It seems like a natural enough state to me. The state of being who I am: woman, mother, writer, consultant.
The fact that I’m single?
If not for the media (and once upon a time, my mother, my grandmother, and a few nosy aunts), I would never think about it. I certainly wouldn’t consider mentioning my marital status unless someone is specifically asking for the purpose of knowing whether or not I’m romantically available.
My Single Years, My Married Years
I am the individual who learned to swim as a child and to draw, to speak French as a young teen and to kiss boys, to find my way around a foreign city with a map long before the GPS, and to ask questions when I was lost or simply needed information.
I was “single” as that person, and my status as single was irrelevant to who I was, what I discovered, what I contributed.
I am the woman who mastered a specific area of subject matter in my twenties and thirties, who learned about babies and toddlers and caring for children, who traveled back and forth across the Atlantic to see customers, who knew the security (and satisfaction) of a bimonthly direct deposit to my bank account for 20 years.
I was “single” for much of that time; I was married for much of that time. The difference?
The loss of “me” time. The way I was perceived. The way I perceived my priorities.
Life After Marriage = Single Life = Life!
I have been divorced for the past dozen or so years.
I am the same woman who loves to draw and swim (though I do so infrequently), I am the same woman who loves to travel (though there is little opportunity), I am the same woman who values earning my keep though I do so differently – and nothing is quite as reassuring as those salaried statements (of stability and worth) from the corporate world in which I once lived.
I am more at ease with myself, I own a new set of accomplishments, I master new skills, I take comfort in new friends, I continue to appreciate the pleasure of my given name having once exchanged it for a husband’s during the marital years.
I live in a different home, I drive a different car, I love a different man. Though I ponder relationships on a regular basis and seek to better understand marriage as well as other living arrangements, I am, as I always was, content with my single status. Life after marriage may mean widowhood or divorce; life single is nonetheless life! And in some ways, a life of relative freedoms, especially after years of raising children on one’s own.
Unlike many of my friends I never sought to be married. I assumed it might happen one day and it did; at a certain point I had stopped assuming any such thing and simply continued living my life “normally.”
And here we are a generation later as we continue to interrogate (and hound) the woman who is unmarried.
How To Get Married (or Find “The One”)
In an amusing and slightly bittersweet column on Huffington Post, Melanie Notkin (also known as Savvy Auntie) muses on her single status, and more specifically, the unsolicited advice she receives on HOW TO GET MARRIED.
And yes, I put that in caps because if I could (and perhaps I should?), I would emblazon it across the screen with a dotted line through the letters or better yet, a pattern of question marks, as HOW TO GET MARRIED remains the dictum, the prescription, the ultimate question (and goal), the Good Housekeeping Seal of (Feminine) Approval, as all well-meaning friends, neighbors, relatives, and strangers surprise us in their heated hankering to Marry Us Off, We the Poor Pitiful Singletons.
In “The One Sure Way to Get Married” Ms. Notkin writes:
Being single is seen as a chronic problem that needs to be solved and those who just had it solved want to share their secret, i.e. the secret to finding love and getting married.
Because after all, marriage is the goal, the acceptable state of affairs, the Happily Ever After we are all seeking, except when it’s not… oh, about half the time.
But not to worry if your first time out isn’t a keeper. You can learn from those Round 1 mistakes, whether a Starter Marriage or not, and get back up on that (blissful?) horse in the future with a nice round of Remarriage.
And if Number 2 doesn’t work out?
Love knows no bounds (nor does our desire to “believe,” it seems); we continue to fête those couples who tie the knot in their 70s, their 80s, their 90s…
Ms. Notkin continues:
Of course I believe there is love out there for me. The fact that I haven’t found it yet doesn’t mean it has eluded me forever.
I also believe that it simply hasn’t been my time yet. Perhaps I had to become who I am today, or will be tomorrow, to attract that right man into my life… maybe I’m just meant to have great moments of great love here and there. I have had those moments and they have been beautiful.
How To Get Married? What About How to Love?
Can we stop pressuring ourselves (and each other), and focus on those moments that are beautiful? Can we enjoy other extraordinary experiences that may involve breathtaking hikes through the woods, contributing to community, building a business, or creating a work of art?
What about learning how to love ourselves first, before unleashing our unrealistic expectations on an unsuspecting partner?
Ah yes, then we’re into the researchers’ latest preoccupation with marriage delays and the workplace, marriage and optimal age for bearing children, how many children should women in fact have (one is too few; four is too many).
Women Defining Women… Still
Are we there yet? Are we done telling women what defines them, what fulfills them, what provides the proper seal of approval? And are women judging and prescribing more than the men?
Why must we insist on the fairy tale of “the one” as we nudge our women to the alter, accept or dismiss them on marital status, and assume that everyone is better off when married off? What about those who thrive on their own? Those who are content to live together in the same home, or for that matter, to live apart though in a committed relationship?
I don’t regret my marriage. I loved parts of it, my children were conceived in it, I learned a great deal about who I am and who I am not, though I have learned even more in the years since. But I am who I am – like Popeye? – with or without a ring on my finger as the symbol of commitment, of social acceptability, of having been “chosen.”
And that’s the kicker. A woman is “good enough” when she is chosen. And then she’s really good enough when she has two children, possibly three – and steels herself for the next round of debates: stay home, go to the office, run a business, start a business…
You May Also Enjoy