Being a Scarlet Woman


“Stop judging me because I’m a single woman. I drink coffee, have sex, buy pies, and enjoy battery-operated devices. If you can’t deal with that, I will find another housekeeper who can.”

There are some days when I feel like Miranda Hobbes did in Season 3 of Sex and the City, growing tired of Magda, her well-meaning but prudish Ukrainian housekeeper. And those are days when I feel like screaming about coffee, sex, and pies. (I, of course, never scream Miranda’s exact words. The prospect of me ever being able to afford a housekeeper is pretty much equal to the possibility of my trip to Jupiter next spring, with Richard Branson and Usain Bolt, ever going ahead.)

But I can empathise with Miranda’s frustration at Magda’s continual bleating about singleness. In my life, the equivalent of the disapproving housekeeper is a close male friend. Like Magda, he wears an apron very well, but quite unlike Magda, he also wears a bushy beard. And he thinks I’m a Scarlet Woman. This opinion is almost completely without any basis in fact. I feel that, in order to merit such a title, I should really be doing a lot more ‘scarletting’ than I currently am. Granted, I did recently remark that, after having read Henry Miller’s Sexus, I had the sudden desire to wear silk stockings in the bath. (I promise I didn’t – I don’t actually own any silk stockings.) But, apart from that brief, distinctly 1920s, frisson, I would say that I’m pretty straight-laced. If I were any of the Sex and the City protagonists, I’d probably be Charlotte – neurotic but wholesome, with a secret desire to marry a Jewish divorce attorney.

My bearded, aproned, and recently-engaged friend would disagree. A month or so ago, he spent an entire afternoon, with a very serious face, listing the male attendees of his upcoming wedding that it would be inappropriate for me to ‘get with’. Assessing the seating plan, he had been forced to surround me with great-uncles and younger cousins, and to arm any eligible bachelor with garlic and a crucifix. You know, because being a young, single woman also makes me a vampire. I, of course, promised then and there to refrain from jumping a groomsman mid-ceremony or doing Christina Aguilera’s crotchless-chaps dance, from the Dirrty video, at the reception. (Simultaneously, I was secretly wishing I had the balls to ‘get with’ the most inappropriate man on the list – it was a tie between the Best Man and the Father of the Bride.)

So I know how it feels to (metaphorically) have the condoms in your medicine cabinet replaced with a little statue of the Virgin Mary, by your housekeeper/university friend who has fallen directly into middle age.

Being a decade younger, and a hell of a lot poorer, than Sex and the City’s New York lawyer, I’m surprised to find myself having to constantly justify my singleness to my (many) attached friends. One couple that I play third-wheel to asked me last year if I was “just really picky”. On the contrary, I’m not too picky about where I might be living next year, what new language I might have to learn, or whether or not I’ll finish writing that book that I’ve only written Chapter 5 of so far. On the cusp of my mid-twenties, I hardly have the time to be picky about the man I may or may not marry, years from now. I’m way too busy drinking tequila, watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and working out the best system to dry three weeks’ worth of laundry on a single clothes-horse.

Another very dear friend recently announced “I’ve found the guy for you!” as if she was announcing that she had found me a donor heart. I was lying on the operating table, my ribcage cracked open, a gaping hole in my chest. And she came skidding in through the door, carrying a big red lump of flesh, shouting “Don’t you die on me!” Then we all remembered that I’m un-dead anyway, someone drove a wooden stake through the donor heart, and we went out for drinks instead. My friends all had margaritas, and I drank the blood of four sacrificed virgins. It was a pretty normal Friday night.


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