Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Quiet Rebellion

I can remember it as if it where yesterday and not 12 years ago. I am 25 and sat in my bedroom in the house where I grew up. The carpet is a deep forest green and the walls are purple, orange and yellow, a patchwork history of sudden teenage impulses to redecorate with whatever paint was handy in the garage. I am back in my hometown after graduating with a degree in Fine Art from Hull and the inertia and boredom has been creeping in slowly over the past few years. So has the fear that I am somehow missing out. I have a social life, sure. Mainly centred around my job as a bookseller in our local branch of Ottakars. We go out for drinks and curries and bicker over who gets to look after the fiction section. We talk about books and music. I am always home at a decent hour and the rest of my free time is spent studiously revising for more exams having decided to launch myself through another degree, this one in English Literature.

I can see myself very clearly. I am sat in front of an old white laminate dressing table with ornate golden handles. In the second drawer down I have hidden a small pouch of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco, some papers and a pack of menthol filter tips. I am contemplating a cigarette but 1) I don't want one and 2) I have no clue how to roll one. Not for the first time in my life, I realise I have no idea what the fuck I am doing. This is my ten-years-too-late attempt at being a teenage rebel only no one really gives a shit and my brother will only raise a quizzical eyebrow when, four months later, I hand over my still unused stash.

"This tobacco has gone dry" he says, mooching off.

I was about to write that I can think of other occasions where I have made some abortive attempt at behaving outrageously but, in truth, I am short of anecdotes. I have never lost a shoe on a night out. I find one night stands to be unsatisfying- a bit like reading the blurb of a novel without being able to start chapter one. I need acres of time on my own and I am always the first person to leave the party. Being a typical rebel is not my forte. I am usually the one helping people into taxis at the end of the night. If I'm not already in bed, obviously.

The funny thing is, over the last few years something new is occurring. I am now getting the concerned looks and the tuts. Only, not because I'm on Facebook falling over drunkenly in high heels, or rocking up to family gatherings hung over and three hours late. It appears to be because I remain single, childless, unmarried and decidedly not unhinged and frantic by my situation. I lay in bed on Sunday mornings eating chocolate, reading books and thinking (Sunday morning is my thinking time), sometimes I eat cornflakes for dinner and sometimes I spend two hours preparing an elaborate feast for myself. I have actually attempted to make most of the meals on my Pinterest food board. What I haven't done is spend my thirties travelling extensively and devoting my time to humanitarian causes, something the culture has deemed an acceptable alternative to child bearing, as if by selflessly dedicating my time to caring for others I can keep my feminine nurturing responsibilities topped up to an acceptable level and avoid the whispered judgement of selfish. Instead, I have used my time creatively and quietly. That this appears to be an act of non-conformity on a par with running away to join the circus, living in a tent in the woods or eating roadkill seems to suggest that feminism still has some way to go.

Of course there are times when I wish I was happily coupled up and mortgaged to the hilt. Usually when it's time to change the duvet cover or attend another wedding of quaint table settings and sympathetic glances. But mostly I remember that I had that once and it nearly broke my spirit.

Anyway, this life seems to suit me quite well and I am considerably more at ease spending my Saturday nights in than I ever was holding a cigarette.


  1. Oh how I love this post Rachel! You sound so very much like me {apart from I did do a lot of very questionable things in my twenties, but we don't need to talk about that :)}. It's so heartening to hear from another woman about my age in the exact same circumstances, who is - more to the point - happy with that. I often feel like the only one who is single AND childless and comfortable with my choices {and yes, sometimes I wish I had a partner, like when I don't want to cook dinner ;), but that's pretty rare}. I adore living alone, that my time is my own. I'm constantly looking for examples of what a woman's life can be like if she decides to neither marry nor have children, and as you say, it seems like there always has to be something 'big' to replace it. I think about that a lot. Have you read Spinster by Kate Bolick? I really enjoyed it. {Don't be put off by the title!} Anyway, thank you for writing this post; it's so nice to read about similar experiences, especially when they seem to be unusual.

    1. Yes, to all of this Tara. I think it was one of the reasons i started blogging, or at least started reading blogs; i was desperately looking for someone else's experience to mirror mine in some way. I also find it quite tricky living in the town where i grew up, the five minute walk to work usually brings at least a dozen hellos, even my old babysitter works on the checkout in Marks and Spencer- i imagine the judgement pressing in on me when it might not even be there at all, it's my own psychology that fills in the blanks and imagines the pity. *sigh*
      It's really only been in the last couple of years that i have felt truly comfortable and happy with my life and yet everyone else is like "okay, you've had a couple of years indulging yourself, time to find a boyfriend now and be normal".
      Honestly, if i have to have the internet dating conversation one more time.... *puts imaginary gun to head*
      Thanks for the book recommendation- that one's going on my list!

  2. Oh how I love to see you writing here again. Living a life that is authentic is the best kind of rebellion. This puts me in mind of something awesome Elizabeth Gilbert writes at the start of Big Magic but my copy is a few miles away right now!