Holidaying on your own is great.
Some people shy away from dinner for one, or days spent in their own company. But I don’t.
Of course, I love it when a bunch of us get together to explore somewhere new, or to traipse over hill and dale before scoffing down a hearty dinner and bundling into a leaky tent. But holidaying on your own gives you so much … well, time alone.
With no one to talk to, and no one to please but yourself, you can indulge in a luxurious amount of reading – the truly absorbing, head-down sort of reading you never have time for at home – as well as an almost indecent amount of navel-gazing. Which is what I have, quite shamelessly, been doing.
And in amongst all this reading and thinking, I’ve come to wonder if – just possibly – I might be happier without a man in my life.
Maybe I’m actually happier on my own.
It seems a bit of a strange thought, all things considered, but as I look back over my various love stories, I have to concede that, in recent years at least, I’m pretty rubbish at being in a relationship.
Falling in love isn’t the problem, however rare an occurrence it might be. No, my problems start when all the hearts and flowers have been packed away and the nitty gritty of real life kicks in.
Maybe I expect too much, or maybe I’ve just not been with the right person, but lately, I seem to have spent a lot of my time en deux feeling underappreciated, undervalued and underloved. And when I feel like that I start to get clingy. And feeling clingy is, in my experience, the beginning of the end: if you feel yourself needing more and more reassurance of the other person’s love for you, either you’re too needy or they just don’t love you that much.
Either way, it’s going to end in tears.
Take the Uni Boy fiasco, for example. (And before you say it, yes, I know this is a bad example, since it was never really a proper relationship anyway. But hang on in there…) The more rejected I felt, the more tightly I tried to hang on. But you can’t hang on to someone who doesn’t want to be there, so I was just setting myself up for disappointment.
Of course, it’s easy to be confused by someone who tells you they love you one minute, and reminds you that you’re “just friends” the next. Someone who’s happy to take all the nice parts of being in a relationship … without ever calling it a relationship or assuming any of the responsibilities the title implies. But hey.
The point is that I spent a lot of time tolerating something that wasn’t quite what I wanted, because something seemed better than nothing.
The rollercoaster excitement of the good times kept me going through the bad times; like a junkie waiting for a fix, I waded through all the bad stuff for the glorious moments of harmony and fun that I knew were always just around the corner.
And it seems that’s not my only problem.
Looking back over the years, I can see that when someone says they love me, I just can’t accept that it’s true. I can’t accept that they won’t, at any moment, cheat on me or pack their bags and leave. And the thought of that moment makes me sad and suspicious and I start questioning their every move.
By attempting to not be made to look stupid by their infidelity, I’m actually driving them away. The case of Uni Boy, in which neither of us invested 100%, merely gave me the detachment I needed to see what I do and why.
Now, I know plenty of people manage to have harmonious and stable relationships, built on trust and understanding. I just don’t think I’m one of them. And if I were rubbish at ice-skating, or playing the violin, after giving it my very best shot, I’d give up.
So why am I supposed to pursue a relationship at all costs?
Although that the nameless, faceless entity that is “society” – to say nothing of my mother – wants me to settle into socially-acceptable coupledom, it seems to be something that’s just not within my abilities.
Sure, I’d love to have the whole family thing, with a devoted husband and curly-haired children squealing delightedly in the garden. But what if I’m just not capable? Should I keep flogging towards an impossible goal, hoping that if I fail enough times, sooner or later I’ll get the hang of it? Or is it more sensible to accept that it’s just not my skill, and get on with something I can excel at?
Since I seem to have no choice in the matter anyway, I suppose it all comes down to my attitude … and there’s nothing like a bit of time on your own to make you feel invincible. I can decide to ride the rollercoaster, hanging on for grim death, or I can choose to hop off and accept that I’m doing just fine all by myself.
And since I’m sitting in the sunshine, with pescaito frito and vino blanco for one, you can probably guess which one I’m going choose…