Jayne Dawson: Esther is being brave by admitting to a lonely heart

HONEST: Esther Rantzen, who was one of the most well-known women on television for years.
HONEST: Esther Rantzen, who was one of the most well-known women on television for years.
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What do we think of 75-year-old Esther Rantzen’s admission that she is lonely, and would love a partner in life?

It’s certainly not what we are used to hearing from an older celebrity.

High profile women in their seventies, eighties and beyond are meant to be serene, not ...needy.

There aren’t that many of them, and the ones that do still have a career inhabit a special place, somewhere between National Treasure and The Nation’s Mother.

They are meant to be utterly capable like Mary Berry, utterly composed like Judi Dench or utterly beautiful like Honor Blackman.

Their astounding age and even more astounding continuing success should place them above all petty concerns, is really how we tend to think of them.

We’re a bit surprised that they still need to eat and drink, never mind take their daily drug regimes like the rest of us.

And as for declaring themselves lonely, well, it’s just not done. We want them to be inspirational, not ordinary.

But Esther Rantzen is insisting on bursting that bubble. She craves a companion in life.

She spends too many evenings eating cheese and biscuits in front of the television, watching back-to-back episodes of Downton, she says.

If it weren’t for the fact that her famous name would send every man running for the hills, she would be online dating, she says.

Now that is definitely not what we expect to hear. Esther was one of the most well-known women on television for years. She was also part of a power couple with husband Desmond Wilcox and together they had three daughters.

Esther’s life was the stuff of dreams. And then she formed the charity ChildLine to help abused children, elevating her from mere performer and presenter to a woman who actually helped change lives.

So really we would prefer Esther to say she is just fine. She has more than done her bit and she has had her rewards - fame, wealth and honours. Maybe she should be satisfied with that.

But yet here she is, insisting on being dissatisfied. She is making it quite clear that she thinks she is far too young to live on past glories.

She doesn’t want to sit quietly at the back, taking pleasure from her children’s successes, and occasionally wheeling herself out to talk about the way things used to be.

Already she has formed Silver Line to help lonely older people and now she is thinking of beginning Silver Dating, to help them find a partner.

So is she a pioneer or a pain in the bum? Probably both. I can’t imagine that Esther would be all that easy to be around, I’m sure she would be as demanding as she is immensely capable.

But it would surely be easier for her to pretend to be perfectly content in her mid-70s, to take part in the occasional glossy photoshoot surrounded by her loving family, to give the impression that she is content to fade away now that her television career is over.

She isn’t doing that though. Esther is taking the more difficult and honest path, letting everyone know that she still wants to be in the midst of life.

It must be painful, a bit humiliating, to admit to loneliness.One minute you are on the cover of the Radio Times, fronting a prime time show, the next you are alone with your cheese and biscuits. Hearing her say that must be difficult for her children too.

It could be that Esther is just greedy, expecting too much, instead of savouring all that she once had.

But I don’t think so. I think what she is doing must take enormous courage.

To say you are lonely is one of the last taboos, to say you are a 75-year-old woman who is not happy being single is pretty straight talking too.

I think that Esther is leading the way. By being honest about her own situation, she is helping the rest of us.

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