There’s an unfortunate tendency for people to assume that if you’re single and a woman, you must be unhappy about it—especially if you’re older than 35.
But many women (both famous and not) have discovered that while relationships can be lovely, marriage and monogamy aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be, and that they’re actually at their most satisfied and fulfilled while going it alone.
The wisdom of these 11 famous, independent ladies is a powerful reminder that being single can be just as enjoyable—or even much more enjoyable—as being in a committed, exclusive relationship.
1. Coco Chanel
The legendary designer (1883-1971) who forever changed the world of fashion also famously opted to remain single her whole life. "It's probably not just by chance that I'm alone," she's quoted as saying. "It would be very hard for a man to live with me, unless he's terribly strong. And if he's stronger than I, I'm the one who can't live with him. ...The two men I've loved, I think, will remember me, on earth or in heaven, because men always remember a woman who caused them concern and uneasiness. I've done my best, in regard to people and to life, without precepts, but with a taste for justice."
2. Diane Keaton
In addition to being an Oscar–winning actress, Keaton is also a photographer and writer, and the mother of two adopted children. While she’s enjoyed relationships with a number of other big stars, including Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, she’s never been married.
"I remember when I was young I honestly believed in some ridiculous way that you would find someone who would be the person you lived with until you died," she has said. "I don't think that because I'm not married it's made my life any less. That old maid myth is garbage."
3. Greta Garbo
While legendary actor Greta Garbo also enjoyed a number of affairs with famous men, she chose to prioritize her career above all and turned down numerous proposals in an era when doing so was still totally taboo. Famous quote from her: “I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be left alone.' There is all the difference.” She's also quoted as saying, “There are some who want to get married and others who don't. I have never had an impulse to go to the altar. I am a difficult person to lead.”
4. Mindy Kaling
Mindy's character on The Mindy Project is obsessed with men and relationships, but the real-life Mindy find herself delighted by her success and her singledom. "In my 20s, I was not only boy crazy, but marriage and relationship crazy. ... Now it's almost the opposite," she told Flare magazine. "My work is so rewarding and I'm so self-centered about it that I'm kind of excited about not having to go home and ask someone about their day."
5. Condoleeza Rice
The former Secretary of State has enjoyed a long career as a political scientist and diplomat. She has never been married and has no children—which she is frequently asked about, but which in the least. “I always say, the fact of the matter is you don’t want to get married in the abstract, you want to get married to someone," she said on CBS Sunday Morning. "And I’ve just not found that person that I want to get married to.”
6. Mae West
Okay, this legendary, iconic actress/singer/screenwriter/playwright was actually married twice, but she aggressively broke with social conventions when it came to sex and marriage. West (1893-1980) even wrote a play called “Sex” that was considered so scandalous at the time, she was sent to jail for “lewdness and the corrupting of youth," according to PBS.
Mae was also known for her zingers on men and marriage. Here are just a few:
“Marriage is nothing more than contracted prostitution. I believe in the single standard for men and women.”
“Some men are all right in their place—if only they knew the right places.”
“Men are my hobby—if I ever got married, I'd have to give it up.”
7. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah is one of the iconically famous unmarried women. She has enjoyed a 30-year relationship with former professional basketball player Stedman Graham, and endured near-constant questions about whether and when they will marry—but has never succumbed to the pressure to walk down the aisle.
"The only thing I ever regretis bringing up Stedman's name so much," she told CNN's Larry King. "Some people think that's some kind of longing I have to be married, but I just mention him because he's in my life, like Gayle [Oprah’s BFF] is in my life, like my dogs are in my life."
8. Jane Austen
Austen (1775-1817) may be a master of literary romance (and has even been dubbed the “mother of chick lit,”), but she herself never married. She was once engaged for a few hours, but she ultimately opted to remain single and dedicate her life to her work. “There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time,” she famously said.
9. Charlize Theron
The 40-year old actress has enjoyed relationships with a string of leading men, but has never been married. She adopted two children on her own, and has made it clear that she works hard to create her own happiness.
“I'm sure there's a lot of aspects to my life that a lot of people wouldn't want ... Just personal choice things," she told Esquire UK. "Like the fact that I'm single at 38. That's not necessarily what a lot of women want ... But I'm just saying, a life is good if it's the life that you want….I am living my life in a way that if tomorrow it ended_and I hope not because I have a kid—but if it did, this was the life that I really wanted to live. But I work at that, you know?"
10. Louisa May Alcott
Alcott (1832-1888) famously authored the feminist tome Little Women, and practiced what she preached by remaining independent and earning her own living at a time when doing so was still considered wildly unconventional. After visiting a married friend, she once wrote that her marriage “nest” was "Very sweet and pretty, but I'd rather be a free spinster and paddle my own canoe."
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