Just like a brand new outfit, new relationships (or moving on from old ones) can herald a fresh mindset. This is the time to explore yourself - do what you want, wear what you want, love who you want. Elfy Scott muses.
Part of what strikes me as so strange about being in a relationship again is the sudden introduction of another human being to the centre of my universe. I used to solely manage that position – along with the indispensable assistance of pastries, television and cheap scotch. The hedonism, shameless behaviour, and unbridled trash eating that I used to enjoy have all been curbed by this man’s presence in my life. Not that I’m complaining by any means – there are only so many plates of baked beans on toast that you can eat alone in bed before you start to seriously question the brightness of your future.
More importantly than that though, being with somebody forces you to reflect on your personal growth – you can go for years without ever having to think about that shit and then suddenly, somebody else arrives in your life to throw it into sharp relief. It seems that when I was younger (admittedly, not that much younger), being in a relationship meant something entirely different than it does now.
When you’re a teenage girl, having a boyfriend is something definitive – it’s a title you carry proudly to throw around in front of the snarky bitches at your high school. More than that, having a boyfriend was a kind of salvation from, you know, having to be a 16-year-old girl. Every 16-year-old girl needs rescuing in some way, particularly when you’re the kind of 16-year-old girl who constantly feels terrible about her body and has not yet learnt to straighten her hair without charring it.
I carried that desperate idea of dependency on men around for a long time, and once I entered ‘adult life’ (I use that term very lightly) it started to become problematic. My last serious relationship felt kind of like the last 20 minutes of Titanic stretched over ten months – I was holding on for way too long until I realised I had to let that cold dude sink and call for rescue. By ‘rescue’ I mean the kind of things that are always going to be there for you in dire times – your best friends and outrageous $23 cocktails. Breaking up with somebody that you love is hard; breaking up with somebody that you are truly dependent upon is pretty much unbearable.
Stowed into the back of my best friend’s car the night I left that boyfriend, clutching the few belongings I was able to scrounge out of his house (plus a dozen eggs that I would later maniacally throw at his car), my best friend sagely offered the following advice: “You’re alone now so don’t become dependent on anybody – stay alone, because that’s the way you have to learn to live.” At the time it sounded like the worst advice possible, served up by Satan himself to kick me while I was down; only now do I fully appreciate the beauty of that idea.
It took a lot of weeping in public on trains and Nina Simone but I eventually came to realise that being alone is formative and necessary. Once you adopt independence, loneliness falls away and the successes are entirely your own. The 18 months that I spent basking in the warm glow of singledom were the happiest of my entire life because I learned to be proactive and stopped caring about men at all. I learned to sing in front of audiences, joined a punk band, and rolled around Sydney on stages being an unbridled freak and quietly disappointing my parents. I learned to write in a comprehensive way (well, sort of) and picked up the game professionally. I also made a huge amount of friends and discovered I wasn’t quite as socially awkward as I had once assumed.
I learned how to be alone and happy with myself for the first time in my life. I am also finally comfortable with my body and don’t shy away from pizza pockets anymore. That happiness alone, I believe, is the definitive difference between this new relationship I stumbled into and the virtual train wrecks of my past – I wanted to be with this man but never needed it. I now have a strong aversion to the word ‘boyfriend’ and far prefer ‘partner’. It is in this sense that I’ve witnessed my own growth into adulthood. Even though I’m still as incapable of filling out a tax return as I was four years ago, I can stand just as proud alone as I can with somebody by my side – and that’s a really good feeling.