None of the women interviewed for this story consciously set out to live without a mate. In fact, each of them has come close to getting hitched at least once, sometimes twice. "I always thought one day I'd get married," says Shiree Dyson, an arts administrator in San Francisco, "just like I thought, one day I will no longer have acne. However, I looked up one day and realized, hey, I am over 40, I still have acne—and I'm still not married."
Unlike Dyson, Ann Zabaldo, of Washington, D.C., had early intimations that she might not be the marrying kind. In college, she found it difficult to muster the same enthusiasm as her friends when they pored over the pages of Brides magazine. "I just couldn’t conjure up an image of what my own wedding would look like," she says. In her thirties, she called off an engagement so late in the game that she and her fiancé had already begun receiving gifts. She realized the relationship wasn't healthy, she says, and that she'd been heading into marriage only because she still hadn't come to terms with the notion of remaining single.
With marriage still the default choice for most women (and men), it's easy to imagine that those who reject it may have come from unhappy families, but Zabaldo's experience was just the opposite. "My parents were happily married until my father died of a heart attack at age 52," she says. Her brother's first marriage ended in divorce, but he and his second wife have been married for more than 20 years. So she had inspirational models, but she also felt she had permission to go a different route. Her mother, a retired nurse, "is a very independent woman, and she really supports me," Zabaldo says. "She never once said a word to me about getting married or having children."
Jane Scandurra also came from a happy home. "My parents have the cutest relationship," she says. It's that healthy grounding, Scandurra theorizes, that may have prevented her from ending up a divorce statistic.
Because she hasn't met the right man—at least not yet—Scandurra sees her singleness as a testament to her sanity rather than as a symptom of dysfunction. In the meantime, her single life is full and fulfilling. She owns a boat, dines out regularly with friends, has a thriving career in marketing and lives in a beautiful town house in Tarrytown, New York.
"I've had really good relationships," Scandurra says. "I've learned something from every man I've dated; I don't have anything bad to say about them. Meanwhile, I have friends who've divorced twice. In my mind, I didn't make a mistake. So why is the one who never married the loser?"