MiddleagedSingle.com: Are you lonesome tonight?

Despite much being written in the press about the increasing numbers of older single people, and the mainstream advertising of internet dating sites (the term ‘lonely hearts’ thankfully being so last century) becoming commonplace with TV adverts for Match.com sandwiched between fish fingers and fabric conditioner, being single, female and over forty brings out varied, and often surprising, reactions in other people.

I don’t want to play the hard-done-by-female card but there is no getting around the fact that we are viewed differently than single men. A single man is generally portrayed as an eligible bachelor, a single woman as sad and lonely. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you two names and you can decide for yourself. George Clooney.  Jennifer Aniston. See? No-one ever seems sorry for George back-on-the-market-girls Clooney, do they? In fact his single status is positively celebrated. But the continual hand-wringing for Jennifer will-she-ever-find-happiness Aniston is relentless.

Of course it could be the underlying worry (not that it’s any of our business) that poor Jen needs a man pretty damn pronto before she finds herself in a ‘left it too late’ situation, whereas there’s no need to be concerned on good old George’s behalf; he has plenty of years left to sow his seed. It’s these publicly discussed assumptions being made, and the implication that she can’t possibly be happy without a permanent partner in her life, that get my goat.

The media can be the mean kid in the playground when it comes to reporting on a story that features an un-partnered woman of middle years who just happens to be single. She might have been robbed of her life savings by a professional conman with Oscar-worthy acting skills but at some stage the emphasis will be the ’lonely woman, desperately looking for love’ who is conned out of life savings. Or the early morning photo taken of a frown-y-faced Jennifer could be due to her sleeping through the alarm, tripping over the dog, realising the milk is off and her favourite top is in the wash and she’s now in the wrong outfit and late for an interview. In other words she’s just going about her life. However you can bet your next months subscription to Meetafella.com the write-up next to that photo will suggest that Jennifer is putting on a brave face because she’s single, yet again, and has spent another night in her sad, empty, lonely house, all by herself. Just for the record, ‘alone’ is not the same as ‘lonely’.

The media might well paint this ‘one size fits all’ picture of the single woman but some who actually know her, and for some reason are unable to separate her from the ‘single’ label, can often perpetuate the myth on a personal scale. I’ve been quizzed by people who know me fairly well demanding (yes, really) to know why I think I’m single and still not married at my age, as if it’s some sort of major failure in life. I’ve even been asked “But are you happy?” when I replied to someone that no, I didn’t at that moment have a man in my life. The concept of being able to create my own happiness/contentedness, whatever you want to call it, without a man being around to help provide it for me, seems inconceivable to some.

If I were to describe in TV terms how I feel on a day-to-day basis, on a scale of 1 (The Killing) bleak and miserable, to 10 (Doc Martin) warm and fuzzy, I’d say I’m probably a 7 (Come Dine with Me) some fun moments with mediocre cooking and the occasional person I’d like to punch.

Yes, I would like to find someone to share my life with, but wish I could just get on with it without having to dodge these negative preconceptions. Single is just an attribute, it’s not a whole identity. Does anyone else feel the same way?

 

14 Comments

  • Jane says:

    If those comments are from married women, I am pretty sure some of them are questioning from a more complicated angle than you think. The ‘are you happy’ question’ means ‘ please tell me youre not happy, cos there has to some reason for me putting up with this hideous marraige. If you answer ‘ yes I love my life, why would I want or need a man’ it will shut them up – their worst fears will have been realised!!! Some (not all) are jealous – trust me!!
    Jx

  • Nicola says:

    Well d’ya know what, however you live your life will be considered to be wrong by some. I’m married without children (by choice) and some people think I’m selfish others think I’m secretly sad and have tried for years to get me to admit it (I’m not. It was the right choice for me and I’m very happy with it). My friend who is a single mother is considered to be selfish and irresponsible, the ones who have children and work are considered to be bad mothers, and the one who has children but doesn’t work is judged by some to be irresponsible because she’s not contributing financially. My friend who has a husband, a job and a child is selfish because she’s depriving her child of a sibling! I agree with Jane. I think anyone who questions and judges another person’s lifestyle is secretly uncertain of their own life choices and wants to be reassured by surrounding themselves with people who are exactly like them.

  • emma's sage green says:

    LOVE the description of your life in TV terms !

  • MAS.com says:

    Jane, yes both those comments are from married women. To the “are you happy” question I answered “I don’t need a man to make me happy” – she quickly back-tracked then, but I do agree there’s something in that theory of yours!

    Nicola, that’s so well-observed. I have a married friend who like you decided years ago they just didn’t want children, and she seems to constantly have to defend their decision to others. (She’s also convinced that if I spend more than three nights running at home by myself that I must get lonely, but that’s another story!)

    Is it just women who make these judgements & presumptions about each other, do you think? I’ve never had these types of comments levelled at me by male friends, they just don’t seem that bothered – hurray!!

  • MAS.com says:

    Emma, I’ve had a bit of a 5 today (Grand Designs) started out with an ambitious plan, slowly disintegrated into mayhem and in the end I wish I hadn’t bothered.

  • Joanie says:

    What a relief to hear you are experiencing similar reactions to the crime of being a single woman in your late forties!
    “Never married” is a serious charge against woman ……..no so for a man.
    What amazes me are the automatic assumptions from both men and women about my (chosen) lack of marital status.
    Women assume the superior attitude of ” poor you – couldn’t you find anyone to marry you / she must be a lesbian ” . Obviously ! If you talk to their husbands the assume you are hitting on them !
    One man asked “what was wrong with me ” as I had never succumbed to the lure of someone equally alluring as himself !
    Is it more “socially acceptable” to be divorced than the dreaded NM ?!! Sometimes if feel like lying, but somehow I can t quite be bothered!!
    Joanie

  • MAS.com says:

    Joanie, I’m so with you on all these cmmts. And don’t get me started on married men either – mind you there’s probably a whole post in there somewhere!

  • Rachel says:

    I once had a boss who actually said to me “Well, a man’s gotta ask himself, “What’s wrong with her?” If she’s never been married or is divorced there’s got to be something. You’ve just got to figure out if it’s something you can deal with or not.” I was younger at the time, recently divorced which he knew, and was so shocked I sat there speechless for a minute. It’s definitely not just women who do this kind of thing. Men perpetuate it too.

  • MAS.com says:

    Well, I’m speechless with you Rachel. Glad its not just women then! But still awful.

  • Leanne says:

    I am 44 and never married and many years ago one of my brothers in law told me that my life would be worth nothing without a husband or kids – my gravestone would only have my name on it – nice. I was devastated at the time and wondered if perhaps there was something wrong with me but time (20 years) and experience have shown me he always says stupid stuff and that I am happy!

  • MAS.com says:

    Leanne, words fail me. I think Nicola’s quote sums things up succinctly “….anyone who questions and judges another person’s lifestyle is secretly uncertain of their own life choices and wants to be reassured by surrounding themselves with people who are exactly like them.”
    In fact Nicola, if you don’t mind, I am commiting this quote to memory to use as a quick-fire retort if I get any nasties aimed at me – I’m usually stuck for the right words at the time!

  • Joanie says:

    Some people are so thoughtless with their throwaway commentes ….it’s a shame we remember them for so long!!
    Perhaps we should remeber all the lovely comments friends have made – much more positive !
    Joanie

  • nicki says:

    ‘Single is an attribute not an identity’ and its also…
    Single is an adjective to describe a person with no ties, freedom and choice to do what they want (within reason!) without checking in first. Ok sometimes you want company, to share lifes pleasures and that’s good too. But one isn’t better than the other, they are just different! So all the smug couples out there please note singles are not to be pitied or humoured (or worse fixed up with their only other single friend!) We are just in a different place to them and that’s OK!!

  • MAS.com says:

    Nicki, love your positive outlook! Sounds like you’ve been set up with a totally unsuitable single man though – I’m sure your friend had the best intentions, but yes they can be wide of the mark. I was once introduced (with knowing looks and nudges) to someone who still lived at home with his Mum – at 42!

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