry for different ways to look at being single.  We don’t want the old ideas rammed down our throat, that if you don’t have someone you are socially stigmatised.  We don’t want dating turned into a job, feeling the pressure from the online dating industry and speed-dating services that have revved up in the last decade, and the reality dating TV shows where people are desperate to find someone.  We don’t want to think we should change in order to be in a relationship and be validated by family or society.  So much of our economy is based on encouraging us to buy lipstick and bikini wax so we won’t feel inadequate if we are not in some air-brushed relationship.’  Sasha, 34

‘OK, so I’m single and childless.  I don’t need to be pitied (poor woman, she’s probably infertile) or judged (there’s more to life than luxury holidays and Jimmy Choos.  Maybe she’s gay.)  Or sneered at (too career-minded to settle down).  I’m actually quite content with my lot – sorry to disappoint.’   Sharon, 38

‘I stood at the altar clutching my small bouquet and cringed.  Whatever possessed my best friend to want to humiliate me on her wedding day by making me wear a hideous frock and be her bridesmaid?  It’s bad enough being single, but weddings, lovely as they are, do have a way of rubbing salt into the wounds.  It only served to enhance my age and discomfort at being past my sell-by date.  Was Natalie thinking that by including me in her big day this would somehow make me feel better, like it was the next best thing to actually getting married?’  Heather, 38

‘Each year it’s the same.  The only difference is everyone seems younger, except for us.  As perpetual singletons, we endure the festive jollity of Christmas and New Year, and grind our way through various social gatherings.  Our parents’ generation shrug, ‘Oh dear.  Still not met anyone nice yet?’  Newly engaged couples flaunt sparkling rings, fecund women aglow with pregnancy smooth their bellies and sip elderflower water, while the chaps marshal surly Boden-clad toddlers away from the presents under the tree.  Will the next Christmas holiday be the same, or will the emphasis have shifted onto one or both of us a bit?  We live in hope.’  Jenny and Catriona (sisters), 37 and 38

‘There has been a long tradition of ‘walkers’ for single ladies of a certain age.  A walker is gossipy and good-looking.  He flatters, protects and possesses impeccable manners.  He is a true gentleman and represents the perfect foil for female insecurity.  I have walkers who step beside me when I need to display ‘my other half’ at corporate events and dinners.  In this accepting society in which we exist, no one bats an eyelid if you are accompanied by your gay lover or a toy boy or someone else’s husband.  But God forbid that you should attend an event as a single person!  In my particular industry that simply wouldn’t do at all.  So Stuart (who happens to be discretely gay) is displayed as my partner, and I reciprocate for him.  Harry is my reserve for when Stuart isn’t available.  We look good together.  There are no obligations, complications or sex.  And in the whispers and rumours circulating by the office water cooler my single status is completely overlooked.   Simone, 42

‘You know when you walk through the Nothing to Declare section at the airport, you feel guilty, even though you’re innocent?  In the same way when you reach 40 and you are still single, you just look and feel desperate, even if you’re not.’  Carol, 40

‘When I was 25 I met Louisa, who was perfect to me in every way.  I should have married her, but I considered myself too young.  I let her go and heard that she married someone else.  Although I have matured and am still the same person inside, I have never met another Louisa.  Maybe I should stop making comparisons and carrying a torch for someone from my past, but no woman I meet ever comes close.’  Spencer, 39

‘Think what you will about me, but don’t you ever feel sorry for me.’  Laura, 40

‘Being alone you visit your museums and cultivate your interests.  You make out To Do lists – reorganise the linen cupboard, learn two sonnets.  You dole out little treats to yourself – slices of ice-cream cake, concerts at Wigmore Hall.  And then, every once in a while, you wake up and gaze out of the window at another bloody daybreak, and think, I cannot do this anymore.  I cannot pull myself together again and spend the next fifteen hours of wakefulness fending off the fact of my own misery.’  Barbara Covett, (aged late 50s), fictional character from Zoë Heller’s Notes on a Scandal, Penguin, 2004

‘After my first date with Samantha, I texted her saying that I’d enjoyed the evening and would she like to meet up again.  She texted back, ‘I liked meeting you too, but before we arrange anything else, can you let me know where you stand with regards to C?’  I texted back, ‘What is C?’  Instantly she responded one word – COMMITMENT.  And these women wonder why men run a mile.’  Andy, 36

‘Single is a state of mind with which I am happy.  Although I don’t live with anyone, I have such a busy, good life that I can’t actually dwell on the fact that I am single.  If I met someone tomorrow, I really don’t know how I would integrate him into my life.  I just couldn’t fit him in, so to speak.’   Miriam, 40

Textual advance made by Victoria (38) to Larry (43), who lives with Roberta, his girlfriend of ten years (Victoria got Larry’s mobile number from his website):  ‘Hi Sweetie. Remember me? I’m that gorgeous QT you flirted with at the Finches.  Couldn’t believe my luck – the only hunky single guy in Kent!  Perhaps we could get together & get to know each other a bit better?  You free Friday?  Call me. Yours hopefully, Victoria xxxx’   Larry had a vague recollection of being introduced to this woman, but was only at the event for an hour and was with Roberta all that time.  He later found out that another friend at the same event had received the same text.

‘After thriving for years in my role as a prolific seducer of women, I finally received a wake-up call and a summoning to the next chapter in my life.  It all happened when I experienced a pang of envy seeing my friends dancing with their kids at a wedding.  In that thunderbolt moment, as I shot my champagne on the side lines, I wanted more than anything to be married.  I wanted a family of my own, I wanted to belong, to protect and to be loved.’   Andrew, 40

‘It’s rude to snoop, I know, but I casually flipped open a notebook on the coffee table.  What I saw made me gasp and sweat prickle on my forehead.  I had only been out with Jo for three dates and she was getting ready in the next room.  In curly, girly writing she had written her first name and my surname on every line to the end of the page.  To me, this just about summed up the emotional insecurity of today’s single woman.  Jo wasn’t some love-struck teenager, she was a 36-year old chartered surveyor.’  Gary, 37

‘I don’t need a permanent woman in my life.  If I want sex or to have something cleaned, cooked, organised, designed, written or repaired, I pay someone else to do it for me.  My life is cool, uncomplicated and angst-free.’   Mark, 43

‘I’m single, bitter and resentful and there’s nothing I can do about it.  The older I get, the worse it becomes.’  Jen, 35

‘Love is a compromise and I’m just not prepared to accept second best.  I’d rather be single than stuck with someone second rate.’  Rachel, 38

‘In the rarefied upper reaches of high-altitude careers where the air is thin, men have a far easier time finding oxygen.  They find this in the form of younger, less driven women who will coddle their egos.  The hard fact is that most successful men are not interested in acquiring an ambitious peer as a partner.’  Dr Sylvia Ann Hewlett

 ‘All the good men have been used up.  Men of my age take their pick from women in their twenties and thirties.  So the choices are: be single, date a really old guy who is still living at home, go out with toy boy who will never commit or shack up with a divorcee and become a wicked step mother overnight.  Do I sound cynical to you?’  Kaff, 41

‘The trouble with single women approaching 40 is that they are up against the clock, biologically.  They are nearing the end of their fertility and their looks are starting to fade.  A woman over 40 is sexually invisible to most men.  She seems panicked by her situation and can be quite overwhelming.’   Ian, 43 (and married).

‘As women glide from their twenties to thirties… the balance of power subtly shifts.  Even the most outrageous minxes lose their nerve, wrestling with the first twinges of existential angst:  fear of dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian.’  From Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, Picador, 2001

‘Guy the gay is my best friend.  He is divine.  But how am I ever going to meet Mr Right at a house party full of gay men and fag hags?  He means well, but as the sand slips through the timer and my biological clock alarm call nears, the company of a gay man (or men) is not conducive to building a lifelong heterosexual relationship.’  Sian, 39

‘Women in their late thirties seem to have a desperation about them.  You know on the first date that you are being assessed for your marriage potential.’   Simon, 38

‘How many marriageable men are there in this world?  Millions, maybe even billions.  I am not so odd that just one man in this vast crowd could be right for me.  My fault is in the marketing.  There is nothing wrong with the product – it just doesn’t get promoted or exposed to the right audiences.  I need to get out more.’  Suzie, 38

‘Friends set me up with ‘an ideal date’.  This contrived meeting put a lot of pressure on our first (and only) evening out together.  Throughout dinner she looked tense, worried and preoccupied – as if she was putting all her concentration into turning me into her soul mate.  At times she even looked traumatised.  Pity really, because she was lovely.  I just think she was pressuring herself into seeking instant compatibility and true love from the outset.’   Bill, 38

‘You have to ask yourself what the reasons are for a man of 42 to be still single.  Is he going to suddenly get his act together and sweep some gorgeous 38-year-old woman up the aisle?  Somehow I don’t think so.’   Charmaine, 38


And from those who found love in their late thirties…

‘After numerous false starts, dashed hopes and being on my own I now feel a quiet sort of relief that I no longer have to search. Seb, my husband is right here.’  Caitlin, 38

‘It’s not the whirlwind, knockout sort of feeling you have when you are younger, it’s more a feeling of stability and companionship.’   Joanne, 39

‘Singleness is a state of mind.  If we are not happy being single, we view it like a perpetual horizon, stretching away into the distance with no end in sight.  Our future becomes distorted and we see demons of our own conjuring, taunting us with feelings of loneliness and isolation.  It takes a superhuman effort to eradicate this mindset. If you can do it, then you attract good, positive things.  It took me two painful years, then David came along and click, everything became right.’  Andrea, 39

‘My husband is a submariner, so he’s away quite a lot.  Now that I am married, I have the confidence to do things on my own which I wouldn’t have dared do when I was single, like go and see a film, sit at a table for one out for lunch or go solo to the theatre.  I can go anywhere on my own without being eaten up wondering if everyone is looking at me and thinking, ‘Oh look at her, she’s on her own.  She obviously doesn’t have a man.  Is she looking for a man?  She won’t find one here!’  All the angst that I had before has evaporated.’   Marie, 37

‘Everyone wants the ‘best’ – the best house, the best job, the best partner, etc.  People who won’t settle for less than the best are never happy because they’re always thinking about the prospect of something better.  Compromise can be such a wonderful, releasing thing to do.  If you wait for the person of your dreams to come along, you will be waiting forever because they will never show up.  Settle for ‘almost good enough’ rather than ‘the best’ and you will be happy – I am.’   Harry, 40

‘My new husband says ‘I love you’ to me at least five times a day and calls me Darlingissima.  Nobody had ever told me that they loved me before.  I can’t believe I spent so many years bereft of being really loved and having someone to love back.’   Penny, 38

‘I got over myself in my 20s, enjoyed my 30s and am finally slowing down in my early 40s (until my first baby is born in six weeks’ time).  I think I am the happiest I have ever been.  I feel like I have arrived at something which had previously been out of my reach.’   Angeli, 39

‘As I got older I forgot how to flirt or at least it didn’t really seem appropriate at my great age.  Since I was getting panicky about still being single, I decided to take a new approach.  I’d just turned 38 and was invited to a glitzy evening function through work, and decided this would be the perfect launch pad for the new, flirty me.  I tried a different dress style and made a concerted effort to chat up men, flatter, tease and show just how impressed I was (without being insincere).  Married men really don’t expect anyone to flirt with them, so they were good ‘training material’ and I was encouraged by their response.  It wasn’t long before one of them introduced me to a single guy – Jonathan.  We are now married.  It’s true; flattery really does get you everywhere.  Flirting is easy and can quickly be relearned – a bit like riding a bike.’   Becky, 41

‘At the age of 42, I attended my first school nativity play as a parent.  Looking around me, I realised what a very near miss I had had.  If I hadn’t met Carl on the train, then none of my now-epic life would be playing out before me each day.’   Rosemary, 43

‘By their late thirties, the female of the species has matured to become more womanly and worldly.  Like a good wine, women definitely improve with age.’   Max, 38

‘I wasted years of my life dating the wrong kind of men, with each ephemeral relationship crashing and burning.  I found it impossible to achieve permanency in a relationship so in my mid-thirties I made a conscious decision to be single.  When I wasn’t looking for love, at the age of 37 it found me.  Sean was the exact opposite of all the guys I’d dated before.  Over time I have discovered so many things I didn’t know I wanted or needed from another person.’  Roberta, 41

‘My girlfriend of six years gave me a marriage ultimatum – just as well, really because I was never going to marry her.  So we split.  Within six weeks I had met someone younger, happier and more gorgeous.  Within six months we were married.  Sometimes you need a kick up the arse to really know what you’re looking for.’   James, 38

© Annie Harrison

Extracted from Finding Mr Right:  The Real Woman’s Guide to Landing That Man

(Image Roy Lichtenstein)




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