Saturday, 16 November 2019
The nation felt uncomfortable watching the latest episode of RuPaul Drag Race UK when contestant Baga Chipz insulted her mother on the show. Understandably, many negative comments were made towards Baga Chipz on social media.
However, it is important to pause and take a breath. It is so easy to throw immediate comments on social media from the safety of our living rooms and demonise Baga Chipz for what she has done without knowing any details of what got them both to that runway awkward moment. By doing so, we forget that on the receiving end of those comments are two people already wounded by each other.
I do not condone the behaviour of Baga Chipz. It was harsh and it was humiliating for her mother. No matter how we feel about our mother or any other people in our lives, we still have to be respectful and not drag them in the mud in public. What Baga Chipz did was wrong. But, as a psychotherapist, I could also see her pain and hurt behind the harsh defence. We don’t know her story with her mother, so we should not judge.
Equally, Baga Chipz’ mother has her part to play. Was she not aware of their difficult relationship? Or did she hope that by doing this grand gesture of appearing on RuPaul Drag Race UK next to her son, it would somehow heal some unresolved issues between them, like a magic wand? Indeed, it is easier to think of one gesture that would patch everything up rather than doing the more effective, yet much harder task of sitting down and discussing in details what went wrong in their relationship.
What Baga Chipz missed, though, is that her mother was actually willing to step outside of her comfort zone and come on the show for her. We can interpret it as an act of love. Many mothers will never have the courage to do so especially when there is a wound. For that, her mother should have been praised.
What her mother missed, perhaps, was that it might not have been the right time or the right gesture to repair the relationship. Perhaps, she didn’t hear what Baga Chipz actually needed from her.
Once again, let’s take a pause. We don’t know their story. Perhaps, it has nothing to do with the relationship between Baga Chipz and her mother. Perhaps, it is something to do with what the mother represents for Baga. Perhaps, her mother is a reminder of a difficult childhood that is independent from the relationship between them.
Healing the wounds between parent and adult child is never easy. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of painful discussions. The goal of conflict resolutions is not always about arriving at a place of happiness between two people. Sometimes, it is about accepting what is. Accepting that the wounding will always leave a scar and that scar might sometimes itch. It is admitting to each other that they are different people and won’t be able to connect meaningfully. Sometimes, it is to recognise that love only thrives between parent and adult child when there is distance. Sometimes, it is about accepting that we don’t get to choose our parents and we have to live with the fact that they are not perfect, or inadequate or unskilled at being parents. Conflict resolution is not always about forgiving the other, but it is about forgiving ourselves for being unable to connect with our closest blood relations. There is too much pressure to be in harmony with our parents, our children, or other people in our family of origin; it is not always possible. Letting go of that pressure can improve mental health.
What I saw on RuPaul Drag Race UK however, was two hurt people with unhealed wounds and either could forgive themselves for co-creating the relationship that they now have. It was painful to watch. But I hope that this terrible moment between them can be the next step into sitting down and talking properly with each other. I wish them both well.
Monday, 11 November 2019
Emma Watson coined ‘self-partnered’ to describe her singledom. When celebrities create new terms, it can be catching. Sometimes it is a good thing because their public influence can bring forth some important unspoken social issues.
As a psychosexual and relationship specialist, I’m aware that there is so much myth about sex and relationships that really confuse people, precipitating and maintaining problems in their lives. So, I think Emma Watson’s comment has brought forward a welcome dialogue.
The term ‘self-partnered’ is useful to remind us all that we need to be treating ourselves with love and kindness. It is a synonym to ‘self-love’ and ‘self-care’. I would go as far as it can encompass ‘self-pleasure’ as masturbation is a healthy sexual behaviour with self that can be an act of self-love.
Being our own best friend first is actually important if we were to meet someone else. Typically, people who don’t like parts of themselves tend to project those onto others thus making a relationship with others difficult.
Our society has bombarded us with messages of the word ‘partner’ means ‘another’ or a collaboration with someone outside of the self. ‘Self-partnered’ is therefore a helpful addition to our vocabulary and expanding the notion of singledom and taking care of the relationship with ourselves.
However, I don’t think we should be colluding with the sense that ‘single’ is a bad word. ‘Self-partnered’ doesn’t have to be a replacement term for ‘single’. Our society has somehow made the word ‘single’ a sad status, an undesirable place to be. ‘Single’ has been made a bad word especially for women, perpetuating horrible ideas such as the ‘spinster’ stigma or the fairy tale stories where the woman waits to be picked by the handsome prince and wanting to marry her, only then, will she be happy!
If we think about it, why does it have to be the man getting on his knees asking a woman to marry him? Can’t a woman decide for herself when and how she wants to propose a marriage? Could a woman decide not to ever marry (and have children) and still be seen as equal to other women making a different choice?
Our society, so modern in many areas, remains old fashioned when thinking about women’s singledom. Our society is still invested in thinking that somehow it is wrong for a woman to choose to stay single.
A colleague of mine who is a relationship specialist too, and above all a friend, posted a thought-provoking message on her social media. I asked for her permission to share some of it:
‘I have read several articles questioning why Emma Watson is alone as if there is something wrong with her. I reflect on my own state of “alone” and, being away, it is in my face pretty much all the time. From the floating around in a king sized bed, to the two place settings at meal times where one is discreetly removed, double sets of towels, sun loungers placed in pairs, to the ‘oh you are alone’ comments from other guests with an air of superiority, pity or curiosity, the list goes on. At this moment in time, I am actually choosing to be single until I meet someone I choose to be in a couple with. I see so many people unable to be with themselves. It is as if society as brainwashed us, especially women, that we are not complete unless we are in a relationship. The idea of there being the “one” sets us up for unrealistic expectations. I feel so grateful for the life that I have. I am immensely privileged, but above all I feel proud that, at that moment, I am not in a relationship’.
This social media post from my friend is an intimate and powerful account of a woman empowered with her ‘single’ status. She understands that ‘alone’ is a privilege of being comfortable with herself, and it is not the same as ‘lonely’.
Let’s get together and challenge society’s reductive judgements of ‘single’. Let’s reclaim the word as a positive and empowering choice. Let’s remind ourselves that we don’t need another to be complete or successful. Let’s enjoy dinners for one and not confuse being alone with being lonely.
We need connection and a sense of belonging for wellbeing but it doesn’t mean we need a spouse. We can find connection and belonging in our community, our work, our friendships, our hobbies, our families of choice or families of origin. We don’t need to find it in the eyes of someone who wants to marry us.
Let’s embrace the status of ‘single’ and let’s make ‘Self-partnered’ the process by which being single is nourishing and flourishing.