With the sky darkened to a dreary gray, sagging temperatures and speckles of stray rain drops splayed across my window it feels like summer is over. This mourning of missed beach outings (didn't make it out once this summer), roof-top parties (again, didn't host a one) and summer loves (nary an opportunity) has imposed an especially contemplative mood upon me. Before I left for San Diego I mentioned that I avoid discussing the lonlieness of single life. However, that feeling of something lacking has been resting pretty solidly in the pit of my stomach for days, perhaps weeks, leaving me no choice but to purge it through writing. Forgive the self-pity and jumbled emotions which are sure to follow once I indulge myself in unplugging this tiny hole that is most assuredly damming a reservoir of pent-up, not for public viewing feelings.
Today, with the weather, I am mourning not just my singleness but the vast perpetuity of it that is stretched out ahead of me. For, I don't regret the experience I have gained in my solitary past, I just long for a more crowded future. The rain and cooler temperature is a hint that soon it will be winter. The long, cold winter. But at least I know that eventually spring will come and blossoms appear and soon I am sweating again in the hazey humidity of a New York summer. For the better part (and I mean that literally) of my adult life I have been single with one minor detour that feels like it may have happened to another person. Before I press on I feel compelled to defensively spill out all the things I love about being single and how little I regret and all of the incredible opportunities I have had to travel, work and live that would not have been available had I remained married at a young age or even, perhaps re-married when the opportunity presented itself (and it did, a couple of times). But that isn't what this is about.
This post is devoted to that pit in my stomach. The one that whispers in my ear that I am single because I am too outspoken, too head-strong, not as thin as I used to be, don't wear the right clothes, don't have the right friends, not churchy enough, etc., etc., etc. I believe we all have that voice that whispers nonsense in our ear that echoes throughout our head until it is defeating and deflating. On occasion I manage to banish the pit and beat out the voices and relish in my own high opinion of myself or I am buoyed up by the compliments of others. Compliments from others being a key reassuring factor. But then I am standing in front of my closet half-dressed searching for the magic outfit to appear, something that manages to be both comfortable and flattering, current and stylish, sexy and understated and the clothes pile up on my bed because nothing is quite right - nothing I wear is going to catch me a boyfriend or husband. I wander off to this party or that dinner out of obligation or in response to that voice in my head that repeats "you'll never meet anyone at home on the couch", already self-conscious and knowing I won't meet anyone in this manner either but unsure of what action on my part will set me off on the right track.
I know a spouse does not give you self-confidence or love for yourself and in my experience, a spouse can actually steal these things from you with a simple look or a handful of words. But I can only scrape up the idea that I am attractive off the floor so many times without extrnal confirmation before I give up and allow it to trickle out until I am empty looking at the mirror agreeing that without losing 5 to 10 pounds and a new haircut, I am banished to live out my days solo. But then I am reminded that 5, 10, 15 even 20 pounds ago I didn't meet anyone either so there must be something more fundamentally lacking. Although there were a lot more external attempts to help me end my singleness in those days - boyfriends weren't as far and few between. But I know that it isn't about weight, I just don't know what it is about.
So I delve deeper and question more. It isn't simply a lack of dates (I don't even like dating) or a boyfriend (I do like those), it is the absence of connection and understanding. I don't have someone to be silly with, to take risks with, to be "out there" with. Meaning, I no longer have single friends - male or female. At the risk of insulting any stray reader out there who may be single and consider herself my friend . . . I lack connection and investment. I like many of the people I associate with but it seems mutual that there is a limit, a natural divide neither of us wishes to bridge. Perhaps it is my fault, I may have stopped searching for a "best friend" in whom I can confide because I have so many of them. I am very lucky to have a long list of very dear friends (most of whom are my readers, thank you!). But each of them, each of you, my friends, are married. Most with children. I could not be happier for you. But I miss the ease of spending time with a long-time friend where background to a story or an explanation of my idiosyncrasies is no longer required. You long ago accepted me. Even my friends in New York who I considered my "new" friends (over 6 years long now) have moved on into marriage (or long-time co-habitation). Our lifestyles are separated, our interests divergent.
On Saturday I sat in the temple sealing room as people filed into their chairs and we awaited the arrival of the bride and groom. Suddenly I felt out of place, a misfit. I felt awkward and had a sudden compulsion to flee. Showing up as an odd number creates challenges in even-numbered seating created for pairs. My happily married brother was on my left with his wife expecting their first child. The room was full of other smiling couples anxious to accept this beautiful couple into their ranks. Now, I realize there were others there who were also single - the bride's brother, a bridesmaid, the groom's brothers and possibly others. I also realize everything isn't always as it seems and all smiling couples are not always happy couples. But I felt utterly alone in my singleness. Standing in the atrium after the ceremony my sister-in-law commented on how beautiful the ceremony was and I felt selfish and detached because everything I heard felt exclusionary and hurt.
My sweet brother and his wife have been living in separate cities this summer, only spending weekends with the occasional week together. This was one of their precious weekends together. By Saturday I felt conspicuously like a self-imposed third-wheel sharing a hotel, rental car and itinerary with them when they just needed time alone. I can't blame them for wanting to be alone but I felt unwanted and allowed myself to pick a fight with my brother when I could sense him trying to restrain his frustration with me. At the reception that night I could not fight back my insecurities when questions of whether I should have come at all pelted me throughout the evening. When the dj invited all married couples onto the dance floor my heart broke a little and I steeled myself against tears. I felt singled out, conspicuously alone at my table with a couple of teen-age girls. I tried dancing when the music sped up but I often felt out of place when the only person I really knew on the dance floor was the groom (with whom I did manage to have a treasured brief conversation that reassured me of why I had come). I couldn't get into it, I couldn't shake a feeling of conspicuousness. Then came the call for the bouquet toss. Never have I dreaded this tradition as much as I did that night. After some prompting I stood to make my way to the clearing on the dance floor and I felt Cinco's hand patting me on the back urging me to "get up there." One bridesmaid, the three young girls from our dinner table, a couple of little girls and another woman possibly my age but looking more mid- to late-twenties stood in a couple of lines facing the brides back, I was definitely the oldest until an older (close to 60) woman stormed the reluctant crew. I did not catch the bouquet. I stood in the back of the group until it was over and I could retreat to my table. Throughout the night and the weekend I caught myself thinking or even vocalising thoughts and feelings about how I would like my own wedding to proceed all the while doubting it would ever happen.
At the zoo and at Sea World I watched parents herding their children along and listened to comments and observations by kids (my favorite was at the polar bear display: "mommy, why is this glass here?") and wondered if that would ever be me. For years I have had this overwhelming feeling that it will not be. I cannot banish that feeling, I have tried. For the most part I live with it, forget about it and come up with ways to challenge myself and create adventures. Right now I am lucky to have my sister to share my travel adventures with but she is engaged and although it seems like her engagement is some sort of never ending limbo state (sorry Erin, but it does), I realize at some point she will get married and our joint travels won't be the same.
Ultimately, I feel we are meant to be in pairs. Or at least, I feel I am meant to be part of a pair and without my match I am a bit misfit for many things, like attending weddings.