petite anglaise

July 14, 2006


Filed under: navel gazing, single life — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:49 pm

I find myself strangely unperturbed that there are no men to speak of in my life at the moment.

A few month’s back, among the flurry of well-meaning comments and emails, a few people trotted out that old chestnut about how some me-time would do me good. That alone doesn’t necessarily mean feeling lonely; it can be a very positive, healthy state of affairs. I knew that there was some truth in these words, but at the time I was still feeling brittle, wobbly, and just a little bit lost at sea. Feeling good about being alone seemed remote and unattainable, and I wasn’t even sure it was what I wanted to aspire to.

After all, I’d been “with someone” for the best part of the last decade, and was terrified I could only function as half of a couple. And what was more, single motherhood was a concept I found terrifying, riddled, as it can be, with negative connotations.

But somehow, over the past few months, so gradually that I barely noticed, a subtle change wrought itself. And one day I realised I had finally arrived in that place people had spoken of. I have found a level of self-sufficiency I never would have thought possible. The ability to revel in my new-found freedom.

I feel whole. More complete than I did when I was living en couple.

The new apartment symbolises this new phase in my life. I chose it, alone. Pored over the paint colour charts, alone. Sanded the walls and painted them, alone. Decided on a kitchen plan, bought some new furniture. There will be no-one’s imprint but my own (and Tadpole’s, although if I’d gone with her paint colours, I do not think the outcome would have been a happy one).

On my Tadpole free nights, I seek out the company of friends. After dabbling a little with internet dating, I decided not only that I couldn’t be bothered to invest enough time or energy in it – whether it be to find a mate, or just to satisfy more pressing needs in the short term – but also that there simply isn’t enough of me to go round. And what time I have, I prefer to spend with friends, old and new, rather than stumbling tongue-tied through an interminable dinner with a stranger, secretly wishing we had arranged to meet for just a coffee instead.

So let the men cross my path, or not. I’m not actively looking any more.

In London recently, I marvelled at how my two good friends from university, who had been confirmed bachelors for many years, were now attached, whilst I was not. A surreal reversal of what had long been the status quo. And yet it soon became clear that in some ways they envied me.

One of them noted that because of Tadpole’s existence, I am doubly free. In his opinion, the fact that I’ve already had a child means my body clock has stopped its ominous ticking, and I am free to go forward, unhindered by those considerations. Choose a companion who doesn’t want children of his own without it being a problem, if I want to.

It was an interesting point, I thought, and not one I expected to hear. (Whether I agree, is another thing entirely, I’m not sure I do.) I always imagined single motherhood would be perceived by others as a life filled with constraints. A negative state of affairs. I have certainly been experiencing it as a positive phase of my life, but I didn’t think other people would fully understand.

Sometimes it makes me very happy to be proved wrong.


  1. I recently split up from my boyfriend of almost 11 years (no kids) whom I used to think I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Like you, I was briefly convinced I had a Plan B (Mr. Charismatic Lover)lined up. It looked very exciting and promising indeed until I was served a severe and rather unexpected blow. I am looking forward to me-time, too but it’s frightening at the same time.I can’t say I’ve quite achieved that state of “wholeness” yet but it certainly is comforting and gives me hope to read that YOU have!

    Comment by retailtherapist — July 14, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  2. Interesting… here you were afraid you couldn’t function as a solo act, and I’m afraid that it’s been so long since I’ve been with a man that I’m TOO independent (and that I’ll forget how sex actually works!)

    Comment by The Bold Soul — July 14, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  3. Ah im sure my mother would understand. She was a single mother for …how many years? around 12, i believe, after having been married three times without breaks inbetween. Yet it was during these single years she says she was happiest…she found our own home and decorated it (she had 3 children all under 10)…Your blog sounds very familiar to me, as my first memories are of my mum setting up our new home.
    Im very glad to hear youre feeling positive, petite. :)

    Comment by Maxi — July 14, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  4. I too am a single parent, but have been from the beginning (15 yrs). Though single parenthood has its downside (relentless responsibility, occaisional loneliness) there is definitely an upside too. I never have to argue with anyone over my choices of language, religion, schools, dress code or morals for my daughter (or paint colour, furniture style, budget for my home). I listen to my coupled friends argue about these things and wonder how I could ever compromise my beliefs and liberal attitudes in something as important as raising my child. Without exception, my coupled friends with children envy me….well, the women do. The men are threatened.
    I agree with your friend, the ticking clock has stopped, but this hasn’t simplified the search for a potential partner. It’s added complexity. He would have to be a good match for my family. For both me and my daughter.
    I’m not saying single is the only or best way to go, but it can be very very good. There’s something to be said for self-sufficiency. It gives you the freedom to choose.

    Comment by nancy — July 14, 2006 @ 5:14 pm

  5. Hmmmm, so motherhood stops the dreaded biological clock? I guess that makes sense. The pressure is off. If you decide to have more kids, that’s gravy, but even if you don’t you’re genetic material will live on for future generations.

    Comment by homeimprovementninja — July 14, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

  6. No worries, don’t bother looking, a good man will find you when you least expect it. When he finds you he’ll love you for who you are, he’ll be understanding of you and your schedule, he’ll be wonderful with tadpole and you’ll fall in love all over again. Don’t expect a certain kind of man in your future, that will only set you up for dissapointment. I firmly believe a good man is one who’s heart’s been broken, it’s only then does he really start to understand relationships.
    So… keep your chin up, continue being a great Mother, and lightning will strike again soon – you’ll see!

    Comment by Nick T — July 14, 2006 @ 5:33 pm

  7. Thoughtful post. Your new place gives you and Tadpole freedom and the ability to create whatever you see for yourselves. Your life is full with or without a man.

    Comment by Diane — July 14, 2006 @ 5:48 pm

  8. I have always thought that those people who say that feeling content is boring have never actually felt content.

    Good luck.

    Comment by Damian — July 14, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

  9. Go you!

    Comment by sprite — July 14, 2006 @ 6:25 pm

  10. I am so happy to read this post! This time in your life is so magical, so powerful! It won’t last forever, so relish the freedom!

    Hooray! Hooray!

    Comment by Shelley — July 14, 2006 @ 6:32 pm

  11. I’m very happy for you.
    I’ve never felt more happy, more productive and more content in my entire life and, I have been single for a few years.
    I recently tried to see “what was out there” for me on the dating front and the choices seemed boring in comparison to my own single life.

    Congrats on your new place.

    Comment by chantel — July 14, 2006 @ 6:38 pm

  12. Wow…what a fantastic post. I feel totally uplifted for the weekend. A great read on a Friday! Have a good weekend.

    Comment by Maria — July 14, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

  13. i think it sounds like you’re in a fantastic position right now. If i were you i’d be proud

    Comment by piupiu — July 14, 2006 @ 7:11 pm

  14. What a good place to be in! You got there faster than I thought you would.

    Comment by Susan — July 14, 2006 @ 9:16 pm

  15. I am so curious to know what paint colors you have chosen! I envy your new nest>

    Comment by seren — July 14, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

  16. tha’s a great post. I was raised by a single mother for 15years and it had it’s constraints, but it had benefits also. Afterwards, my mother remarried and I never adjusted to this submissive role that she plays just to please her man. Enjoy your time and when you’re ready, somebody will come along. Plus, in this modern age, single women are deciding all the time to consciously have children. I love this blog!

    Comment by Kye — July 14, 2006 @ 10:34 pm

  17. I remember the peace and wholeness of being alone. I tell my unhappily single female friends that while I, too, started out unhappy with it, I grew to love it and embrace it (they never listen to me). I am now in a good relationship with a wonderful man. We’ve been together for 6 years and I am still excited when he walks into the room. But secretly, quietly… I miss the single years as well. I loved them. I loved being me on my own. It felt so good and I felt so complete and it was so life affirming for me to reach that place. This blogs brings back those memories. I love the man I’m with but sometimes I get nostalgic for those precious years that were mine alone. I hope you find great joy in the time you have that is just you and your Tadpole!

    Incedentally, the entries where you recount conversations or interaction with Tadpole absolutely light up my day. She is so sweet and clever – thank you for sharing with us.

    Comment by Kimberly — July 14, 2006 @ 10:34 pm

  18. It’s true that being with someone always entails compromise, and that’s a bore. I haven’t been single since I was 19, and those single years were among the best in my life (hmm. might have something to do with being 19 though). Glad you’re in a good place at the moment.


    Comment by Francesca — July 15, 2006 @ 12:22 am

  19. After a long relationship in my twenties, I became single in my early thirties and spent a crazy, frenetic couple of years behaving badly and careering from one drama to the next.

    But it was also a magical time – I now look back on those years with great fondness, nostalgic for the sheer unpredictability of a life filled at every turn with new people, places and experiences, which it is impossible to replicate in a settled, cosy relationship.

    I do think your friend are right that the existence of Tadpole is a positive. As I discovered, society, and men in particular, are convinced that a woman in her thirties must be absolutely desperate to settle down and start procreating as soon as is humanly possible.

    I remember having to explain over and over again that actually I was rather keen NOT to settle down for a bit, having just come out of a long relationship, and that I couldn’t really hear my biological clock ticking at all. In the absence of a Tadpole, however, I don’t think anyone at all believed me.

    Comment by Paola — July 15, 2006 @ 1:56 am

  20. Thank you, Petite, for sharing this stage of your life. Last week I broke up with the man I thought I would marry, and am slowly finding my center again. Your post gives me hope that I will find peace and contentedness in my new solitude.

    Comment by sarai — July 15, 2006 @ 4:16 am

  21. A lot of people these days were raised by single mothers, myself included. The days of the stigma are practically over.

    Be free petite.

    Comment by Jack Hartley — July 15, 2006 @ 6:38 am

  22. Good for you, good for petite. When I was growing up my Mum was so desperate to find a new husband and went through heaps of live in lovers. It’s a great example for Tadpole, you can be happy and independant even with a dependant child. It also gives her a fair bit of stability and security if she’s not constantly battling for your attentions with “man of the month” Few women can be independant without yearning, doing it alone and being content – that’s truly something. Ironically you’ll probably meet a man of your calibre now, now that you’re whole on your own and don’t want for anything.

    Comment by Alicia — July 15, 2006 @ 9:37 am

  23. Well done you! Enjoy your single status and be proud of your wisdom.
    When I was alone, with two young children, I was afraid of being alone and made loads of mistakes which affected them adversely too.
    I’m paying for it now – living with TWO of my past errors – my ex and my current husband. Marry in haste: repent at leisure! I sincerely hope no-one else could get themselves into that situation and definitely not you!

    Comment by Sablonneuse — July 15, 2006 @ 11:26 am

  24. Your having a daughter will certainly make you attractive to men who want to raise a child. Just enjoy your singledom while it lasts because that won’t be forever!

    Comment by Lost in France — July 15, 2006 @ 11:55 am

  25. This is a very important realisation. Don’t be dominated by society or what anyine else is doing; enjoy yourself and tadpole; remember, there’s no two like the two of you, and this is the way it should be.

    Comment by fjl — July 15, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

  26. Your new “psychological state” will show…ironically it’ll probably end up being more of a magnet to men than ever before!! You’ve found a toughness, a confidence and that in itself is attractive to many men. The difference now being that you’re not giving out the vibes of the ‘desperation’ or ‘loneliness’ type (if indeed that were the case before seeing as I don’t know you personally ;-))
    I am so pleased you feel good.

    Comment by Karma — July 15, 2006 @ 6:21 pm

  27. As many of the previous commentators posted, I too am uplifted by your words and state of mind … thank you for candidly sharing with us. Across the puddle, I too am in the same space & it is a rollercoaster, an adventure, thrilling and nauseating all the same time. Cheers, petite anglaise.

    Comment by Deborah — July 15, 2006 @ 7:21 pm

  28. Re: Internet & dating — check out the movie “Must Love Dogs.” It’s not going to change the world, by any stretch, but there are some cute moments about dating and the frustrations that go along with it. Seriously, though, I’m glad for you, Petite. Learning to be alone and enduring the moments of loneliness less and less frequently is truly a gift. I wish you all the best!!

    Comment by Kat — July 15, 2006 @ 9:04 pm

  29. I spent 10 years with a man and at our last Christmas together, I was putting up the decorations alone. It struck me that I had been putting up decorations, alone all along, not only that I had been doing things singley in our relationship since the beginning because he wouldn’t fully let me in. After the first of the year I sent him on his way. 3 years later I got married at the age of 40, to a man I met on the internet, we have now been married 5 years. Isn’t life grand?

    Comment by Carla — July 16, 2006 @ 1:52 am

  30. When my boyfriend of 4 years and I broke up, I very much felt empty and couldn’t face the fact of being alone. The first year was complicated, hard, gut-wrenching and included many failed attempts. Now two years later, I can honestly say that I’m not “trying” to find anyone…I enjoy my time alone and with friends and surprise myself when people ask if I have someone special in my life by answering “Come to think of it, I haven’t really thought about it for a while”. Anyways, being alone brings independance and insight you can’t get alone.
    I hope Petite that you will enjoy this precious time and who knows, maybe someone special will come to appear and then…who knows, maybe it’ll be for a day…or a week, or a year or….Forever.

    Comment by Tanya — July 16, 2006 @ 5:22 pm

  31. It’s really refreshing to read such a honest piece of writing. You are honest about how insecure you felt at first in regards to ‘going it alone’ but you express how you’ve developed as an individual. So much better on my eyes than the likes of Bridget Jones whining on about how needy is she and has to diet furiously in order to nab a man!

    You’ve had time to grow as a solo act, and I really enjoyed reading about your experience.

    Comment by Sarah Parry — July 16, 2006 @ 7:59 pm

  32. wow! cheers to you! such women empowerment!

    Comment by erinz — July 17, 2006 @ 5:27 am

  33. I am very inspired by your post and much of the journey itself…overall, it’s very empowering.

    In regard to internet dating, Meetic doesn’t strike me as the ideal site to use if you’re looking for a potential partner for a meaningful relationship (read: not a fling). I could be wrong, but after reading your initial Meetic post, I decided to try the site out and I was horrified. I’m sure others have had some luck with the site, but I think, in general, it’s not the ideal site for those seeking a meaningful connection with someone.

    Comment by Noire Dire — July 17, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

  34. Having met my other (better) half on the net, I did spot the obvious flaw in your complaint about online dating… why on earth are you going out to dinner? What’s wrong with coffee – preferably in a book shop, where you cannot fail to find something to talk about.

    One day I’ll write about the succession of strange people I had coffee with before wandering towards this girl who looked up at me as I approached her table in Oxford one day…

    Comment by Jonathan — July 17, 2006 @ 2:52 pm

  35. It’s good to hear you’ve settled into a new chapter of life as Tadpole’s single mom.

    I’ve found, at least in the States (can’t really say about England, and I didn’t pay that much attention when in France) that the people who speak of single motherhood negatively are the judgemental sort who don’t know anything about what they’re talking about. Who cares about them as long as you’re happy?

    Comment by Fendra — July 17, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

  36. My neck falls forwards, my eyeballs upwards.

    Comment by Trevor — July 17, 2006 @ 6:45 pm

  37. Petite, this entry, of finding a new space for yourself, metaphorically and actually, is serendipidous for me. I just spent a weekend with a close childhood friend, who has raised her only son alone, for 17 years. He is the most balanced, confident and thoughtful youth I’ve met for a very long time, and his mum and I talked a lot about this experience, for her, and for him. For her, of course she would likely not have been able to give him so many travel experiences and undivided adventure-sharing, had she been with someone, and he may not have developed the Agape* for her that he truly demonstrates now (even though they do, of course, tangle- he being 17.) He is strong, independant and strangely immune to peer-pressure, which is fairly uncommon in middle-class America. Now my friend has found someone to be with, and she said to me, “I think it would be a lot harder to watch him grow up and away, as a man, at this age, if I hadn’t found [her partner]. Now I feel ready.” So, there you have two sides to chew on!

    (serendipidous for me, as I try to manage the effects of being alone for many years, and the prospect of continuing to be so.)

    Love your blog, as always.

    *Agape in the classical Greek sense of the word: selfless love, irrespective of conditions.

    Comment by eric — July 17, 2006 @ 11:30 pm

  38. The gradual realisation that I am happily single – not looking, not wishing I was with someone – is empowering. It took me longer than you because I had to also accept being child-free. When I look at the partners of my friends or friends of friends, nice as they are, I am so relieved that I do not have to wake up next to one of those every day…I am so glad to have great friends and a lovely family – and to be able to enjoy my own company and do what I want when I want to do it. That is not to say that if someone nice came my way I wouldn’t get excited, but if he doesn’t that’s also fine.

    Comment by Jude — July 18, 2006 @ 12:28 am

  39. Trevor, are you married? For some reason I believe you said something to that effect…

    Just asking so that I’ll know whether or not my fantasy of you and PA hooking up is useless.

    I use the term “fantasy” loosely…of course.

    Comment by Noire Dire — July 18, 2006 @ 1:35 am

  40. Congrats. I started over a couple of years ago after eight years with my partner. It was scary starting a life without him, especially at my age (forties) … but I’ve found that life is much fuller, more exciting, more interesting. The people I’ve met – people I would not have met had I stayed with him – have enriched my life. I hope your life (in Paris, lucky woman!) continues to shine.

    Comment by Beth — July 18, 2006 @ 2:37 am

  41. I agree with and relate to everything you’ve written in this post. I’m three years single now with my own apartment that for the first time I also chose and painted and decorated. My ex comes to visit his daughter and I and teases me about some of my stuff and I just tell him to ‘shut it’. It feels amazing to have a life without compromise for a man for the first time in over a decade. Having said that though, I am starting to get a little squirrely. Not enough to go back online though. You summed that up nicely.

    Comment by Melanie — July 18, 2006 @ 3:06 am

  42. ‘better alone than in bad company’ – george washington

    Comment by jason — July 18, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

  43. ‘live cheap, get some friends, some interests and chill’ – epicurus :)

    Comment by jason — July 18, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  44. Not wanting to be a spoil sport, but work time is still work time. If you are employed to sort out your private thoughts in a blog, fair enough. If not, make more time for your child by finishing work early and going home. I think your employer quite within its rights to dispose of you for that reason alone. I do not need to read the other comments in your blog salacious or not to know that what you did was quite wrong. You are apparently an educated and literate woman and the surprise is that you seem to think you are in the right

    Comment by gary — July 19, 2006 @ 5:18 am

  45. but she IS bridget jones !

    Comment by jason — July 19, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

  46. I’ve read on news that your company has fired you because you’ve got a blog : shame on them.
    Now everyone know their real face.

    Comment by Eric Stewen — July 19, 2006 @ 9:14 pm

  47. Being alone can be dull and emotionless believe me Its better to be find amour si possible.


    Comment by andrew — July 19, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

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