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The big debate: Can you be single and happy?

By Bunmi Sofola (31-07-2017)

Is it possible for a spinster to be truly happy or fulfilled without a man or children in her life? About a year ago, Kate Bolick published a controversial book which argues that modem singletons are actually content with their lot. But is the author of Spinster: Making A Life Of One’s Own deluded? Or is she on to something? Taiwo, 52 this year,.bought and read the book almost immediately copies appeared on the bookshelves and told me .sadly, that she wasn’t all that ecstatic about being single in spite of her wealth.

According to her, “A few weeks ago, I found myself in the middle of a room and my eyes pricked with tears. Mustering all my strength not to well up, I felt a gaping sense of loss. I was not at the funeral of a loved one, but at my friend’s son’s tenth birthday party, and I was the only woman there without an army of squabbling brats and a man to call my own. Most of my friends were there – a medley of middle-aged couples settled around the kitchen table, content and relaxed as they swapped jokes about truculent teenagers and the grind of JAMB.

“Amid the hubbub, I was shouting into my mobile, organising my weekend outings ahead. I laughed and joked about another date, but my laughter was empty, merely a mechanism to cover up the loneliness  I felt. After all, I was 52, and quite honestly, I’d much rather be spending a cosy night with a husband and children than running around like the teenager I so obviously am not.”

Yet, according to the U.S. author, Taiwo should be out and proud, enjoying her exciting single lifestyle. Her book, part memoir and part eulogy to the state of spinsterhood, challenges the idea that women who don’t marry are somehow sad and pathetic. Being single, she says shouldn’t be seen as a default position for modem bachelorettes, but a life choice, a conscious decision to exist independently and self-sufficiently.

“I used to think like Bolick,” confessed Taiwo. “I even gave a talk or two to professional bodies on living an unconventional life that was unfettered and free. But who was 1 kidding? Myself, of course. Because the idea of being able to have a happy, fulfilled life on your own is a myth.

I can’t tell you how many times I have come home to a cold house and an empty bed and felt utterly dejected and scared. True, I may be able to eat in bed, watch daytime soaps and drink wine when I felt like – the usual arguments trotted out by Bolick; but as pleasurable as all this may be, I know I’d enjoy it far more if I shared it with someone I loved. Which is

why Bolick’s premise that life can be lived more fully on your own – she even writes of finding herself yearning, when with a man, for the extravagant pleasures of simply being alone – seems to me like a slow burning recipe for unhappiness.

“Has she ever wondered what will happen when old age catches up with her? The fact is, she’s still in her early 40s, stunning with a figure to die for. Wait till her lips are puckered and the cheeks sunken. I often wake up in the night, terrified no man will ever want me again. Because – and here’s the crux – Bolick’s feminist mantra of  `If bachelorhood can be

celebrated, why not spinsterhood’ is simply naive. I’m sorry, but as cruel as it is, being single is different for women. It’s unfair, even disgustingly so, but it is also true.

“Only last weekend, I was at my social club chatting to a group of men in their early 60s. They listened to me attentively, until a svelte thirty- something wafted in. One even managed to arrange a date with her. And it’s not only dating disappointments we mid-life singletons have to contend with. I also wonder, with no children of my own and growing health niggles, who will look after me as I age? And as if that wasn’t enough, there is the problem of ageing parents. Six years ago, my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. My sisters, with their many child- centric responsibilities, left the bulk of caring duties to me. As my father pointed out, it wasn’t as if I had any family commitments. And he was right.

“When she passed away last year, it was my job to look after our devastated father. To make sure the house-help cooked him the right meals, sit and chat about the happy times. I don’t resent doing all that, and am happy to be useful. But to be honest, it is a bit like landing the booby prize. Never in a million years did I ever think that my life would end up like this. It is far from the foot-loose ‘living on your own terms’ that Bolick talks about.

“So I am sorry to contradict the author and her merry army of glad-to-be- single followers, because it may seem glamorous, glossy and daring now, but come a certain age, being on your own is simply and sadly lonely. No, we spinsters don’t need to be pitied or laughed at, but neither do we need to pretend to ourselves and the world we are having a ball, because we’re not!”

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