Melanie Daly lives and breathes feisty, late-40something fabulousness, and she’s not the slightest bit worried about being single.
“The very best thing about living alone is never being dragged down by anyone else’s baggage,” Melanie says. “I rent my own flat, run my own business, and pay my own bills. I always have, probably always will. It’s a brilliant feeling, being able to stand on your own two feet.
“It’s sad when couples stay together because they’re too scared to be alone. My independence can be threatening to other women though. They clutch their husbands’ arms when I approach, as if they’re about to take off like a hot-air balloon.
Silver foxes grow old. Today’s George Clooney is tomorrow’s Alf Garnett.
“It makes me laugh that they think I’m hankering after their pot-bellied, balding men! While they’re lying next to them in bed, suffering farting and snoring, I’m watching QVC’s beauty channel, shopping for mascara at midnight. I always keep a bottle of champagne in my fridge in case there’s a special occasion. Usually, I pop it open to celebrate just being me. I’ll light a scented candle and lie in the bath, with my flute of bubbles and a few pink-champagne truffles, reading a magazine. I raise a silent, ironic toast to the couples who tell me: ‘We don’t know how you manage by yourself’!”
Life has been far from fizzy and frothy for Melanie at times though. Eight years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Apart from one beloved aunt and a squad of singles, she might have felt alone in the world, but she applied her usual chutzpah to the news.
‘Got cancer,’ she texted her friends. ‘Let’s go for cocktails and sushi.’
She refused to let illness or treatment interfere with her social life or her retail addiction, and would stagger out of chemotherapy sessions in London’s Royal Marsden Hospital and straight into the shops. A make-up artist by profession, she never let the glamour slip. Calling herself a ‘chemorini’, she’d have her NHS wig styled and put her full face on for appointments.
In rare dark moments, gallows humour worked as ever. “One day, I was feeling so dreadful, I groaned to my friend about reading the last rites. She said: ‘Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring, I’ll keep applying your Dior lip gloss until the bitter end.’”
Thankfully, Melanie recovered fine and now, along with other services through her company works as a make-up artist advising and teaching cancer patients how to apply cosmetics.
“I know from first-hand experience how vulnerable you feel when you have cancer,” she says. “But having a lump shouldn’t rob you of your femininity. Make-up isn’t just a frivolous thing. If you look good to face the world, you inevitably start feeling better inside.”
Cancer meant Melanie found reserves of courage she never knew were there. “Surviving that has made me feel invincible. I want to be free to enjoy life without depending on anyone else and I could never settle for second best.”
Melanie has no inclination to deal with an ageing man’s afflictions, bunions and backache. “That’s the trouble,’ she grins. “Silver foxes grow old. Today’s George Clooney is tomorrow’s Alf Garnett.”
Her ideal relationship would be weekends-only. “I’d like a guy to have dinner with and maybe Sunday brunch, then I’d kiss him goodbye. My rule is never to have anyone to stay longer than it takes for fish to go off. So three days’ max.”
I’d rather have a night out with my friends, who I’m completely comfortable with because they love me for who I am.
She gave internet dating a whirl, but was outraged by men’s false descriptions of themselves. “They put up photos that were 20 years out of date, lied about their height and weight, but expected a 20-year-old supermodel in return. I work out and I’m a toned size 12, but one guy had the nerve to tell me he’d like me more if I lost a stone. I told him, ‘If you lost a few stone and grew some more strands of hair, I still wouldn’t fancy you!’
“I hung up my online dating boots a couple of years ago. It’s great being middle-aged because you’re no longer a slave to the hormones that lead you into trouble when you’re young. I’d rather have a night out with my friends, who I’m completely comfortable with because they love me for who I am.”
She will never be a ‘spinster of the parish’ sort. “When you’re single, you never know what romantic adventure could be just around the corner. That gives every day an exhilarating edge.
“If I met someone, it would be the cherry on the cake. Not the cake. I’ve got the cake. I am the cake.”