Sould women over 60 give up on love, actually?
I ask because increasing life expectancy means women are shunning 30 years of widowhood and searching for someone to enjoy a later-life romance with. The marriage rate for the over-65s soared between 2009 and 2014, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
I can understand why divorced or widowed men in their 60s are desperate to get married again. Older men go weird when they live on their own. They overdose on Brian Cox and quiz shows. Dinner consists of custard creams washed down with Nesquik. They wear old pants. Their eyebrows take on a life of their own. They smoke in bed. They wear high-waisted jeans over extended bellies, a la Jeremy Clarkson. They don’t own an iron: they lost it along with the children in an acrimonious split. They rely on their elderly sisters to alert them to Mother’s Day and Christmas.
Their awful homes are decorated with the detritus of past relationships: broderie anglaise duvet covers. Bad art that begins with the words "Keep calm and…" Really awful mugs now stained from their never-ending flow of tea with two sugars. Sickly reed diffusers.
They are too lazy to get rid of anything. They are of a generation that both oppressed women and yet was defined by them, organised by them, made presentable by them, informed by them, fed by them, kept sane and clean and upright by them.
But why on earth are women, who generally live longer than men, rushing to get remarried in later life? Why would they want to be shackled to a know-all who is too tight to buy floss or really good soap?
Without the need for a father for their children, what is the point of a man in later life? It’s not for the conversation, surely. If he’s rich, he will want someone younger. So we have to assume he’s not rich. Why would you want that in your house?
There is this assumption that if you are alone, you are lonely. But why should every decade in life be accompanied by a monosyllabic lump who can’t be bothered to clean the fridge?
A woman who is alone in her 60s these days has myriad opportunities available to her: friendship, hobbies, study, peace and quiet.
Even in her 70s, my older sister Clare was always going online looking for dates, and could never be seen without her mascara, lippy and false nails. I used to wonder, regarding the desperation in the eyes, why on earth she could be bothered. What did she ever get from men besides heartache and extra laundry? Is there now no corner of our lives that isn’t supposed to be lived out like some dreadful romcom? (Apologies, Richard Curtis. Your romcom isn’t dreadful: I still cry during the airport scene at the end.)
My mum lived for 15 years after my dad died. They couldn’t have been more in love: apart from the intervention of the Nazis and a dose of typhoid, they spent every night in the same bed. They were always polite to each other, considerate. I never once heard them argue. When they were both retired, my mum, disabled, would sit by the window while Dad marched off to do the weekly shop; she couldn’t relax until he returned home.
But after he died, she took on a new lease of life. She had her very own cheque book. I remember going into Waitrose with her, and she was asked whether she wanted cash back for the first time. ‘Oooh, how much can I have?’ she asked, and was disappointed to find out the maximum was £50 (about R750).
If it’s companionship, good conversation, laughter, a new lease of life and love you are after as a sixtysomething singleton, I recommend you rescue an older border collie.
A collie will never peer crossly over bifocals and ask you to fetch his slippers.
Mail On Sunday