Odd One Out

The dawning realisation that pretty much all of my friends are either coupled up or married is one of the things that led me to start blogging.
A throwaway comment from someone that I’d been ‘left on the shelf’ (thanks) has echoed its way through my mind.

New Old Stock

New Old Stock

I lamented this during a “moany” day to a work colleague, and they looked at me blankly and pointed out that maybe I needed some different friends.
Now, not to suggest I don’t like my existing friends, but I take on board the fact that for the vast majority of them, life has moved in a different direction to mine.

So, it has made me realise that perhaps I need to start branching out in some new directions.
The realisation that I need to maybe join a new club or two, take up a new hobby or two, go to a new place or two.
Maybe meeting a new person or two will make me less of the odd one out.
So far, so simple.

Until I sat down to start researching what I might like to do and drew an absolute blank.
Should I do some kind of class? (which all seem to be starting in September – months away!)
Should I take up a new sport? (I am SO rubbish at sport)
Should I join a walking club? (Two left feet…)
Should I find a book club? (Why is there no book club locally???)

On the one hand, choosing to find a new interest seems exciting and liberating.
On the other, I already feel a little bit exhausted at the knowledge that once again not only do I have to find a group that I hope will have a me-shaped space in it, I’ll also have to walk into a room on my own, introduce myself to people on my own, smile and not show my nerves on my own, and hope that someone is friendly…
Just like walking into a wedding alone, there’s something about walking into a new place alone that is scary.

And what exactly to do? It feels like the world is my oyster, until I actually start to try to research it and find myself drawing a lot of blanks.
I sat there yesterday, staring a the Google search page, thinking I didn’t even know what to search for.

Perhaps there’s a correlation between the scary bit and the blanks?
Maybe if I wasn’t feeling a bit scared, there would be a whole host of opportunities?

36 and in need of new friends.
Is it me or is that as rubbish as I think it is?
I’d love to know how fellow singletons keep busy and meet new people.
Does anyone know the secret?

Advertisements
Link

Covering my ears

Deutsche Fotothek

Deutsche Fotothek

I know they’ve been around for a while now, but I’m still bemused by the baffling array of subjects that BuzzFeed manage to make lists about.

Mostly, I just ignore them when they appear on Facebook etc, but today I came across a list of 24 things not to say to someone single.
Before I even clicked the link, I knew I could guess what some of them would be and, of course, the list was entertainingly predictable.

Many of these are things I have heard so many times that whilst the list is funny, it can really get me down.
A few, ahem, ‘favourites’ from the list are here (together with what’s happening in my head when I hear them):

Number 2 – It’ll happen when you least expect it.
Why? Because there’s loads of great blokes out there, just waiting for me to stop expecting it before they show themselves? Are we playing hide and seek?

Number 5 – Are you seeing anyone?
This one bugs me so much that it is a candidate for a future post of its own. Seriously, it seems like it’s the only question that anyone ever has on their minds. I can guarantee it is usually the first thing I’m asked. Why? Why is it THE most important thing you could find out about me today?

Number 6 – You should try online dating….
The reaction of the guy in the picture says it all.

Number 13 – You’re just too picky
Too picky? TOO picky? I’m sorry, are you so desperate for me to be in a relationship that you’d have me settle for someone who isn’t right for me? Do single people offend you that much?

Number 14 – Just don’t turn into a crazy cat lady.
Some might say that ship has sailed. I on the other hand, would say yes, I have a cat. Millions of people have cats. Why when it’s a single woman are we put in a ‘crazy cat lady’ box? It’s a pet, it doesn’t make me any more crazy than the 10 other people in my street who have a cat.

Number 18 – You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.
Oh please. What a big pile of wank. Does anyone even know what that means? This one also assumes that every single person is miserable, ALL of the time and as soon as we cheer the hell up, Mr or Mrs Right will leap out of the woodwork.

Ooh I’ve got more and more cross just writing this post!
For a very silly BuzzFeed list, it is worryingly accurate. It is also a window into the world of comments I get, pretty much every week, from people who ask me about my relationship status (I try to have more interesting conversations) and then feel the need to judge or make empty platitudes.

Good work on a good list BuzzFeed, I salute you.
Everyone else? Maybe you could enquire after my health, my job, my home, my thoughts on world affairs, my family, my interests, my thoughts on the weather. Ask me what book I’m reading, what film I last saw, where I’m going on holiday.
Come on, there’s a whole world out there of more interesting stuff to talk about.

I almost forgot – here’s the link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleyperez/24-things-single-people-are-tired-of-hearing

Aside

Gone

I came across the Ben Folds album Rockin’ the Suburbs just by chance when it was released way back in 2001.
(I had to Google when it was released – yikes, 2001!)

It’s one of those albums I’ve always gone back to periodically and I don’t think there’s a single duff track on it.

It’s a bank holiday weekend yet again.
And yet again that fact is making me feel very aware of my alone-ness.
And, just for a change, I’m thinking about the guy who broke me, possibly forever.
One day I may blog about him, but I don’t know that I could ever find the right words.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling blue, this song makes me feel a bit stronger.
That’s it. Not happier or sadder or better or angry, just a bit stronger.
And some days, a bit stronger is just enough.

 

Going it alone

This week, I received my fourth wedding invitation of the year.
It’s unusual, having so many in one year.
And there is always a slight mixture of feelings when I open the envelope and find the invite inside.

Victor Hanacek / PicJumbo

There is a mixture of happiness for the couple to see their plans progressing, delight to have been invited to be a part of their special day and, it pains me to admit, just a twinge of sadness that it is unlikely to ever be me sending the invitations.

Of the four, I’ve been to one so far, with a group of friends. Two of the remaining weddings are of people I also share several friends with and will be going along in a group.
The other is the wedding of a wonderful friend whom I have known a long time, but have never really shared a wider friendship group with. At her wedding, there will be one other person I know, who will be attending with her husband.
It is this wedding that is playing on my mind.

The bride-to-be is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, both inside and out and I treasure her friendship. We have that sort of friendship where actually we rarely see other (and I’m yet to meet her fiance) but when we do meet up, it’s like no time has passed at all.
So when she handed me the invitation to her wedding, which is late next month, over lunch one Saturday, I was thrilled.

Ever since that Saturday many weeks ago, I’ve been mulling over whether to show up alone to a wedding where I know virtually no-one but the bride, or whether to find someone to join me, just so I don’t have to go alone.
Despite knowing I’m single, she had been kind enough to add a ‘plus one’ to my invitation, and said it would be fine to bring a friend.

Part of me has been tempted to ask a friend along, which of course then just makes two people who don’t know anybody else, but makes it easier for me so I don’t have to go alone.
The other half of me has thought “no, you should go alone, what’s the big deal?”

And yet, it does feel like a massive deal, like it’s some kind of failure to turn up to a wedding – a celebration of love and togetherness – alone.
It feels like I’m saying “you know that thing you have? The love, the happiness? I don’t have that.”

Going to a wedding, a wedding, alone. Perhaps I should wear a dunce hat.
As we celebrate love and joy and share in a very special day, I’ll be doing so at the same time as knowing I do not have that love in my life, that when it comes to relationships, I’ve never quite got it right.

Viktor Hanacek / PicJumbo

I know that I can walk into the ceremony alone, that I can take a seat, that I can watch with happiness as my beautiful friend says her vows.
I’m also pretty sure that when evening comes and there is dancing, and couples and groups of friends take to the floor, that I can slink away unnoticed.
It is all the many moments in between that it pains me to admit I’m dreading.

You know the bit just after the ceremony but before the meal and speeches, where everyone has drinks and conversation and the wedding party have their pictures taken? I’m not looking forward to that bit.
I have to either stand and be alone, hide in the loo, or become that cliche lonely person who makes conversation with whoever wasn’t able to to avoid eye contact and look away quick enough.

I think the meal will be ok, because I expect I’ll be seated on a table with the one other person I know (and her husband who I’ve never met). Except they don’t know anyone else either, so will be looking out for each other.
And what if having a single person has mucked up the symmetry of table plans?

And you know the bit after the meal? After the speeches? Where people go the bar, chat, laugh? The bit where it’s too early for dancing but the meal is over?
I’m not looking forward to that bit.
I’m not a massively shy person, but I also think I have enough social grace to know when people aren’t really looking to make a new friend, or chat to a lonely-looking stranger – and I think weddings probably fall into that category.

I previously wrote about feeling like other women don’t like the single-girl near their husbands at parties. I’ve never been to a wedding alone before, but I would guess that amongst the guests, it is a time when that feeling of being a couple is especially important, a time when a ‘keen to chat’ other guest is probably least welcome in your clique.

On the one hand, I feel like there will be a few pairs of eyes, looking at me and pitying me whilst at the same time feeling glad they are not the one who turned up alone.
On the other hand, I also know that most people are too busy getting on with their own day to be preoccupied with how you are living yours.
And yet I’m terrified I’ll either cope by getting really drunk and will say something ridiculously Bridget Jones-esque during dinner conversation, or that I’ll end up clock watching until the time when I can say polite goodbyes without seeming rude or ungrateful for my invitation.

Perhaps if the bride wasn’t a woman who was kind and lovely to her core.
Perhaps if I wasn’t truly excited to see her so happy.
Perhaps if I wasn’t so delighted to have been invited to be a part of the day.
Then, perhaps I wouldn’t feel quite so anxious or wouldn’t care about how this day will pan out, because maybe I wouldn’t care about going.
But I do care, I want to see my friend enjoying her big day and I’ll be damned if my own sense of loneliness will overtake that.

I tell myself that I will be a beacon of modern, independent womanhood, that I am perfectly fine just as I am thank you very much and that I push my shoulders back and be proud, not ashamed, of who I am.
More likely, is that I’ll keep thinking I should go and stand in the corner for getting it all so very wrong.

I am perfectly happy going to the cinema or theatre, or even to a restaurant on my own, and yet, more than any other social occasion, there is something about going to a wedding alone that seems especially like a sad indictment of your own failure to find the love or companionship that this day celebrates.

Image

An oldie but a goodie

I sometimes get a bit of fatigue with all the inspirational quotes and motivational messages that float around on the internet.

Sometimes, seeing something is exactly what I need just to break a thought pattern in the moment, other times, it just seems like more endless quotes.

But, this simple (and well-shared!) image is one I actually choose to come back to over and again.

Magic

Making changes in life, challenging myself, doing things differently and confronting fears are all things I find I shy away from. So, every now and then it helps me to say to myself “ahem, remember this?”

It doesn’t always result in me leaping off in a different direction, but it does help me to remember that whilst staying in my comfort zone is easy, that alone isn’t a good enough reason to stay there.

Finding a direction

So it’s now been a couple of weeks since I started this blog and whilst I’ve been going through the process of setting it up, thinking about what to write about etc, I’ve found myself getting somewhat confused about my identity.

Where to tread?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered a huge community of bloggers that I hadn’t known would be there, I’ve discovered the absolutely vast range of things people write about and the world suddenly seems so much bigger than it did before!

I wanted to blog about life as a single-woman in her mid-thirties, because it’s the element of my life that makes me feel the most like the odd-one-out, or ‘different’ to the people around me in my life, it’s the element of my life I feel so very aware of.
Being single at my age isn’t necessarily an awful thing, and I’m by no means miserable, but it does feel like there’s a spotlight shining on the fact there’s nobody at my side.

Setting up my blog Twitter account (@shelfblog) felt like something I had to do, but in doing so, I’ve found myself getting more confused and less sure of who I am, what I think or what I want to be writing about or saying.
For example, I’ve selected to follow quite a few feminist twitter accounts, like Vagenda magazine, Everyday Sexism etc. And I previously blogged about the No More Page 3 campaign which I believe strongly in.

Except now I wonder whether instead of navel-gazing about my own life and what it’s like to go through life alone, should I instead be lifting up my sword and going into battle alongside campaigners?
These are people who are campaigning for the good of my fellow women, and when I read about the level of abuse hurled at them just for doing do, I realise they are brave as well as outspoken.
Twitter led me to an article about a woman who had received the most disgusting threats and abuse, just for being a feminist, just for speaking out about equality. I read it and cried.
Twitter suddenly seems like an online portal for bullying and nastiness.

It has really made me wonder about my own approach, and whether I should (or am even able to) be as strong and outspoken as these women.
I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist, but I’ve never been a campaigner.

How far do you have to go in standing up for what you believe in? Is just believing in equality enough? Or if you’re not actively joining in the fight, are you just paying it lip-service?
But do I abandon all the thoughts and feelings that originally led me to want to blog? Because they aren’t going to go away any time soon.

I have signed up for the next Blogging U challenge and want to devote more time to exploring other blogs, discovering how other writers find their voice, set the tone for their site, discover who they are through their writing and stay on course and on topic to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

I hope that through this I will find my way through some of the fog that seems to have descended and left me feeling a bit like I can’t see the wood for the trees.

I would, of course, absolutely love to hear from any more experienced bloggers with insight to share.

700 Words of Confusion

So this post is a bit off-topic (ish), but it feels worth it.

I set up my Twitter account for this blog at the weekend and started to have a browse around and start
selecting accounts that I would like to follow.
Among them was the No More Page 3 account, which is a campaign asking for The Sun newspaper to stop printing pictures of topless women each day.

I’ve heard of the campaign before and hugely admire and support the work the team behind it are doing.
But today, I started pondering the campaign and why it is happening. And of course then I started to think how completely bizarre it is that in 2014, this campaign even needed to happen, and yet, it does.
Somehow, Britain is still a country that allows, every day, pictures of women with their breasts out to appear in a national newspaper. So-called ‘lads mags’ are, quite rightly, on the top shelves these days to protect children from their soft porn content. And yet, right there, amongst the real news, as though it is perfectly normal, is massive soft-porn picture of a woman with her boobs out.
The more I think about it, the more downright odd it seems.

On the one hand, I feel like I should be attempting to write an insightful, thought-leading post about how wrong Page 3 is in the modern day. And on the other, I can’t stop pulling a confused face and thinking that Page 3 is just downright strange.

How? How is it okay for this page to still exist?
How is it okay for children to grow up with that paper in their home or in a public space and be so exposed to soft-porn that they become de-sensitised to it and think it is perfectly normal for a woman to just stand there, appearing like she has nothing to offer but her breasts.

Like so many women, I’ve had to put up with the misogynistic comments from men who think it’s ok to leer, tell me to ‘get your tits out for the lads’ and then laugh amongst themselves as though I’m just there for their entertainment.
Or men who think it’s ok to grope you in a bar or on the tube.
Or the men who think they have the right to judge you based on your appearance – as though that’s all a woman is.

We can’t assume that all of these idiots think the way they do because of Page 3, but how are we ever supposed to instill a sense of equality and mutual respect in our young men if they grow up believing that a woman with her boobs out is a perfectly normal and to-be-expected display in every environment where you might find a newspaper?
I cringe to think of the boys growing up seeing their father ogling Page 3 and seeing a woman being judged purely on appearance as a perfectly normal thing.

The No More Page 3 campaigners call for women to be shown doing a multitude of things instead – like the men are. Women playing sport, or running a business or working for our country or, or, or….
How are young girls ever supposed to grow up truly believing they can be admired and respected for their minds, when every day they see a woman being judged for the pertness of her boobs?

We sit in judgement on other cultures where women are not given equal rights or prevented from getting an education or not seen as being as important as men.
We wring our hands and talk about equal rights and equality and feel smug about our progressive culture.
And then we degrade a woman and reduce her to nothing more than a body, a pair of breasts, someone purely there for the sexual pleasure of men.
And when I think about it like that, it feels so bizarre and sad and depressing and ridiculous, and like our boasts of equality are nothing more than the Emperor’s New Clothes.

And nearly 700 words later, I am still pulling a confused face and wondering how and why Page 3 ever existed and how anyone at The Sun can defend it, on any level.
I don’t often feel completely ineloquent, but the very existence of Page 3 is just totally baffling.
Thankfully, the campaigners and many of their supporters say it far better than I do, and, to finish, I would highly recommend this video, and although The Sun editor has since changed, I think it is still superb.