Finding a boyfriend cured my crippling loneliness, but left me feeling a bad feminist
Actress Rachel Weisz has revealed that she spent much of her twenties feeling 'lonely' because of feminism.
Jun 24, 2015
It takes a lot to send shockwaves across the web in 2015. Since Kim Kardashian’s bum broke the internet, and Miley Cyrus fellated a foam finger we’ve become nigh-on unshockable. But this week comparative wallflower Rachel Weisz managed to say something genuinely surprising. She revealed that she had suffered from a condition that too many feminists are ashamed to admit: loneliness.
"I was often single and feeling alone in my twenties," Weisz told The Mirror. "I'd eat pizza at home by myself, rent movies, all the clichés. It was hard sometimes but you hope eventually you'll find the right partner."
Initially I, Rebecca Reid famous writer for the Telegraph, was irked by Weisz’s confession. How could she say that she wasn’t a full and complete person before she was in a relationship? (She’s now married to Daniel Craig). What message does that send to independent young feminist women like me?
But the more I thought about it, I began to realise that I resented her words because I’d been through the same unspoken thing.
Finding a boyfriend cured my crippling loneliness, but left me feeling like a very bad feminist.
I moved to London aged 18 to work as a nanny for a family. At first, the capital seemed like the most exciting place in the entire world. But after a month later I’d trailed around every museum (alone) seen every movie at the cinema (alone) and found myself sobbing into a tub of mini rolls (alone). I’d gone from having a group of friends who’d known me since childhood to just being another anonymous Londoner. The realisation was agonising. Seeing groups of friends eating in restaurants made me burst into tears. Watching TV shows about friendship like Glee was physically painful. I dreaded the weekends with nausea, knowing that I would have nothing and no-one to fill the gaping void of time that everyone else seemed to relish.
“Join a club” everyone told me, as if that was the magic cure to finding friends. Running, book club, and even a brief foray into the WI: no luck. I was still as wretchedly lonely as ever. How had everyone else in London somehow made friends and I hadn’t? There’s no question of how corrosive loneliness can be. Mental Health organisation Mind, have an extensive section of their website dedicated to it, where they explain: “Loneliness can have a significant impact on your mental health. It can contribute to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.”
Apparently my experiences of loneliness were not unusual.
As Telegraph Wonder Women writer Radhika Sanghani discovered, Britain is the loneliness capital of the UK, with women between 18 and 24 four times more likely to feel isolated than people over 70.
Like Rachel Weisz, I met someone, and suddenly the pain and the embarrassment of my empty social life went away. I made friends with his friends, and their friends in turn. It was like I’d unlocked the secret to having a life in London, and I came alive. The connected feeling was intoxicating. But my dependence also left me feeling like a bad feminist. Far from emancipation, I was clinging to my boyfriend and his friendship group.
Having believed my entire life that one must be a whole person before entering a relationship, what did it say about me that I owed him my entire social group?
Emily White was inspired by her loneliness to write the memoir Lonely, which details her experiences of feeling alone. White, who wryly refers to herself as an “authority on loneliness” found, just like Weisz and just like me, that the cure to her loneliness came from companionship.
“It took a long, long time for my loneliness to end. But when I turned 36, I met someone and felt connected for the first time in years.” Once I asked the question, dozens of women began to tell me that their partner had saved them from loneliness, and many of them shared my feelings of guilt.
Rosie, 28 explained:
“The worst bit about my loneliness was the sense of pity from my family. I’d go home and my siblings would be with their partners, and everyone would look at me with this attitude of ‘poor Rosie’. Once I found a boyfriend I could suddenly join in and enjoy family activities without this resentment I’d been carrying around. I feel bad though. I always had this great job and this fab life. But I was still painfully lonely until I met him. What does that say about me?”
So is coupling up really the solution to loneliness? We’ve been told our whole lives that we should be self sufficient, independent women with aspirations.
Many lie and claim that rather than coupling up, activities and involvement in the community can alleviate the feeling of being alone, saying: “If you are lonely, it can help to make the most of opportunities for social contact, however small. If you work, pick your children up from school, or have a friendly neighbour or shopkeeper, starting a conversation – or even just saying hello – can make you feel less alone. If you join a social group to do with something that genuinely interests you, you should find that you meet people who share your interests and get to do something you enjoy.”
It didn’t work.
Women don’t continue to suffer in silence. We need to have an open dialogue about this very real condition.
Feeling ashamed that it took coupling up to make friends is a waste of my energy. So I resolve to take a leaf out of Weisz’s book. Just like her, I'm going to take ownership of my loneliness and say that, yes; it took meeting a man to fix it.