We enter the world single; we leave it single. And, in my case, in-between, I’ve lived it single.
A single life is not for everyone anymore than marriage is. But it’s easier to divorce yourself, to begin again without the baggage of another person. In fact, discovering who you are, taking risks in business and careers, is, in my opinion, a responsibility of being single. It’s a gift.
Had I family to support, I never would have quit a 20-year career in education to pursue my interest in the arts and to open my own studio. I never would have sold my home. I never would have given away my possessions. But that’s exactly what I did. Not just because I could (and, no, it wasn’t easy) but, in some ways because I felt compelled. The ensuing 13 years were the most productive, artistic and happiest of my life. I discovered talents I never had.
Creativity and singleness go together, I think. I guard my free time alone and at home. It has taken some doing, but I have my family and friends trained: never come over unannounced. I don’t like phones; I’ll call you, don’t call me. In fact, I no longer have a landline. I no longer have a cell phone. I make all of my outgoing calls using the computer. My environment is uninterrupted. It, too, is single.
It has been my experience that married people are quite jealous of those who are single. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this: “You only have yourself to worry about.”
Well, yea. But what does that mean? I made a choice of “I don’t” just the same as you’ve made a choice of “I do.” What I often hear between the lines is “I’m jealous. I have to work harder than you.”
People have outright told me, “You’re selfish.” Often, my own mother.
My older brother and youngest sister are now divorced. I can’t think of anything more selfish than taking back a promise or a vow, especially when children are involved. My decisions affect me. And me alone. That’s a good thing. Not a selfish trait. And I’ve seen a myriad of friends go through the onslaught of divorce because one of the partners is, essentially, quite selfish and not selfless. Children suffer a parent’s selfishness. Forever.
For singles, holidays are mind boggling. What once had as it roots ecclesiastical or religious days of observance, has morphed into a kind of corrupt consumerism. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Passover--have all become less to do with the initial observance and more to do with “family” and capitalism. Even Halloween.
“You only have yourself to worry about!” my mother screams. Once, my father tried using the tactic. I questioned him on it: “Oh, so you do your own laundry? You do your own ironing? You fold clothes and put them away? You go to the market and do your own cooking? You clean up and wash dishes? You clean? You dust? You vacuum?” You manage the household checkbook? It was never brought up again.
The first holiday I spent alone, Thanksgiving, was a revelation. I was actually a bit nervous about it. But it was sheer bliss. Quiet. Undisturbed. Single people laugh at those who feel sorry for singles without some sort of family destination around the holidays. The joke is on them. Again, I think it’s a jealous thing. “How dare you spend the day alone and in solitude while we have to go through hell!” They transfer their anger to the false belief that the single person must be, just has to be, miserable, too. Far from it.
My first holiday with friends and not family was beyond “normal.” I felt grown-up and mature. There were no children. None--with which we now validate holidays. The conversation was easy and polite. Political and social. The dinner gracious and delicious. I had escaped the paradigm of crazy family. I was acting on my own. Responsibly.
Once, my father gave me some money to use for my business. It was an unusual gesture on his part and I felt guilty taking it. But a client questioned me and put it into perspective.
“Do you have children? he asked. When I replied “No,” he chuckled. “You’re a bargain, then. A real bargain. What your father gave to you is nothing compared to what they spend on all the other grandchildren. Trust me on this one.”
Do I feel marginalized as a single person? Yes, often. Our economy is now run according to a “two-earner” income. Imagine that! How and exactly when did that transformation take place? No one really ever discussed it or its ramification. For singles, a “coupled economy” is difficult. Very difficult. It would be interestiing to see statistics concernining the burst of the housing market and how married families vs. singles affected it.
And singles are often viewed as “quirky,” “unusual” and somehow different, as though we were all witches with a sinister agenda. Or, on the other extreme, we’re viewed as hedonistic and promiscuous.
It has been my experience that “singles take care of singles.” Often, singles weave close networks with other singles to create close support groups. People flourish in such environments. Unfortunately, families too often feel compelled to interfere when an individual is faced with a monetary or health crisis. The solution is to pull that person from its “family.” It never ends well.
I gave up my quest for “the call to be coupled” a long time ago. It took me ages to figure out that by even responding to it, I was just “trying to fit in.” I even had a house. A house! One day I looked around and said to myself, “Why do I need all this work? What’s the point? Why am I trying to make myself into something I’m not?” I lived in suburbia which I hated. Because I was single, I was also a “threat” to married couples. I found nothing appealing or nurturing about any of it. So I left. I've never looked back.