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Over the past 20 years they were my go-to girls: Bridget Jones. Carrie Bradshaw. Mary Tyler Moore. Murphy Brown.
Strong, independent, fiesty, hilarious, loyal, career-driven and most importantly single women who taught me there’s more to life than having a husband; that being single in your 30s and yes, even 40s was ‘okay’. Hell, it was exhilerating. Why settle for Mr Nearly Right when life could be full to bursting with girlfriends, hook-ups, blind dates, cocktails, dinner parties and the snakes and ladders game of career fulfillment?
It was an intoxicating and very welcome message for any woman over 30 who was spending her Friday nights alone on the couch eating weetbix while she watched Australian Idol. Or maybe that was just me. But in the year I turned 32, my boxed set of the Mary Tyler Moore show gave me a raison d’etre.
I was single, a writer and living alone in a shoebox studio apartment in the inner city. And Mary Richard’s refusal to apologise to the world for being single and loving her career did more for my self-worth than any Anthony Robbins lecture ever could. If I could have left the house in a beret every morning, I would’ve.
But the question is, did Mary and Carrie and Bridget and Murphy sell us a lie?
That’s what British journalist Claudia Connell is asking. And let me tell you, if you’re single and over 35, Connell’s column in the Mail Online is the equivalent of a sucker-punch. At 46, Connell is single and feels like her fictional heroines of Carrie and Bridget let her down.Or, more to the point, left her at the party while they went on to have a life.
I was part of the Sex And The City generation — successful, feisty women who made their own money, answered to no one and lived life to the full. When it came to men, our attitude to them was the same as it was towards the latest must-have handbag: only the best would do, no compromises should be made, and even then it would be quickly tired of and cast aside.
What none of us spent too long thinking about in our 20s and 30s was how our lifestyles would impact on us once we reached middle-age, when we didn’t want to go out and get sozzled on cocktails and had replaced our stilettos and skinny jeans with flat shoes and elasticated waists.
Suddenly, all those women we pitied for giving up their freedom for marriage and children are the ones feeling sorry for us.
Connell goes on to talk about the mistakes she made following dating advice guides like The
Rules which operate on an assumption that men will always be knocking on your door. And how any woman over 45 on a dating site is about as welcome as a parking ticket. But it was Connell’s closing words that left me thinking …
The brutal reality remains, however, that Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones — our fictional, singleton poster girls — ended up living happily ever after. Even the writers behind those characters couldn’t accept that they’d be happy to stay single for ever — which does make me feel a little cheated.
Carrie and Bridget were lucky. The same can’t be said for the millions of women, like me, who were so inspired by them.
Big, Mary ended her series single but in a reunion episode the writers had her married to a New York Senator. And as for Murphy? She found the ultimate cure for loneliness by becoming a single mother.