I recently had a conversation about the crippling fear of turning 30 and wondering what I have accomplished so far when I can’t tick off the socially acceptable milestones in life. I can’t say I am married or close to being married, I haven’t started my own family, I don’t own my own home and am not even starting to create a home as I’m living in a house share in London on the other side of the world from my family.
When you start to compare your life to others’ lives you can be overwhelmed with fear, which can be so bad that sometimes you can hardly move. Known as ‘imposter syndrome’, it is very much the feeling that you have fallen short of what is required of you.
Emma Watson, famous as Hermione in the Harry Potter films, is also a UN representative, feminist, fashion consultant, and all-round inspiration. In a British Vogue interview published on November 4th she said she was happy to be single, describing it as being “self-partnered”.
Already, many around the world have ridiculed the term “self-partnered” but I for one am all for it.
We need more words, we need to be able to say, “I am single” and not be met with pity or the words, “Don’t worry, you’ll meet the right person someday.” We need to be able to explain our current experience and we need better language to explain it.
The world is changing and as we change the way we see people based on race, sexuality or religion, becoming more accepting, why can’t we change the way we see relationships?
The term ‘single’ is always met with pity, but why? There are different ways of being single, just like there are different kinds of relationships.
There’s being single and actively looking for a partner, asking your friends to set you up, joining a load of dating apps. There’s being single and wanting to stay single because you love it. There’s being single and open to meeting someone but not really pushing it.
Being single can include what Emma Watson described in the Vogue interview: “If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… then there’s just this incredible amount of anxiety,” said the Bafta winner and UN ambassador. “It took me a long time, but I’m very happy being single. I call it being self-partnered.”
This is something beautiful. Self-partnership is taking time off from the merry-go-round of dating, where you have to be your best self or not be yourself. It is taking some time to discover who you are, what you want, and just getting to know yourself a bit better.
As we swipe through dating apps in the lead up to Christmas, many profiles say things like, “I’m looking for someone, so my grandma won’t worry when I say I’m single at Christmas dinner again.”
Many are looking to avoid the awkward conversations with family around the Christmas table as their aunts and cousins and grandparents ask where their boyfriend or girlfriend is or want to know if they are still single. They are bracing themselves for the onslaught and the awkward conversations, the pity and the judgement and ridicule that comes with being in a family who say what they like and make fun of you, though in a loving way.
But to be able to say, instead of “I'm single”, “I’m self-partnered, I’m happy with myself, I enjoy being with the person I will spend 24/7 of the rest of my life with,” is important. Whether we are taking time between relationships, getting to know ourselves better, or are non-committal about relationships, self-partnering is great in and of itself.
Emma Watson has opened up an opportunity for people everywhere who are single to say they are happy with where they are now, while at the same time realising that it is perfectly ok to feel fearful about being unable to check off society’s milestones when you are turning 30.
As I approach 30, Emma Watson has taught me if nothing else that it is ok to be in the place I am right now, and that we should all be happy with where we are right now and not bother about where we think we should be.