I’m 38, look 30(ish) and I’m not afraid to seek what I want.
And, thanks, Emma Watson, for coining a better phrase for singledom.
Google “single” and you’ll find that Ms Watson has made some waves with her new turn of phrase:
She’s right though: “Single” is a shit word.
It means one, lonely, last thing.
If you’re watching your weight, you let yourself have just one single cookie. And if you’re not watching your weight, you cringe when you see just one single cookie in the box.
And when there’s one single glass of wine left in the bottle? Hold me.
We say things like “there’s not one single thing I like about this.”
And, god forbid, you’re a woman approaching 30, 40, 50 and “still” single. Might as well buy a deck of cards and adopt a cat.
But there’s a lot to like about being ‘self-partnered’. I am in a self-partnered polyamorous relationship. My ‘primary’ partner is me.
And although there were some hiccups learning how to be happily self-partnered along the way (I got way too trigger-happy on Tinder), I feel like I’ve hit my stride now.
For one — I have more clarity about the choices I make because I’m not making them with someone else’s well being in mind. Over time, it’s become safer to make choices where I put my own needs first.
I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for what I want.
Detangling self-worth from someone else’s opinion takes time and effort. Once I had the space to do that, I realised that I’m pretty fucking awesome at it.
Spending time on me has given me the confidence to stand up for myself at work, to say no to a lot of men, to be honest with my friends about crossed boundaries and to go outside of my comfort zone on the regular (like writing alone in a busy bar).
Not having to take care of another person all the time means that I have more time to take care of myself. For me, that means working out five days a week, spending time with friends, smoking weed and doing a lot of writing and exploring connections with new people.
If I feel a connection with someone, I’m not afraid to see where that goes.
My relationship with dating apps has also changed a lot lately. These days, swiping is more of a deterrent than a desire, case in point:
I’m going out of my way to talk to more people, in real life.
I‘m disrupting dating.
I’ve written about the lack of authentic connection with people (thanks Instagram) and how that affects happiness. People just aren’t themselves when they’re behind a screen. And I just don’t want to unwind that.
Last weekend, I was sitting at my local bar doing some writing and talking to the guy who co-owns the bar. He joked that because I’m there alone so often, that maybe I don’t have friends. I laughed. I go in there alone because I like to work. I go in with friends when I like to socialise.
But I also think that perhaps I am not the norm. It is not normal to see a woman sitting happily at a bar alone, doing her thing. I do things alone because it’s the first time in my adult life that doing something by myself is even an option.
I went from living at home with my family to living with roommates in university to living with a guy for 14 years in Amsterdam. For me, being by myself is a new experience.
If I’m not with my son and not at work, I have the freedom to do as I please. Do I want to drink a beer and finish this story at 4 pm on a Thursday? Yes, I do. Permission granted.
There is a lot I don’t like about modern dating, and when I say ‘modern’, I mean on an app. My general experience is that 99.99% of the time, using a digital interface for human connection makes it too easy to manipulate and forges connection based on inauthenticity.
I am a much better judge of chemistry with a person when I’m standing beside them and not making awkward small talk on an app. And so I’m trying to do that more — be out, smiling and talking to people.
Being single/self-partnered for the past two years has taught me more about myself than the 20 years before. It’s not about the absence of a relationship with someone else that’s the thing though; it’s being in a relationship with myself for the first time.
Would I like to be in a relationship with someone else at some point?
Sure I would. I’d like to feel loved, that sounds nice. I’d like someone to make me coffee in the morning. I’d like to kick someone’s ass at Ms Pacman and then make out with them behind the cigarette machine. I’d like to smoke a joint and walk through the park pointing at cute dogs and then come home and listen to records. That sounds really nice.
And I’d like to text someone without hesitation, wondering if the mere appearance of ‘hey, how’s your day going?’ on their phone is going to make them think I want to get married.
Emma Watson coined the term ‘self-partnered’ because she’s approaching 30 and is irritated by the pressure put on women to be in relationships and having babies once that milestone hits.
For me, ‘self-partnered’ is making it acceptable to be a confident, self-assured woman unburdened by society’s expectations that the absence of a partner is also the absence of happiness.