Zahra Barri
8 min readOct 27, 2022

Gone Girl Gets Away

I just got back from a basic bitch Eat Pray Love style heart healing trip to Mauritius. I once wrote in a university dissertation that the modern literary lovesick romantic heroine no longer seeks salvation through another man, (like Emma in Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina) but through travel. Think Erica Jong’s romp round Europe in Fear of Flying or Bridget Jones’ trippy trip to Thailand and of course Maggie’s voyage through Italy, Indonesia and Bali, eating, praying and loving (herself not Javier Bardem).

For me it was exactly the same. Travel gave me a new perspective on matters of the heart. I think what I’m trying to say is Travel removed the men in my life that had been living in my brain rent free for years. I know this is like Brene Brown 101, but travel made me FIND MYSELF again, after not one but two break ups this year.

No, I wasn’t in a Thruple. It was far less progressive than that. After the first break up I made the very basic bitch/Anna Karenina/classical literature mistake of thinking that all I had to do was jump into a relationship with another man everything would be fine again. I snorted male validation like it was cocaine after the first break up. That and getting my gf’s to continuously tell me over and over again that I was so much prettier than the other woman I had been left for.

You see I may say that I’m a feminist on stage to a wave of clapter (clapping in place of laughter is one of the quintessential tropes of a Netflix special) but applying feminist theory to practice isn’t easy. Its like swimming against the current, no matter how much strength training exercises you do, eventually you will get tired and will allow yourself to be swept away by the waves of the Patriarchy. (That’s why there is first wave second wave, third wave and even fourth wave feminism, because us bitches have had four attempts at swimming against the current). Each time we get that little bit closer to empowerment (Cardi B’s Wet Asse Pussy, Boss Bitch diamante encrusted Tote bags etc) only to be dragged back into the Floridian sea where abortions are illegal.

Of course, I have feminist goals like I try very hard to ensure that conversations with my therapist pass The Bechdel Test, but they rarely do. If I’m not talking about an ex- boyfriend I’m talking about my dad. And even though I actively denounce the Kardahsians in favour of the feminist manifesto of Jamila Jamil who pertains that in order to dismantle the patriarchy we must first dismantle the matriarchy of Kimberley, Kourtney, Khloe, Kylie and Kendal et al- In reality I have more Kylie Jenner lip kits in my make up bag then moon cups.

As I said, feminist goals are just things to strive for. In practice women are shit at getting goals in as a Man United football lout once wisely told me.

But this holiday did something to me. It finally made me stop seeking male validation.

So, A bit of backstory on my break ups this year…

The first was standard textbook. After seven years together and a covid epidemic he got the itch and broke up with me on Christmas day after he took part in a tv dating show and cheated on me with one of the contestants. (He was employed as an actor he didn’t just announce he was going on a dating show although that would be a particularly novel way to dump someone-the new ghosting if you will. Strangely the saddest thing about it all was not losing who I thought was the love of my life but the fact that I no longer could enjoy one of my guiltiest pleasures. The TV dating show. Oh, what a genre that is. (I delve more into this in my stand up so check me out).

The second break up was not quite so textbook…

In my post heart break sleepwalk I appeared to view single as the rest of society sees it. By this I mean that it was a disease. And as with all diseases in order to be cured you have to get vaccinated by a little prick.

“And so why are you single?” Little Prick says smugly swishing his wine glass while his wife Cassandra can be seen in the background convincing their two-year-old child not to eat the cat poop in the litter tray.

In my feminist fantasy I say, “I don’t think the question should be why am I single but rather how are you in a relationship? But in my feminist reality I say something like, “I don’t know too fussy I suppose?” (Which makes no sense as my last long-term relationship was with a man who thought that Mussolini was a type of pasta and didn’t like going on holiday).

So, I did what society told me to do I went online dating for a week. I didn’t go on Tinder; I went on site called Plenty of Dick. (Turns out it was actually Plenty of Dickheads). I had some horrendously traumatic dates that involved getting mansplained comedy despite actually being a comedian (he was a mortgage advisor) and realised I was indeed not ready for emotionally, psychologically or physically for the utter shit show that is the dating app scene. Instead, I did something far more postmodern in my attempts to bag a guy. I started sliding into men’s DMs like there was not tomorrow. Eventually I ‘lucked out’ with a guy I’d known on Facebook for ten years (no idea how we actually knew each other) who I had always thought was REALLY HOT.

I was convinced this was the answer to all my heartbreak. Get with someone FAR HOTTER than your ex-boyfriend. That was the answer.

However, this relationship didn’t last long, surprisingly not because of my fragile some might say superficial post relationship state but because one night he released his ‘crazy’. This was alarming as it had only been two weeks, I didn’t think anyone was meant to release their true self to their partner after at least three months and that was only after you had both signed the legally binding London tenancy agreement (London couples make that commitment quicker than lesbians buy a cat together for obvious economic reasons).

So, what exactly was his crazy I hear you ask. Well one night he rang me up (he lived in Manchester because I have attachment issues and go for either emotionally or physically distant men my therapist has revealed) and proceeded to tell me after two weekends of what I thought was the hottest shagging of my life that I wasn’t as good at blow jobs as I thought. He then proceeded to yell down the phone a long list of blow jobs demands which included having a glass of water on hand to ensure my mouth wouldn’t go too dry. I should have dumped him there and then, but I was utterly speechless and in shock. So, I just pretended it was completely normal and stuck a glass of water by the bedside cabinet whenever he visited. However, despite doing exactly what he requested re: to give him the perfect blow job that he cited as one of his ‘needs’ in a long-term relationship, we stayed regather for a further few months until I realised do I really want to be with a man that complains this much about a blow job. It seemed indicative of anything else good that came his way.

For I believe the ancient proverb goes: ‘A man who complains about a blow job is literally looking a gift horse in the mouth.’

By the time my holiday came around I had so much boy drama living rent free in my head, I realised I hadn’t thought of much else for the best part of a year. And I’m doing a PhD. Something had to change…

So, I knew I needed a good trip, so I took my creepiest friend so I could focus entirely on myself. Creepy friends are the best, they’re obsessed with you so you can talk at them about your life, and you never have to ask any questions about theirs. I admit sometimes I worry she is a bit too obsessed with me, like the picture on her phone is a picture of me and I would never have her as mine. And when I go round her house there’s pictures of me all over the house. I mean, she is my mum and everything but still. She’s by far my creepiest friend.

Now I was worried that our Mauritian resort would be full of honeymooners and would make me feel even more heartbroken, but it did the opposite. As I looked around the resort at the sea of couples (all swimming obediently with the tide) I didn’t feel jealous I felt for the first time relieved. Relieved that I didn’t have to rub sunscreen onto someone’s back or tell the next couple what ‘we’ thought of the dolphin excursion (a bit cruel to the dolphins but can’t fault the beach BBQ). In short, I could think for myself. What did I think? Who was I? I think therefore I am (not in a relationship) and other philosophisations that would have at the very least got me an interview at Alain De Botton’s ‘School of Life’. In short, I didn’t have to think about someone else’s needs, put myself out for my partner and the expense of myself. I realised with sudden Absolut vodka clarity, that I could just be ME.

Behind Every Great Man is a Woman Muting her Own Greatness

For the past decade I have been in a relationship. Most women in relationships bring UP a man, its indoctrinated into our brains by the patriarchy. We bring up our men quite literally, at the expense of ourselves. I read that single women are the happiest demographic and that men get happier in a marriage and women get unhappier. Why is that? It’s because we have to take on all of their baggage. It’s exhausting.

And to top it all off I watched gone Girl on the plane home and totally identified with her. The amazing Amy. Gone. That’s how I felt in a relationship. My amazingness had slowly disappeared. I was Invisible. I had not anticipated this happening until I was a sixty-year-old woman. But it had happened at the age of 36 just by being in two toxic relationships with men.

And so, this might sound like a paradox but in order to stop being invisible I had to lose the weight. Being single right now is the best diet I’ve ever been on. I am lighter and the consequent weightlessness that I feel makes its far easier to swim against the current.

Zahra Barri

Egyptian/Irish Writer/Comic/PhD Student Unbound Firsts 2024 WINNER Pre-Order my novel,Daughters of the Nile