No More Need For Men?

Being alone may fill some women of a certain age with dread, but being single has never been more fun. We celebrate being young, free and single!

While enjoying a glass of wine and a catch up with the girls recently, one of them divulged something quite shocking.

She'd just discovered an invite to a friend's wedding hadn't got 'lost in the post' as she'd first feared. It was far worse. She hadn't actually been invited to the wedding in the first place.

The reason? Because she's single and (at the ripe old age of 35) the bride thought the situation would make her feel uncomfortable.

In an age when scientists have revealed they've been able to grow sperm in test tubes for the first time and therefore hinted at a future where men could be surplus to requirements, it seems an archaic way of thinking.

Yet being single at a certain age is still regarded by some as a social taboo.

While debates about the ethics of creating lab-generated sperm will rage on, there are other matters we need to address.

Namely, why there should be no shame in declaring yourself to be a single woman - and a happy one at that.

Take A-listers Jennifer Aniston, 40, and Cameron Diaz, 37. Gorgeous, intelligent and successful, they're also out and proud singles who take the attitude that if you don't like the way it looks, then look the other way.

But it's not only the celebrity contingency who are revelling in the freedom of being modern, single women. Take a look at the stats.

Recent research has unveiled the total of one-person households worldwide rose from 154.5 million in 1999 to 202.6 million in 2006. In Europe, 28.9% of all households are now single and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of young people living alone in Australia has almost doubled in the last 30 years.

It seems that, no longer faced with the danger of being left economically and socially vulnerable, many more women are less keen on getting hitched.

"Women are placing greater emphasis on their careers and education and maybe as a result, they're less likely to compromise on their choice of partner," says Dr Victoria Lukats, psychiatrist and dating expert.

"They'd rather be single than be with someone who's not right for them."

So why the pitying looks from certain family members, friends, and even the odd stranger, when you say that you're single?

"There might be a certain expectation from some that everyone wants to settle down and start a family," says Dr Lukats. "Some people in relationships may assume that everyone is like them and if you don't have fond memories of being single, it's easy to imagine others feel the same."

But can you imagine turning the tables and asking why someone's decided to settle for someone? The truth is there are still those who prefer to be with someone, anyone, rather than be single.

"For some people it comes down to a fear of being single," says Dr Luktas.

"It's very common to have the fear that you might never meet anyone else if you split up. To then quickly meet someone else can be a relief."

Which would explain the behaviour of those who jump from one partner to the next. They might not feel fulfilled or content in their relationships but, phew, at least they're not single, right?

"I have come across people who do this, jump from one relationship to another with little or no time in between," says Dr Luktas.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be a problem, but people who have adopted this pattern of relationships often say with hindsight they wished they could have been single for a while and taken their time to find someone really right for them rather than settle for someone completely unsuitable."

In bowing to the pressure of social ideals, women can be their own worst enemy. And it's possible that, like the archetypal male bachelor, there are women equally averse to the notion of settling down.

Recent research conducted by Swedish scientists at Karolinska Institute found that both men and women can be genetically predisposed to remaining single. Apparently some women have low levels of oxytocin, also known as the 'love drug', a chemical which allows you to bond romantically with others.

It's a topic American author and confirmed commitment-phobe Elina Furman explored in her book, Kiss and Run: The Single, Picky and Indecisive Girl's Guide to Overcoming Her Fear of Commitment.

She says there were two reasons for writing the book.

The first was to help women who want to be in a relationship but keep pushing men away because they're commitment phobic.

The other was to suggest that perhaps women who have issues with commitment and are concerned why they aren't in a relationship, simply don't one.

"There are far fewer women who are relationship material than we think," she says.

"I wanted to give them a free pass to relax, enjoy and be happy as they are, instead of forcing themselves to try and conform to a whole load of socialised rubbish that isn't natural."

Instead of glaring regretfully (bitterly?) across a restaurant table at a partner to whom you have nothing to say or staging a pathetic re-enactment of the pyjama + ice-cream tub + television + tears rom-com ritual of spurned heroines, give yourself a break.

Revel in the freedom and potential adventures your single status affords by doing exactly what you want, whenever you want to do it.

"Many people spend years waiting for an ideal partner or 'soul mate' to make them feel happy and complete," says Lauren Mackler, psychotherapist
and author of Solemate. But really, she says, they should focus on "having a full, happy, successful and financially secure life - with or without a partner."

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