I've been single for a decade, but don't need your judgement or pity

And I'm not the exception – not anymore

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The Independent Online

Having been single for six years, Grace Gelder decided to quit hunting for a prospective husband and ‘marry herself’. Presumably tired of seeing other people’s lives marked by extravagant engagements, weddings, christenings and the like, she held a country wedding for 50 guests and pledged to love and honour herself. She then kissed her own reflection.

Bizarre? Maybe. But I suspect a delicious dose of satire was at play as Grace went through her vows.

Certainly her unrepentant behaviour appealed to the non-conformist in me. And I can sympathise with her too, for, much to frustration and concern of various relatives and friends, I have now been single for over a decade.

So what's wrong with me? Why is someone who is apparently sane and reasonably presentable choosing this deviant path? The truth is, I am not entirely sure. All I know for sure is that I am far from the only adult who has been single for longer than they may care to admit.

If we must play the blame game then why not start with the baby boomers? They may be wringing their hands at my generation’s spectacular dysfunction, but it was they who cheerfully embraced free love and bonked the very sanctity out of marriage. My generation were the casualties, too scared to settle down young, but too set in our ways in our thirties and forties.

Or perhaps it is my own fault. I am not denying I have intimacy issues. But then so do scores of people, and they are firmly ensconced in marriages and long-term relationships.

At this point, it's best to be blunt. I'm not suggesting I’ve been celibate for ten years. Far from it. I have had some delicious flings - some of which I hoped would build into lasting journeys. But I think being in a relationship means being with someone beyond a few months, and feeling confident about introducing that person to my family. And it’s been a good decade since I had something like that, which probably sounds deeply suspicious.

However, despite this, I know that I am not the exception – not anymore. Just over half of all British households are single and that number is growing every year.

Yet our culture presents the idea that being in a relationship is not only the norm but a question of self respect.

It is terribly frustrating carrying other people’s crushed expectations when all you want is to do is get on with your life. There is something very Jane Austen about the whole thing, particularly as women get the brunt of it. As a single woman, I may able to support myself and lead a rich and interesting life, but if I am without a partner it is invariably assumed that I have a strange handicap I am hiding form the world.

The worst thing is the way strangers feel so entitled to pry. "What – you’re single? But you seem quite attractive – how can you be single? What went wrong?"

If I could just get a boyfriend – any boyfriend – I would be less embarrassing. I am the magpie in the nest, the rogue singleton at social occasions. So I seek out other singletons, they are my tribe. Together we form part of a backlash which is gathering momentum both here and across the Atlantic. Women in particular are increasingly embracing singledom as a lifestyle choice. There's now a sea of inspiring single bloggers: Spinsterlicious, Two Hopeful Spinsters, Singular, Onely, and many more who offer support and encouragement.

It must be said that given the choice, I would far rather be in a loving, fulfilling relationship than on my own. But I cannot see the point in sharing my bed with someone for whom I feel little but a passing fondness – as so many people do. And I know what it is to feel the agonising loneliness of an unfulfilling relationship – far worse than being alone.

So before you judge, please do remember that being single is not a disease. It isn’t catching or illegal. And, whisper it quietly, it can be rather fun.

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