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  • Brazen
  • Brazen

Self-Contained: Scenes from a single life

Emma John

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Everything I Know About Love for the over 40s.

"And - are you - married?"

In the split-second that followed, I rattled through my available responses. A simple "No" would sound abrupt and rude, as if I'd taken the question personally, or was harbouring a deep hatred for the institution: I tended to save that for people I found really objectionable. "No I'm not," would usually elicit the question 'do you want to be?'. So, I went for my softest option: "No, not yet."

"But you're with someone?"

"No, not yet," I repeated, with a laugh I hoped would suggest nonchalance at both the question and my relationship status.

A jet of awkwardness had been released and now hung in the air like aerosol spray in a downstairs toilet.

Emma John is in her 40s; she is neither married, nor partnered, with child or planning to be.

In her hilarious and unflinching memoir, Self-Contained, she asks why the world only views a woman as complete when she is no longer a single figure and addresses what it means to be alone when everyone else isn't.

In her book, she captures what it is to be single in your forties, from sharing a twin room with someone you've never met on a group holiday (because the couples have all the doubles with ensuite) to coming to the realisation that maybe your singleness isn't a temporary arrangement, that maybe you aren't pre-married at all, and in fact you are self-contained.

The book is an exploration of being lifelong single and what happens if you don't meet the right person, don't settle down with the wrong person and realise the biggest commitment is to yourself.

(p) 2021 Octopus Publishing Group

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Emma John

Emma John is a writer and editor on the GUARDIAN and the OBSERVER. She is a former deputy editor of OBSERVER SPORT MONTHLY and THE WISDEN CRICKETER and in 2008 she was the first woman to win a Sports Journalism Award. She is also a classical violinist and bluegrass fiddler.

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