Looking after Number One: If you're not half of a couple, does it have to mean that something's always missing? Celia Dodd meets five single operators. The great event just hasn't happened

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Christine Edginton, 42, an events manager in London, has always been single.

THERE'S an assumption that being married is a perfect state and that you haven't fulfilled yourself as a woman if you're single. I would love to be married, but I don't go around thinking there's something missing in my life, there must be something wrong with me. I just haven't met the person who brings out the best in me and vice versa.

Several men have proposed, and I have been tempted, but it's never been the right person at the right time. As you get older and you have more freedom financially, and more experience, your attitude to the importance of marriage changes. I've never wanted to live with a man - for me, it's either marriage or not marriage. And I wouldn't enter into marriage lightly. I think it's possible to feel more alone when you're married than you ever feel being single. If you're unhappily married you can feel totally trapped, and that person can undermine your personality and inhibit your life.

When I was 39 I suddenly realised I'd left it a bit late to have children. A friend from university has a son of 14 - it makes me think, what have I done? But when I think about it I've had some really interesting jobs, I've travelled, and I've got lots of friends.

Sometimes I think I would still like children, even though I'm 42. I went through a really bad phase at the beginning of the year because my doctor told me I might have to have a hysterectomy.

There's always the possibility of marrying somebody with grown-up children and then I can enjoy the grandchildren without the nappies and things. I have loads of godchildren and I try to be very active in their lives. I've got more energy for children than their parents because I only see them in short bursts.

In my thirties I did consider having a child on my own. But when I really thought about it, I decided it would be very selfish - that every child should start off having the love of two parents.

Because I'm not married, and so a lot of my energy goes into my work, I need a job that gives me a bit of a buzz. But when people say: you chose not to marry, to be a career woman, it takes my breath away. I never perceived it as a choice.

Three years ago I gave up my job and went round the world for a year. I wanted to review my life, to have time to get my priorities right. I was lucky to have the opportunity - if I'd been married I wouldn't have gone hiking with tribesmen in the Golden Triangle, or lived with Fijian fishing families. You can't equate having children with those experiences. But if you're not married, it's important to do the things you want to because you've got the freedom.

People always say: you're so brave, so daring. In fact I'm quite cautious. But I have done things I never dreamt I'd be able to do. Being single makes you confront life. If you haven't got somebody else to look after you and there's a snake in the shower, it's just you and the snake. While I was away I learnt that I'm much stronger than I had realised.

If you allow fears to interfere with your life it is very difficult to be single and to live alone. Fears are real, but they can be overcome in all sorts of ways. I've never worried about my personal safety, although someone did try to break in when I lived in a cottage in the country. When I rang the police I was so terrifed I couldn't speak.

When I had an operation earlier this year it crossed my mind that if I was married there would be someone to look after me. I was too ill to cope with going home on my own, and I thought, who am I going to ring who can drop everything? The assumption is that a partner would drop everything, but that's not necessarily true. In fact I'm sure there will always be somebody there for me, in the way that I'll always be there for my friends.

Of course I miss romance. I had one boyfriend who was really wonderful at choosing presents. I was thinking yesterday that there won't be any really special surprises for me this Christmas.

I never set off for a party wondering if I'll meet somebody. I haven't had a date for a while. I think it's because I haven't made an effort to create situations where I expose myself to the opportunity of meeting single men. And my married friends don't socialise with single men.

I'm not positively looking for a man. I've never gone to wine bars to be picked up, although I have been out with girlfriends who do. I once went out for a drink with a work friend who said, 'Let's just have one glass here - there's not much muffin.' I was completely thrown - I'd gone out to catch up on her news. By the end of the evening she was chatting up this chap and they were talking about going away together.

Sometimes when I'm down, I think: Oh dear, what does the future hold for me? But other women worry about what they'll do when their children leave home. As long you've got your health and the right attitude, you can always find the silver lining.

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