Thursday, 10 December 2015
A Different Sort Of Singleton
So why is being suddenly single in our 40s so different to when we were single all those years ago? Well, let me refresh your memory…
Being single in my 20s was a breeze! Okay, maybe it didn’t feel like that at the time – a broken heart and shattered dreams while people muttered about me being left on the shelf and made tick-tock noises referring to my decaying eggs. There were tears, without doubt, but life after a break up went on pretty much as before. I’d get up, go to work, have a few drinks with my single friends, grab a takeaway on the way home and nothing much really changed.
At the weekend, I could slide my skinny jeans up over my flat tummy, pop my boobs into a pretty bra, apply a thin layer of makeup to my already smooth skin, slip some cash and a door key into my pocket then go out wherever, whenever and with whomever I wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, I was nothing special and I didn’t have to employ staff to get the throng of male suitors forming an orderly queue outside my front door. But I had my fair share of dates. What was it Andie MacDowell said in Four Wedding And A Funeral? “Less than Madonna, more than Princess Di.” Let’s leave it at that.
Winding forward to the 40-something single me is a different story. I have no full time “proper” job as I stopped work to bring up the kids. My social circle mainly involves under 12s critisising my menu choices and rolling their eyes when I dare to suggest their clothes would stand a far better chance of getting washed if they were in the vicinity of the linen basket rather than under their beds.
Obviously, there are school mums I see too but we rarely have time to chat as we scream at our charges to wipe the snot/last night’s ketchup/this morning’s toothpaste (delete as applicable) off their faces before we’re judged as being the mother who can’t really cope.
Then it’s a quick dash into town to buy dinner, a yellow t-shirt and leggings for the perfect nativity chicken costume, a birthday present for the kid your child adores but you secretly despise, dishwasher tablets, washing machine tablets, headache tablets and wine. Disclaimer: Note that these items should not be consumed together - including the Fairy and Persil.
That just leaves a few minutes to empty the dishwasher, hoover up the spilled cereal, make the beds, load the washing machine, finish the ironing, call the bank to unblock my debit card, call BT to fix whatever it is they’ve broken this week, book the car in for a service, walk the dog and put the bin out. Oh, and some of us even try to fit in paid work too. I’ve also heard it said that some mums take time out during their day to actually sit down long enough to eat lunch – how decadent!
Then it’s off again to collect the kids and argue about dinner, dessert, homework, showers and the “no iPads in bed” rule. Finally, it’s time to turn out their lights and stomp grumpily back downstairs. Of course, I then tip-toe back up 5 minutes later to tell them how much I love them and tuck them in with one last cuddle just in case the world implodes over night and the last thing they remember is my shouty voice. I am human, you know.
So, then, do I hit the town, sipping cocktails and eyeing up the talent? No, because I’m totally and utterly shattered. But if, by some miracle, I’ve found a smidge of energy and someone both willing and available to stay with the kids for an evening, my preparations are vastly different to all those years ago.
Kneading my flabby wine belly into some M&S control knickers whilst eyeing the uncomfortably snug jeans laughing at me from the wardrobe; piling my wayward, odd-sized boobs into an old, somewhat saggy, once-white bra; climbing into my stiletto boots wondering what on earth possessed me to buy them and if I can walk in them on an even surface let alone make it down the stairs safely; layering on the foundation and concealer to hide the wrinkles and bags; and finally packing a handbag that resembles a small suitcase to hold my purse, phone, keys, emergency make-up, nail file, hand cream, tissues, collapsible ballet pumps for when my feet are crippled later and a notepad/pen combo – I like to be prepared for all eventualities. And, these days ladies, one must also carry protection! No, I do not mean a personal attack alarm and pepper spray, although it’s not a bad idea. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well you should! Ask your teenage kids.
Anyway, my point is, why bother? It takes forever and I still look like a sack of potatoes next to those pert young women. Why would I ever want to stand in a bar next to those svelte girls to be bypassed every single time by the guys ogling the fruit marked “ripe and ready to eat” as opposed to “best before date expired”.
Right, this all sounds like doom and gloom and I can hear the gentle sobs and pitter-patter of tears falling onto keyboards everywhere. So what’s my point? Let’s hope I’ve got one eh?!
The thing is, yes, the guys heading for those 20-something girls probably would bypass me. And yes, I am a different person now in a different situation to the one I was all those years ago. But… what’s so bad about that?
So, I’m saggier and baggier than I was. But it’s time that’s pulled that particular gravitational trick on me. The same time that has enabled me to experience so much of the world meaning I’m more knowledgeable, more streetwise, more aware of media airbrushing, and less likely to fall for a chat up line designed merely to get me into bed… unless that’s what I’m angling for on that particular occasion. Don’t tell my mum I said that!
And, I have more baggage too. More responsibility, more kids, more pets and more friends to consider. Well, that means I also have more memories to hold onto, more stories to share, more support to draw on and more love in my world.
I have almost everything I dreamed of having when I was young. How lucky am I?
So, I’ve lost one element, my partner, and I’m experiencing some wobbles and insecurity in the other areas as a result. It feels like I’m adrift on a boating lake in a plastic canoe with no oars whilst everyone else is racing around on jet-skis made for two.
But, right now that’s fine. Without wanting to go overboard with the boating analogy (sorry, I couldn’t resist), I know that my baggage is my anchor. My baggage will always be with me, will follow me everywhere and will be my constant in this fast changing world.
I won’t yearn for the single me of yesteryear. I won’t waste my days wondering whether, if I’d made different choices back then, I’d be in a better position now. I am who I am now and I’m fortunate enough to have accumulated along the way the baggage I only dreamt of possessing all those years ago.
Be who you are today. Trust me, you’re stronger than you think, more courageous than you’ve ever believed and in possession of talents you didn’t know you had. It’s time to find out who you are and what you’re capable of. Let’s show those young girls what being a woman is all about!