I was taught that women should marry and have children… but I’m ecstatic I never did: A most provocative confession from a 62-year-old Oxford graduate and entrepreneur with a very full love life
- Cindy Gallop, 62, has opened up about being a singleton and ‘blissfully happy’
- The advertising consultant ‘loves being on her own schedule and no one else’s’
- The number of single-person households in Britain has now reached 7.9 million
Somewhere in a parallel universe, there are divorce papers with my name on them. Because in another version of my life, caught off guard and having convinced myself I was in love, I could have found myself married with children. And I know it wouldn’t have worked out.
Instead, at 62, I’m a life-long singleton. My longest relationship lasted two-and-a-half years (in my 40s) — any others have been sporadic and short-lived. I look back and thank God for that.
I’ve noticed people tend to be sceptical of women like me, who claim we are truly happy being single. They imagine the lady doth protest too much; that we are all genetically programmed to want to settle down.
They also confuse single with celibate. And I can assure you I’m not that.
In fact, I often date younger men (many in their 20s) — casually and recreationally for sex — and have been doing so happily for 20 years. I am deliberately public about this, not to try to convince others to do as I do, but because I believe everyone should be free to design the relationship — or non-relationship — model that works for them.
No matter what society believes about single people, we are growing in number. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics shows the number of single-person households in Britain has now reached 7.9 million, a rise of 300,000 since 2010.
Cindy Gallop, 62, (pictured) has opened up about being a singleton who is ‘blissfully happy’
The traditional nuclear family is being eclipsed, with households with dependent children likely to account for barely a quarter of homes in England within a decade. The trend for ‘single positivity’ is gathering momentum among young women, too. There are a number of books out this year on the topic, from Unattached: Essays On Singlehood, edited by Angelica Malin, to Aimee Lutkin’s The Lonely Hunter.
You may think it’s easy to be single in your 20s and 30s, but what about your 50s, 60s and beyond? Aren’t we all desperately worried, as Bridget Jones was, about dying alone and being eaten by Alsatians?
Well, I’m here to say absolutely not. You really can be blissfully single for your whole life. In fact, I tell people that I can’t wait to die alone.
Many people are out there living lives they don’t really want to live. It’s all too easy to slip into the oiled grooves of what your parents want for you, what all your friends are doing, what every movie and TV show tells us we should aspire to.
Instead, stop and ask: ‘What would really make me happy? It may not be needing to partner up with someone and become a mother no matter what.
I’ve made that choice and, no, I’m not secretly lonely: I’m sociable and have many friends, but I’m naturally solitary.
As an advertising consultant and entrepreneur, I’ve always worked hard, but my favourite part of the weekend is being on my own in my flat doing nothing — chilling, reading, whatever. The art of doing nothing is massively underrated — and difficult to achieve when you’re married with children.
I love being on my own schedule and no one else’s. I like to eat when I’m hungry, rather than at set meal times, and I adore sleeping. Being single means I can sleep and eat when I want, and I value that enormously. I can also travel at a moment’s notice.
Don’t I miss the intimacy of a relationship, someone to be there when I wake up, to curl up and watch a film with of an evening? Not in the slightest. Some people really were born to be happiest on their own, and I’m one of them.
But I haven’t always been so confident about my single status.
Cindy Gallop and her best friend Kate Bristow at a wedding in her twenties
Although I was born in England, we moved to Brunei in Borneo for my dad’s work when I was six.
My late father was English; my mother, now 89, is Chinese. Growing up in Brunei, an orthodox Muslim country, with a tiger mother par excellence, meant I experienced both extreme academic pressure and the social conditioning that taught a woman’s destiny was marriage and motherhood. In my teens and 20s, I had no reason to doubt I would follow this path.
Both my parents were teachers and it was a case of ‘come top of the class or don’t come home’. Because, in his youth, my father had dropped out of the conventional educational track and then found his job prospects limited, I was told I was going to Oxford University whether I liked it or not. Thankfully, I succeeded in gaining a place at Somerville College to read English literature.
Having attended an all-girls boarding school, it was at Oxford that I first encountered men — and sex. The extent of my mother’s instruction to me and my sisters had been: ‘Girls, stay a virgin till you marry!’
Internalising that meant a lot of ‘doing everything but’ in my early sexual explorations, but when I did finally have sex I thought: ‘This is a wonderful thing; what a shame we’re all so messed up about it!’
The advertising consultant and entrepreneur writes: ‘I’ve always worked hard, but my favourite part of the weekend is being on my own in my flat doing nothing — chilling, reading, whatever. The art of doing nothing is massively underrated — and difficult to achieve when you’re married with children’
There was no Damascene conversion in terms of rejecting marriage and children, more a gradual realisation that it wasn’t for me.
From the moment we’re born, women are taught that our entire life is a search for The One. At some point in my early 30s, I just thought: ‘Sod this — I’m not looking for The One any more!’ It felt enormously liberating. Anyway, I was enjoying climbing the career ladder.
By then, I’d had various short-lived relationships; most of my boyfriends had dumped me, probably due to our mismatched expectations.
I’m eternally grateful they did because, fancying myself ‘in love’, had they asked me I may well have married them — and ruined my life.
I didn’t do a lot of dating in my 30s, and my biological clock genuinely never bothered me. Far from regretting my choices, the older I get, the more I am positively ecstatic that I don’t have children.
I was 38 when I got my dream job, starting up the U.S. office for one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, in New York.
‘Somewhere in a parallel universe, there are divorce papers with my name on them. Because in another version of my life, caught off guard and having convinced myself I was in love, I could have found myself married with children. And I know it wouldn’t have worked out’, writes CINDY GALLOP
It was the late 1990s and friends would compare my life to Sex And The City. I used to hold viewing parties for the show in my apartment, serving cosmopolitans.
But unlike Sex And The City, there were no men in my life; I was just slogging my guts out getting the agency off the ground.
I didn’t set out to date younger men — that happened by accident in 2002, when the agency was asked to pitch for an online dating site.
In advertising, when you pitch for a client’s business, you have to experience the client’s product. So I had to give online dating a try for business reasons, although, as I’d been single for some years, I was also curious.
I was completely frank about everything in my profile, including my age — then 42 — and was amazed by the avalanche of responses I received, which was very good for the ego. Most surprising was that the vast majority were from younger men.
I realised I was every young guy’s fantasy: an attractive older woman with a high-flying career who did not want to settle down.
After years of hard graft working 24/7, I fancied some fun. And boy, did I find it.
These days, I meet men on cougar dating sites — which match older women with younger men — and I’m inundated with messages. Even in my 60s, these tend to be from 20-somethings.
While I make it clear I am looking to date casually, I do have one fundamental criterion: they have to be a nice person.
I have a great radar for genuinely decent people and, as a result, I date only lovely younger men. I haven’t dated men my own age for a very long time. I’ve met very mature 20-year-olds and utterly immature 40-year-olds.
These days, I meet men on cougar dating sites — which match older women with younger men — and I’m inundated with messages. Even in my 60s, these tend to be from 20-somethings. While I make it clear I am looking to date casually, I do have one fundamental criterion: they have to be a nice person (file image)
Many years ago, I gave an online TED talk entitled ‘The Toyboy Manifesto: Why Older Woman + Younger Man Is The Relationship Model Of The Future’.
I began my talk by saying: ‘Let me get one thing out of the way right upfront — yes, the sex is fantastic! ‘When you have a woman at her sexual peak — lots of confidence, knows what she wants; and a man at his sexual peak — lots of stamina, very short recovery periods — you have the perfect match.’
But the sex is only one of many reasons I enjoy dating younger men. Men my age or older tend to feel threatened by a woman who is confident, successful and makes more money than them.
With a younger man, that simply cannot be the case — we’re at completely different life stages. In fact, the men I’ve dated value my career experience and my ability to advise them.
I’m an energetic, spirited, optimistic person who’s open to new ideas, and men my age can often be very set in their ways.
Plus, the great thing about online dating is that you meet people you would never normally encounter.
I’ve met and dated younger men from a huge variety of backgrounds, who’ve really impressed me — young men who are supporting their families with money from their first job, and doing interesting things (one was doing incredibly dangerous work in the military in an intelligence unit in Afghanistan).
Pre-pandemic, I had a favourite local bar in New York, where I would always schedule first dates. It’s cosy, intimate, serves great martinis and the bartenders don’t bat an eyelid at my string of young men.
In London, my first-date venue of choice was the bar at the Haymarket Hotel, where they are just as discreet.
Because I’m so selective, I date younger men in an atmosphere of mutual trust, respect, liking and affection. They may go on to date women their own age, marry them even. But because we like each other, we stay friends, occasionally meeting platonically for coffee or drinks.
Every so often, those relationships or marriages end, they come back and it’s very nice.
Ironically, my so-called casual relationships can last a lot longer than most people’s so-called committed ones.
I’ve dated younger men off and on, sporadically, for periods of two, three, four, five, ten, 15 years. We do have very nice relationships, just not in the conventional sense.
I realise this makes me unusual, but I have no desire whatsoever to be ‘in love’. I’ve thought I was ‘in love’ occasionally many years ago but realised with the benefit of hindsight it was just infatuation. I have no interest in pursuing that and am so much happier as a result.
I object to the fact that society accepts older men dating younger women, but not the other way round. I want older women to know that younger men think we’re fantastically desirable — I’ve never been told I’m beautiful as often as since I began dating younger men.
As for the future, I plan to carry on dating younger men for as long as I feel like it. I was very touched when one young man I’ve known for years said earnestly: ‘I promise I’ll still date you when you’re 80!’
I like to say that I cannot wait to die alone, because I’m not desperate for companionship in my old age.
And until then, I’ll be living my best single life. Without giving a damn what anyone else thinks.
Cindy Gallop is the founder and CEO of ‘MakeLoveNotPorn’
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