Written by Lili la Scala

Voices

Singly wed

Lili la Scala is happily hitched. But her husband lives on the other side of the world, meaning she sallies forth alone. And has rather learned to love it.

bridge blowing kisses cake topperThis year has been the first year of my entire life that I’ve spent alone.

How did this happen, I ask myself? I never signed up to be a single-married person. Single-married person? Well, I’m married but my husband lives in Las Vegas which, when written down, looks utterly batshit.

And so I live this bizarre quasi-single life. I sally forth alone; I dance with dashing cavalry officers at balls; I’m the singleton at family occasions. I throw supper parties for five, or seven or nine and – now – I am really great at talking to new people.

When my other half left on tour in March 2016, I was paralysed with fear. We’d just moved into our first home together in a town where we knew no one. Suddenly, I was living in a new home, alone, with a three-year-old and a rescue dog from Cyprus.

There were days when the only person I spoke to was my son (the dog only spoke Greek). To assuage my loneliness, I started to listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks (read by Stephen Fry) on constant repeat. Even on days when I had no one, I had Mr Fry’s honeyed tones soothing my lug-holes from dawn to dusk. But I was so lonely. Days were spent ignoring increasing piles of washing up. Nights were spent alone in a house I couldn’t be bothered to decorate.

Then, gradually, an evolution began to happen. A butterfly-like metamorphosis.

I left my house. I started to meet people and make friends. I took on a part-time job mucking out horses. I’m always impressed at the sheer amount of shit a horse can produce. An equine pal doesn’t care if you are a ‘bit down’ and they are supremely unbothered by your first world issues. The physical labour was exhausting but I enjoyed it. Being out in the glorious Leicestershire countryside breathing in fresh, cold air which stung my nose and made the tips of my fingers numb was wonderful and I’d fall into bed at night exhausted but happier.

I started to find I had more energy, I came out of my marital shell and began to talk to new people, to make plans. I began to realise that this enforced separation could be a positive experience.

The single-married woman occupies an interesting place upon the social spectrum. The single-married artist even more so. For a single-married feminist artist the societal restrictions are a distant glimpse in a rearview mirror and it has been eye-opening and inspiring.

“When you are forced to spend time with yourself, you’ll get to know your flaws. Some you can work on, some you might not want to and some, I’m afraid, are fixed for the duration, come hell or high water.”

It has been a rollercoaster ride of self-discovery and I can only urge other women to do the same. We must, as women, spend extended time with ourselves alone: physically, psychologically and sexually.

It is terrifying at the outset. How do you carry the burden of a life lived together for 10 years? It turns out that you can carry it lightly and gaily and with laughter if only you choose to do so.

Your frame of mind can be changed and life alone can be thrilling once you cast aside society’s ideas of how married women should behave. It’s also surprising how much one can get done in a day and how efficient it is possible to be.

At the same time, you can choose to be slothful and there is no one to judge you but yourself. You can spend a day in quiet contemplation of Netflix or eat cereal for supper three times a week. You can leave your clothes in a pile on the bathroom floor or step out of your knickers every night and leave them exactly where they fall. The day will come when someone will have to pick them up and that someone will, inevitably, be you.

You learn to be gentle with yourself and at the same time more selfish with others. The wheat and the chaff are quickly separated and suddenly you are left with people who really care.

Here’s an experiment to aid you in your quest for a streamlined, self-worshipping world: stop calling. The people who get in contact with you are the people that really care. It might take a few days, a week or a month, but the important people will make themselves known.

You may lose some people you thought you needed but you don’t need them, for you have yourself and you are strong, resourceful and you certainly don’t need anyone for whom you are not a priority.

Make yourself your priority. Discover and do the things that make you happy and understand yourself and your needs. These needs might change daily but when you live with yourself you have the space to allow the internal discussion. The rulebook can be rewritten daily if needs be – who’s going to argue?

You are not perfect. I am not perfect. I am choosing to think of myself as perfectly imperfect. When you are forced to spend time with yourself, you’ll get to know your flaws. Some you can work on, some you might not want to and some, I’m afraid, are fixed for the duration, come hell or high water. It’s all OK, so be kind to and understanding of yourself.

I find myself at this very second in a house that I am decorating on my own, day by day, room by room. I have a hectic calendar, a constant balancing act between work and social commitments (with varying degrees of success).

These days, I am contentedly married alone, and my relationship with Mr Fry? A distant memory – he talked too much.

@lili_la_scala

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Written by Lili la Scala

Lili la Scala sings a bit, writes a bit and spends more time than is probably necessary discussing the toilet habits of her son. Bona fide vintage addict, though she is sure she sounds less tragic when described as a 'collector'.