You should close this newsletter down and other lies shame tells me.
I was recently interviewed for an article about the women who have put themselves out there and talked about something people don’t usually open up about. I was featured in the piece because I have chosen to talk about being single. It’s quite telling that my story was told alongside women who have opened up publicly about domestic abuse, suicide and alcoholism. The idea is almost laughable and yet quite often I do feel like I have confessed a secret. A secret that maybe I should have kept to myself.
I recently bumped into an ex-boyfriend and after catching up on each other’s lives, I mentioned The Single Supplement. He replied with a laugh saying he had seen it. His tone was dismissive and mocking. I responded by being defensive and telling him how successful it has been. “Oh,” he said before we got interrupted by someone else. The short exchange really bothered me even though I know it shouldn’t. I almost wish I hadn’t shut him down and had actually asked him why he was smirking.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with someone last year. “I couldn’t talk about being single. I don’t want to admit that,” she said when I told her about the newsletter. She then asked the killer question: “Don’t you care that your ex-boyfriends might read it?” I replied that I couldn’t give a shit, which given the above obviously isn’t entirely the truth. She responded looking positively mortified. “I wouldn’t want them to know I’m still single,” she said.
It also brings up another memory. A year ago I was in the midst of an intense flirtation that I assumed was going somewhere amazing, I was very careful never to mention how long I had been single for. I kept things vague. I mentioned ex-boyfriends but didn’t say when these relationships took place. I didn’t want my crush to think there was something wrong with me. I feared it would change his opinion of me if he knew I’d been single for years. It felt almost like I was trying to do a PR job on my own life and brush what felt like the ugly truth under the carpet. (I later found out he had a secret girlfriend the entire time so he was clearly doing a PR job of his own!)
There is one thing that ties all these stories together and that is shame. Even though I’ve been doing this for nearly six months now, my insides still squirm at the thought of people reading and judging the personal things I’ve said. When I’ve admitted to sometimes feeling low about my relationship status, I have felt a bit sick at the thought of certain people knowing that.
I’m a huge Brené Brown fan so I know that I am dealing with is both the power of vulnerability and the burden of shame. I have taken what she calls an “emotional risk” by being so open, by allowing myself to be seen and by being so honest about the good and the bad of being single. And by being this vulnerable and authentic I know have in turn inspired some of you to open up and also be vulnerable and authentic.
It has been the most amazing six months and I do not regret it for a second, so why does my heart begin to race when I think of people I went to school with, or members of my family, or my former lovers seeing what I have written in black and white?
As Brené says in her TED talk on shame, the real critic we are facing is ourselves. Shame makes us tell ourselves we aren’t good enough and it also makes us ask “Who do you think you are?” Because of the stigma and the societal pressures especially on women, when it comes to talking about being single, I feel like that voice is saying “Who do you think you are to be so OK with talking about being single? This is not something you should be proud of.” That voice wants me to stay small. It wants me to never admit that I am either feeling fine about it nor that I’m feeling shitty about it. It makes me want to close this newsletter down and go back to being quiet. Or as Brene says “shame, for women, is a straightjacket.”
The antidote, she says, is empathy and whenever I have written a really emotional and really honest piece of writing, that’s when I have had the biggest response with people responding: “I feel that way too.”
In a world where you’re constantly made to feel like there is something wrong with you for being single, or that you’re a burden or an inconvenience, that mutual understanding is a very powerful thing.
Have a good week,
What caught my attention
Yes, Love Is Blind is still on my mind. The reunion show was this week so it reignited it all again. I love this hot take by Annie Lord, especially this bit: “At the risk of sounding like a happiness guru, nothing can make you happy but you. Yet the contestants of Love is Blind buy into the notion that all problems – from student debt to insecurity, abandonment issues to anxiety, stress to loneliness – disappear after you get married. To them, love is like reaching the end of history. It’s just BBQs and laughs from then on.”
This isn’t about being single but I wanted to mention International Women’s Day, which is today and this article hit the spot with how I’ve been feeling about the day this year. At the end of the day, IWD exists for a reason so it’s frustrating to see corporates leaping on the bandwagon. Did you see the cringe-worthy Shell advert, for example? This year I have donated to Refuge as a way to counter all that in a small way.
My Positive News article on the women who are over 50 who are making the most of being single was published online this week. It actually features a couple of readers of this newsletter.
As mentioned above, I was featured in this amazing article for International Women’s Day about the women who have chosen to speak up about personal experiences which have helped change the conversation. I am so honoured to be on this list alongside some of my heroes. I also have massive imposter syndrome about that.
The lovely Genevieve Roberts, who wrote a book some of you might have heard of called Going Solo, has launched a monthly newsletter for single mums. It’s called One Pair of Hands and you can sign up here.
I am writing an article about dating during the Coronavirus outbreak. I am looking to interview people in the UK and Italy about this. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in talking to me about how the virus is hindering your dating plans.
Have you finished the book club book yet? Join the Facebook group to join the conversation about No One Tells You This by Glynnis Macnicol. I will share my own thoughts on the book next week. I also had a request for the book club to be in real life so I am formulating some ideas for this as I know the readers are truly global now. Watch this space!
Competition time: Tell me why you’re single
Remember last week I shared an article about what Victorian spinsters said about why they were single? The answers were published because the magazine ran a competition to find the reader who could provide the best answer to the question: Why are you still single? Kate Pellereau, a reader of this newsletter, suggested on Twitter that I run a similar competition and ask you to write in and tell me why you are single.
So please, email and tell me why you’re single in 50 words or less by the 18th March. The more melodramatic, funny, or cutting the better (for some inspiration, check the link out for the Victoria examples). I am going to source a suitable and hopefully awesome prize, which I’ll announce next week.
Tweets of the week
This made me laugh regarding the panic about having to self-isolate due to coronavirus.
This is a more serious tweet on the same subject, but this idea warmed the cockles of my heart (click to see the rest of the thread):
For those who don’t know, I’m Nicola Slawson, a freelance journalist who lives in London, UK. I don’t get paid to do this newsletter (maybe one day I will), but if you enjoyed it and would like to buy me a coffee, you can.
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