I just celebrated an anniversary. I have been officially single for 16 years.
It never occurred to my younger self that I would spend the second half of my life as a single person. Not in my wildest imagination did I envision navigating solo through mid-life and beyond.
Honestly, as a much younger woman, when I bothered to think about what my Golden Years would look like, I imagined they would be something like an erectile dysfunction drug commercial. You know, the ones where the mature, but still totally hot-looking couple spend the day doing all the fun things you never had time for as young marrieds. Like them, I pictured us playing tennis, antiquing, sailing, whipping up a gourmet meal in our magazine-worthy kitchen – all the while staring lustfully at each other and sneaking kisses – before ending our day with mind-blowing, if medically enhanced, boinking.
I naively thought that once our children were appropriately educated and had decamped to more inviting pastures, the hubs and I would take advantage of our exquisitely redesigned and decidedly empty nest to recapture the bliss and excitement of our younger years. We’d travel. We’d learn Italian. We’d cook together. We’d finally get a subscription to the symphony. And our sex life would soar to heretofore-unknown heights. We would be that enviable couple, sitting in our backyard claw foot tubs, holding hands and gazing at the sunset.
Sadly, this was not to be. Before both children were officially launched, my marriage ended. I was a single parent for a few years, but since then – for the last 13 years to be exact – I have lived alone, with only silent and alarmingly unhelpful dogs for companionship. This anniversary and what it represents never fails to grab my attention. How did this happen to me?
While it’s true I never thought I’d be single for such a long time, these years have been the most productive and fulfilling of my life. My career has taken me in directions both unexpected and exciting. My now-adult children live close to me and continue to bring me unexpected joy almost every day. I count my siblings among my closest friends and am lucky to hang out with my mother at least once a week. The breadth and scope of my friendships enrich my life beyond measure.
And truth be told, being single has real advantages. Single living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if like me, you really like spending time alone and don’t mind extreme independence, charting your own course can be an exciting adventure.
The Top Five Advantages of Single Life
- Time management – Outside the boundaries created by work, I am entirely the boss of me. I can go to the movies in the middle of the day. Eat dinner at midnight or 5 pm. I’m an early riser. And a restless sleeper. And a sleep walker. I turn on the light to read in the middle of the night. I’m compulsively early for all appointments. As annoying as one or all of these personality quirks might be, it’s liberating to settle into my eccentricities and foibles rather than feel guilty about how they annoy anyone in my wake.
- Asset allocation – I never have to sweat the arrival of the AmEx bill or sneak shopping bags into the house. I never find it necessary to deploy my former default shoe lie. “What, these? They’re not new, you’ve seen these a bunch of times before.” If I’m saving for a destination vacation, I know the destination will be the one at the very top of my list and not the compromise third choice.
- Food choices and meal preparation – As a singleton, I can count either cereal or cheese & crackers as legitimate dinner choices. My stash of one perfect Divine Chocolate bar will be always at the ready when circumstances demand its immediate consumption. I am not remotely concerned if the entire contents of my refrigerator consist of a good bottle of champagne and an assortment of exotic condiments. Conversely if my refrigerator happens to be full of expensive perishables and meticulously prepared dishes slated for an upcoming photo shoot, I don’t have to worry about their mysterious disappearance before the first frame is shot.
- Remote autonomy – You say there’s a Downton Abbey marathon? Count me in. Yes, I’m aware that it’s Super Bowl Sunday/The Final Four/The Stanley Cup playoffs. Pick your sporting event, I’m still gonna have to go with The Granthams and their retinue, turning my back on the plight of the Patriots/Wildcats/Bruins. And you know what? My dog, silent though he may be, never complains. Having total remote control is my idea of heaven.
- Closet (and bathroom) case – I have a decent sized walk-in closet, a closet filled to overflowing. With my stuff. Ditto my reasonably spacious bathroom. Everything is exactly where I want it. The laundry, when dirty, goes not on the floor but in the hamper. The sink is free of errant hairs and toothpaste globs. The toilet seat is down, the toilet paper roll is never empty, and the paper rolls over from the top, not under from the bottom.
For all these reasons and more, on most days I love being single. But there are times when I think: “Maybe that special someone is out there just waiting for me to find him,” all indications from Match, eHarmony, OKCupid, and Tinder to the contrary. Because, as happy as my life is, there are a handful of things I still miss about being married.
The Five Things I Miss Most about Being Married
- To have and to hold – It turns out those marriage vows I took so many years ago were pretty much spot on. They capture much of what is good about being married, starting with “to have and to hold.” I miss having a person. You know, that one person who is your emergency contact, your wing-man, your back-haver. And I miss the holding part, especially at the end of a long, difficult day. The holding part is really nice.
- For better, for worse – I miss having a person who truly appreciates everything it took for me to discover my best self. And I really miss having a person who, when I’m at my absolute worst, trusts that this is a fleeting aberration and I will return to the really amazing version of me that was temporarily side-tracked. For reasons best left unsaid.
- For richer, for poorer – I don’t mind admitting that I miss sharing the wealth in whatever form it takes – money, experiences, family time. On the flip side, sharing the burden of wealth’s absence is a lot better than being poor on your own.
- In sickness and in health – This one’s a no brainer, being sick and single can be a miserable experience. But maybe even more regrettable is missing out on sharing good health with your special person, especially at mid-life and beyond. Good health is such a gift, having someone you love along to celebrate a strong, fit body, whether it’s on a run, on the tennis court, or in bed, is something to aspire to.
- And behind the wheel – This one may sound trivial, but trust me, it’s huge on my list. I’m not a bad driver, but I don’t always love driving. I have a crap sense of direction and lousy night vision. And because I’m the size of a reasonably developed 12-year-old, any more than one glass of wine puts me at risk for a DUI. I miss having a partner who is a skilled, confident, and enthusiastic driver with an unerring sense of direction. Is that too much to ask?
It’s entirely possible, nay, likely, that I will remain single for the rest of my life. I’m not at all dismayed by the prospect of retaining my unmarried status. I will continue to fill my life with family, friends, dogs, and adventures. But I will always leave the door to my heart slightly ajar.
Just in case.