I’m writing today’s supplement from my bed. I don’t usually do this but I felt the need to given the topic of today’s newsletter. I’m excited to say I have commissioned a brilliant guest writer for you all.
I first came across Emily Morris when I listened to her talking about solo motherhood on Shani Silver’s podcast. I immediately followed her on Twitter and have been wanting to ask her to write for me for a while now. I’m so glad I did because it’s such a lovely positive piece. It really made me smile when she sent it to me and it also really resonated with me.
I hope you enjoy reading today’s column as much I did.
Have a good week,
Savouring bedtime alone by Emily Morris
Your bed is an absolute sanctuary, the most comfortable spot in your world. It's a place of cosiness, safety and ultimate privacy. It's where you sleep, it's where you masturbate, it's where you retreat when you're sick or upset or depressed. Yet tonight, countless adults who are lucky enough to own a bed will face the harsh reality of having to share their sacred space with another.
I used to long for company in bed. Some people are scared of the dark or of heights; I was scared of being single. How did it feel to be clasped by a warm human being instead of icy loneliness as you drifted off to sleep? I couldn't remember, and maybe I would never know, and that kept me awake at night.
Not long afterwards, I discovered that my anxiety had not only been preventing me from sleeping, but lying to me, as I embarked on a serious monogamous relationship. Although my partner never moved in with me, he stayed over often, and soon our 'sides' of the bed were silently but firmly established. Aside from the obvious, there were aspects of this new arrangement that were exciting for as long as they were novelties: being held as I fell asleep, having morning brews delivered to me in bed, I want to think of a third but I can't.
As much as I loved my partner, I came to relish the nights he didn't come over, because they were the evenings I had marathon baths before early nights, lying smack bang in the middle of the bed, reading with the light on or writing into the night. Or at weekends, when I drank with friends and fell into bed in the early hours without worrying about waking him up. The Saturdays afterwards were spent snoozing 'til noon, watching crap on my laptop, taking toast back to bed. (I never got away with eating in bed - like the princess with the pea, my ex always detected the crumbs I'd failed to brush away.)
Like most relationships, ours had an expiry date. It had been two-and-a-half years, and I took the inevitable sadness to bed, where I discovered a vast continent of comfort and beautiful seclusion. The cool side was mine, whenever I wanted to fling a limb on to it, my body free to stretch into satisfying shapes. My bed held me and comforted me and, long after I was over the breakup, became one of my favourite places to be. Bedtime was no longer just a part of my routine, but an act of daily pampering.
I've now been single for three years, and in that time I've realised that being single is definitely nothing to be scared of. I've also gradually collected a cache of precious things that make bed even more heavenly: a weighted blanket with a velvety cover, an eye mask, a silk pillowcase, an oil diffuser, various meditation apps, a sunrise alarm clock.
All of those things can be, and are, owned by people who share their beds with another, but I believe they best serve one. I want to wallow in my bed, luxuriate in it, not lie still in a narrow patch allocated to me like a parking spot. There are so many things not to love about sharing a bed: sounds, smells, sweat. With one partner, I found myself always losing the frantic race to fall asleep before their snores began, whilst another woke me first thing every morning with the hiss and crackle of their vape. Of course, it's not all about the other person disturbing you; these days, when I do share my bed, worrying my snoring will keep the other person awake is the thing guaranteed to keep me awake.
I've heard horror stories from people who share their beds: of duvet fights, kicked shins, wildly opposing temperature preferences. In heterosexual relationships in particular, some male partners seem to find sex toys and female masturbation intimidating or even emasculating. There are solutions, of course, and couples learn to tolerate and even love each other's idiosyncrasies, but the longer I sleep alone, the more more I fear ever having to share my bed again. And I know all this reads like a crap attempt to make myself feel better about being single, but it's honestly not: only in bed do we get to be our most relaxed, most private, most comfortable selves, and that's got to be something we get to experience for ourselves.
So tonight, savour your bedtime. Slather on face cream, slip into the sheets, spread out, sink down, snore. Bask, wank, eat, read – do whatever the hell you like in your dreamy realm: it's yours, all yours. And yours alone. Lucky you.
Emily Morris is a writer and journalist based in Manchester. Her first book, My Shitty Twenties: a Memoir, is published by Salt and tells her story of having a baby when she was young, single and bewildered. She is currently working on her second book, a novel set on the hen do from hell. You can follow her on Twitter here.
What caught my attention
I’m not sure I have shared the thoughts of a gay single man before! I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Graham Norton but I thought it was interesting that the fact he is “still” single made it into the headline when this phrase is often reserved for women. This part of his answer was interesting: “There’s a weird thing that happens in your life that the older you get the less right you have to be picky, but the pickier you become. And your dating pool becomes smaller and smaller — but that’s because you want it to be. When you’re young it’s the opposite — you know you could be picky, but you’re not. So I think that’s what probably changed things. And, you know, I prefer to be unhappy alone. That’s the bottom line. And I’m not even unhappy.”
Helen Thorn, who is one half of comedy duo The Scummy Mummies has written this great piece about how she coped when her marriage abruptly ended just two weeks before the UK went into lockdown last March. It’s a good read for anyone going through a break up, or coping with being a single parent or just any badass single woman needing to remind herself of the positives. “The freedom of just having a whole house to myself was glorious. I suddenly realised all the things I was gaining, rather than what I had lost … I now feel incredibly proud that I conquer everything myself. One night I even managed to fix the kitchen drawer and plug the laptop into the telly so my son could play a computer game on a big screen. Both the kids cheered and I honestly felt like Wonder Woman.”
I wanted to include this even though it made me feel ancient because it’s a totally different perspective to my own. I didn’t feel any real pressure in my twenties and was lucky to be able to work abroad and try different careers out. For me, all the pressure started in my 30s but this is an interesting read: “It’s already frustrating that Western society makes 25-year-old women feel like the ravages of time are attacking you, but being Indian, the pressures of ageing can seem endless. Not meeting cultural expectations, like marriage, having a job and fitting the ideal beauty standard, can hang over like a dark cloud over single women in this age bracket. My family are North Indian Muslims who have kept their heritage close as they have emigrated around the world. I keep some things private, like my bisexuality and my atheist beliefs, but when it comes to things I can’t hide, like being unemployed or the way I look, family elders would say “Log kya kahenge?” which translates to – “what would people think?””
A lovely woman called Jo who I met through the London Writer’s Salon, is hosting a wonderful sounding event on Valentine’s Day. It’s a special therapeutic writing session and will be a nurturing space for single women to express themselves. Grab your ticket here.
I was pleased to get a mention in The Tiff Weekly and loved reading this edition about monotony. The big news is that Tiffany Philippou, the woman behind that newsletter, has a memoir coming out in September this year. I’ll share as soon as it’s available to pre-order.
I absolutely loved all the messages I received about last week’s newsletter. I particularly enjoyed that half focused on the teenage diaries and the other half were about the idea of us being all our former selves and the inner child stuff. You guys never cease to make me smile or make me think more (or both!) Thank you!
For those who don’t know, I’m Nicola Slawson, a freelance journalist who lives in Shropshire, UK. If you loved this edition of the newsletter in particular, you can buy me a coffee, here’s the link to my Ko-Fi page. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
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