Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Single Truth

If there's one thing I like to be in this blog, it's honest.  So that's what I'm going to do right now:

People, I was once single and desperate.

Seriously, add a Manics poster on the wall and that was me.  I am not proud.
There are many things people don't want to admit to and frankly, planning your wedding to the latest guy you've decided you are MADLY IN LOVE WITH in spite of never having had a proper conversation with is definitely amongst them.  In fact, it's right up there with practising your signature, using your celebrity crush's surname.  Oh and I did that, too.
What do you MEAN Jon Richardson isn't coming to the church?!  I'VE BOUGHT A DRESS OFF EBAY!!
 The fact is, the world seemed geared to couples.  Switch on the radio (GO ON, DO IT NOW!) and I bet you that within ten minutes, you'll hear a love song.  I don't know what the percentages are, but I'd say that the number of songs that say "yeah, I'm single and I happen to be okay with it" is pretty slim in comparison.  Watch the TV or open a magazine and notice how many adverts feature smiling couples.  It's hard to have all this drip-fed into you and not think: "I don't have that... Is there something wrong with me?!"
Add to this the fact that single people are bombarded with magazine articles with snappy titles, such as: "WAYS TO MAKE HIM WANT YOU!" Not to mention the many, many, many dating sites that have sprung up all over the place and you start to feel a little bit like being on your own might not really be an option. 
Social expectation also dictates that a person will eventually find someone whose face appeals enough to warrant wanting to get naked and breed.  If you are single, then damnit, HUMANITY WILL NOT SURVIVE.
Although... Humanity decided to turn these arseholes into instant celebrities, so...

 Now I've mentioned already that I try to make this blog as honest as possible, so let me be clear:  I want to find someone amazing some day.  I want to get married, I want babies... The whole shebang.  In fact, I was one of those kids who, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, would often reply: "A mummy."
No, not like that. 
 So let me stress to you right now: I'm a soppy old romantic.  I love the idea of settling down with someone and populating the world with children who will inevitably have unmanageable hair.  It's my dream.
That said, I've reached a point in my life where I am perfectly okay to be by myself.  In fact, "I would rather sleep with my right hand" (oh come on, you expected me not to shoehorn a Graham Coxon lyric or reference into this blog?!) than start a relationship with someone just for the sake of not being alone (not that I have actually ever started anything for that reason).  I've grown to see enormous benefits to being single.  I've put myself first for a change and grown to rather like me.  I don't feel unsatisfied, lonely or envious of couples.  I am no longer the weepy, deranged, slightly bitter singleton I once was.  And man, has that opened up a whole new can of worms...
You see, an awful lot of people (predominantly happy couples, it has to be said), don't seem able to accept that a person can be entirely happy on their own.  What that means, is that if you casually mention being single (if invited somewhere and asked if you'd like to bring anyone, or if you're simply catching up with an old friend you've not spoken to in a while), some people have an immediate go-to response that is liable to piss off ANY person who is single and okay about it.  We're talking about the "oh, never mind, it'll happen for you" response.
What that response does is make an immediate assumption that simply by saying you're not in a relationship, what you actually meant to say was: "I AM SO HORRIBLY ALONE. WHY DOES NOBODY LOVE ME?!  WHY?!" 
This is the face I pull when people make those comments.  And also when I hear One Direction.
Some people don't even stop there, either.  You get suggestions of how you could meet someone.  Places you could go, clubs you could join, websites to sign up to...  And yes, before anyone thinks I'm being unnecessarily harsh, I appreciate that the majority of people telling you this stuff are doing so because they think they're being helpful and nice.  But when this kind of advice is given without you so much as saying "I'd like to meet somebody..." it can be ever so slightly irritating.  It's a bit like saying "I don't have any pets" and having someone hand you a list of RSPCA centres and pet stores in your local vicinity before you've had a chance to say whether you want a pet.
As it happens, I live with this little guy, so I'm just dandy on the pet front!
Far worse than the implication that, if  you're single, you simply must be desperately searching for "the one," rather than enjoying hogging the duvet, is the implied sympathy behind those "aw, he's out there somewhere!" comments.  Again, this does tend to come from people in couples, which just ties up the sympathy in a neat little ribbon of "I am so much happier than this poor cow."  And you know what?  That attitude is welcomed by a single person in much the same way as we welcome a date with a scary man who contacts us on a dating site with a message that simply says: "I've seen your picture and I know you're THE ONE."  Yes.  That actually happened to me.  No, I did not go on a date with the sender and I'm pretty convinced that's why I'm not currently lying in pieces in a broken chest freezer...
Implying that you feel sorry for someone because they're single does nothing but a) annoy the single person and b) plant a little worm in their brain that niggles away at them, saying: "See?  There IS something weird about you not having anyone in your life right now!  YOU ARE UNLOVABLE."  Suddenly the person who was previously fine without a partner is considering whether their singledom is something to be pitied and that's not something anyone wants.
Please, whether you're single or not, don't feel sorry for me for not being in a relationship.  I'm happy!  I have an amazing group of friends, I do a job I quite enjoy whilst trying to become a full time author in my spare time, I don't worry whether he really likes me and I'm free to lie under a duvet watching Blur/Manics videos all night, should I wish to.  And I frequently wish to.
I go out places, I have fun, I sometimes have a cheeky flirt without any guilt...  Really, I am FINE.  In fact, I'm better than fine.  Those of you who've read this blog for a while will probably have read the one I wrote about my last, horrendously abusive relationship.  You know what?  I'm much happier single than I ever was in that fucking sham.
Again, though, that doesn't mean that I don't think it would be lovely to have someone special in my life.  To share my duvet with, to introduce to my family and friends and to argue that no, I do not wish to stop perving at guitarists with...  It just means that I don't feel my life is lacking something enormous just because I don't have that special someone yet.  It means that I'd rather be on my own than waste my time on someone not right for me.  It means I don't feel sad when I go to sleep alone at night.
Bridget may have Mark Darcy now, but back then she had the duvet AND the ice cream all to herself.  It's win-win.
The other misconception about being single?  The idea that we're bitter towards couples.  Okay, yes I hate Valentine's Day with a fiery passion and yes OTT public displays of affection can make me retch, but in my defence... when I was with my ex, I still felt the same about those things.  But in our everyday waking lives, those of us who are single and okay with it don't look at couples and think: "Ugh, fuck them."  My best friend is happily married.  One of my other very closest friends is engaged.  There are few things I like more than hearing them chat about their husband/fiance and I am genuinely thrilled that they've both found men that make them feel happy and loved.  If they spent every moment of their time with me saying: "Oh my God, he is wonderful and amazing and brilliant and fantastic and I love him so much I might actually be sick" then we'd possibly need to have a conversation.  But they don't, because they aren't 14.  Do I hate them for being in solid, committed relationships, when I am single?  No, because I'm not 14.
What I suppose I'm trying to say here is: It's okay to be single.  It's even okay to be a bit fed up about it from time to time and to admit that you'd like to stop being single someday.  It's not okay to simply assume that your single friend is lying awake at night, weeping and wailing and sticking pins into her voodoo doll of you, her loved-up pal.  It's not okay to assume that a single person is automatically lonely, unhappy and deeply jealous of anyone in a relationship.  It's not okay to decide that if someone is single, you must immediately suggest ways of rectifying the situation before you've even ascertained that the person wants it rectified.
I mentioned at the start of this blog that I was once single and desperate.  I'm still single.  But now, I'm happy.  I'm content.  I have love in my life in other forms.  I'm not lonely.  More importantly, if and when someone does wander into my life, I have made a pact with myself to remember how I feel now, so that I don't assume any of my single friends might be super duper jealous of my wonderous new love affair and suddenly view them as bitter old crones, or tell anyone "there's someone out there for yoooouuuu" whilst patting them on the head and causing them to want to remove my face with a toothpick. 
If you're in a relationship and you're happy, I am happy for you.
If you are single and you're happy, I am happy for you.
If you're single and unhappy... Think about all the good things about being single.  Believe me, there are lots.  And if that doesn't help... I can still send you the "you're THE ONE" guy's details...
In summary: I'm single.  I'm fine with that.  I hope you are too.
Except you.  Call me. ;-)

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Big 3-0

So tomorrow is my birthday.  YAY!  I will get cards and be taken out for dinner and see my best mate.  YAY!  I am turning 30.  YA....oh.

I was always one of those annoying people who had something of a "to do" list from a very early age.  And everything on that list was to be completed by the age of 30.  I won't lie, it was a pretty stereotypical list: Get married, buy a house, have babies, that sort of thing.  I took it for granted that I would easily achieve everything on it and bingo, life would be grand and I'd celebrate my 30th with a big, family party, planned by my devoted husband and our ridiculously cute children.  In reality, I haven't done the big things on that list.  There will be no family party, because the devoted husband exists only in my head (and if you happen to be reading this, Graham Coxon... Call me) and the cute children exist only at my place of work.  And they go home to their parents, whilst, go home to mine.  At the age of 30.

Our kids would be SO cute.  And asthmatic.  BUT CUTE.

It would be really easy to get a little downhearted about that mental list of mine and the very few things I've checked off it.  The thing is, earlier, during one of my "WOE IS ME" moments (and as the big 3-0 approaches, there have been a few of those), I suddenly remembered that one of the biggest things on that checklist has been ticked off. 

Okay, I am not sitting here, safe in the knowledge that I have written a series of books so hugely popular that children everywhere adore them, or so massively successful that apparently I can glorify abuse and nobody minds (no, I am not and never will be over my hatred of 50 Shades of Grey, thanks for asking), but I AM sitting here, safe in the knowledge that I'm a published writer of books.  Children - maybe not millions, but enough for it to be a start - have my books on their shelves.  People have asked me for my autograph.  I've done story workshops and given interviews to the press.  There's no husband, no children and no house, but damnit there are books.

With that in mind, I began to realise that I have achieved something that other people spend half their lives trying and failing to do.  I was one of those people until last year.  I was the one opening rejection letters from publishing houses and wondering if I ought to just give up.  But I didn't.  I kept going and I still am going.

It's funny how positive thinking about one thing can lead to positive thinking about other stuff, too.  Today I've been a little down about things I won't bore you with here (no, not just getting old and being broody and not being married to the aforementioned member of Blur...).  It would be really easy to let myself mope.  In fact, sometimes a good mope is actually almost enjoyable on some weird level.  Today, however, I decided to cheer myself up by thinking back to that checklist of things I wanted to achieve by the time I turned 30 and reminding myself that okay, I've not done anywhere near everything on it, but I have done other things I'm proud of.

For example, I went out in public dressed like an angel and didn't get murdered.  RESULT!

My twenties haven't contained the purchase of my own house, or a big white wedding, or the birth of my first child, but they've contained other experiences.  Some of which have been amazing, some of which have been bloody awful but all of which I've learnt from. 
So without further ado, I have decided to present to jot down 30 things that I have achieved over the last 30 years.  What better way to remind myself that tomorrow is just the start of a whole new chapter of my life, rather than a marker of goals missed?!  These things aren't really in any particular order, but I've numbered them so you can see that there are 30.  So here we go:

1. I am a published author of children's books (HUGE personal goal: ACHIEVED).
2. I have assembled a close circle of friends known affectionately as "my WI" or "my girls."
3. In related news, I have learnt to cut off false friends and vindictive people who are out for themselves. Give them the snip, then notice how much happier your life is without them!
4. I've been a radio DJ.
5. I've survived an abusive relationship.
6. I've had a child I've worked with tell me that I've changed their life.
7. I've been a school counsellor for children suffering from the effects of bullying.
8. I've been in a band.
9. Speaking of which, I've met members of the most important bands to me: James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire from the Manics and Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon from Blur.  And also Gary Barlow from Take That. :P
10. I've ridden on every single scary rollercoaster at Alton Towers.

Yes, including this one.  Yes, I nearly wet myself.

11. I've been to New York City.
12. I've flown in a glass-bottomed helicopter to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
13. I've climbed mountains.
14. I've learnt to drive, passed my test and have no worries about driving long distances.  Give me a road, stick my favourite tunes on a CD and I'm off!
15. I helped raise a beautiful cocker spaniel puppy into a wonderful, loving dog who I loved with all my heart and I will now do the same for our little Labradoodle.
16. I have never cheated on anyone.
17. I have supported a former friend through the worst time of her life, wholeheartedly and without question.
18. I have been to see musicals in the West End and on Broadway.
19. I haven't let fear stand in the way of me trying new things.
20. I've got a close relationship with both of my parents and a great friendship with my sister.

That's her, that is.

21. I've eaten in some amazing restaurants and I've become a pretty competent cook myself.
22. I've followed my love of live stand up comedy around the country and I've met my favourite comedian (Jon Richardson) several times.
23. I can sing.
24. I think (I hope) I've learnt to be a good friend.
25. I am organised.
26. I don't love by halves.
27. I have conquered my fear of public speaking and have given speeches.
28. I have been to some amazing gigs by some utterly awesome bands.
29. I can adapt to different situations and get along with people from all walks of life.

And perhaps most importantly of all...

30. I like the person I've become.

So yes, I will be 30 tomorrow.  And no, I haven't done all the things I wanted to have done by now.  But you know what?  That just means I have it all still to look forward to.

Happy birthday to me. ;-)