opinion

'I'm a single, financially stable woman in her 40s. Just like Jennifer Aniston.'

I live in an expensive Sydney suburb. That’s not a boast. It’s a fact. It’s a fact that’s relevant because I’m frequently told I can’t afford to live there, by people who don’t know anything about me.

“You should be living somewhere a lot cheaper,” they sagely advise me. As if I just moved to the suburb on a whim and have no idea what I’m doing with my life, or my money.

The assumption is that because I’m a single woman and a single mother, I should be doing things as cheaply as possible. That I couldn’t possibly afford the lifestyle I’m leading.

But that’s not true. I can afford it. Not because I come from a wealthy family. Not because my ex-husband pays child support or any other money. But because I’ve earned it.

Why do I need to explain this? Why is this assumption made? Would people say this to a man?

The Uber driver who picks me up and tells me that I could be living an hour away from my job in a less expensive house – he’s assuming I’m not a CEO, or a surgeon, or in some other high-paying field. He’s possibly also assuming he needs to advise me because as a man, he understands money in a way I don’t.

So the implication is that I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve to be there. I shouldn’t be there.

The people who know I’m single – is it so unfathomable to them that I can achieve financial stability without a partner?

In this experience, I feel some kinship with Jennifer Aniston. Imagine being at the top of your game for twenty years, having a financially successful and fulfilling career, and being defined as “unlucky in love”. We don’t hear about whether Aniston’s films have flopped, or exceeded expectations. We don’t examine her involvement in the #MeToo movement, which she gave $500,000 to. But the sensational headlines around Aniston pose questions about what she is doing with her love life, as if her career is not happening.

Jennifer Aniston has been at the top of her game for a long time. Here she poses with her award for Best Performance By An Actress in A Television Series Comedy for 'Friends' in 2003. (Photo by Robert Mora/Getty Images)

But it is happening, and it has been happening, regardless of her marital status. There shouldn't be articles about Aniston's incredibly successful career, and her incredible Architectural Digest house, only as her 'saviour' and 'comfort' now that she's 'divorced again' - and 'without children'. Aniston's longevity in a youth-obsessed industry is a testament to her skills, and that should always be the focus of everything we say about her, plus or minus a husband.

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Are we trying to say that material success isn't everything if you "don't have someone to share it with"? Give me a break. What we're actually doing is completely ignoring the existence of a kickass career and financial success that deserves separate acknowledgement.

And that's why the existence of single women in their 40s, who are independently financially strong, is a rarely-considered thing.

The headlines that have plagued Jennifer Aniston. Image: Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan.

Financially stable, independent women exist, and we should be allowed to own that. Like men do.

Similar to Aniston, I've had a professional career, and am fortunate enough to have always been employed. Notice I don't say "I've worked hard" - because lots of people work hard. I'm certainly not saying I've worked harder than anyone else. But I have been lucky enough to be in stable employment for my whole adult life and have been paid well for it.

Not everyone can say that. So I definitely agree that luck has played a huge part in this. Things would be very different if I'd been unemployed for periods, had been ill or had ill family to care for.

But I did the rest of it, and I should be allowed to say that. I'm proud of the career I've established.

My life hasn't been without challenges, and I've certainly made mistakes. I was in an abusive marriage. I've been through IVF, divorce, the violent death of a parent, and significant mental illness in the family. I've now been single for a decade and have purposely not re-partnered.

Do you know why? Marriages are expensive, and you lose control of your finances. Someone else gets to come along and influence your decisions. Been there, done that.

So when people who know me superficially say, "You could be living somewhere a lot cheaper", I wish they'd realise they're making a lot of assumptions.

I don't have to live "somewhere cheaper".

And I shouldn't have to justify that to anyone.

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