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Emma Watson isn’t single. Emma Watson is “self-partnered.”
The 29-year-old actress and activist coined the novel term to describe her relationship status in a British Vogue interview published Monday.
In it, Watson points to the stifling anxieties that come with navigating adulthood while not following the traditional timelines of getting married and having children.
Her new term might remind some people of when Gwyneth Paltrow, actress and Goop founder, announced a “conscious uncoupling” with her then-husband Chris Martin, singer of Coldplay. In the much-talked-about move, Paltrow took a similar approach to reframing a word that often has negative connotations — in her case, “divorce.”
“I think they’re kinder, gentler terms because there’s so much baggage with them — certainly with ‘divorce’ — and sometimes with ‘single,'” said Sarah Wright, a social worker and former board chair of the nonprofit Unmarried Equality , which advocates for single people and couples who are not married.
That just tells you so much about the pressure to partner up and get married
“I think a big reason a lot of millennials are postponing marriage … does have a lot to do with career goals and further education. I would say that turning 30 and being as accomplished as she is … that just tells you so much about the pressure to partner up and get married.”
Before nearing her third decade of life, the Harry Potter star thought nothing of turning 30 come April, saying it’s not a big deal.
“Cut to 29, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I feel so stressed and anxious.’ And I realize 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.”
And it’s true, said sociologist and author of Happy Singlehood Elyakim Kislev. That pressure comes along with people seeing their friends get in serious relationships, get married or have kids.
“Then comes the time where (singles) think, ‘Where is my home, who is my home, who is left?'” Kislev said.
It took time for Watson to accept her individuality, doubting anyone who said they were happy being single.
“But I’m very happy (being single now),” she told Vogue. “I call it being self-partnered.”
Single women tend to fare better than single men, Kislev said, because they are better at making friends and establishing meaningful relationships. In order to combat the negative feelings, it’s very important for singles to have close friends, a tight network they can rely on and feel secure in.
“I think her statement is A) important for herself, to feel good and to stop the annoying questions, like, ‘Who are you dating? Who is your partner? When will you get married?’ And B) … it’s very important for the many singles in western countries to know they are not alone and that it’s a legitimate choice.”
Many are applauding Watson for her declaration.
“All about being ‘self partnered,’ I’m happy and single. Just because I’m nearing 30 does not mean I need to be married with kids. Thanks for coining this phrase Emma Watson,” tweeted Hannah Tucker.
Writer Andi Zeisler even pointed out the irony of an accomplished woman being made to feel like a failure if she is 30 and does not have kids.
“The takeaway from this piece isn’t the term ‘self-partnered’ but the fact that you can be a BAFTA recipient, UN goodwill ambassador, and beloved icon of a generation of women and people will still ask if you feel like a failure because you’re 30 and not married with kids,” she tweeted.
Wright said the term “self-partnered” is a wholesale rejection of the present understanding of marriage and its importance in young people’s lives. It’s a neologism that reflects Watson’s thinking and perhaps better frames her own idea of leading a solo life.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019