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Forty-plus, single and loving it

Women are changing the narrative of what it means to be 40-plus. They are independent, financially secure and unapologetically single

Floh members at a sailing event in Mumbai.courtesy floh
Floh members at a sailing event in Mumbai.courtesy floh

Meet Sonali, a technology executive who has never been in a serious romantic relationship, has chosen not to have a biological child and has always had to field many awkward questions about her single status.

However, she is the most content 45-year-old I know.

Man or no man, Sonali wanted to experience motherhood. Eight years ago, she adopted Aria and decided to bring her up as a single mother. The initial years were hard. Neighbours would ask Aria where her father was: “Is he dead? Are your parents divorced?” As a three-year-old, Aria had no idea how to deal with these questions. Some even asked Sonali the caste of her child. What helped tremendously was the unstinted support of her parents.

Fortuitously, as Aria turned 3, an opening at work offered Sonali an opportunity to move to Paris. The move was a conscious decision, and she has never regretted it. She now lives in a beautiful home in the 8th arrondissement, with a view of the Arc de Triomphe. Between a fulfilling career and a loving daughter, Sonali is living the life she always dreamt of. “Where is the space for a man?” she says, when I ask her about her romantic life. She adds: “I have worked hard to build a secure ecosystem for myself and Aria. It’s what I am most proud of and wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.”

In the course of my work at Floh, I have spoken with over 50,000 singles. The conversations that remain etched in my memory have been with single women over 40. These women are changing the narrative of what it means to be 40-plus and single. They are independent, confident, financially secure and unapologetically single.

Sonali’s decision to adopt and raise Aria as a single mother was a conscious choice. But that’s not always the case. I was introduced to Sharmin, a professional working at an MNC, eight years ago by a friend. She was then in her early 40s, with two children, and had separated recently from her husband after a rocky 15-year marriage. When we first met, she was quiet and reserved, only responding if someone asked her a question directly. Today, she is super fit and extremely confident. She has an active dating life, is sexually liberated, financially secure and has been actively involved in raising her children.

I asked her how she managed the transition. “My life experiences have given me a lot of confidence. If my friends have to say one thing about me, it is that I am kickass!” she says with a beaming smile. “It helped that my parents always supported me and raised me to be an independent individual. Being assertive was key to developing my confidence. Of course, it has to be balanced with being sensitive to others’ needs.” When I look at her now, she is shining. I love it and it pushes me to keep living life on my own terms.

Some setbacks can be life-altering. Confidence can make dealing with them much easier. And confidence is something that Sharmin has in ample measure.

Even before I saw PB, I heard her hearty laugh. She was surrounded by people. There was a definite magnetism that made me wade through to get to this centre of attraction. PB was sitting on a bar stool. Her husky voice was mesmerizing. Sporting thick curly hair, wearing a stunning dress and nursing a Vesper Martini, she was a diva. She was witty, articulate, and a globetrotter. Her stories were enthralling. I noticed, though, that she did not get up from the stool even once.

When we were all ready to leave, someone brought out a set of crutches and handed them to her. She was quick to notice my surprise. In the most normal way, she told me how she had lost a leg in an accident when she was in college. We walked to her car together. I automatically tried to help her. She gracefully held her hand out and said, “I have been doing this for 28 years now, and I am damn good at it!” We lingered on and chatted.

Romance has not been easy for the 47-year-old. Her strong personality can’t easily handle the overly sympathetic attitude of people. She did find love and even relocated to another country to be with him. But it didn’t work out and she is now back. That said, life is working very well for her. She is excelling in her profession as a copywriter. She continues to lead an active social lifeand serves on the board of a non-profit.

The clarity of thought that each of these women demonstrates is apparent. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Each of them has broken the mould in their own unique way, to suit their circumstances and desired outcomes. In a world where singlism, a term coined by social psychologist Bella DePaulo to define the stigmatization of adults who are single, is often the norm, they have shown that stereotypes can be broken.

The 40s are a tough decade for everyone, and especially so for single women. But not for these three. I am sure there are many more women like them. We just have to look around and get inspired.

Simran Mangharam is a dating coach and the founder of Floh.in, a real-world community for singles seeking a meaningful relationship.

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