Redefining being single and child-free in your 40s

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From the ‘lonely spinster’ to the ‘man-child bachelor’, society really does love to discriminate and feed negative narratives around being single. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with being single in your 40s. Choosing to embrace it as an independent lifestyle choice and ignore those out-dated notions that are so wildly out of step with reality can be empowering.

It’s an issue that lies at the heart of No One Tells You This, a memoir by New York writer, Glynnis MacNicol. Approaching her 40th birthday, Glynnis had a great career and a life that she loved. But still, she found herself framed by the expectations of other people; people who felt she must want babies or a partner in order to feel fulfilled. The message that being single at 40 is somehow taboo was backed up by almost every book, film and magazine she came across.

“It was nearly impossible, no matter how smart, educated or lucky I was, not to conclude that I had officially become the wrong answer to the question of what made a woman’s life worth living,” says Glynnis.

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With more and more of us choosing to live independently and not have children, people who are child-free and single at 40 and beyond is a growing demographic. But our understanding of what this means — and the freedom that can come from being 40 and single — is still evolving. So, instead of feeling bad about being child-free and single – as society expected her to – Glynnis decided to create a blueprint for people like her, carving out an example of how to enjoy being single in your 40s.

No One Tells You This documents Glynnis’ life at 41, from life-changing adventures to dating and friendships. It unpicks the question, “If a story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?” Here are just a few of her inspirational insights into being child-free and single at 40.

Reframing the single person myth

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“Culturally there’s a lot of messaging out there that after the age of 40, if you have not acquired a partner or child, you are sort of in a no-man’s land of invisibility and things will probably be horrible for you from here on out. I had been prepared to dread this period of my life, but never prepared to enjoy it.” – Refinery 29

Questioning the narrative

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“I’d never bothered to seriously question whether I actually wanted to be married with kids, or even just with kids. I had simply taken it as a given – like financial security and regular exercise – they were obvious outcomes that sane people generally aimed their lives toward.” – Simon and Schuster

Being solo, happy and free

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“I made myself say it out loud: ‘I might always be alone’. It sounded less overwhelming against the noise of the breaking waves. I laughed. ‘Fuck off,’ I thought, ‘I am done feeling bad.’ And then aloud: ‘I can do whatever I want.’” – Elle magazine

A new kind of story

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“There’s no such thing as ‘all.’ I simply have as much, and as little, as any other woman I know and look forward to the day when women – single, married and otherwise – no longer need the words ‘husband’ and ‘baby’ to act as a special lemon juice squeezed over our lives in order to make them visible.” – The New York Times

Rewriting the tired old narrative

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“There are literally no stories about women that don’t end with marriage or a baby. We have so many role models as girls, growing up, independent characters: Harriet the Spy, The Secret Garden, The Hunger Games… But those stories essentially end with puberty.”The Washington Post

Women and solo travel

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Women on road trips aren’t tragedies waiting to happen. Like men, we’re free. We don’t hear enough about women doing epic, exhilarating things without the comfortably defining presence of a man.”The Guardian

Finding a purpose

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“My life is more enjoyable now than it has ever been – and more fulfilling. My relationships have deepened; I feel more secure and confident. The word I come back to is that I feel incredibly powerful. That is the antithesis of what you’re conditioned to think [as a single woman in her 40s] – you’re supposed to think of yourself as a disappearing entity with no agency.”The Washington Post

Keen to challenge yourself – and other people’s expectations? Join a group tour with Flash Pack and other life-minded travellers in their 30s and 40s. 

Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveller like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.

Images: Flash Pack

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