"I can't believe you are still single - you seem so nice!" It's a comment I've heard plenty of times, There might even be circumstances when I've said it myself to another friend. It's meant well and it is often just said off the cuff with no real menace but boy it can really get under your skin if you are feeling vulnerable or a bit raw.
I usually shrug my shoulders, fix my smile and move the conversation on but it still rankles. The comment manages to make me feel there is something inherently wrong with me because I choose - quite deliberately - to remain single. I haven't always been single, in fact, I was with my now ex for 30 years so I know what it is like to be in a long term relationship.
I grew up with so many romantic expectations and being happily married was the only outcome. I don't remember any TV shows where the star of the show was a thriving, successful, entrepreneurial single woman in her 50's so I guess I didn't have any role models showing me there was an alternative. And don't get me started on the word 'SPINSTER"! Was there ever a more derogatory term aimed towards a single woman?
But since getting divorced at 47, I just have not felt the need to get back in the saddle and shack up with someone. Some of my friends think I am taking a feminist stance or that I am deeply afraid of commitment. Others comment I need to try a bit harder and make myself available - to what I wonder? Every time I go online and start dating, I am filled with a dread and crippling anxiety. I think it's my higher power telling me no! I have met some nice guys but no one who made me want to give up my single life and all the many benefits.
The general view is that being single means you are somehow deficient and that it's a temporary situation soon to be resolved once the man of your dreams shows up. However, I am not cooped up in an ivory tower waiting to be rescued and I feel I have more freedom and choice now than I ever did when I was married.
Being single has allowed me to become the full expression of who I really am and to spread my wings as far as they would unfurl. Launching Hello Dame has been the highlight of my life and I would not have done this if I was still married and 'comfortable".
That's not to say I don't envy my friends when I think of the stability and security that comes from being in a happy partnership. There are times when I am utterly terrified as I know no one is coming to rescue me. But accepting this made me grow up and made me take some very big decisions by myself - buying and selling properties, organising builders, getting a mortgage, buying a car, working full time, setting up a business and embracing being a single mum.
Since becoming single, I honestly think I have developed and grown into a much nicer person to be around because I can truly be myself.