Sunday 11 December 2016

Why I'm embracing the single life, even if Hollywood isn't...

Romcoms like 'Trainwreck' celebrate the life of a single thirtysomething, but we can do without the horror-filled backstory

Tanya Sweeney

Published 07/08/2015 | 02:30

Hollywood's flavour of the month: Amy Schumer eventually finds real romance will Bill Hader in Trainwreck
Hollywood's flavour of the month: Amy Schumer eventually finds real romance will Bill Hader in Trainwreck

In the new movie Trainwreck, one scene rings horribly, uncomfortably familiar for single women like me.

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Our commitmentphobe heroine Amy (played by girl of the moment Amy Schumer) gets a phonecall from a would-be paramour. He asks her, in a straightforward and polite manner, if she might go on a date with him. Panicked, she promptly hangs up on him. It's the action of a terminally single woman… and I'm ashamed to say I have pulled this move in the past. Only sort-of accidentally, m'lud.

By now, it's received wisdom that single women in their 30s are aching to finally shrug off singledom. They've had close to two decades of being young-ish, free and single, and with the (ugh, that phrase) biological clock providing a sort of low-level siren call, they're ready, nay desperate, for a life of domestic quietude.

Finally, Trainwreck has delivered a romcom anti-heroine that's just like us.

Amy is the titular 'trainwreck' in the film; a salty 30-something woman who won't let the single girl party just die down already. She smuggles wine into the cinema, swears like a sailor and dumps guys for any old reason she can think of.

Far from searching for a man, she's searching for ways out of liaisons. She takes the mick out of her sister (played by Brie Larson), who finds herself enjoying familial bliss in the suburbs. And, as would befit cinema tradition, Amy has a sexy media job in the city, writing for a men's magazine called S'Nuff.

She cherishes her unattached status, and is highly, pathologically protective of it. In the movie, this 'weirdness' is all explained away by a flashback scene. Fresh from a divorce, Amy's father is bloodied and bruised, and drills the mantra 'monogamy isn't realistic' into his young and impressionable daughters.

As a child of divorced parents, this too gives me plenty of pause for thought.

Anyway, Amy takes her father's teachings to heart, and carries her heart of stone around for decades, until she meets a nice, normal sports doctor through her magazine job and can't find anything wrong with him.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that Amy's happy ever after is waiting down the tracks.

It really bothers me that, through the topsy-turvy looking glass of Hollywood, commitmentphobes and women who love no-strings flings have to be explained away with things like a broken home, or a formative heartbreak.

It's quite likely that Hollywood wasn't quite ready for an unapologetically promiscuous female character. Amy Schumer, who wrote and stars in Trainwreck, has been rocking the 'good time girl' schtick on her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, for three glorious seasons.

In a rather majestic high-wire feat, Schumer defends the right of women to have sex, drink, smoke and eat Taco Bell to the death. At the same time, she manages to toss effortless potshots at misogyny and sexism. Little wonder she's one of the hottest comedians around right now.

Still, there's a difference between Amy on the small screen and Amy on the big screen. As happens in many films directed by Judd Apatow, the balm of happy togetherness trumps casual sex. As the years roll on, the movie industry is becoming increasingly conservative, so it's quite likely that Amy's love of different lovers had to be explained not as an active choice, but as the baggage that the children of divorced parents must shoulder.

Still, the best kinds of romcoms hit upon a universal truth in society, and Trainwreck does just that, holding up a mirror to a new reality.

There is a growing strain of women who are turning their back on the domestic ideal, 'kidults' who are happy to enjoy their unattached status. I know, because I'm one of them.

I may not be a commitmentphobe, but in the totem pole of my life, relationships come a long way down at this very moment after friends, family and fun (being perfectly honest, they're wedged in between 'laundry' and 'jury duty').

Do I get lonely? Sure I do. But not enough to entertain someone whose idea of romance is to fart out a half-hearted 'how's things?' text, just to test the waters.

Besides, I know folks, married for decades, who get lonely from time to time, too. Much like Trainwreck's Amy and whatever fling she is entertaining that week, loneliness and being single aren't exclusive bedfellows.

There is a line in Trainwreck that also brings up another interesting truism: "What's wrong with you that you would want to go out with me?" Amy asks her dashing doctor after he tries for the umpeenth time to break through her defences. It hints at another modern-day malaise, where dating is never simple and straightforward. Some of us - not just women, either - are battle-weary and bruised of heart and spirit. We date defensively, pre-empting an emotional punch in the gut and wondering how we will get out with minimal blowback. For some, it's almost easier to put up a front rather than risk rejection or heartbreak.

And if you're used to lurching from one ill-fated fling after the next, it's probably only natural to wonder why this one might not make it off the launchpad, either.

But Hollywood is about wish fulfillment, and there are probably lots of women watching Trainwreck and hoping they'll find a man just like Aaron.

For now, my life as the proverbial trainwreck continues. What quirks of fate may await me and my resolutely single life down the line, it's hard to tell. But for now, I'll be enjoying this thoroughly modern romcom with a gaggle of like-minded souls.

Wine smuggling: optional.

Irish Independent

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