Cath Rapley
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How Love Island is making me think

How Love Island is making me think

Jul 02, 2022

Love Island Contestants 2022. Pic Credit: ITV

I’m obsessed with Love Island. Ok, I’m more than a bit late to the party eight seasons in, but during my marriage I rejected programmes like this, thinking them shallow and seriously uncool. My ex-husband and I didn’t really watch terrestrial television, plus we moved to fashionable Frome in Somerset, where admitting you watch Reality TV is akin to saying you shop in Iceland (which quite a lot of Froomies do by the way, they just pretend they use it as a cut-through from M&S if caught coming out of it on the High Street).

But three Summers ago,  a few months after I’d left the marital home, I remember overhearing a woman in a hairdressers in Bath rave about this show that featured good-looking, twenty-something singles wearing not very much in an island villa. The aim was for them to couple up, with the pair voted most compatible winning £50,000. This lady looked middle-aged, mousey, bookish, bespectacled and like she’d prefer to watch young people answer questions about the theory of relativity on BBC 2’s University Challenge, rather than which hottie they’d most like to snog on ITV2’s Love Island. So I was intrigued. It’s still taken me 25 cat years to catch up. But now that I have, I’m hooked.

Of course, there are some obvious reasons why its appeal is universal. These gorgeously youthful people, ignorant of the fact that their natural juvenile advantages will fade as fast as those tans,  are thrown together in the beautiful Balearic sun, skin plump with natural collagen, muscles pumped from effortless daily workouts and a lifetime of promise in front of them. They’re looking for love (ok, and a bunch of cash), they’re heartbreakingly good-looking (a post Y2K birthdate will do that) and luckily for them, their relationship CVs are pretty short on details. One of my favourite bits is watching the girls get ready –  I’m super-nostalgic for dressing up for a Saturday night out. It was always the highlight – my friend Jane deftly applying my black liquid eyeliner as I could never get it straight without smudging, me curling my hair with heated Velcro rollers (and later, GHD straighteners),  then trying on five different outfits, left strewn over my bed, before finally setting out with everyone in the cab to the club; skin-shimmering, heeled-up, air electrified with anticipation. These days the getting-ready routine entails smothering my hormone-hungry pores in foundation just to look like I slept properly, then squeezing myself into shapewear just to pass for a size 14. And the footwear! Even looking at a pair of wedges makes my eyes wince. I still wear thin layers though, but now that’s to help with my fluctuating temperature rather than to showcase tempting layers of tanned, toned skin. I remember my parents telling me to value my youth, that it doesn’t last long - and you know what? Just as mums and dads among you are telling your children the same thing, I didn’t listen and neither will they. It’s the human condition to believe that youth will last forever.

Thongs: You Decide. Comfy or Cheesewire? Pic credit: Contacto Ltd.

Anyway, back at the villa they’re basting in the sun and sitting around in skimpy swimwear. Can I just mention here that I never found thongs easy to wear – they seem to be back in fashion again but slicing a piece of string between your cheeks is Just.Not.Comfortable. This doesn’t seem to bother the holiday boys and girls though who spend their time occasionally kissing, often cutching, one time lapdancing. They’re in a spacious villa on Majorca (one of my favourite holiday islands), illuminated by festoon lights with plenty of shady places to sit, a terrace and a pool. But what’s keeping me ultimately interested and what I assume the 5 million other viewers also find compelling, is bystanding the emotional battlefield of these people’s lives as they try to navigate their way through their feelings and articulate their deepest insecurities. Yes, they look like they’re living a charmed existence - and certainly they’re unaffected by the cost of living crisis while they’re on this show - but their internal struggles resonate. And particularly for me, it’s the question: Why do many of us lose our identity when we become coupled-up?

Tasha, Love Island. Pic Credit: ITV

Take 23 year-old Tasha Ghouri. She wrestles with herself as to why she’s shut the door on the self-proclaimed ‘bad bitch side of herself’, the side with the sass, since embarking on a heartfelt relationship with nice boy Andrew, 27 - who, pretty much seems like a God among Men in emotional terms. Where were the boys like this when I was her age? He shows such sensitivity, encouraging Tasha to be true to herself, but also holding space for her to express her feelings. I loved it when he just let her cry and reveal she was anxious about opening up to someone because she wasn’t used to showing vulnerability. He doesn’t talk over her and reassures that there’s no-one else for him in there, while encouraging her to get to know other men in the villa, like posh boy Charlie (who’s now left), because that’s part of the process. Andrew cradles her close but doesn’t trap her.

Still, Tash chides herself that she’s become ‘gooey’ since getting with Andrew, which doesn’t seem to be of his doing, but she’s crying tears of frustration and wondering why she’s not being her louder, more confident self, a side she doesn’t want to lose. It’s a fear further compounded by the fact that she and Andrew twice ended up in the bottom six least popular Love Islanders as voted for by the public. ‘What are they seeing that I am not’ she wonders?  Actually we’re seeing a couple who seem to be really into each other and get on well, but that’s sweet not salacious for a TV programme. When Charlie asked Tasha on a date, it challenged her to examine what she actually wants for herself – does she want to commit to solid and safe Andrew (after two weeks) and risk experiencing feelings she’s never felt before (falling in love), or does she want to keep seeing if there’s someone else she has more of a spark with? Does being in a couple represent the end of self for her?

Now Tasha and the girls have been moved to an alternative villa called Casa Armor, where new boys have been introduced to see if they can ‘turn heads’ – break up any of the couples that have already been established. Will Tasha want to explore a connection with someone else?

And if she does, why shouldn’t she? Those are the rules of the game after all. And she’s only 23, outrageously attractive and on telly. She’s maybe glimpsed sight of a bigger world, one in which she’s still single but creating life on her own terms. Andrew seems smitten. He could be ‘the one.’ But what does that actually mean? Would Tasha be still be able to be her flirtatious self with him, or would it hurt him if she elicited attention from other men? Why shouldn’t she receive adoration from others – this natural allure, as we’ve discussed will not last forever and I sure wish I had made more of my time in the sun. Because I too often lose myself when in a committed relationship, and as a friend said today, in a couple one person always rules. In my experience it’s true.

Andrew, Love Island. Pic Credit: ITV

I can pinpoint the ten marriage years as the time I turned away from TV trash, because looking back, during that part of my life I also disengaged from the fun side of myself, the guilty-pleasure girl who lapped up Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity and who didn’t care who knew. I’m not saying anyone forced me to do that, but maybe it happened in an effort to meld with another and maybe I thought that being a two meant there was no room for a me.

Maybe ‘carefree Cath’ started to give over the floor to her husband, at parties, with friends,  in decision-making, because maybe the husband was so resolute in his views that it was easier to just give in. Maybe conventional wisdom rang in her ears; ‘pick your battles,’ ‘relationships are compromise’ and maybe deep down she had the belief that she was too headstrong, too selfish, a hothead and that was not required. A shrew to be tamed (nice one William Shakespeare). Somewhere, at some point she’d formed these views of herself and they’d stuck. Perhaps people had labelled her so, perhaps she’d watched films in which spirited women always end up with men who temper them. 

In time, I started living like a hologram. The visceral me, the me that had lived with me since childhood, during teenage years, student years, single years, was hidden deep inside; super-small, dormant, like a hibernating hedgehog, waiting to unfurl. I thought it was too much for men, too unattractive and if it came out to play, would be considered ‘loose’. Once I was ‘sent to Coventry’ for the best part of two years in sixth form, because I snogged another boy on holiday, came back and told my boyfriend at the time that I had felt ignored, so I went with someone else. Oh the wrath of the moral majority (of 16-17 year olds) who spurned me on the school bus for having the audacity to reject a boy who actually wasn’t giving me anything I wanted and never ever talked to me, even when I sat next to him down the pub watching him eat Cheese and Onion crisps.

So I’m into Love Island, not just for the glamour and the drama but also the way it makes me think about my own relationships. And I’m watching it for Tasha. But the difference between her experience and mine is that she’s articulating what’s going on and that is priceless. Her boyfriend is listening (as well as the show therapist). Hopefully she’ll manage to stay true to herself whatever she chooses from now on. And so, I hope, do I.


Thanks to my work with Muddy Stilettos (I’m the Wiltshire editor) I was asked to appear on BBC Radio Wiltshire in their regular voices slot as someone ‘interesting’ in the county, which really made me laugh but which was really flattering too. Before I left London, a former colleague at The Observer said I could become a ‘big fish in a small pond’ if I left the city (making that assumption that London is the big pond and THE REST OF THE COUNTRY is the small one). I guess this was one of those moments and it was going well until I realised that they song they’d chosen to play part-way through was “Okay Not to be Okay” by Demi Lovato and Marshmello which made me feel like they were having a right old pity party. Make a girl feel good about herself, why don’t you BBC! But if I’m going to talk honestly about my life, I guess these things are going to happen for better or worse and I was really pleased to be asked (I hope if they read this they’re not offended! I’d definitely do it again)

You can hear it on BBC Sounds on Radio Wiltshire, Wiltshire Live on 23rd June with David Smith. Starts at 24:24 minutes. It might delete after a month.


This month I’ve been really touched by friends online and IRL shouting me coffees and meals and tickets for things, I am so grateful I really am. If you are one of these I won’t forget. Support in tough times keeps me going.

I’ve also been bowled over since I started this just a month ago about how many people have sent me messages of encouragement or shared their own thoughts and experiences. I feel humbled by it.

In terms of what I’ve been doing to help myself financially I’ve:

  1. Sold some jeans on Depop (£30)

  2. Sold some jam jars on Facebook Marketplace (£12)

  3. Cancelled unnecessary app subscriptions

  4. Moved out of permanent rented accommodation and am housesitting. That’s the biggest saving albeit disorientating now I’m actually doing it.

  5. Counted my blessings of your donations

  6. Chanted some affirmations!


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