Byline: MARIA MCERLANE
Unattached women are opting to live together rather than alone.
One writer tells how she has swapped a husband for all-girl heaven HAVING relieved myself of a longterm partner and all the trappings that go with such a relationship, I found life to be a strange no-man's-land in need of definition. So I sold the house in Acton, sent the past 20 years worth of "stuff" to a charity shop, and arrived on a girlfriend's doorstep like a student, clutching a couple of bin liners and a ghetto blaster.
To be a student at 40 is all well and good, but I still haven't quite got the hang of how to behave. This time last year, I had a bamboo steamer, a matching dinner service and leather-bound copies of the works of Dickens. In short, I was masquerading as a grownup. Of course, nothing has really changed other than my circumstances, but the liberation of redefining who I am is making me behave like a giddy teenager.
I am house sharing with my girlfriend Horatia, a very stylish dame who has spent the past 10 years in New York and is perfectly at ease with the notion of service-culture-as-lifestyle. She appears to have accounts with butchers, bakers, wine emporiums and flower shops - and is adamant that it's just as cost-effective as nipping down to Poundstretchers.
Sounds decadent, I know, but essentially we are just teenagers with an income.
I believe the technical term bandied about by ad men is UMMYs: Upwardly Mobile Middle Youthers.
The majority of Ummys tend to be female and single - a recent survey showed that the likelihood of finding a husband in a big city is practically zero.
As some positive soul once said: "You're more likely to be shot by a sniper than you are to marry over 40" - so many of us are choosing to live with each other instead.
The important thing to remember about any form of cohabitation is to respect one another's boundaries - to know when and if the other person needs to chat, get drunk or dance the lambada. Because we're that bit older and have independent friends and relationships it's easier to remain separate in our togetherness.
That's not to say that we don't enjoy hanging out - many's the Sunday we have clambered into each others beds to watch television, read the papers, eat chocolate, order Thai food and paint our nails.
As our bedrooms are a floor apart, we often text each other with juicy snippets of newly remembered gossip. We have even been known to have extensive conversations on our mobiles - ridiculous, of course, but how else do we decide whether it's Thai or Italian takeaway when there's a whole flight of stairs in the way?
After we threw a party a few weeks ago, such was the extent of our hangovers that neither of us could get out of bed. …