I adore London, to me it’s the best Capital city on earth; it is a city for exploration, adventure and discovery with new restaurants, bars and theatre productions opening all the time – but, with so much to see and do in our nation’s capital, is it any surprise that Londoners are shirking adulthood?
Last Friday night I had dinner with Mama H who was visiting for a few days to go to the ballet and generally have a weekend mooching about in the Big Smoke. I took her out for dinner and somewhere between the arancini and the tiger prawns she started a conversation that we had, until now, rather miraculously managed to avoid. Having sunk the dregs of her aperol spritz, Mama H all of a sudden launched in and asked me what my plans were for life – did I see myself settling down anytime soon? What do I see as the next stepping stone in my career? Do I think it would be worth looking at up-sizing my flat?
There was a pause as I looked at her blankly, before shrugging my shoulders a la Kevin and Perry and muttering that immortal phrase so loved by teenagers across the land “ I dunno”. Except, I’m not a teenager. I’m 29 years young.
I am a fully paid up member of adult society in many ways – I pay my taxes, cast my vote and own a little flat – in other ways however, I am in hopeless denial about my age. I along with many of my contemporaries are avoiding accepting our adult responsibilities and clutching onto our carefree days the way Kim Kardashian’s leather skirts cling to her ample rear. We are the Peter Pan generation kids!
I have wholeheartedly entered into the “I’m not ready to grow up” mindset. There is so much for adults to do, see and buy that although we have replaced food fights with cocktails, we live as though we are a decade younger than we really are. I’m in my very, very late 20’s yes, and technically a grown up, yet am no nearer to starting a pension than I am to fixing the door of my freezer. I enjoy being part of London’s fun loving tribe of 25 – 45 year olds who are determined to wring every drop of opportunity out of the capital before even considering marriage, moving to the suburbs and raising families of our own, and why on earth not?
It turns out, this girl from the sticks, is a capital city cliché – unmarried, baby-free and with a bit of disposable income to play with each month! Rather than let my hard-earned wages languish in my bank account, I spend them on all that London has to offer, be it the latest Secret Cinema pop-up or a friends birthday at a bar I really can’t afford. A recent study by Cambridge University discovered that Londoners are 26% more likely than anyone else in the country to spend money without thinking about it. Living in the world’s most expensive city we have become hard wired to high living costs – that’ll be due to the £5.70 deli sandwich for my desk-bound lunch I splurge on every day. Research at the University of Michigan found that just spending a few minutes on a crowded city street can affect the brain’s ability to focus and impact on self-control. My poor Kate Spade purse doesn’t stand a chance…
It’s not just my savings account that is empty – my wedding ring finger is bare too and I couldn’t be happier. A 2012 survey of nearly 5,000 people found that 36% of Londoners are single, compared to just 18% of the nation in general. I spend a lot of my evenings in the company of brilliant females who live here and not one of them is ready to tie the knot yet. As high-achievers with precious little spare time, our priorities have shifted from those of our parents generation. When we’re not at work, we’re busy caring for an urban family – friends who we can rely on through the thick and thin of city life. Finding a man can easily drop off the ‘to do’ list. When there is so much to do, why would anyone want to tie themselves down?
With the average London woman getting married at 36 (and this is creeping up each year) this inevitably leads to Londoners having babies later than the rest of the country too. Just 28% of us are married, compared to 50% nationwide and when we do settle down, we still like to wait a while and enjoy married life as a twosome before taking on the responsibility of having kids. If you draw a map of everyone who is having babies over the age of 40, it is incredibly focused on London and that’s again no surprise when the costs associated with raising a child are far higher than anywhere else in the UK
Taking all this into account surely Londoners can be excused for wanting to stop the clocks and enjoy their commitment free years? So for now Mama H, my life plan stretches as far as next weekend and I shall continue to think my happy little thoughts about Zara’s latest collection and the Selfridges shoe department sale. It’s just what Tinkerbell would have wanted.