"Oh I'm so sorry." Why on earth do you feel sorry for me because I'm single?
One of my favorite writers, actually several of them, has started to fall out of favor with me on a few different platforms because of the constant harping about being single and/or childless. They have every right to opine about their condition. It feels, to me at least, as though it's less about dealing with the inevitabilities of middle-aged womanhood sans children and more about wringing every available penny out of hand-wringing.
I could be wrong. Won't be the first time, but this is how it lands for me.
Wailing sells. It also sends me running, including from myself, when I do go down that road. I'll come back to that in a bit.
Over my many years on the planet, and I am about to celebrate seventy in January, too many of them were focused on gaining approval, attention, and most especially that of the opposite sex. Most of that didn't work, if marriage were the sole end product. If so then I failed miserably, for with rare exceptions, most of my life has indeed been spent single.
I've done my fair share of wailing about it. Didn't make a damned bit of difference.
I worked incredibly hard to Be All That, especially as it related to Getting the Man. Recently I showed this old photo to a friend who has been married- very happily- for thirty years. She was duly impressed. She also assumed, simply on the basis of how I look in this photo (I was in my late fifties) that I had men falling all over me.
Nothing could possibly have been further from the truth:
I'll bet more than a few of you fellow females, no matter what your partner preferences, can relate. Much of my life I've been told that I'm fairly attractive, so...
why aren't you married yet?
As if, of course, being vaguely attractive were the only consideration. For some I suppose it is, albeit when Time does her thing, it sure helps to have a personality.
It's almost 2023, marriage is still sold as the ONLY worthy achievement for a woman. Let's disregard whether or not said marriage is successful, loving, respectful or much of anything else.
The acquisition of The Ring above all else trumps love, happiness or, well, anything for that matter. We women are dangerous, uncontrolled, and dishonest (hence the monumentally insulting "make an honest woman out of her") unless we are roped in by a ring, corralled and controlled by a contract. I'm disgusted that we are still discussing this stupid shit.
In my rural citrus home town of Winter Haven, Florida, in the late 1960s we high school girls would yak incessantly about getting a man, a husband. We all agreed on the single most important thing: he had to wear a suit.
I guess in the land of flip flops, Coppertone sun lotion and shorts, someone who wore a suit had gravitas.
The unattainable target of my affections at the time was an athletic, attractive guy named Brad. Of course he was. I was beneath his notice, but I had hopes.
These days said Brad is morbidly obese. He's also doing time for embezzlement of city funds. He wears a suit all right. It's bright orange.
Dodged the bullet on that one.
One of my favorite movies, Pride and Prejudice, speaks vividly to the One Ring worship, with sincere apologies to Gandalf. Intemperate flirt Lydia Bennett, whose licentious behavior besmirches the family name when she runs off with the known libertine Mr.Wickham, marches home in triumph now that she is married. At fifteen, she is wed before all her other sisters, therefore a success, even at the cost of deep embarrassment to the entire brood, especially her parents.
Lydia flashes her ring to the family and anyone who will attend, yammering like a Yorkshire terrier, completely unaware that her future home life will be a terror.
Marriage is ever sold as the Arrival. Every Disney fairy tale I watched growing up ended with the wedding.The ring was the be-all, end-all. That's brainwashing at its best. Still is.
When we buy this bullshit story, we allow society, and most especially the patriarchal rules of said society, to determine not only our worth but our worthlessness if we discard said rules.
However with each generation, said rules are changing. They didn't change fast enough during my lifetime, but this is one arena where social media might actually do some good.
Fellow Medium writer Bella DePaulo is, like me, single at 69. This article speaks to my own consistent experience over the years:
DePaulo writes, with her usual forthrightness, that she is quite open about her age, proud of it really, especially when she's around couples. Imagine. What that brings up for me - since I share both age and single status with DePaulo- that you and I can be damned proud of our age when we aren't being terrified of being on the dating market and deemed too old.
In a million different ways, that alone is a get-out-of-jail card.
Being single by choice, and not feeling any need whatsoever to compete with anyone for a swinging dick or whatever partner we may desire is such a gift. DePaulo has written multiple books on this topic, all worth reviewing if you are now, or about to be, single. From where I perch, given that I have long since stretched out my single wings, it has turned out to be wonderful.
As Americans are now full-bore into silly season (I am currently in Valparaiso, Chile, where there is scant evidence of holidays, a nice respite), feelings of being unmoored are amplified when parties are full of couples and kids. There are always the gentle nods, concerned looks, and as DePaulo writes, well, stories about how so-and-so found someone at 65 SO THERE'S STILL HOPE.
There's still hope that you will shut the F- up about my single status, Uncle Dildo.
The gift DePaulo has, and which again I share, is that I no longer hope. Not only is that a fool's journey, the truth is that a life lived well on its own terms is enough. The more I pined for A Man, the less happy I was. What we focus our attention upon, grows. That pining was a distraction from what I did have, which was plenty. We don't get that time back.
That is precisely what I am reading in some of the material by people who are approaching what apparently feels to them as a tombstone in the form of a Certain Age.
To that, then, I offer up a few perspectives. A while back I tagged this series of articles curated by Corrie Evanoff:
Some of the stories point out that singleism, DePaulo's term, can also be racist in nature. Sadly, like so many policies meant to benefit a specific group, tax laws aimed at primarily benefiting White families ring true.
Demographics, in spite of all the tax laws and advantages given to couples and all the rest, are changing. At some point, the married (just like the Whites) will be a minority in America. One can only hope, wish and pray for elected officials young and single enough to rewrite badly-outmoded laws which dun those who opt out of traditional marriage and choose to explore life on different terms.
In all fairness to those writers whose material has been awash in self-pity lately, there is legitimate reason to mourn. For women for whom marriage and child-bearing were central dreams, it's important to give ourselves permission to have wanted, but not had, a particular kind of life.
That said, I am not sure all the public hand-wringing is helpful to those for whom being single and childless is a reality, or about to be a reality. Those folks are hungry for role models, just as I was, of people who were able to carve out an extraordinary life without being joined at the hip with a partner. All that agonizing of the awfulness of being single in the first place reinforces the false notion of the crime of a womb that has, gasp, failed to produce progeny.
Still, that's not for me to say, nor judge. Kids were never my path. I'd have liked to have had a loving partner, so might many of us, but that also wasn't my path. I am done with those who give me the appraising once-over and state with all the witless wisdom of Those Whose Advice Wasn't Solicited, that I don't look THAT bad, after all. Someone out there might want me.
Still, at 69, the gauge is my looks. I didn't look bad at 64:
and even then, people simply assumed that I had a herd of men chasing me all the time.
Nope. Never did. These days, it's even less likely, with the possible exception of bill collectors.
Look, I don't have answers. There is so much gender fluidity and fast-moving change in how we view sexuality, partnering and what family actually looks like. That is of course opposed to how so many far-righters want desperately to return to 1954 (including everything regarding race but I digress).
Being single is a gift. It's an opportunity to come to terms with the Sacred Self. That's ever so much more important with social media and marketing invading every single (pun intended) intimate space we possess. It's time we re-appropriated those spaces.
To that, here's one of my favorite articles from the above curated collection:
Here in Valparaiso, I will have lunch this weekend with the family who guided me for eight incredible days in the Atacama Desert. That is a place of such stupendous solitude and silence that part of me is still reeling, not just from the beauty but from wanting badly to return to it already. Being single allowed me to go on that trip.
Having lived single most of my life also prepared me for the long long hours with only the clink of horses' hooves on slices of baked rock for company. The chatter inside my head slowly died down the farther away I got from social media and screens. After a while, I found a peace so profound that I am still having a hard time being back in what we we euphemistically call "civilization."
I love being alone. I love being single.
Those do not preclude friends, love, sex, adventure. Being old and single in a society which has criminalized aging as well as being solo presents its own challenges. All we can do is prepare like sober, competent people for an increasingly adversarial time with societal prejudices.
Add skin color to the equation of being old and single, and the difficulty skyrockets.
We need role models and guideposts. Not handwringers and wailers. I suspect many of us, this author included, need our own version of Ashton Applewhite as we wade into the waters ahead. Truth, we need to see that warrior in our bathroom mirror.
So please. Don't pity me-or anyone else-for being single. Don't insult either my intelligence or my choice of lifestyle by pointing out that I'm not yet so old and ugly that Some Man might take pity and take me in. As if that's all I think about, pine for.
Kindly, what I pine for right now is to be through with my surgeries so that I can start training for a return to Mongolia next summer.
I celebrate being single, alone, and able to spend plenty of time with my Sacred Self. With any hope that will pay off in my being far better company when and if I do hang out with others.
If you're single, I don't feel sorry for you at all.
You are in excellent company.
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