real life

Of course you can be single and happy.

Mia Freedman

by MIA FREEDMAN

This week I heard two pieces of news. One made me happy, the other sad and the strength of both emotions was unexpected.

The first news broke via a sharp in-take of breath from a co-worker. “Oh!” she gasped while looking at Twitter. “Jennifer Aniston is engaged!

Involuntarily, I clasped my hands together in a weird kind of hybrid clap/prayer. “Oh!” I repeated. “That’s awesome!” As the news quickly circulated, small squeals and yelps could be heard each time it reached another woman in the office.

Our joy was genuine and there was something else there too: relief. “Thank God!” exclaimed one. “Finally!” exclaimed another. We all nodded and beamed. Wait, stop.

What an absurd reaction from people who know nothing about Jennifer Aniston’s life except for what we read and imagine in our heads and maybe talk about over wine with our girlfriends and sometimes our mothers ever since 2005 when her then-husband Brad Pitt ran off with Angelina and they established their photogenic rainbow family with astonishing speed.

That. There, I said it. Yes, I am relieved that Jennifer is engaged because I’ve been worried about her on and off for seven years. Reading that sentence back just now, I do sound a lot like a crazy person. I’ll cop that. So will my husband with whom I’ve never discussed Jennifer Aniston because he would have little to contribute.

To confirm this, I asked him this week if he’d thought about her since The Divorce. Puzzled silence. “No. Why would you?” Top question. Seriously, I can’t quite identify why so many women reacted to Jennifer Aniston’s engagement with a “Yay! Phew!”. Why am I emotionally invested in someone I’ve never met?

Jennifer doesn’t even want my investment. For seven years in 1000 interviews she’s tried gamely to knock the ghosts of Brad and Angelina off her lap. And yet they’re still there, obscuring our vision of a 43 year old woman who swears she’s content. NO REALLY.

While Brad’s narrative has moved at whiplash pace Aniston has been typecast as The Sad Girl in a movie called “Why Can’t This Woman Get A Man?” despite insisting she doesn’t need one to complete her.“If I’m the emblem for ‘This is what it looks like to be the lonely girl getting on with her life,’ then so be it.” she shrugged in 2009. “It’s fine. I can take it. I can make fun of myself.” Later that year she added, “I have a really great relationship with myself and that’s a lifelong process. I have a great job, a great family and great friends. I have my health and I love what I do.”

In 2010, there was this: “I think it’s about really finding that person that means something and not settling. There are a lot of single people who are as happy as a lark. There are a lot of married people not as thrilled as they would like to be.” And in 2011, this: “I’m really happy,” she told People magazine. “Really!” Just a few months ago, her patience wore thin: “It’s very narrow-minded, I think. [Being unmarried] doesn’t measure the level of my happiness or success in my life or my achievements.”

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Damn straight. Writer Sarah Wilson deals with this perception constantly.  “When you’re 38 everyone worries about your being single.” she told blogger Gala Darling last week. “Seriously, I get asked almost every day: ‘Why do you think you’re single?’ It’s part concern, part a sociological enquiry. People find it odd that someone can be happily, robustly, independently single. From my POV, to be 38 and single and happy with it, you have to keep defining your life on your own and being confident in it…”

Helen Gurley Brown

My single friends are awesome. They know who they are. Their lives are full. They’re loved by friends and family. And yet, do I hope they will find romantic love? I do. Because sharing your life with someone in that way is lovely.

As one of my single friends says, “I’m only interested in someone who adds value to my life, not takes it away.” And so it should be. In it’s purest, most healthy form, romantic love is not about completing or transforming something but enhancing it.

Which brings me to this week’s second piece of emotive news: the death of Helen Gurley Brown, founder of Cosmopolitan magazine and someone I did actually know in real life. She was 90 years old and the world is a little less vibrant without her in it.

Helen literally wrote the book that changed a generation’s perception of single women and sparked a revolution in 1962. Sex & The Single Girl sold millions of copies, became the blueprint for Cosmo and was based on Helen’s one revolutionary idea: women can be happy in their lives and enjoy sex even if they’re not married. “…if you’re single and 33, you don’t have to go to the Grand Canyon and throw yourself in.” she famously stated. “Don’t use men to get what you want in life – – get it for yourself.” It’s a message that’s still potent 50 years later and one Jennifer Aniston would wholeheartedly endorse as she celebrates her engagement. Congratulations. And Vale Helen Gurley Brown.

Some of our favourite unmarried celebrities include:

You can also check out the Jennifer Aniston/Justin Theroux love story in pictures over at our sister site iVillage here

Why do we find it so hard to believe someone who is single when they say they’re happy?

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