Monday, 1 October 2007

Bridget Jones needs more than sex from her man. I don't.

I’m happily single. No, really, I am.

If I sound defensive, it’s because there are so many people out there who assume single women (and particularly single women Of A Certain Age – 43, in my case) aren’t happy to be single. And if they say they’re happy, well, they must be lying.

To clarify, let me define ‘single’ as it pertains to me. I was married once, a long time ago but, realising I wasn’t cut out for institutionalised cohabitation, I put an end to it, and have been husbandless since.

I’ve had, over the last 15 years, several short-term flirtations and a few flings, and five relationships of varying intensities and durations. Three of them ended because I was unwilling to commit to anything more ‘serious’ (as if just having a relationship weren’t serious enough!); one came to a crashing halt for reasons of infidelity (not mine); and my fifth is ongoing.

‘But if you’re in a relationship, you’re not single,’ you may say and, technically, you would be right.

In actuality, however, I am effectively single. My partner lives 100km distant. I see him only once or twice a month, and then for a limited time (usually a weekend), and it’s always just him and me – we don’t socialise together.

When we’re not together – which is the vast majority of the time – we live entirely unconnected lives, with separate social circles, interests, family commitments, work-related issues and so on. And because I always attend gatherings, parties and functions on my own, as well as living without benefit of a man on tap, I am, to all intents and purposes, single.

‘But then what’s the point of even having a relationship?’ you may ask, and it’s a good question and I’m glad you asked it.

I was at a family gathering last weekend, which included my two sisters (both sensibly and happily married) and several old family friends. One of these, Federico, an avuncular creature who’s known us since we were born and therefore feels no compunction in asking any question he likes regardless of time, place or circumstance, chose a lull in the conversation to pull a Bridget Jones on me. ‘So, Muriel, when is someone going to make an honest woman of you?’ he bellowed across the table.

Conversation died. Heads turned. This, clearly, was a subject of some interest to others too.

‘I try never to lie,’ I quipped weakly. (I’m never at my best when I’m in the spotlight.)

‘C’mon!’ bellowed Federico, spearing a potato and waving it at me. ‘A woman like you – goodlooking, intelligent, successful, in the prime of her life… any fellow would be happy to snap you up!’

‘I do have a … boyfriend, actually,’ I managed.

(Oh god. ‘Boyfriend’! What a nasty term for a 43-year-old woman to have to use. But what’s the alternative? ‘Partner’ sounds poncy. ‘Lover’ is too Mills&Boon. ‘Significant other’ is embarrassingly coy. And the only term I could accurately use* was inappropriate to the occasion.)

Federico laughed as heartily as he could with a mouth full of potato. ‘An imaginary one, eh?’ he said. ‘That him sitting next to you?’ (My Uncle Brian, who was actually sitting next to me at the time, shifted uncomfortably, as if having just discovered himself in the lap of a strange man.)

Well, really. I am, as Federico pointed out, intelligent, and I suddenly felt irritated by being so put on the spot.

‘He’s not here, obviously,’ I said, snittily. ‘We don’t socialise together. We only use each other for sex.’

Federico’s potato went down the wrong way and he turned blue, and attention was mercifully diverted from me while he was subjected to a bit of back-slapping, administered with suspicious zeal by his wife.

Much as a family gathering was probably not the best place for this kind of announcement, I am an honest woman, and what I said was the truth. Because: define 'relationship'?

My life is very full – I am, indeed, happily single. I have two teenage children who require a lot of my time and energy, and I enjoy giving it to them. I have four cats and a special-needs dog. I run a household. I have a demanding job. I have a few close friends with whom I spend as much time as I can, and a wider circle of wonderful wild ones for whom I especially make time. I walk and cycle and swim, read, cook, listen to music (sometimes I dance), watch movies...

I don’t need a man for the things men are usually required for, because I can do them myself – backwash the pool, take out the garbage, change a car tyre, remove a spider from the bath, replace a tap washer. And I can hire a man to do the things I can’t – replace a burst geyser and … well, nothing else springs to mind.

The only thing, as a singleton, that I don’t have, is sex – safe, familiar and readily available. And that’s where my ‘partner’ (for want of a better word, although, of course, there is one) comes in.

‘But you could always use a vibrator,’ you say, and once again, you’re right – but only to a point.

Because you know as well as I do that sex with a machine lacks a certain something. Warmth, companionship, a momentary soul summit – call it what you will, it’s vital. Sex is a simple human need – physical, certainly, but there’s also an emotional component, and there’s something about falling asleep, spent and sweaty, on the chest of a willing man that you just can’t get from a battery-driven toy, no matter how many bells and whistles it’s got.

(And, no, you can’t get this from a man you meet in a pub. Stranger-sex isn’t only soul-diminishing, it can also make you die.)

So, as I say, I’m happily single.

And so is my *fuck-buddy.

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Juno said...

Oh, Mur, you are such a tonic. (As someone who actually knows Muriel, I can vouch for every word she writes).

meggie said...

Bravo! Well written & how truthful.
The line, "You cant handle the truth!" springs to mind. Glad you almost choked Fredrico to death.

tonypark said...


And this year's prize for best and fairest one-liner goes to... Muriel.

What a lovely welcome back to the land of blogging.

angel said...

oh how i loved this post- wonderful stuff mur!!!