“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude.
It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”
― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper



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.

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.