Written by Miranda Hart

Voices

“I’m not breastfeeding cats”

Don’t be misled by her sitcom character; Miranda Hart is single and absolutely fine with it.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Because of an on-screen alter ego that I unexpectedly became well known for, who was perennially single and uncomfortable with the inability to ‘get a guy’, people have often projected that sensibility onto me.

But during the years I have been single, I have never felt a lesser woman, or awkward, or become fumbly and goofy around men. Thank goodness.

My sitcom character’s attitude was channelling a part of the teenage me – and what teenage girl hasn’t carried a watermelon? (If you haven’t seen Dirty Dancing you will have just thought I went briefly mad.)

Her mother’s approach was one, I hope, we can now class as an older, nay defunct, generation’s desperation to have their daughters married off quick-sharp.

There was certainly a sense in my youth that, over the age of 25, you needed to be in a relationship to be socially acceptable. It was hard to feel like a strong single woman.

That might just be the 20s, if you didn’t fall in love or marry during them. I don’t mean the 1920s, I mean one’s 20s. (I have always romanticised the 1920s as a time women started realising their worth and power as they flapped and swivelled around dancefloors having a gay old time in both senses of the word. A time of wonderful exploration, liberated by the Charleston.)

But our 20s – well, certainly my 20s – were a time of awkward, horrible snogs and fumbles on dance floors. Of not particularly wanting to be in a relationship but feeling like I ‘should’. And pretending to be deeply free and confident in my ability of ‘the sex’, while harbouring what felt like a dirty secret to just want to watch Beverley Hills 90210 or The OC on pretty much any given evening.

I didn’t ever feel a sense of freedom in the choice to be single. Any forty- or fifty- (even thirty-)something female friend of the family who wasn’t married was considered at best eccentric but predominantly a bit of a weirdo, with the assumption she had 200 cats, most of which she breastfed.

Yet it was OK for a man to be single. A man was seen as a cool lothario or a kindly geek who was holding out for The One. (Or the gay one who wasn’t yet ready to be coaxed out of the closet.) Either was socially acceptable.

But in my observation, over the last 20 years, there seem to be a lot of women in their 30s who have the strength to prioritise themselves, their ambitions, their dreams and their purpose over marital status. In a way only men seemed able to do in the past.

Stating ‘single’ on social media, or any paperwork, holds no shame. There is less fear of being cast as the breastfeeding-cat-loon; there is no apology for being alone.

“Don’t get me wrong, I believe in love. But I am glad that women who weren’t craving babies in their 20s and had a unique dream to go on, are feeling more and more able to find the courage to do so.”

Of course, there are many women on their path to find contentment in themselves and their careers who are lucky to find love along the way – without desperately needing or looking for it. But I see a lot of us have been happy to shut down and crack on. Not shut down in an emotionally unhealthy way (that’s for another article), but shut down to the outside pressure of needing a partner on our arm for strength. And crack on courageously to follow our path.

And the big difference I feel now is that, in the past, in the Bridget Jones shaming years, women had to demonstrate a fierce sexual appetite and be seen to take a lover every night to justify their independent single status and to maintain a sense of their sexuality. Now, to leave work early, saying, “Bye all, I’m off for a bath with Netflix,” is wholly accepted, applauded and often enviable.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in love. I am actually a real old romantic. I find myself in a place where I am very ready to meet the future Mr Hart, and I think sharing your life is an easier path and a wonderful one. But I am glad that women who weren’t craving babies in their 20s and had a unique dream to go on, are feeling more and more able to find the courage to do so.

peggy & me book coverI know I am not a weirdo. I haven’t had any kind of lesser life nor am I any less attractive for not being married before now (and 20 years ago I genuinely think I wouldn’t have thought that could be the case).

In fact, I am so confident in my single status that I am happy to admit my obsession with my pet. I have never breastfed her, there is only one of her, and she is canine not feline. But she is my best friend, my family and I have been known to curl up next to her, hold her paw while watching TV and call her “my beautiful little girl”. The future Mr Hart will have to accept that. Because I do.

Miranda Hart’s book, Peggy & Me, is out now.

@mermhart

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Written by Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart is a comedian, writer and actress. Some of her favourite things are laughing, food, animals, being on boats, tennis and musicals. She doesn't like being told, "Gosh you're tall". She knows she is.