This has not been a good week for women in their 30s. It's quite terrible, really. A national scandal, you might say. Apparently there are more women than ever living ALONE in their 20s and 30s. Singletons. They are, I am gently reminded, nicknamed the Bridget Jones generation. Cue the pitiful head tilts.
Enough. Isn't it time we had a new role model? Does the fact that more women are living alone mean a nation of lonely, sad spinsters, crooning "All By Myself " after too many glasses of Chardonnay to the chagrin of the neighbours beyond their flimsy walls? Or does it mean that women are earning more, marrying later and embracing and enjoying independence? Where are the stories telling us that there are more young men living alone - and what would their nickname be? In a country where the headlines are dominated by news of property bubbles and skyrocketing rents, surely the statistics on more women living alone should paint a very different picture. All of the women I know that fit in this category share the same traits. They are all professionals, earning a decent wage. They all work long hours to earn those wages, and are far too busy catching up on their emails and social commitments in the evenings to waste time fantasising about dying alone and being eaten by wolves.
I used to live alone - until I moved to London and realised I could afford to either flatshare or start living off packet soups. But I loved my little shoebox. After years of student digs and sharing with strangers - and before that years of bickering with four siblings - the feeling of coming home and closing the door behind you to your own private sanctum is incomparable.
My social life was better. I could invite friends for dinner without having to do the kitchen dance while three other flatmates. I could decorate the way I wanted without having to reason why a traffic cone did not make a good feature.
But, best of all, I could be ALONE. Yes, I could choose to spend a Saturday night in front of the TV with a glass of wine. And no moping. None at all. (Although there may have been some questionable Bridget-esque pyjamas.) I know the area where Bridget Jones lived, in the film at least. And it is prime real estate. Currently, the bottom end of the rental market for a one-bedroom flat around London Bridge will cost you about £450 a week. A happy-go-lucky junior journalist such as Bridget would struggle to afford that. And, while we're at it, if she did live in that area, she probably wouldn't be sitting around in her pyjamas bemoaning her life or making questionable blue soup for dinner parties. She'd be flitting around nearby Tate Modern, buying chorizo in Borough Market or drinking in trendy Shoreditch with her mates, all the while regaling them with tales of her latest Tinder date.
Don't get me wrong. I grew up with Bridget, and have a certain fondness for her, as you would for any bumbling but loveable childhood friend. For all her kookiness, she tries to be a feminist, and independent at that. She loses the love rat, embarks on a whole new career and, yes, lives ALONE in central London.
Perhaps the problem is a dearth of good female role models. An obscure feminist character in a novel doesn't make a very catchy hook for an article. The Lisbeth Salander generation? Dodgy haircuts, dragon tattoos and manhating issues? The Katniss Everdeens? Better, but hardly preoccupied with the property market while there are Hunger Game battles to the death going on. The Carrie Bradshaws? While we fabulous thirtysomethings aren't all crying in the bathtub every night, neither are we hanging out in our knickers gleefully perusing our shoe collections.
Perhaps, in time, characters will start to mirror real life. Hermione will tire of the hapless Ron Weasley, and move into a penthouse bought with the proceeds of her corporate witching academy. After Homer's death from a massive coronary and the children have departed, Marge will finally get out of polluted Springfield and rent in New York's East Village where she can concentrate on her painting. And Dora the Explorer will grow up to take a career with National Geographic.
But in the meantime, no more Bridget comparisons, please. We're far too busy examining council tax bands to deal with that.