5. SWPF seeks SWPM

by Belle


I’ve been single for a while now. Apparently I’m successful, attractive, interesting blah blah blah. And it’s not just my female friends that say so, or my friends full stop. But something isn’t clicking. I’ve hit my mid thirties, and though I spent most of my twenties and early thirties in long-term relationships I… well the point is I don’t know why I am single right now. When it comes to relationships I’ve learnt that my gut instinct is usually right, no scrap that, it has always been right. The times that I haven’t listened to my gut I’ve spun straight into a messy ugly goo. Idiot. Won’t do that again. Even when a cute Swedish ‘promoter’ did the hard sell a few nights ago I didn’t succumb – we’re talking beauty products here not sweet nothings.

I’ve been a good friend, had a successful career and I am outgoing… yet I find myself alone and about to spin out of control. Actually I’m already spinning, just that now and then I find the control to pull myself back from the edge. The thing is I don’t fit anywhere or with anyone anymore. The groups of friends I had are still friends but they’ve moved on in all sorts of ways. Married, kids, jobs, location, you name it. My newer friends are either 10 years younger than me, 10 years older, or they are a part of my professional network. Which maybe means they’re acquaintances not friends. It also means that often I put up barriers, or I remove myself completely.

Am I somewhere between wallowing in self pity, and hiding behind other people’s feelings… ? I take care of other people. I’m not invisible, but often I feel like I am. Maybe it’s true what they say, that men/people simply don’t notice women over a certain age. Maybe I’ve always been invisible. Or wanted to be. Who knows. What I know is that my energy is waning, it’s not burn out… it’s about self esteem, and fear, which isn’t helped by being spread too thinly – family demands, work and all that stuff. No wonder I’m single.

So, to go back to the central point about singledom. There’s something different now, I don’t think it’s just about me. Now in 2013 being single, be that late twenties, thirties or maybe even early forties, is somehow different from being in that position in the 90’s or 10 years ago. It’s feels like there is an uncertainly about our place in society. I’m talking about the role of men and women. It’s more than the economic climate, isn’t it?

A number of male friends talk, or don’t talk, about their uncertainty. Not only whether they should open the door or give up their seat on the tube for the ‘fairer sex but who are their role models, what is their role in business, in society and at home; and most of all how do they guide their sons/ younger colleagues/ mentees in light of the fact that they themselves feel lost?

I come from a generation that thought/were told that feminism had resolved everything and that we were all equal – contrary to what we were living and breathing once we left education. As I moved up the ranks there were fewer women alongside me. Which is why, I think, the debate has resurfaced. It’s worth noting that the issues of race and feminism have morphed into wider questions about gender, diversity and equality. Gender isn’t about the polarities of male and female, now there’s a spectrum of male to female. Likewise all the other issues, none can or should be considered as binary. Yet the challenges of gender, race, ageism etc. are often addressed in isolation, what happens if events and programmes consider/highlight our differences. Designing around those differences could work without excluding/ labelling – what happens if we shift our approach to reflect the recognition of difference rather than continuing to seek/use  labels and categories? These are social musings. More urgently, on a personal level, I’m wondering how do we/ I begin to deal with all of this in relation to female singledom? And beyond that how do we/I  get past this? Because, one of the differences, is the woman’s ticking bomb.

Ooops, did I say ticking bomb, I meant body clock.