There’s an awful lot of stuff that drifts into my inbox every day. Stuff that I probably signed up for ages ago – or, more likely – didn’t say no to when I should have done, most of which simply gets swiped to the bin.
But the other day, an email arrived with a subject line that caught my eye: 5 women on their “masturdating” rituals.
It came from Refinery29 UK, one of the few content platforms I do try to make time for if I can, by virtue of its ability to serve up thought-provoking articles that cause me to stop and reassess my world view.
And, let’s be honest, things don’t get much more thought-provoking than the notion of masturdating.
If you haven’t come across the term before (apologies for the unintended pun), then masturdating is the process of taking yourself out on a date, and it seems this is now an honest-to-goodness thing that many women appear to be enjoying on a global basis.
In spite of its name – doubtless a clever play on words that happily doubles as a click-bait-writer’s wet dream – masturdating has nothing to do with its rhyming cousin (or perhaps it does, if the date with yourself goes better than you expected).
Instead, solo dating – let’s use that term from now on – is offered as the antidote to loneliness for what is thought to be up to a third of the UK’s single women. According to Refinery29, a recent poll of 2,000 women suggested 41% were happy to take themselves out for a little one on one quality time. This compares to around 37% of men who are happy to do the same.
According to the case studies in the article (there’s a link to it at the end of this piece if you want to read it for yourself) dates range from a quiet restaurant dinner with a book to a day out in the park, spa days and everything in between.
And whilst I was reading it, I began to think about how I felt about this apparently new trend for self-selecting isolation.
And this is where I got to.
On the whole, I’m a big fan of self-sufficiency. Resilience and comfort in one’s own skin and company are underrated qualities in my book.
Being happy enough to spend an evening or a day – or even several of them in a row – with no human interaction beyond marvelling at your own idiosyncrasies is inarguably one of life’s great pleasures.
No, independence is good. My issue with solo dating is when it has no longer become an activity of choice. And if you think about it, solo dating is a lonely solution to being lonely.
If you think for just a moment about why solo dating is a thing, the only conclusion it’s possible to draw is that it’s an apology for something that, deep down, we know is unnatural. Humans are social animals. Being alone isn’t part of evolution’s game plan.
But we live a culture that glorifies independence to an extreme. God forbid we should admit that as social human beings we might have needs.
So, while, on the surface, masturdating seems to have self-empowerment and self-love written all over it, there’s a danger that for those of us who’ve not been taught how to do relationships, it’s a convenient way of justifying emotional incompleteness.
In short, for some of us, it’s just easier to go it alone. And for those who’ve seen the recent article about single women being happier than married women, it’s easy to see why there’s a danger that we over-encourage women (and men) to celebrate their emotional and physical isolation.
The important thing to come back to is that we are social beings … we heal our wounds within the relationships we have with others. On our own, we lick them and then pick at the scabs.
We mustn’t lose sight of our inherent core needs: to be seen, to be understood, and to connect with another human being in romantic intimate partnership.
To admit we have needs takes courage and vulnerability – and it’s there that self-love and doing the inner work pays off.
When we know what we need and we have the communication skills to express it in an assertive way that is also kind, we have a chance to be happy and content in life and able to genuinely appreciate the time we have to ourselves.
I believe we need a new movement that allows us to be utterly honest about our needs.
Where we let go of the shame to want to love and be loved.
Where it’s cool to have needs and own them.
And if you want to take yourself out on a date once in a while, then that’s cool, too.