More women are now single, according to statistics — and many are perfectly happy to stay that way. Why have they given up on men and marriage? DeirdreReynolds reports
Single and fabulous? That was the question posed by Sex and the City when freemale icon Carrie Bradshaw gazed out hungover and bedraggled from the cover of a glossy magazine on one memorable episode of the cult show.
But for Ireland's rising population of single ladies, there is no question mark.
They were on their tod under the mistletoe and don't expect red roses come Valentine's Day, but the three twenty-somethings interviewed in the panel below say they couldn't be any happier to be single. And they're not alone in being alone.
New statistics show that the number of women aged between 25 and 44 living alone has soared, while the average age for a woman to wed here has reached the all-time high of 31. At the same time, rising divorce rates and our ageing population has resulted in more older women flying solo too.
With ‘Single Person Urban Dwellings' on the rise, a SPUD is no longer just something used to make Taytos; the number of people living alone has approximately doubled since 1986, according to the Central Statistics Office.
And from single-serve cookware to ‘girls-only' holidays, it seems Irish women are truly embracing spinsterhood.
“I'd love to be a single man backpacking again,” jokes Stephen McKenna of GoHop.ie travel company. “Of our group bookings for 2010, 23.4% were for all female groups — including girly shopping trips and spa breaks. For long-haul trips, 41.9% of bookings were by single female travellers, with the most popular destinations Asia, Australia and North America.”
Meanwhile, department store Debenhams has reported a staggering 110% increase in sales of single-serve dishes suitable for breakfast in bed — for one.
“Frying pans big enough to hold just one egg, plates for a single slice of toast and tea pots which only hold one cuppa are now among some of our fastest selling items,” says Steve Lightfoot, Trading Director for Home at Debenhams.
But is the spinster stigma perpetuated down through the years by everyone from Jane Austen to Bridget Jones really on the way out? Or, in spite of protests to the contrary, are even today's single- minded twenty-something girls — deep down — afraid to be left on the shelf?
“It can be difficult to acknowledge publicly that you're single and feeling lonely,” says psychologist David Kavanagh of Avalon Relationship Consultants. “It's much easier to say ‘I love being single'.
“I think there's still social pressure on women to settle down and have children — especially as they enter their thirties.
“On the most basic human level, I think we all yearn for that companionship — someone you can telephone when you've had a crap day. But if a woman has a good group of friends she can rely on for that support, she might not feel like anything is missing from her life.”
Man-free and fabulous — or just far too fussy?
Three Irish singletons explain why they're not bothered by the search for Mr Right
Footloose for a year, UCD student Daenna Walshe (20) from Balbriggan is set to appear on TV3 man hunt Take Me Out. But the sassy singleton reckons Ireland is overrun with frogs rather than princes and isn't hopeful of a Happily Ever After.
“My last relationship was the first ‘proper' one I've ever been in — but my boyfriend didn't want to be tied down, so we broke up after a year. I've been single ever since. Although I'm dating, I'm not interested in anything serious.
“I applied to go on Take Me Out with some of my friends for the laugh. I think it's a brilliant concept — all guys should go around with lights on them that you can leave on if you're turned on or switch off if you're turned off! But I'd never go on a TV show looking for Mr Right.
“Part of the reason I'm single is that the dating scene in Ireland is so abysmal — there's a famine of decent guys. Irish lads have to be locked to approach girls on a night out — they don't have the confidence to chat you up sober.
“Just last night I was out and it was an absolute sleaze-fest, with guys just slurring random words at you. Your only hope of meeting a nice guy is through mutual friends.
“Any men reading this will probably argue that Irish women are too fussy — and maybe I am a bit high-maintenance, but I don't think you should settle for someone you don't find attractive just for the sake of having a boyfriend. Most of my friends are loved up at the minute and can't go anywhere without their boyfriends.
“While they're cooing over a cute child on the train though, I'm more likely to be scoping the hot guy sitting next to them! “There's not as much of a stigma surrounding women who decide to remain single any more.
In fact, shows like Sex and the City have almost made it cool to be out playing the field.
“Ultimately though, I think any women who says she's happy to remain single forever is lying. I love the freedom, but it can also be lonely at times. It's great when you're out on the pull with your friends, but not so great when you're sitting at home on your own watching Desperate Housewives. For now though, I'm perfectly happy to be single. If it happens, it happens.”
Sexy singer Luiza Hogan (25), right, from Tallaght in Dublin — better known as Lucci Minx — has had one eight-year relationship. Now newly single, the former girlband member says she's determined to make up for lost time on the meet market.
“I've been in a relationship since I was a teenager, so I never really got to do the whole single thing.
“My ex and I were at the stage where we were either going to get married or split, so we decided to go our separate ways — but we're still good friends.
“Having been in a couple for so long, I wanted to enjoy my freedom. When it comes to dating, I've got a lot of catching up to do! As a member of girlband Divine and now as a solo artist, I've travelled a lot and lived in LA for a while. The guys there are much more forward than they are here at home.
“In Ireland, men never ask me out; whereas in the States, you could be working out in the gym and someone will come up and hit on you. Multidating is just part of their culture.
“ I'm pretty independent — and maybe that's part of the problem; when you get used to doing your own thing, it's hard to compromise for a man.
“At the moment, I'm working on an album — so a boyfriend would be too much of a distraction anyway. While I'm not actively looking for ‘The One', I'm happy to accept dates!
“My ideal man would be ambitious, fun-loving, take pride in his appearance and bring me breakfast in bed — hopefully there are some of those left by the time I'm ready to settle down!”
Putting the ‘ER' into career, nurse Shelley McGeeney (25) from Terenure says she's too busy for romance. And after a string of relationships that didn't work out, she's stopped searching for her very own Dr McDreamy to enjoy singledom instead.
“I've been in serious relationships since the age of 18, but since becoming unattached around a year ago, I've never been happier. Firstly, I am much more career-oriented. I work as a nurse in a busy London hospital and have taken on extra responsibility such as courses to improve my skills.
“My friendships have also become much stronger — I relate better to my single friends and spend a lot more time with the girls. “I am still dating and meeting men, but I have no time for a relationship at the moment. If a man wants to wait around until I'm ready, fair enough — but I won't be upset if he doesn't!
“At some stage in my life, I'd like to get married — then again, if it doesn't happen, so be it. Without the pressure to settle down, I find I'm enjoying the dating scene much more. I'm an independent lady who pays her own bills and answers to noone — and I love it!”