Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Don't let sisters stop you looking for love, Cheryl

What's wrong with wanting a man? I ask because lately I've lost count of the miserable, lonely female celebrities being told by other women that they should stay single.

Cheryl Cole, Katy Perry, Demi Moore, Katherine Jenkins, Lauren Goodyer, Natalie Cassidy - they've all been treated to the unsolicited advice of self-styled 'relationship experts' and mouthy celebs recently and warned to forget about men for a bit.

The most popular theory seems to be it's not good to have a boyfriend until you're entirely sure you 'know yourself', 'love yourself' and are completely happy on your own. Men, it is implied, make one weak, confused and compromised. To admit to yearning for one is tantamount to volunteering for slavery.

I've long been a serial monogamist which, even before boyfriend-seeking Bridget Jones became the internationally recognised symbol for losers, was an uncool thing to be. Since the dawn of feminism (of which, I should state, I'm generally a fan), women have been expected to prove, ideally for years at a time, that they're deeply content and superhumanly capable on their own. And that their support system consists primarily of other members of the sisterhood.

But I've always been at my happiest when I've been in a relationship with a like-minded, attractive, affectionate man. I like the closeness, the support, the jokes and the conversation.

I was never a girlie girl, always preferring arguments about music, books and politics over gossiping or sharing fashion tips.

If I'd been around in Jane Austen's day, I'd have been slipping on the fake beard to get into those elusive after-dinner cigar-smoking backroom chats women were barred from.

I've never understood the idea that a boyfriend makes it more difficult for a woman to 'find' her true self.

Even stranger is the idea that this is somehow a feminist notion. Surely it suggests that women are so weak and impressionable that the close presence of a man can knock their whole sense of self sideways?

In my experience the encouragement of an interested, admiring man, one who often sees more goodness in her than she's ever noticed herself, can give a girl the push she needs to follow her instinct and have faith in her own judgment. The psychological boost injected by the positive light he sees her in makes her stronger, not weaker.

There's nothing embarrassing about wanting to share your thoughts, ideas and one-liners with someone who not only gets them, but loves you for them.



And don't well-balanced human beings generally enjoy physical affection and sexual connection with someone they like and respect? What this has to do with repression or self-sublimation I have no idea. On the other hand, the commonly posited suggestion that women are empowered by reams of one night stands or self-imposed celibacy seems to me politically contrived, and ironically, a phoney adoption of the kind of logic employed by troubled, immature men.

I think it's time we stopped using a value system for women which is reliant on their relationships with the opposite sex.

Whether we're single or coupled, self-worth should be measured by other factors, inward rather than outward. Men don't seem to fret over what wanting a girlfriend signals about their identity.

No one mocks Barack Obama, David Cameron, David Beckham or Alex Ferguson for admitting they couldn't have achieved what they have without their wives. So if you really want a man Cheryl or Katy, ignore the frowny-faced finger-wagglers and go for it. Just make sure he's a good one.

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