Ihad an interesting conversation at the farmers’ market recently. Yes, I have become the sort of person who a) goes to the farmers’ market and b) has interesting conversations there. It was a Friday, the weather was tolerably pleasant for an Irish summer, and I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen in a while - “hi, hi, how are the kids? ... Oh, very good... Yes, still at the writing, ha ha, may as well keep at it at this stage, I suppose.” She asked if I was sleeping properly because I looked a bit ‘tired’, she wondered if the movie adaptation had been cast yet (“would there be a part for me, now?” she laughed and I had to pretend she was the first person to make that joke) and then she enquired as to what vegetables I was buying. I thought I might have to produce my birth cert (the long one) for her to inspect when she suddenly changed pace.
Her: Are you going to X and Y’s wedding today?
Me: No. (Lady, would I be here in my leggings and hoodie if I was going to a wedding today? I’ll admit I’m lazy when it comes to personal grooming but I haven’t quite reached that level of slothfulness yet.)
Her: That’s such a pity. Are you not friendly enough with them to have been asked?
Me: Eh... I guess not?
Her: And have you any ring on your finger at all?
Me: No, I’m nother: Ah no, isn’t that a terrible shame? And at your age too!
Reader, I murdered her. And there’s not a jury (of 30-something-year-old women) in the land that would convict me.
My last serious relationship broke up six years ago and while I have dated on and off in that time, it hasn’t been my primary concern. Since 2012, I have written four novels (two coming your way in 2018!), co-written a treatment for a television show and have worked on the screenplay for Only Ever Yours.
There are stage, movie, and TV adaptations in progress, all of which I’m involved with to varying degrees and I write a weekly column for this newspaper. I think it’s fair to say that I’m busy. I’m just trying to take over the world here, y’all. The men can wait.
When I look back over the last number of years, I don’t have any regrets. This isn’t a crappy Lifetime movie where I find myself alone on Christmas Day, surrounded by diamonds and fur coats in my fancy New York apartment, and I have a Come-To-Jesus moment of realisation that none of it matters because I’m still single. In the movie, I would travel back in time and marry my high school sweetheart and live on a farm in Kansas with our twenty-five children and a dog called Billy. In real life, however, I’ve worked really hard and yes, some personal sacrifices had to be made, but I love my job. It can be overwhelming and stressful at times, as all jobs can be, but I feel incredibly lucky to be able to sit at my desk every day and tell stories for a living.
It’s interesting that some people still believe that a fulfilling career is worthless unless you have a romantic partner to share it with.
I was having dinner with a group of my friends recently - all dynamic, ambitious, driven women - and this very topic arose.
Four out of the seven present were single, happily so, and despite their considerable success in the work place, each of them said they were often made to feel inadequate because they didn’t have a boyfriend. I would be very curious to know if a group of men who enjoyed similar success in their early thirties endured that same pressure to ‘settle down’. Somehow, I doubt it. Unmarried men become happy bachelors, women deemed pathetic spinsters.
In 2017, why do so many people still believe that a heterosexual woman without a man by her side is someone to be pitied?
Why do we continue to promote marriage and children as the ultimate prize to be won for women, but not for men?
And, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her TED Talk We Should All be Feminists, when our obsession with teaching young girls that marriage is the goal that the rest of their lives should be centred around, what happens when those girls become women who are ‘pushed to make terrible choices’?
I have been in relationships where I have been desperately unhappy.
In others, where I have felt lonelier than I ever was by myself. I have allowed people to treat me with far less kindness and respect than I deserved because I was ‘in love’ with them and couldn’t bear the thought of losing them. (Note to any young people reading this - real love is easy and it doesn’t hurt. I promise you.)
A bad relationship is never preferable to being alone. I wish that we were encouraged to develop a deeper connection with ourselves rather than constantly searching for someone or something outside of ourselves to complete us.
There is no amount of validation that someone else can offer you that will ever be as powerful as what you can give yourself.
As for me? I might never meet The One and I’m genuinely okay with that. I might be godmother to dozens of children and I might casually date until my late 80s when I become an eccentric recluse and live off the grid.
I have reached a point where I truly believe that if this is all I have - this body that continues to thrive no matter how much damage I tried to inflict upon it, this job that gives me such a sense of joy, these friends whom I believe to be my true soulmates, this family that I would happily die for — then I will have had an exceptionally good life.