I'm not much into magazines.
In fact, the sad reality is that the majority of the magazines I buy serve as photo props only, resigned to a life confined in my display or shoved underneath a plant pot as a makeshift table stand. The corners go unfolded, words unploughed, and familiar faces untarnished by glasses and moustaches previously adorned by a distracted pen. The cover alone serves as something pretty, but nothing more - a fiver wasted, perhaps, but a common ritual nonetheless.
I stopped reading magazines because the stories no longer resonated with me. I couldn't find myself anywhere in the pages. Whilst on the one hand, titles like Cosmopolitan were screaming about the impossibly contorted sex positions you can use to please your boyfriend, the likes of i-D and Pop felt impenetrably elitest, as if your Spotify playlist must consist only of unsigned alt-techno artists in order to qualify as a reader. Oh, you like Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir? Sorry, I don't think we're ~ for you ~.
Oh Comely sits differently with me, however. Describing themselves as "a curious, honest and playful independent magazine", Oh Comely is the only publication which I routinely set aside time to read. And this isn't an ad, by the way, just credit where credit is due - I've found little else which bridges the gulf between celebrity gossip and unobtainable designer fashion, and little else which can explore both weighty social and cultural issues as well as the fleeting, beautiful, quiet wonders of day-to-day life. The pages offer escape, and once every two months, I embrace that escape with an hungry and open mind.
It's fitting then, that an article about escape inspired this very post. Flicking through the latest issue I came across Bre Graham's piece on romancing yourself, of which the central thread celebrates spending time alone and learning to revel in one's own company, salubriously and often. This is something I'm guilty of putting off. Whilst I will always make time for friends, family and work, when a rare, solo evening presents itself in my diary, my first inclination is to fill it with the company of someone else. I see it as an opportunity to maintain and nurture relationships, a chance to actually catch up over that dinner, instead of just saying it. What I overlook in order to do this, however, is my relationship with myself. My solo self. Myself alone. The person I am without others.
Which is strange, considering I'm an introvert by nature. I adore the company of others, but I draw strength and balance from being alone and without interruption. I'm not so much stressed by volumes of work as I am by volumes of people; every day promises a myriad of phonecalls, texts, emails, knocks at the door and meetings. Every day is an interwoven blanket of private and business life, the two of which often difficult to separate from one another owing to the personal nature of my career. I'm pulled in different directions and overwhelmed by information, topping up my barometer of tolerance until finally, I have a big fat cry and take a break.
But I need to start taking that break alone.
In the article, Bre details a few of her favourite ways to romance herself, from solo travelling to Margate for a few days of uninterrupted self-indulgence, to fancy dinner tables booked for one, adorned with oysters and champagne. Each of the suggestions resonated with me in some way, but her motivations for sharing them more so. "Here are a few of my favourite ways to let myself know that I'm loved by me", she writes, "use these to make spending time alone with yourself a luxury to be looked forward to, not a fallback".
Not a fallback.
The concept that my own company is the event for the evening is one that has clearly evaded me until now. Well, for the most part. My birthday last month fell on a Wednesday, and I spent the whole day in peace, quiet, and comfort. I woke up early and opened my presents, fell asleep again without regrets and then reclined in a hot, soapy bath for longer than my wrinkly fingers enjoyed. I cleaned the house - something which I'm begrudgingly accepting helps me to disconnect and breathe - free from the constant barking of my phone. I spent £50 on new loungewear just so I could relish that first-wear feeling, and peppered it with perfume to catch me by surprise in unexpected moments. I ate bread and cheese whilst sitting in the garden - my favourite of all pastimes - and grouped all of the SONOS speakers in the house to play soft jazz and alternative R'n'B from top to bottom. I masturbated (it was my birthday, after all). I was absolutely, blissfully alone, and looking back now, it was one of my favourite days ever. No bells, no whistles, just simplicity and calm.
So why is it I wait to dedicate this time to myself? Knowing how deliciously I savour these moments of spending time with just me, why do I try and fill every space with the presence of another person? Why can't I allow myself the chance to hear my own voice?
I've spoken before about my love/hate relationship with my phone, and with each passing month I can see that this is the crux of my unrest. I need my phone in order to work and to feel connected to my equally as busy friends, but I also need a space in which my time can't be called upon at the drop of a hat. I need time to feel separate, to be disconnected. I need time to move through the world in a protective bubble, where hands can't reach through a screen and tug on my attention without so much as a warning. I need time where I can explore my own questions, instead of offering answers to others. I need me time.
The beautiful coincidence that surrounds this Oh Comely article, is the fact that I was sitting in my garden, enjoying a cup of tea alone whilst reading it. It was only by happy surprise that I was indulging in my own company at the time, but in a way, this only confirmed how much I need that isolation. For the first time in a long time, I read something twice. I turned the words over in my mind, circled phrases that felt delightfully decadent, scribbled down ideas and followed tangents, all of which led me here, to my own piece of writing.
And whilst, as I'm self-employed, I spend a lot of time alone already, I rarely permit myself the nourishment of actually enjoying it. Rather I battle against it, inviting friends over, booking meetings that will never benefit me in the long run and reading every email as soon as it appears. I position myself in the corners of coffee shops, evading the moment and existing hundreds or thousands of miles away through the screen of my phone. I'm alone, but not really.
I long for an excuse such as my birthday to justify being with only myself. To justify being selfish, and to saying 'no, I'm actually going to chill out alone today'. I'm recognising now (with pleasure and excitement, it has to be said), that I don't need an explanation or a reason or a special event, I just need myself, and whatever it is I want to do. No compromise, no distraction, and no worrying for the happiness of others - simply me, myself, and I.
So that's what I plan to do. Once a month, I'm setting aside a whole day to entertaining my own company. The first date is next Thursday, and I can't wait.
Until next time lovelies x