My friend and I have a bit of a joke going. Each time I introduce a new beau into conversation, boldly peppering my exploits with tales of witty banter and smouldering sexual tension before admitting to the less than scintillating text exchange and disappointing evening encounter, she (accurately and repeatedly) surmises, “he’s not the one”.
She’s right. He isn’t.
But it does draw attention to my burgeoning ‘one’- related panic and anxiety. As wedding season mercilessly descends, Jennifer Lopez rom-com-romps across the cinema screens ahead of Sarah Jessica Parker et al and our new government gleefully wave £20 notes as bait for newly-weds to-be (shame on any couple who take that vote-mongering into consideration) I’ve been thinking about our stubborn cultural pre-occupation with finding this sole life partner. As the online dating adverts during my morning tube journey hammer home, ‘the one’, that deified version of manhood (because it is generally in heterosexual relationships that this obsession lies and ‘the one’ seems to be a peculiarly female preoccupation) is destined to swoop in, fix all my woes and make my life complete. Or at least fill the space next to me at my brother’s wedding. Which is perhaps why, when my liaisons aren’t quite hitting these promised highs, I’m feeling a little less than satisfied.
Whilst indulging my interest in new feminist writing I recently read something that struck a chord. Nina Power in her rather short, angry and brilliant book ‘One Dimensional Woman’ has a capitalist reading of our Sex and The City hankering after ‘the one’ (I’m resisting the urge to capitalise. That would only compound the issue).
“Obviously the idea that straight women are constantly ‘competing’ for men is an awful one, but they are most definitely supposed to, according to the crazy logic of scarcity that consumerism depends upon. He’s the one! That handbag is the one! Hands off my bag/ man!”
And then I realised that I actually do have similar feelings of (consumer) anxiety for my rather less than impressive wardrobe/ handbag collection as I do for my less than impressive love life. I feel a little like I did as a child, stomping my feet, tripping over my bottom lip, declaring: “it’s not fair Daddy, everyone else has got one”. Perhaps I don’t need that handbag or that guy. Perhaps they’re not worth the time, money and effort.
So what to do? Seeing as I can’t (immediately) change social expectation in line with this revelation I have decided instead to acknowledge the similarity between my material and relationship shopping list by applying the same value judgements to my men as I do to my purchases. In these times of thrift and enforced credit card repayments each ‘purchase’ is to be carefully considered for its necessity and value for money. Corner-shop Jacob’s Creek Shiraz, sport-luxe grey marl jackets and flaky late-night booty callers are out. I’m saving up for something special. Only my terms and conditions will apply.