Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Single Life

My anniversary is Tuesday. That means for the past 8 years, I have not been a single woman. I never had to be a single woman living on my own, as my husband and I got married in college. I went from living with my family to living in a dorm to being married. I really have never been alone and I often find it hard to relate to those who are single adults. Most of my single adult friends do not live locally, so I read their blogs or catch up on facebook and that is the extent of our conversation unless we happen to get together for dinner or an afternoon during an out of town trip. If I think about it, though, I am sure I can come up with more than one single friend here in town, some of whom I avoid talking to because I just don't know what to say. And so, as I was blog reading this morning, I came across an article one of my single friends posted and I gained some new insight. It's a little lengthy, but worth it.

What I'd like you to know: A Single Adult

The year I turned 30, my birthday happened to fall on Father’s Day. A few days before the combined event, I phoned my dad to tell him I wouldn’t make the three hour drive home to visit. I had just recently moved back to the city of my youthful stomping grounds after 3 years away, and I was the first of my friends to hit the big 3-0.

Dad graciously understood, and asked “So, how old are you this year?”

“Thirty.” I replied.

“Oh.” He sighed, and paused. “I never thought you would be an old maid.”

I know what you’re thinking. But coming from my dad, I wasn’t offended. I knew that in his generation, that was the plain truth. Moreover, I knew that he was really saying, “I can’t believe some man hasn’t snapped up my charming, smart and attractive daughter.”

Eight years later, I’m still not married, and still have no children. I am sure that many people I encounter see an old maid. Of course they don’t say it in as many words as my dad. They show it instead.

They show it when they say, “Not married? Oh, you must be picky.”

I hear it when others, incredulous, refuse to take it as fact. “Just kidding.” I want to say in such cases, “ I am married. Don’t worry. I’m normal.”

I think the inability to categorize me makes some people uncomfortable. If I were divorced, they could make sense of it. Were I a single mom, I’d find sympathy and compassion. But by admitting my single, never married, no-child status is akin to announcing there is something wrong with me. I’m reasonably attractive, funny and pass for intelligent, so people are only left to ponder my fatal flaws. Some people actually ask, “So what’s wrong with you?”

Our society sort of views marriage as a given. A rite of passage. When I read news accounts of a young woman or even a child who died tragically, her parents inevitably say “I’ll never walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. I’ll never hold her children.” It is assumed that everyone who was born will marry and have children. I assumed I would too. When it just doesn’t happen, knowing that it is expected of us only deepens the pain.

That is why it is so hurtful when it is suggested to a single person that they “must be picky.” As if we can just pick a guy and get married. After all, did you settle? Now you’re suggesting that you could have married just anyone. Would you have had as successful a marriage if you had ended up with one of your exes? As much as I long for marriage, I sure am glad I didn’t marry any of the men in my life so far.

That’s the trick about marriage as a goal. It’s not like learning to dance, or committing to losing weight. It doesn’t take will power to find a mate. It takes a mate. It takes a miracle. Oh, that I could just go to the store and pick one up!

True, single for some people is a choice. For those of us who truly desire marriage and children and family, it is not. Marriage is a vocation that two people agree to take on together. I can’t do it by myself. I learned, in just the last two months that I can’t make someone love me. No matter how much I love him, or how strong in faith he might be. Not even that our shared faith made us both stronger. No matter how happy we are together until all the Ifs and Buts step in.

And the simple fact of the matter is, I’ve never been asked.

That alone makes me question my womanhood and my desirability. It’s a very uncomfortable place. I am a woman who desperately desires motherhood. My clock is tocking not ticking. I am very aware that my best reproductive years are over.

What not to say

Please don’t remind a single woman that her chances for a healthy baby are diminishing every year she is over 30. But also, please do not try to encourage us with stories of women who successfully bore children well into their 50s. All of this is completely irrelevant to a woman without a husband or serious boyfriend.

While we’re on the topic, yes, I know adoption is an option. I am adopted myself and believe that adopted babies are indeed the best kind. If I were blessed with marriage, adoption would defiantly be a consideration. But adoption is as far out there as infertility treatments when there is no man in your life.

You’ll find him when you’re not looking

I’m never not looking. Yes, my life is full and happy. But I am a mother without a child. I am a wife without a husband. I want my other half. Think of the loss you would feel if your husband or child suddenly were not there. I feel, not daily, but often, that an important part of my life is missing.

And by the way… dating after age 30 is not fun. It is a chore, like scrubbing the bathtub but less rewarding. It’s hard to look forward to dinner and disappointment. I want to anticipate a nice evening, but this much experience has taught me what to look for in a man – and more often than not, it’s not there.

In the meantime, sometimes I just want to dote my pent-up motherhood on your kids. It’s probably terribly inappropriate, but I will snuggle your baby and sniff its’ head to soak up that sweet smell. I’ve been guilty of tickling and twirling a smiling baby until it spits up. Sorry. I will nosh on your toddlers’ chubby legs and lift his shirt to plant a raspberry, just so I can hear that throaty, from-the-gut baby giggle that makes my heart sing. If it’s no trouble, please just indulge me. (I promise not to do that to your husband.)

Seeing women my age or younger with kids in tow – can stir a pang of deep pain. I once called my church office to ask when Baptisms were scheduled, as I needed to avoid them. Second Sunday of the month, I would attend a different church just so I didn’t have to see the happy couples with their beautiful babies.

That’s another point. Church is no place for a single woman. Church is all about family. That’s why you see so few single adults there. It’s not that they no longer believe, the fact is they don’t feel welcome. When your pastor asks you reach out to share a blessing, do you turn to your family first? I stand there waiting for a hand to embrace.

I worry this writing might sound all bitter and lonely and sad. I am happy. I am blessed with an incredible network of friends. My family is amazing. I enjoy my single life to the best of my ability. People remind me that marriage is not easy. I remind them; neither is being single.

Oddly, Barb in last week’s post on Empty Nesting provided me a point to expound upon. She wrote:

“Life is a circle. You flow from one stage to the next. And with a little time, you become comfortable with the newest stage.” --Barb, A Chelsea Morning

For a perpetually single person, that’s not so. My life is a wandering squiggly line – darting in and out of other people’s circles. Everyone else is buzzing along on a predictable cycle but there is no circle of life in my world. There are no ‘stages’ for me to move through, save the aging process.

I am not Less Than

I realize I may sound contradictory – as I have already pointed out here that I feel a part of me is missing. But I am a whole person. Perhaps I have not yet realized that God intends for me to be alone, and that to Him I am complete and not in need of a husband. I’m still working on trusting God’s divine providence.

What I mean to emphasize is that you need not view me as pathetic and alone. I am not waiting for my life to begin. Marriage is not going to make my life worth living. My life is worthy now. I’m just a little lonely.

Invite me over to play with your kids while you tackle the laundry. Seriously.

Think about introducing me to someone. Don’t wait until you find the ‘perfect guy’ for me. It’s just nice to meet people. You never know who they might lead you to!

If you do make an introduction, don’t make a big fuss. Don’t tell either of us you’re setting it up. Just put us in the same room. If we’re interested, we’ll figure it out. But feel free to point out after the fact, that you introduced me to so-and-so if sparks did not fly.

Pray for single adults. There are ministries for single moms, working moms, elderly widows/widowers, and petitions for the sick. But when does society reach out to the single? Pray that your single friends might daily, feel the love of God and of their friends and neighbors in a tangible way.

Invite your single friends for a meal. We’ll help prepare. I attend my church’s weekly fish fry during Lent – even though I’m allergic to fish. My priest teased me until I explained at home, I have to eat alone.

Keep in touch with your single friends. They’re not out tearing it up and having orgies. We’re not out to steal your husband. Sometimes we just want to experience the hum of a household with a family. Look for things in common with single adults. We might not share your challenges, but we can still relate.


J said...

I agree with this blogger, I was single until I was 27. Unlike her, I actually didn't feel incomplete or want to be a mom, though. Let me tell you, it is equally weird to be 30 and married but not have children. Everyone also thinks there is something wrong. Can you send me her blog address on email, do you think she would mind?

Angie said...

I read this post with tears in my eyes. I don't know who wrote it, but I feel very close to her.

Except about the