February 2017

Love and the Single Adult

Author: Denise K. James

We might not talk about it, but if we’re over the age of 30 and single, we’ve likely reviewed the reasons why. Reasons such as, we accidentally dumped our soul mate a few years back when he or she put on weight or changed medications. We have some “self growth” to accomplish before finding The One. We’re too intelligent/short/loud to attract the opposite sex. We stay at home too often or aren’t in enough kayak clubs.

I can’t speak for men since I’m not one, but from a female perspective, older and unmarried screams inadequacy for many. If I had a dollar for the number of pitying looks, the well-meant stories of those who met their partners “later in life” and other comments I’ve encountered as the token single person at my friends’ kids’ birthday parties, holiday dinners and other events, I could probably buy my own island.

It’s a weird catch-22 whenever I run into the married women at these parties. They know I have freedom to do whatever I want, and they know that their spouses are sometimes a pain in the neck, yet they feel good about looking “normal” in our society. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out the reasons why marriage, any marriage, is a much-desired mark of adulthood. Here are a few of my conclusions:

1. Capitalism. With two incomes, we can purchase more cars, more vacations, more two-ply cashmere and more organic food items.

2. Religion. And it’s not just the “no hanky-panky before you’re wed” warning. It’s the fact that if you stroll into just about any place of worship, especially in these parts, you see families and hear about ways to “enrich” family life.

3. Entertainment. Throw a party as part of a couple and you’re a chic host or hostess with a great wine collection and a knack for braising your own meat. Throw a party as a single person and you’re just a party animal with a liquor stash.

4. Old age. Isn’t this one obvious? Who will you lean on, complain to and sit on a bench in the park with during your later years if you have no one?

5. Even vs. odd. People prefer even numbers. Snack cakes and hot dog buns come in multiples of two. Noah had an even ark. Appointments are set in times ending in zero. And if you’re alone, you are disturbing the evenness of the universe.

With all of those reasons to get hitched, I believe our culture has become dangerously comfortable with the “something is better than nothing” mindset, particularly after a certain age, which I’ve reached. Is it better for me to show up at a dinner party or event with a guy who doesn’t give me butterflies—the guy who is three inches shorter than me and is unable to carry on a conversation—rather than to show up by myself? Some would argue yes.

But as of right now, I’m saying no to that whole miserable philosophy, and I’d like for you other single folks to join me. Disclaimer: I’m over the moon for those of you who have actually found true love. Good for y’all! But I urge those who haven’t found it to stop faking and stop the cultural hoop jumping. If the great universe decides to bring us mates, that’s wonderful. But I’m not just marrying a buddy because I’m in my mid-thirties and time is wasting. That’s a recipe for unhappiness.

Furthermore, I’ve decided that my life as a single gal, solo as it is, is not so different from the lives of couples. For example, every morning I decide whether I want to stay in bed, snuggle and be lazy or leap out of the covers, make coffee and get on with the day. Then I look into the mirror and figure out whether I still find myself attractive. After that, I go to work in order to support my one-person family, and I either take myself out to dinner that evening or stay in, save money and plan my future vacation. In my spare time, I hang out with close friends and their families, take walks and call relatives. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Beyond the daily grind, I, too, think about what’s best for my future and—and here’s the kicker—work on love. Really, that’s what everyone is doing all the time: working on being better at loving someone. Whether it’s a spouse, a child, a neighbor, a pet, a relative or the self, none of us gets a break from the lifelong occupation of learning to love.

When I was younger (approximately last week), I struggled with loving myself. Even worse, I ignored the dilemma for years, choosing instead to mask it with casual social engagements and boyfriends I knew I would eventually dump, all so I would never have to be alone. But now, being alone is happening. It had to eventually, because that’s the kind of love I needed to work on. Maybe some of you needed work on loving nature, so you moved out to the country. Maybe you needed to work on loving others, so getting married and having children is giving you the opportunity to do just that. I believe that whatever work we need to do for love, our lives will present us with it.

So, my fellow single ladies and gentlemen, here is my advice for the next time we arrive at the party with no visible date and an acquaintance suggests that we “branch out” in hopes of finding someone to love and marry. Tell them (politely) that you’ve already found someone to love. Say that it’s a daily challenge, for sure, but that it’s going really well. Then smile and take a sip of your drink. 

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