The single files

By Shelley Bridgeman

Four happily single women, from L-R, Jessica Martin, Amanda Palmer, Sarah O'Brien and Nichelle Milan. Photo / Martin Sykes
Four happily single women, from L-R, Jessica Martin, Amanda Palmer, Sarah O'Brien and Nichelle Milan. Photo / Martin Sykes

Too fussy, too independent, too successful? Four Auckland women tell why they are not ready to settle down.

Single because ... I'm too independent
Sarah O'Brien, 30,
Recruitment co-ordinator

Obviously being single I'm a bit more flexible with my time and don't really need to plan. I'm quite spontaneous as a result. I've got a good group of male friends. They're all gay unfortunately but I have that sense of relationship with them. They're just heaps of fun. We go to a lot of bars. Though it does have its downside if you look like you're with guys - and hot guys at that. We all have the disposable income to be able to go away and enjoy our lives and just make the most of every situation. This year I've been away on five or so overseas trips - Rarotonga, Fiji, Melbourne, London and Los Angeles.

Being single, you don't have to worry about anyone else - about them not having the money or having different goals. The biggest drawback is when you go to a wedding and the bride goes to throw the bouquet and you're the only one standing there to catch it.

Although it can be great, because I'm quite a competitive person and I always win the throw. I've caught three or four bouquets. It's getting easier now because 90 per cent of my friends are married. Some of the seating arrangements at weddings can get a bit pushed at times because they'll strategically put you next to the single guy - and generally there might be a reason he's single. Those, I suppose, are the situations that are the most awkward. People do feel pity for you. You notice when you go out or when you catch up with people you haven't seen for a while. Their first question is: "Have you met anyone?" Look at the social networking pages ... Facebook has that "are you single/in a relationship?" A lot of emphasis is always put on that. You have a title in your name: Mrs or Miss.

Society puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that you are who you are when you're with somebody. There are a lot of females out there who do feel the pressure and they start looking a bit too hard and their whole life and conversation revolves around finding that someone. Whereas I just think everything will happen for a reason and you've got to be happy with yourself before somebody else will be happy with you. The gay guys always tell me "you need someone to put you in your place" because I'm a very independent person. I think if someone holds you back because you're in a relationship and if you haven't done what you want to do, or you've done it for someone else, later in life you will have regrets.

Single because ... I feel so empowered
Amanda Palmer, 40s,
Veterinary nurse and belly dancer

Some people say to me: "How come a beautiful, intelligent woman like you is single?" A lot of people can't wrap their heads around it. I explain that I'm single because it's actually what I choose to be at this time in my life. It's not by default. It's actually a conscious choice that I've made. And I absolutely love being single. I have the freedom to do exactly as I please.

I think when you're used to being single and you're used to having that freedom, you don't really want to give it up. And it's very empowering to know that you can stand alone as a woman. I think if you want to be single and you want to be successful you have to actually love yourself to a certain extent. You've got to be comfortable with your own company and not yearn for somebody to be there beside you propping you up all the time. It gives you an incredible sense of empowerment and, I think, confidence as well when you know you can take on the world as a single woman. You can do basically anything. I think it's changing now; I think people are more open and aware that there are a lot more women who actually choose to be single.

People are more open to the idea that women have their own identity, that they're not just the other half of a relationship or Mrs A or Mrs B. I really wanted to find out who I am, what I'm here for and just discover all the things that life has to offer and I think you can do that much more completely, in a more balanced manner, if you're not influenced by a partner's viewpoints. But when things break down around the house, that's definitely when I think: "This is when a husband would be handy." It might drift into my mind for a nanosecond but I'm financially secure and I just pay for somebody to get it done. There's no guilt or "oh, I shouldn't do this or that" which I hear from my friends. I have friends that go shopping and say: "I can't show my husband this. I'll have to just hide it for a while." I can't be bothered with all that.

Dance is a huge part of my life. I can remember from as early as 17 wanting to belly dance. But at that time I was in my first relationship - for about 11 years - and the guy I was with wasn't interested in me learning it. And at that time, because I didn't have any power, I didn't pursue my interests. When that relationship dissolved I came back to Auckland and just happened to look in the newspaper and out jumped this advertisement which said: "Belly dancing, beginners' classes" and so off I went. And all these years later, here I am doing it professionally.

When a guy meets a woman who's maybe in her late 30s or 40s, who's financially secure, who doesn't need them really, and is independent, intelligent ... a lot of men do find that intimidating because they know that you're not going to just do what they say. A lot of my friends tell me I'm lucky and that they wish they had my life. I just do what I want.

Single because ... I'm too fussy
Jessica Martin, 39,
Retail property leasing executive

It's funny because there's such a stigma attached to being single. People keep trying to set you up and the whole attitude is: "Oh, you poor thing. You're single." Last year I was set up on so many blind dates. Everyone, from my boss' wife to my hairdresser was setting me up with guys. And they all say to me: "Jess, you're so fussy". But I say to them: "Well, when I'm happy, why would I just settle because I'm afraid of being on my own?" And to me, chemistry with someone is really, really important. He might have all the credentials and be a nice guy and all the rest of it but if you don't have that X-factor, what's the point?

A lot of people say there's a man drought in Auckland. There's not. I'm constantly meeting great single guys. They're just not the one for me. I guess it's a choice. Yeah, I am choosing to be single because I'd rather be on my own and happy than in a relationship that's not going to be right. My life is really full and rewarding and unless I have a real connection with a person I'm not just going to have a filler. I've got amazing friends. I have a very busy life. I'm out pretty much every night. I take belly dance lessons. I go to the gym four times a week. I'm very social. I have horses, so they take up a lot of time. My cousin and my sister asked me to go to Byron Bay for Easter this year, so we went and I got a tattoo. It's the "Om" symbol in yoga and it's on my wrist. I probably wouldn't have done it if, you know ... I probably would have had to check with my husband to see whether he was okay with that. It's fun going on different dates and meeting different men. I meet all sorts of guys and can go out and have a bit of fun.

Society, as a whole, I guess says that at 39 you should be married with children. I went to a school reunion two years ago, my primary school, so this is like 30 years later, and overheard someone say: "Oh, man, Jess looks good. How come she looks so good?" And someone turned to her and said: "That's because she hasn't got a husband or children." There is that benefit; I haven't had to pop out babies. It's a lot harder when you have someone in your life. Relationships are not easy and I don't have that. I might have a bad day and I talk to my girlfriend and it's gone. But I don't have to deal with a cheating partner or the stress you have with money or those other things that come with a relationship.

I've been lucky because I invested in real estate when I was quite young. I bought my first house at 23 so I've done all right. There's some sense of achievement that I've actually done it myself. I think people see how happy I am and they've either given up on me or else they're picking up on the vibe that I'm happy alone.

Single because ... I'm on a journey of self-discovery
Nichelle Milan, 39,
Business consultant

Being single is freedom, complete freedom. Just not feeling hemmed-in. I've been on my own for two years. I was married for 10 years and divorced this year. I just wasn't authentic, wasn't living my truth, for want of a better word.

My husband was a lovely guy, fantastic person, everything else, but we should have just been friends. I constantly put him first. I did that to avoid myself. I put his emotional needs, the business needs and everything else first. I was the martyr. When you're with a partner you tend to compromise a lot of things, or I did. You make allowances or wouldn't go to stuff because he wasn't interested in it. And you just get busy in life and forget about the little things that really make your heart sing. Now I can do all the stuff I've wanted to but always put off.

At the end of the month I'm going to be a tutor in Saudi Arabia. Then I'm going to Buenos Aires to learn the tango. Sympathy? Yeah, you get the "ooh, I can't understand why you're single". A lot of it's not actually spoken. It's more that you pick up a feeling from people. Sometimes women treat you differently. You feel like they think you're hitting on their husband. You're just a little bit more careful in social situations. I'm definitely going out more, being a little bit freer and experiencing things.

Just finding out more about what actually makes me tick. Last year I went to Spain and stayed at Montserrat with the monks - to be at one with myself. I was so into trying to figure out where I was at and all the rest of it. It's amazing the conversations you can get into with people you don't know when you're single. It's amazing what people will spill about their personal lives. Being single, I really have noticed connecting with people, not in a bullshit talking-about-the-weather sort of way. Most people, I feel, are just screaming out to have real conversations. I do really believe in love - it's really important to me - but mediocre just won't do any more.

Now I'm definitely more picky about men, not in a list kind of way but more of an emotional, spiritual ... That sounds so loo-la and I don't mean it like that. But this has been a dream, living on my own. Having your own space. Not having to worry. If I want it messy it can be messy. Not having to share a bathroom with a man. Boys have smells that I just don't have to worry about. I think this is a fantastic age to be single.

We're really coming into our own. It's a nice age to be figuring out what we really want and what we need, and giving ourselves the freedom to do whatever.

- NZ Herald

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