The Blog

The Single Life and the Value of the Personal Mastermind Group

I recently attended a government-related healthcare function where I was confronted with an award-winning company owner who boasted that he'd been able to get 100s of 'gynaecologically-challenged' women pregnant with his high-tech fertilisation product. He looked horrified and incredulous when I exploded into a rant to the effect that I was ABSOLUTELY appalled at how obsessed the world has become in its drive to procreate and/or have a partner at all costs. His response was that I was probably the only woman who felt like this and laughed in disbelief at my views that there was as much if not more existential leverage for a most interesting and fulfilling life on one's own.

When my mother became ill with dementia in the early part of the millennium I chose to move back to Hampshire to care for her after leading the 'Carrie Bradshaw life' in Central London pretty much since the 1980s. Returning to the sticks after such a long gap was an enormous shock as I was appalled at how all local conversation and activity seemed entirely geared to families.

I was a slip of an 18 year old when I left this 'semi-rural outback' in 1987, so I accept it may be possible that as a very young person it was something that I simply hadn't noticed, however I am more inclined to believe that society's out-of-control breeding has been influenced by TV's insatiable promotion of the family unit as a reflection of a world where we are all living longer due to the elimination of plagues and world wars.

This has created a culture where no one need be alone for long and judging by the inhabitants of North East Hampshire, rather boringly few are. However, this silent pressure to couple up and procreate has a very dark side, which was demonstrated by the tragedy of a local woman and man who in unrelated incidents committed suicide because they were infertile. Obviously it would be naïve to think there weren't other factors present in these cases, but I can see how this provincial thicket of vacuous, shopping and coffee morning-loving mothers and monosyllabic, football and pub-obsessed men driving a ruthless tide of prams could push someone over the edge.

And surrounded by this unremitting social and emotional pressure, you can also understand how many individuals feel that they have to 'settle' if they can't find the right person ie marry any old Tom, Dick or Harry just so they can have kids or avoid being alone - an unsatisfactory state of affairs which so often results in depression or divorce. And may I say that if I had ever, EVER had any doubts surrounding my aversion to 'settling', they were cured once and for all by a chance meeting with a successful writer in New York's Central Park 7 years ago. To cut a very long story short, the writer explained that although he was now happily married to his second wife, he was once married to a pathologically vacuous woman with whom he'd suffered a b-down due to her banal chatter. And as their daughters had taken after her, they were not in the least bit inspired by his work and although he maintained contact with them, he was unable to conduct a sensible conversation with either. Sadly, he described this as the greatest sorrow of his life and one which rendered family occasions insufferable.

However, no one who is single can deny that the stress of being alone when confronted with problems can be very great, but observing my mother pick up the pieces after losing my Father during my teens was a valuable lesson because she was never short of a friend in need ie there were genuine offers from all directions to help with the likes of DIY, child-minding, lifts and 'consumer issues'. As an authentic networker - a skill she'd gained in a career in grassroots politics, my Mother was alone but never alone if you know what I mean, so she was relatively content for the rest of her life.

Times were naturally sometimes very difficult when I was looking after my mother, but I thank God that during the sometimes acute depression and loneliness which goes with the inevitable mental downswings of long-term care of a dementia patient, I resisted the urge to give in to the advances of anyone unsuitable - my motto was always 'keep calm and don't capitulate'. And I put my resolve firmly down to the fact that I was lucky enough to have a number of good friends who I spoke with on the phone several times a week which thus formed an emotional, practical and campaign personal mastermind group which I believe was key to my mental and physical survival during those difficult years.