September 11, 2012 § 72 Comments
(Belatedly, apologies) from yesterday’s Times:-
A new book, The Gaggle, maintains that these days young women have not one long-term, monogamous partner, but a posse of men with whom they dabble – carnally or not, as the case may be. I haven’t read it but recognise what the author means by such a “gaggle”. Before I got married, I remember myself having a flirtation here; someone to go to the cinema with there; maybe a couple of largely platonic friends who became vaguely less platonic when it was cold or late or we were drunk or giggly or no one else turned up; the occasional more serious lover or boyfriend. These men comprised a certain flotsam and jetsam who ebbed and flowed to greater or lesser degrees.
But “gaggles” are not the preserve of young women only. The fact is, middle-aged single women have them too, and we can now also enjoy (or not) everything the email or text relationship has to offer (or not). If we are lucky. I have had my moments during my plankton years, when I could lay claim to the odd gaggle now and again. Admittedly, as I write, it’s less a gaggle, more a goddamn Gobi, but autumn has come so I shall be working to build one up again. But, as an older woman, if I am fortunate enough ever to scrape together another gaggle, it will be because, options reduced, I am casting my net as wide as possible and trying to keep my mind as open as I can manage, in order to find anyone half-decent who might turn into a long-term companion.
In her book, Jessica Massa has identified the idea that liberated young women like living creating a “gaggle” around them as a means of a carefree alternative to monotonous monogamy. They are apparently in it for the sport of it, and so as to stave off the intense boredom, limitation and convention of just one man in their lives.
Well, possibly so. But I was pretty bloody liberated and modern and I don’t remember it quite like that. I had numerous gaggles in the past but that was mainly because friendships of varying degrees with various men was part of the process of searching for someone significant, with whom, with any luck, to have children and spend the rest of one’s life. You have to kiss a lot of frogs, and all that.
While modern young women may dress it up as beating men at their own game through joining them in all the fun of casual emotional arrangements and zipless promiscuity, I wonder if their real purpose isn’t as traditional as it ever was, only camouflaged as “empowerment”.