Last night over dinner and drinks I was hanging out with some old friends (I’m visiting my old home–the Bay Area–for a few weeks) and we got to talking about relationships and alone time. I emphatically stated that one reason I think I have stayed single for so long is that I am a person in need of a lot of alone time and relationships require a type of time and space management I don’t always feel able to do. Alone time gives me the space to work my things out, organize my life and figure out exactly what it is I am looking for–whether it be in love, career or ice cream flavors. Not having to answer to anyone is pretty damn nice and I realize not just a choice, but in some ways a luxury.
But before I sound like a cliched stereotype of a feminist in her 30′s trying to overcompensate for “zomgz, how much I love my single life,” the truth is it is not always easy and finding a balance between wanting to be in a relationship and maintaining a single, independent, non-self obliterated identity is no easy work. In my experience, the most successful relationships are ones where both people have a shared sense of what independence means, where your lives overlap and both people are really clear about what your individual needs are.
But it’s not easy. As women we are taught that our very identity is based on how much attention we get from our partners and our success is based on the success of our relationships. And the success of our relationships are based on how much time our partners spend with us which often turns into a vicious cycle where we lose some of our best and strongest gal pals into the throes of heternormative coupledom. We’ve all been through it.
Which is why it is nice to see that there has been an increase in women focused vacations. And I’m not going to get all lady mag on us and suggest that women having money, power and access to cruise ships that ruin the environment is the best thing that happened to feminism–we know it is more complicated than that. But the shift in relationships being more autonomous, giving women more freedom to make choices about how they want to spend their time and money instead of assuming they are devoting it to their family, I think is a good thing. Being tied in with the problematic consumption patterns of the tourism industry, not as great–giving us a unique paradox about the privilege of lady vacations.
Exact figures are not available on the number of “girlfriend getaways” taking place, but one survey last year by the American Resort Development Association indicated 38 percent of the women responding had taken a female-only vacation, and 63 percent said they planned to do so by 2012.
The travel agencies catering to women (Gutsy Women Travel and Adventurous Wench, to name two) and websites doing the same (girlgetaway.com, girlaway.com,journeywoman.com, among others), as well as the May release of the indie film “Vacation!” (about a girls-only getaway gone grisly) suggest significant numbers of women are finding opportunities to escape, at least once in awhile, from job and family pressures.
Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, who created the Healthy Voyager Web series and radio show, writes on her site that a girlfriend getaway can be crucial to one’s mental well-being: Friends need time to get together, vent and laugh. Even if times are tough and a full vacation is too pricey, Scott-Hamilton states that just 30 minutes by a community pool with your best buddy is better than nothing.
As a a single person, single gal vacations aren’t really “get-aways,” they are just my lifestyle and I am just as likely to travel with one of my female friends as I am with my male friends. But in this case it is clear that women that these vacations are being marketed to are of the married set that need to get-away. It’s clear that independence and autonomy are good for the mental health of families–when women are happy, so are their families. But is this a shift in actual practice where women are more independent? Or just a new marketing moment where the tourism industry has found a new gold mine market and are marketing off a rather slight demographic shift? And women that don’t have the luxury to benefit from the lady-cation movement are not stamping up their passports or seeing any kind of change in what is expected of them in their families.
Thanks to George Kelly for the link.