“But I missed out on the round-two’ers. Now all I’ve got are the widowers, the single guys who never made it, and the blokes that are looking for third-time lucky.”
I don’t envy any woman over 55 looking for love in Australia right now.
I don’t envy any woman over 55 looking for even just a little bit of affection in Australia right now.
There are 357,358 women aged 55 to 64 who are not married, or living in a de facto relationship. There are only 264,860 single men in that age group. Not only is that a much smaller pool of potential partners, but – as bemoaned by a nearly-60 lady reader recently – it is a pool filled with dregs.
What’s a girl to do?
Clearly, the above assessment of 55+ single guys in Australia is a tough one. A harsh one – one inspired by the frustrating experiences of a single woman battling the odds. I don’t mean to say that all available men in that cohort in this country, right now are less than lovely.
I do mean to question whether or not there’s a point to be made.
Just how hard is it to find love, or at least a loving companion, if you are single and approaching 60 and a woman? Is it harder for the hers than it is for the hims? And why should we care anyway?
Well the latter question is easily answered - we should care because we either know someone in that age group, are in that age group or will be in that age group, god willing, one day.
Now, I don’t know what your vintage is but mine is 1987. That means I can expect to live until I’m at least 80, maybe longer.
I hope my husband will still be around. I hope that I am still enjoying the fruits of my marriage. Companionship and intimacy into old age - I don’t think we have to subscribe to this business of being bitter and cold and old. Nor should we say that sexuality ceases to count when you hit a certain age.
However it is true that it becomes harder the older we get. Bodies break down, marriages break down – life breaks down.
“But not yet,” says my older, wiser reader. “I’m not broken yet. I’m not ready to give up - I’m just sick of trying so hard at a time when it doesn’t seem possible.”
I want to try and understand. What informed the women who are over 55 and single in Australia right now? What informed their male peers – those in the dreggy pool so frequently bemoaned? What did they grow up expecting? Why are they now so unsatisfied? And is it particularly tricky at this point in time?
Rewind 40 years – hello 1974 – when today’s 60-year-olds were 20, Gough Whitlam was PM, we were pulling out of Vietnam, feminism was a thing, Countdown launched, and Alvin Stardust’s My Coo Ca Choo was the year’s biggest single on the Australian charts.
Also, in 1974, 20 was also the age at which most most women got married (20.9 years old for brides, 23.3 for grooms). The crude marriage rate was 8.1 in every 1000, so most 60-year-olds now were getting married then. Interestingly, the marriage rate has not been that high since. And 1974 was also the first in 30 years when the median age for first marriage didn’t drop. The declining significance of religion, a volatile political environment, ongoing sexual revolution and introduction of no-fault divorce in 1976 may have been contributing factors.
“I grew up with no model for anything other than the ’50s nuclear family - most men were the same - but we were also a young generation that wanted change. We just didn’t know how that change would look. We were figuring out this free love against the constraints of straitlaced suburban Australia. There wasn’t an easy American dating culture. So you kind of met someone, wherever, and chances are you still did the whole monogamy-marriage thing.
“Now I find I’m single again, and just I didn’t know how to be a single, empowered woman in the ’70s, I don’t know how to be a mature-aged single woman now. Because whose example can I follow? Friends my age are either still married, or remarried because they divorced young. Some of my friends are married even though they don’t want to be simply because they couldn’t bear the thought of being in my predicament.”
But what of the men, I wrote in reply, still curious. Besides the fact there are less single men, what’s so wrong with the ones who are out there?
“Oh they’re even more confused than we are! It’s like the blind leading the blind. They’re the last group of men who had all the power. Their reference point to single life is when they had the upper hand. Now they’re older, they’re coming to terms with mortality, and a lot of them are still learning how to unlearn all the lessons from their fathers that undid their last relationships.”
Interesting, I thought. The kids of the ’50s now in a position their parents would never have imagined, nor prepared them for.
How prepared is this generation for what lies in store? And what can be done to help those looking in the twilight years without map, torch or compass?
Katherine Feeney is a journalist with the Nine Network Australia.