by Tricia Cusden, Founder of Look Fabulous Forever
Most days the world of celebrity culture passes me by. I am not currently glued to “I’m a Celebrity” in the Australian jungle and I rarely read Hello magazine except whilst waiting for an appointment in the doctor’s or hairdressers. However, every now and then something a famous person does or says will cut through and impact on our language and culture.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘conscious uncoupling’ from husband Chris Martin when they decided to split comes to mind. She was much derided for this expression, but I’d like to suggest that framing divorce as a thoughtful process where two people separate with care and consideration for each other and their children, rather than with acrimony and bitterness, can only be a good thing. With a change of language can come a change of attitude and behaviour.
Which brings me to the latest utterance from a celebrity in the form of film star Emma Watson who has just turned thirty and who, apparently, has now decided to describe herself as ‘self-partnered’ rather than ‘single.’ Until now the only words available to describe a woman like me or Emma were almost invariably negative and contained within them the notion that women are judged in relation to their (lack of or failed) marital status. Who wants to be called a singleton, a divorcee or, even worse, a spinster? Certainly not me because I am just fine as I am. And I know that I speak for a whole lot of women out there who are very happily ‘self-partnered’ and who are not currently seeking any form of coupledom.
And yet, despite our growing number, lone females are rarely portrayed as happy, balanced and normally gregarious people. I suspect that the reason for this is the prevailing assumption that lone females are alone by default rather than choice. I have been divorced for nearly thirty years and in that time, I have had the occasional relationship with a man, but none of these felt good enough to sacrifice my incredibly happy single state for. And so, I have remained alone, mostly because my reluctance to look (say via internet dating) is greater than my need to find, and partly because I can’t imagine finding anyone who would fit into my life without disturbing it. And not in a good way (sorry if that sounds terribly selfish).
Please don’t think that I despise the married state.
I have several friends who are partnered with lovely men in relationships which I can see are immensely satisfying and enriching to them both. I also know that finding yourself alone through the loss of someone who has been your soulmate for the whole of your adult life can be immensely challenging as you learn to live without your ‘other half’. However, I’d also say that we’re not all better off in a couple. In an interesting book called ‘The Best of Single Life’, Dr Bella DePaulo says: “People who are ‘single at heart’ lead their best and most authentic lives on their own. It’s ridiculous to assume that everyone who is alone is also lonely. It’s just as ridiculous to claim that single people are less connected than those that are in relationships. Studies show that the opposite is true as once people partner up, they become less connected to family and friends because their focus shifts to their partner.”
As the years have gone by, I have become more and more confident and content being ‘self-partnered’.
I do lots of things alone including very regular visits to the cinema and theatre or wandering around the shops, and I actively look forward to my 12 hour annual drive through France in the summer with only an audio book for company. Throughout the rest of the year I return home to an empty house and revel in the moment that I shut the door and prepare for an evening in full control of the meal I have chosen to cook and the TV remote! However, there is one aspect of my self-partnered state that I have yet to overcome and that’s my reluctance to travel to new places on my own, unless for work when I am usually doing an over-nighter in a hotel. So, I was delighted to discover a really interesting and new venture called ‘SisterStay’ which has been set up by Sue-Anne Mayne and Karen Vidler to help trepidatious travellers like me to be a bit more adventurous.
The idea is very simple and quite brilliant in my view. SisterStay is exclusively for women over 50 to act as Hosts or Guests (or both) to other women who would like a warm welcome and a comfortable place to stay if they are visiting somewhere unfamiliar to them. It is currently only in the UK, but hopes to expand overseas in the near future. This is how she describes the concept: “SisterStay is the easiest way for like-minded women to make new friends whilst exploring new places. The overnight cost (£36) is the same wherever you go and won’t break the bank. It feels like a real community with everyone looking out for one another and our members are genuinely interested in embracing life and all it has to offer.”
When Sue-Anne contacted me my interest was immediately piqued so I looked at their website and was impressed by how comprehensively it explained the set-up and what is on offer. I then spoke to Sue-Anne to thoroughly explore the concept on your behalf – and my own because I can certainly imagine using the service. I really liked what I heard, especially when Sue-Anne described the Hosts and Guests as ‘A friend you haven’t yet met.’ I also asked her for a couple of testimonials to share with you. Here they are:
‘Thanks for a fantastic stay Jenny. You made me so welcome in your comfortable home. The meal was delicious and I really enjoyed the walks, beautiful scenery and coffee at Gloucester Quays. The jewellery making session was an added bonus and your very good company. I would highly recommend to others’
‘It was great to have Karen staying with me on Saturday evening. We had a really enjoyable time chatting in the garden and then over breakfast on Sunday morning. It was amazing how much we had in common! I so enjoyed meeting Karen and feel like I’ve gained a new friend in such a short space of time. Looking forward to her coming again. SisterStay really does work!’
I wonder if many of you are happily ‘self-partnered’ like me, or maybe you are recently widowed or perhaps you have split from a partner and are now wondering how you will ever be able to cope on your own. I hope this blog will reassure you that it is perfectly possible to be happily alone without being lonely. Please do join in the conversation by posting a comment below. You often tell me that you enjoy my blogs with a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning – well I also enjoy reading all your lovely comments as they come in. I often feel that you are also friends that I haven’t yet met in person!