I’m Single. And I’m Celebrating.

A change of scene -- but not a writer's retreat.

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. A change of scene — but not a writer’s retreat.

Happy Unmarried and Single Americans Week! Little known fact: since the 1980s, the third full week of September was designated to mark the contributions of the 105 million people who don’t fit neatly into any one census category.  I haven’t received any “Congratulations on still being single” cards, but this year I decided to celebrate. Call it a non-commitment ceremony: After decades of seeking “the one”  — or being told that he’ll turn up, home invader-style, when I’m off guard —  I hereby proudly proclaim my devotion to living solo.

Why now?

Writing a memoir has led me to conclude that I’m temperamentally disposed to being single, but going public about it was inspired, ironically, by this spring’s Supreme Court decision upholding gay marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s paean to the institution of marriage in his majority opinion –“No union is more profound than marriage for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” — deeply annoyed me, as it did many others, gay and straight. The right to choose matrimony is a question of fairness; so is the right to reject marriage and other traditional relationships without being deemed a loser.

Relationship envy?

Some people are born to live solo, as I believe I was. Some people have singleness thrust upon them and learn to love it — or else they don’t. There are a thousand ways to be single, yet those in that state are often lumped into one category.

Couples, for example, tend to think that singles envy them. Some of us do; I would wager that just as many of us don’t. Many of us, in fact, pity our unhappily linked friends though we are too polite to tell them, in spite of their condescension towards us. But when we talk amongst ourselves, we laugh about those who whine for hours about a significant other — and then offer to set us up with one of his friends. 

We know that many people are happy in relationships, however they are configured, but that it’s often hard work to maintain a good balance. We applaud the achievement, if only because we singles hate nothing more than having to socialize with squabbling couples. But don’t get a strain patting yourselves on the back. Were it not for society’s tendency to shame singles, more of us might achieve similarly sanguine states, and with far less inner turmoil.

Speaking for myself

I married when I was 21 and too cowardly to move out of my parents’ apartment without the excuse of matrimony. On some level I knew, going in, that what I wanted was to have been married, present perfect tense. That way I could check off the “D” box on forms rather than face the spinster stigma — even if the term itself was going out of fashion.

Six years later, when I told my mother I was getting divorced, she asked about my ex: “Did he find another woman?” “No,” I said. “Did you find another man?” “Nope.” “Did you find another woman?” I was shocked. My straight-laced European mother found it easier to conceive of me being a lesbian than to imagine that I would choose to be on my own.

Unlike my mother — apparently —  I don’t think people should be defined by who they have sex with, but it’s an important part of many lives. Good news: You don’t need to be in a committed relationship to have it, though women of my generation — including me — often felt too guilty to admit that. In fact, I enjoyed sleeping with my ex much more after we split up. And as Gloria Steinem said, age brings the advantage of a dwindling libido: “The brain cells that used to be obsessed are now free for all kinds of great things.”

Me and Greta Garbo

Garbo, in 1931's Inspiration. She never married, had no children, and lived alone as an adult

Garbo, in 1931’s “Inspiration.” She never married, had no children, and lived alone as an adult. Picture via Wikimedia Commons.

I love living alone. Aside from the six years I spent cohabiting with my husband, I have never had a house mate. I’ve paid a lot more in rent than I would have if had been willing to share a space, but it was worth it to me to avoid interacting with others when I don’t want to. Even more, I feared co-operative household chores. I wash the dishes when I like. Or not. Ditto house cleaning and cooking, which I don’t enjoy. If you invite me to a potluck, I will bring beer, wine, or dessert.

Or, more likely, I’ll just avoid going. My social life is as active as I want it to be — which is often not very, by design. I’m a writer. I live in my head a lot of the time.

Canine companionship

My dog Madeleine provides me with as much companionship and uncomplicated love as I could want. I am devoted to her care, but I don’t think of her as a child surrogate. I’ve longed for a dog since I was young, but I never particularly wanted children.

Years ago, on assignment, I went to an energy healer in Sedona. She told told me that I needed to get in touch with my feminine side. I wasn’t insulted, though I was a bit annoyed at the stereotype. If those proclivities are gender based — and I tend to think they are as wide ranging as sexuality —  I seem to be missing both the domestic and maternal genes. Being single spares me the disapproval of couples who think it’s selfish not to procreate.

As a result of getting a dog, and starting a dog blog, I found a wonderful online community of like-minded folks, many of whom have become friends in real life (yes, in spite of my hermit-like tendencies, I have friends). I find pet bloggers far more interesting than mommy bloggers, but I’m a bit biased.

Making new friends

Making new friends

Show me I’m wrong

I’m not suggesting that my life is all self-empowerment and comfy sweat pants. I care what other people think about my looks and about everything else. I am often depressed, upset, angry, frustrated, fearful…I can run the gamut of negative emotions in a single day or hour. Two that I don’t experience, however, are loneliness and boredom.

I worry about getting ill, about a loss of independence. But I know there are no guarantees, even for those who are in a committed relationship or are tightly bonded with family. I’m willing to take the chance that I can get by with the help of my friends — and good insurance. And if I can’t? I’m still glad I didn’t live a life I didn’t want out of fear of an unknown future.

I am writing this post from what I originally called a writer’s retreat on San Juan Island in Washington state. It suddenly struck me how odd a concept that is for a single person. I’m enjoying a lovely change of scenery but when you have a room — or a house — of your own, the term “retreat” is redundant.

Those of you who think that a single life is “less than”: Please tell me what I am missing.

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

7 Enlightened Replies

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  1. karyn zoldan says:

    Totally agree from another “single” who feels the exact same way. I always get a kick (or want to kick) people who think that everyone should have a spouse, boy/girl friend or partner. Like that is the only way that someone, anyone can be happy. That is so 1950s.

  2. D.J. says:

    You ARE me… I’m much better at being single than I was at being married, though I did want to be a mom. My spawn and I have a very nice life, and I write whenever I like, since he now has other obsessions. Keep on keeping on!

    • Edie says:

      Hey, thanks for coming by. I do like kids when they are old enough to be self-sufficient/have their own interests but I understand you can’t skip the interim stages. You keep on keeping on, too!

  3. Laura Thompson says:

    Since you live in Tucson, and I’ve lived in both Tucson and Phoenix, I’ll put it this way: Being single (after 20-plus years of marriage) feels like Tucson to me – more natural, or true to my nature, at least. Happy celebration!

  4. I, too, choose (NOW) to live in my home alone, single and very happy and contented after two very exciting marriages (yes, two) – in both I was “traded” in for a younger woman (well, maybe one wasn’t) – which made me feel inadequate. I have a wonderful, attentive son, attractive and funny daughter-in-law and a granddaughter and grand-son-in-law I adore. So I am very glad I experienced my loves.

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