Are you familiar with the television show in the UK called Love Island? My 24-year-old step-daughter watches it on Hulu. She calls it her guilty pleasure, and now it has become mine, as well. I did not set out to watch it, but somehow now, I am obsessed. To me, this just seems ludicrous since it’s a show about a bunch of twenty-somethings looking for love, and I am a happily married woman in my mid-fifties. Yet somehow, it has sucked me in and has actually had a rather interesting effect on me.
How I Got Hooked
I am not someone who watches a lot of reality tv. I will occasionally watch Say Yes to the Dress, and I do enjoy Married at First Sight, but that’s about all of the reality tv I can take. I don’t like all of the drama, backstabbing, and game-playing that goes on in most reality shows. I don’t engage in or tolerate any of those things in my real life; I am certainly not going to subject myself to it as entertainment.
So, one evening, I was reading a book or playing a game on my iPad, and my step-daughter was watching Love Island on her laptop. I was intrigued by the British banter. The accents were all different, and some I couldn’t even understand although I knew they were speaking English. I commented to that effect, and my step-daughter said she turned on the subtitles so she could understand what they were saying. I became more and more curious and would pop over to watch what was going on. And that was it. Before I knew it, I was cueing up episode 1 of season 6. Now I’m on episode 26, and it’s all I can think about. What in bloody Hell was going on?
What’s It All About
So, what is it about this show that keeps me coming back for more?
For those of you who are not familiar with Love Island, the premise is that six young women (the girls) and six young men (the boys)—who are all strangers to one another—live together in a villa in the hopes that they will couple up and find true love. They have no contact with the outside world at all. They complete challenges to help them interact and get to know each other better. And, get this, they all share one massive bedroom, and each couple shares a bed from day one! Yeah.
And then just when they are getting comfortable with one another, they bring in new girls and boys (that’s how they refer to them on the show) just to mix things up a bit. So, every so often, they announce a re-coupling where they can choose to stay with their current partner or try a new one. Throughout the show, contestants get voted off, and only one couple will win.
Now, it would seem that this show would definitely lend itself to all of those things I despise about reality tv, and yet, somehow, for the most part, it rises above all of that. Rather than the girls being catty or bitchy toward one another—after all, it is a competition—they are encouraging and supportive. And the boys actually talk to one another about how they are feeling about their current coupling. They are not all bravado and testosterone. It’s quite refreshing to see.
I Feel Like A Woman
Now, here’s where things get interesting for me. Since I’ve started watching Love Island, I seem to have rediscovered a part of myself that had gone dormant. Let me explain.
I love the fly-on-the-wall aspect of the show. Everyone is miked at all times, and there are cameras everywhere, including the shared bedroom and the “ready” rooms where they shower, dress, etc. Some of the best conversations take place in these spaces. While the girls do their hair and make-up, they share their hopes, fears, doubts, frustrations, happiness, and secrets. Not only do we get to learn about their insecurities, but we also get to see these beautiful women with no make-up, hair undone, and vulnerable. Their faces are left bare, all of their flaws exposed, and yet it makes them that much more beautiful. I truly appreciate this aspect of the show. It makes them human; real women I can identify with and relate to rather than the impossible standard we are held to by the media every day.
Well, here’s the kicker. Somehow, watching these women has made me feel prettier and sexier than I have in a long time. Yes, they are twenty-something, and I am fifty-something. But something about recognizing that they are not flawless, perfect people makes me more compassionate toward myself. Something about them voicing their insecurities and fears makes me less hard on myself. This glimpse into their world does not make me want to be twenty-something again, but it does make me realize that there is beauty in being fifty-something as well.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve entered that phase of my life where comfort and ease trump sexy and high maintenance. My “bait and tackle” days have been long over, and I don’t feel the need to try to impress people I don’t know. That’s not to say that I don’t care about how I look. I do. But, as a fifty-something-year-old woman, you start to feel invisible. So, comfort becomes more important than style. Moisturizer and sunscreen are more crucial than layers of foundation, blush, and eyeliner. An easy, no-hassle hairstyle is more desirable than blow dryers, curling irons, and tons of gel and hairspray.
Since I’ve started watching Love Island, though, I feel rejuvenated. I feel womanly and feminine again. I can sense that I’m moving differently. I feel more buoyant, sexier, like I want to be seen. And witnessing how the women interact with each other, supporting and encouraging one another, makes me crave interaction with other women. I miss the sisterhood of my best friends growing up and my college roommates. Being a wife and mom led me away from that a bit, and now I seek companionship with other women my age.
Men Think With Their Hearts As Well As Their (Hmm-Hmm) Heads
Just like we get to see the more vulnerable and intimate moments the girls share, we also get to see a more emotional and sensitive side of the boys. Typically, reality tv shows portray young men as players. They are boisterous and loud and cocky and arrogant. They are well-muscled and out to prove their manhood every chance they get. But on Love Island, we get to see a different side of the boys. Sure, they are all buff and easy on the eyes, but they are also caring, thoughtful, funny, and surprisingly candid with one another about their feelings. Being able to listen in on their private conversations is quite illuminating. They do talk about their hopes and fears regarding their relationships with their “love interest.” They express genuine surprise at feeling butterflies when they see their girl. And one even said he felt sick at the prospect of losing his girl. As they put it, “I’m so soppy!” These heartfelt admissions are endearing and give me the feels when they express them. It’s lovely to see this side of men, which they keep hidden for fear of condemnation.
Communication Is Key
One other thing has become evident from watching Love Island. Communication is vital and very easy to screw up. I mean we all know that communication is important in a relationship, but this show highlights that fact. Due to the limited amount of time the Islanders have to get to know each other, there is a lot of talking. They talk as a group; they talk one-on-one; There are girls-only conversions and boys-only conversations. During each episode, the phrase “Can we have a chat?” is uttered several times. And then two people peel off from the group to have a private interaction. It seems a bit awkward at first, but it quickly becomes the norm.
Because I get to be a fly on the wall and overhear the conversations, I get a firsthand perspective of how communication can go well and how it can go terribly wrong.
You’re Not Listening
The first thing I noticed is how much they talk over each other. Before one person has completed their thought, the other is jumping in either overly agreeing or trying to make their point. I’m sure some of it is from nervousness, but Geez! I find myself telling them to just shut up and listen for a minute. LOL! But we are all guilty of doing this, right? We are thinking about what we want to say, and we aren’t listening to the other person at all. Watching this happen made me realize how unhelpful and frustrating it is for both parties. In the future, I hope I remember this and be a better listener.
Say What You Mean
The second thing I noticed is how clear a person can be about their thoughts or feelings when they are speaking to their friend, but as soon as they attempt to convey those same thoughts or feelings to their “love interest,” it comes out all discombobulated. For instance, one girl might say to another, “There’s just no spark there. He and I are just not going to work.” But then the same girl will tell her boy, “It’s only been, like, a couple of days. We’ll see what happens.”
Or, a person will concretely state something to one person, but when trying to relay it to another, it becomes muddled and not quite fully communicated. For instance, a boy might tell one girl, “I told So-and-So that I’m not interested.” But what he really said was, “Well, I’m feeling a connection to Blah-Blah, but I still want to get to know you.” In each case, I don’t think the people mean to be deceitful. I think they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or appear to be a certain way, so they communicate less effectively and less clearly.
The dynamics of communication intrigues me. The ability to listen in on the various conversations is enlightening. It makes me think about the way I communicate—or don’t communicate, sometimes. There is definitely room for improvement. I’ve learned from watching Love Island that it is best to be direct but tactful. I’ve also learned how important it is to address a situation as soon as it occurs. Time only makes it more difficult.
So, there you have it. The effect that Love Island has had on me. It has reawakened the joy of being a woman, renewed my faith in men, and has underscored the importance of effective and timely communication. It also reminds me of how exhilarating love can be. Whether we are twenty-something or fifty-something, dating or married, love is the greatest gift there is.
Love Island is a British reality dating series. Learn More.