The word ‘spinster’ is still freighted with pity and misogyny, yet the number of women living this way is growing. Emma John says it’s time to reconsider what it means to be ‘never-married’

I remember the moment my sister told me she was having a baby. I was spending the evening with a group of friends and, halfway through, Kate said she needed a word. We ducked into a bedroom, where she looked at me so solemnly that I ransacked my brain for anything I could possibly have done wrong in the past half-hour.

The seriousness of her announcement made me giggle out loud. I had a flashback to the pair of us as kids, when a secret meeting like this meant we’d broken something in the house and were working out how to present the news to our parents. Plus, the thought of my little sister being a mum was innately funny. Not that Kate wasn’t ready for the role – she was in her mid-30s and keen to get on with it. I just couldn’t see myself as anyone’s aunt.

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