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Cheryl, don't take Ashley back out of fear of being single

COULD someone please pass Cheryl Cole a glass of perspective -- and make it a double, won't you? We are aware the poor girl has been having a tough time of it recently. Goodness knows she deserves the chance to wallow in her misfortune.

Then again, her only real misfortune is to have stayed with her cheating husband Ashley for as long as she did. She is pretty lucky to have so much public support behind her: staying with him after he had an affair in 2007 was not the cleverest decision she has ever made. She has kicked him out just in time to retain credibility in the kind of take-no-crap-from-no-man universe that modern girl bands promote.

She's doing pretty well on every other score. She has the kind of independent wealth -- €12m and counting -- that means she doesn't have to drag the details of her marriage through court for alimony if she so wishes, and her career is still on track.

Most importantly of all, she is 26 years old. She has years ahead of her in which to fall in love or enjoy the single life, make more mistakes or avoid them. The choice really is hers now.

What nobody wants to hear is a 26-year-old with those kind of opportunities open to her say that she is terrified of being single, as Cheryl has been reportedly telling friends. The word "petrified" came up -- and that is a very strong word to bandy about.

It is understandable she is lonely. She has her mum Joan in one spare bedroom and her friends from Girls Aloud practically camped out in another, but anyone who has had their heart broken knows that just having other people in the house doesn't make you feel less alone.

But crikey Cheryl, being single is not that bad. Especially when you have been shackled to one of England's vainest plonkers for so long. She has two choices now that she is faced with such freedom: have a panic attack or embrace the sense of liberation.

I fear for her that worrying she can't cope with being alone will mean she starts thinking about the alternative: giving idiot-boy his key back. Her anxiety indicates that she has lost her confidence. Again understandable, but such a shame millions think otherwise.

If she starts to trade in all her bravery thus far for fear, then she also risks trading in the goodwill she has earned for taking a stand.

As Rihanna recently observed, it is almost morally wrong to ignore the fact that many girls look to their pop idols for guidance. A slightly different situation, what with Rihanna's domestic abuse, but the core message is the same.

Cheryl is entitled to feel apprehensive about the future. But she shouldn't be so publicly dismissive of the single life. She doesn't want her fans to think that being in any relationship -- even one where your partner has the morals of a sewer rat -- is better than being in none.