Single & Childfree at 40: Why the Stigma? This Month’s Book Club is a Different Take on What it Means to be a ‘Fulfilled’ Woman in 2021

In partnership with Villa Maria & Hachette

Welcome to Capsule’s new book club! We’re SO excited to bring you a new book each month to devour and savour. Whether you indulge in a few hours of luxurious alone time each Sunday, or finish your day with a chapter or two, we invite you to relax and enjoy, and if you’re so inclined, connect with fellow Capsule readers and your own family and friends to have a yarn about the book you’ve just read. We’ll be mixing up the titles we feature every month, so you’re in for an eclectic monthly journey.

And, thanks to our partners Villa Maria, each book will be expertly wine matched with a great bottle of Villa’s finest – this month, we bring you their divine Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Gris 2020. 

We’ll also provide discussion points on our Instagram @capsule_nz throughout the month, and for more exclusive offers, event invitations and bonus content, please do sign up to our newsletter here. So, pour yourself of delicious Pinot Gris and let’s get started!

Self-contained, by Emma Johns (Hachette RRP$34.99)

If you’ve spent any great length of time single from about your mid-twenties on, you’ll likely know the feeling: that semi-awkward moment when a stranger at a baby shower asks if you have kids/a husband, a well-meaning friend quizzes you to try to work out why you’re still single, or you get the third degree at a family Christmas as to why you don’t have a plus one with you.

Emma John gets it. She knows that baby shower or kids’ birthday scenario only too well (and has a great exit strategy of SOS texting a friend to get a wine immediately after) and what it’s like to be the ‘uneven number’ at a dinner party. 

As she writes in her hilarious and beguilingly honest memoir, Self Contained

I’m about to turn 40, have no boyfriend and can’t be sure of one any time soon: I haven’t been on a date in three years. I’m tired of Tinder, bored of Bumble – I’ve even been ejected by eHarmony, who, last time I logged on, told me it couldn’t find me a single match.

But besides intimately understanding those ‘awkward single moments’ and having a laugh at dating apps, she’s also learning that “happily ever after” doesn’t come down to just the one cookie cutter scenario of getting married and popping out 2.5 kids. 

Not so long ago, the statistic that a single woman over 40 was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married was often thrown around (what a fun time that was). But now, research often points to single women who are over 40 as actually being the happiest on the planet.

In 2019 Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, released a book on the topic, Happy Ever After, which cited evidence from the American Time Use Survey. The extensive study compared levels of pleasure and misery in unmarried, married, divorced, separated, and widowed individuals. 

He surmised that while marriage had a positive impact on men because they “calmed down”, the same could not be said for women. He said, “You [men] take less risks, earn more money at work and live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children.”

Yet unmarried, childfree women somehow still seem to create confusion and worry in society, as though happiness relies purely on ticking off those boxes… leading to single women often being told over and over again, “don’t worry, you’ll find someone!”

In Self Contained Emma examines what it really means to be single – to be made to feel like the odd one out, or end up having to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to put others at ease about her single status. But she also questions why she, a fulfilled yet single woman, still confines herself to just one side of the bed.

She examines loneliness – particularly during a lockdown-filled pandemic! – and her own feelings of self-doubt, as well as that nagging feeling society has put on her that she needs a man to feel complete (thanks Jerry Maguire).

Emma takes us on a journey back in time – through the romantic relationships that have blossomed and fizzled, the fantastic and fulfilling friendships that have flourished, her family bonds, the work she’s done, the places she’s travelled to, the adventures she’s had.

Along the way we start to see that a romantic relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be the thing that fills you up and makes you feel whole. Although Emma didn’t set out to live her life as a single woman, it’s not the part of her that defines her and she starts to see that her singleness isn’t because she’s “unwanted”. She looks at the rich relationships she has in her life as proof that she is most certainly wanted in many people’s lives. And so, she concludes, it is time to start sleeping in the middle of her own bed!

Whether you’re single, divorced, married or somewhere in between, Self Contained is well worth a read. It’ll make you laugh, thanks to Emma’s quick wit, but it’ll no-doubt make you re examine some of your thinking and truly appreciate the friendships and experiences you’ve had in your life. Plus, her chapters on the kaleidoscope of feelings we all have during lockdowns are SO WORTH a read! Highly recommended!

VILLA MARIA WINE MATCH with Villa’s Wine Expert, Jessica Bell

Let’s raise a toast to the single life! As Emma writes, being single isn’t something to mope about, or pity others for, if you step back and look closely, it’s a life “that is full of endless possibilities and many wonderful memories.”

Now that’s something to raise a glass to! 

The Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Gris is the perfect choice as it is rich and  textural coating your whole mouth with its ample more-ish flavours. Think pears, apples and juicy summer peach, with just a hint of baked fruit spices.

As Emma looks forward to the rich possibilities in life, it’s timely that we’re also, finally, entering spring and the perfect time to pour a glass of Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Gris – a taste that feels like a promise that summer is on its way.

So, if you’ve just escaped a kid’s third birthday party, call a buddy and get one of these on ice. Or – gulp! – if it is your child’s birthday party, pop a bottle in the fridge and invite a friend to stay on after the official celebrations.

Miss last month’s book selection? Check out our match of Life is Tough, But So Are You  paired with the delicious Villa Maria Hawke’s Bay Reserve Chardonnay 2019.

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