With so many options, it's no surprise women love the single life

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The Independent Online

What has happened to the fairer sex? Long famed for our subservient demeanour and desperation to hook a man to facilitate that stagger up the aisle looking like a tearful Christmas cake, it seems that a sea change has come over us. According to an NOP poll this week, instead of hitching themselves to one, for a life of fulfilment washing his Y-fronts and burning his dinner, women are delaying marriage so they can play the field and make the most of the single life.

What has happened to the fairer sex? Long famed for our subservient demeanour and desperation to hook a man to facilitate that stagger up the aisle looking like a tearful Christmas cake, it seems that a sea change has come over us. According to an NOP poll this week, instead of hitching themselves to one, for a life of fulfilment washing his Y-fronts and burning his dinner, women are delaying marriage so they can play the field and make the most of the single life.

In order to unearth these shocking revelations, NOP interviewed 295 women and 176 men. I don't know why there were 119 more women than men in the survey, but I do know my O-level maths has paid off. And, of course, letting women go to school in the last century is what set us all on the road to the lamentable situation today.

It seems that half the women questioned in the survey favour the hedonistic lifestyle of that media-invented club the Ladette. I find this puerile category of womanhood distressing and the fact that anyone takes it seriously enough to bother mentioning it in a survey is extremely worrying. Added to that, a representative of the organisation which commissioned the survey, Dating-Direct.Com, was quoted as saying that these results are down to that other appalling concept, "girl power". The problem I have with girl power is that it is so shallow you could use it as a paddling pool for your dachshund, while the only historical proponent of girl power that the Spice Girls ever mentioned was Margaret Thatcher, the biggest female enemy of feminism this century.

Still, I'm straying from the question of marriage and why young women don't want to do it.

I suppose men like to be looked after, and so do women. How many times do you hear businesswomen saying, "I'd like a wife", when largely what they mean is, "I'd like a servant". Many men these days appear to be hoping to go straight from home-cooked to wife-cooked. But hark! What is that squeaking noise? It's the sound of another young woman popping a meal in the microwave, because women can't cook these days either. Men might see what their dads had and want it, but women see what their mothers had and don't.

Women in the survey said that monogamy was "old-fashioned" and that, unlike their mothers, they wanted to enjoy themselves for as long as possible with "no strings". And, fair enough, why should men have all the fun? However, it'll be a long time before women are allowed to be promiscuous without being judged, as demonstrated by Melanie Sykes recently, who has been forced to rehash the tired, old "You he-man, me slapper" arguments about her sexual history. Young women are different today, because in the sex war a lot of them have gone over to the other side. I saw a letter in Loaded magazine once from a young woman the gist of whose words were: "Yeh, I love your magazine and I don't think it's horrible to women who aren't beautiful, because I can't stand ugly birds either."

But magazines such as Loaded and its relations represent our increasing adherence to acquisition above all else, so why is it a surprise that women want to put a family life on hold rather than rely on a bloke to support them? Maybe women have finally wised up to the fact that "having it all" means that you are so bloody knackered doing a full-time job and looking after the family that you can hardly crawl to the fridge for a beer at the end of the day, let alone shake your chest at someone in a club.

It seems to me that all of the traditional reasons for marriage are now obsolete:

1) Not being a social outcast. There are now so many divorced, separated and single people, the married ones are the outcasts.

2) Companionship. There are so many options that are far superior to the moody lump who sits in front of the telly and speaks in monosyllables. Try a dog, a parrot, or the internet.

3) Children. Women can defer childbirth these days until their late thirties or even wait until they're 60 if they really want to - when you need less sleep, you get less.

4) Financial support. As we know, women can work and support themselves; and, if they are single, they don't have to spend it all on beer for their husband.

5) Security. You don't need a husband to be safe. In fact, lots of women's husbands are positively unsafe. Get a dog, a burglar alarm or move to America where you're allowed to shoot people.

6) You want to be in love with someone. There are so many Mariah Carey-type songs around these days encouraging you to love yourself or find the hero inside of you, that you don't need another person to love.

7) You want to give your children a name so they aren't bastards. Most kids I meet are little bastards, whether they've got fathers or not.

On the other hand, if you aren't a totally horrible old cynic, you can probably think of lots of good reasons for marriage.

I suppose the best way to approach it is as an individual. I have a few friends who used to say things like, "Oh, I really want a husband", as though husbands were something that came from Ikea as self-assembly kits and once you'd married them you were guaranteed a happy-ever-after and nothing would ever change. It's reassuring that women are giving themselves some breathing space and not grabbing the first packet that comes along.

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