Move over, conscious uncoupling—a brand-new term for something we already have a word for is taking center stage. In her December cover story interview with British Vogue, Emma Watson revealed that she prefers to call herself self-partnered instead of single. The linguistic debut came in a discussion Watson had with journalist Paris Lees about the anxiety she’s faced in the lead-up to her 30th birthday. “I was like, ‘Why does everyone make such a big fuss about turning 30? This is not a big deal … ’ ”
Cut to 29, and I’m like, “Oh my God, I feel so stressed and anxious.” And I realise it’s because there is suddenly this bloody influx of subliminal messaging around. If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out. … There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety. … I never believed the whole “I’m happy single” spiel. … I was like, “This is totally spiel.” It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered.
It’s entirely possible that Watson was joking (who among us hasn’t said, “I’m taking some time to date myself”) but Twitter quickly seized on the headline-making quote. As evidenced by the many, many supportive tweets, there’s little doubt that the sentiment behind the term is a lovely and relatable one. Watson is entirely correct in her assessment of the societal pressures women in their late 20s face to be married, to have children, and to secure places on at least seven 30-under-30 lists. Any success in one arena is immediately diminished by a (real or perceived) lack in another. Toss in the toxically stubborn idea that entering a romantic relationship is some sort of achievement, or that having a partner completes you (as if we’re all walking around half-formed), and it’s all too easy to see why women would want to be called something other than single. It’s telling that Watson, an activist, BAFTA winner, and Brown grad, still feels subject to the same pressures that the rest of us less-credentialed people do. But that’s all the more reason to proudly reclaim singledom, not abandon it for a term that performs the exact opposite of its stated function.
The problem with declaring yourself self-partnered is that you’re ceding the argument, agreeing with the precept that some kind of monogamous partnership is a necessary component to a fulfilling life. Self-partnered also makes the same mistake that most depictions of romantic partnership do—assuming that one person can be all things for another. Even a person in a perfect romantic relationship still needs intimate platonic relationships. Self-partnering turns us even more into islands, suggesting that with the right mindset we can all be self-sufficient. A woman’s singleness is not a situation to be corrected, transcended, or rebranded. Be single, Emma, and be proud.