The lonely legacy of my Sex And The City lifestyle: Claudia Connell gives a painfully honest account of how she came to be living alone in middle-age
00:16 GMT, 5 November 2012
Like everyone, I think and worry about the future and wonder where I’ll be in the final decade or so of my life.
With at least another 20 years of work ahead of me, I don’t know whether I’ll be comfortably off or stony broke, and I hope that the good health I’ve enjoyed so far won’t desert me later on.
One thing I’m pretty sure of, though, is that I’ll be on my own, with no spouse to look out for me or children to visit.
Regrets: Now she's in her 40s, Claudia's single life has lost its gloss
At the age of 46, I accept that my opportunity to have a family has gone and the chances of meeting a decent man aren’t looking too rosy either.
Not exactly a cheery thought, but at least I can console myself with the knowledge that, in one sense at least, I will be far from alone — because today, in the UK, there are record numbers of us middle-aged singletons. Figures released last week by the Office of National Statistics showed that there are now 7.6 million people living alone in the UK.
And the fastest rising group of ‘aloners’ — 2.5 million — are people like me, who fall between the ages of 45 and 64 and live alone in our own properties with no spouse, partner or children.
The figure represents a mind-blowing 50 per cent increase since the mid-Nineties. Materially well-off but emotionally bereft, we represent the loneliest generation ever known — and as a member of this fast-growing club, I have to say, it’s not a membership I look forward to renewing annually.
For me, the single girl lifestyle that I embraced and celebrated with so much enthusiasm in the Eighties and Nineties has lost much of its gloss, and is starting to look a little hollow.
I was part of the Sex And The City generation — successful, feisty women who made their own money, answered to no one and lived life to the full.
When it came to men, our attitude to them was the same as it was towards the latest must-have handbag: only the best would do, no compromises should be made, and even then it would be quickly tired of and cast aside.
I was part of the Sex And The City generation- successful, feisty women who made their own money, answered to no one and lived life to the full
What none of us spent too long thinking about in our 20s and 30s was how our lifestyles would impact on us once we reached middle-age, when we didn’t want to go out and get sozzled on cocktails and had replaced our stilettos and skinny jeans with flat shoes and elasticated waists.
When I look around at all my single friends — and there are a lot of them — not one of them is truly happy being on her own. Suddenly, all those women we pitied for giving up their freedom for marriage and children are the ones feeling sorry for us.
Freedom is great when you can exploit it; but when you have so much that you don’t know what to do with it, then it all becomes a little pointless.
I grew up in Sussex then moved to London to pursue my job as a journalist, where I threw myself into a heady social life. /11/04/article-2227880-01C79F9B0000044D-747_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”My 20s slipped into my 30s and I watched my friends marrying off” class=”blkBorder” />
My 20s slipped into my 30s and I watched my friends marrying off
When I first bought my home, I used to go out five nights a week. Now, I typically only have one night out a week, and the time alone that used to be an occasional occurrence now accounts for the best part of my week.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when I’m glad to be on my own. One of my great pleasures is still to curl up on the sofa with a takeaway and watch one of my favourite TV shows in blissful solace.
I’ve always agreed with the old saying that if you can’t enjoy your own company, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to. But just as you’d get bored with seeing the same old person night after night, you can also get bored with your own company.
On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself thinking that perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad, after all, to have someone to cook for, discuss the plot of Homeland with, or just offload to after a particularly bad day.
Then there are the practicalities of finding someone who can shift a heavy piece of furniture or jump-start a car. If my married sister needs something done, she asks her husband. But when I need help, I have to pay someone 200 or more.
In the Nineties, we professional, single women conducted our love-lives according to a best-selling book called The Rules — a dating bible that dictated that we should be aloof and hard to get, that we should not return phone calls, and we should always make a man pay on dates. Any man who didn’t conform was to be kicked to the curb until the next poor sap came along.
What I never considered, though, was that one day they’d stop coming along altogether. I really wish I’d known that once you’re in your late 30s, men are pretty thin on the ground. And once you’re in your 40s, it’s as though they’ve been wiped off the face of the Earth.
A woman over 45 on an internet dating site is made to feel as welcome as a parking ticket. The sites may be full of single men in their 40s, but they sure aren’t looking to meet women of the same age!
Then, of course, there is the matter of children. In my 30s, I really didn’t want them. It’s only now, as the choice is removed, that I begin to wonder what my life would be like with a family.
The first Sex And The City movie grossed nearly 260 million worldwide
Last year, author Lori Gottlieb caused a sensation when she published her book Marry Him — The Case For Settling For Mr Good Enough. Gottlieb argued that too many women are ending up lonely and unfulfilled because they are brainwashed into believing only Mr Perfect will do. She stated that any well-educated, ambitious woman who was single after 35 was on her own because she was too picky — shopping for a husband with a ridiculously unrealistic checklist.
I think she’s right. I also think it’s an uncomfortable truth that the sort of high-flying alpha males we were all holding out for didn’t want women like us. All the successful men I know have married sweet, uncomplicated women who are happy to forfeit their careers to support their husbands.
It’s not all bad news, though, and I try not to waste too many nights crying big lonely tears into my cosmopolitan cocktail. Being single still has some incredible upsides — the biggest being the disposable income and the freedom to self-indulge.
If I had a family, I wouldn’t have been able to spend a month in Australia earlier this year, or a weekend shopping in Milan, and I would probably have felt too guilty ever to spend 3,000 on a rug (as I have just done).
The only inconvenience was the pool of single girls on whom I could rely to keep me amused into the early hours starting to diminish
And yes, we may be occupying homes that are too big for us, but at least we’re spending money and helping to keep the economy going — and putting enough in the pot to cover everyone else’s tax credits.
The brutal reality remains, however, that Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones — our fictional, singleton poster girls — ended up living happily ever after. Even the writers behind those characters couldn’t accept that they’d be happy to stay single for ever — which does make me feel a little cheated.
Carrie and Bridget were lucky. The same can’t be said for the millions of women, like me, who were so inspired by them.
As women continue to match men on the salary front, and no longer need a partner to provide for them, I predict the numbers of middle-aged single women will continue to increase.
So, as all the sassy, single 30-somethings out there recover from a weekend of excess, drinking cocktails and dancing defiantly to I Will Survive and Single Ladies (both performed by happily married women, incidentally), I’d urge them to continue having the time of their life … but also, perhaps, to keep one eye on the lonely middle-age that is waiting to knock on their door.