Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Being Single in 2011

This is the year that I turned 37 years old while still single in Memphis, Tennessee. Since my last relationship ended some time ago, I decided to focus more on myself and the world around me; in short, I decided and chose to be single. I was tired of the relationship mind games being played for no reason and I was tired of compromising my life for someone else’s sake. I simply wanted out. Although I initially had a year as my ending point for this change of life, I recently decided to make it permanent. This choice came from my own reasons and I am happier for it. So, while coming to true grips with being a single woman in the year 2011 and beyond, I decided to ask others who were in the same situation to see if perhaps they too were happy with their life. What I found was quite interesting, sad, funny, happy and realistic. Rather than do my own interpretations of their stories, I figured I would post them to this essay. All names have been removed.



Story #1:

Regarding being single in Memphis:

Dating is agony. The dating pool in my age group is torture – guys my age are single for a reason and/or come with snotty, whiny baggage. Um, no thanks. I concentrate on activities that I enjoy, therefore, leaving very little room for dating or over analyzing the “why I’m not like the majority.” Instead, I just vow to have fun. My attitude is, “if it happens, it’ll happen. And if I meet someone who I “click” with, then dating said person wouldn’t be agony. If not, I’m coodayla.”


Story #2:

I'm 28 years old, and I've had two and a half girlfriends. I've seen complex and simple relationships come and go toward positive and negative ends. I admire those that have made relationships work for them and also those that thrive alone. It may be because I sit on the fence on the issue that I've not found peace in either path. I busy myself with big and small projects, many consumed with studying those around me. Singledom is a mixed bag for me. It's a quilt, a consequence, a vice, an excuse, a fear, and a driving force for going the other direction.

My parents' divorce was finalized the summer after I graduated from college. They waited a year so that it wouldn't affect my progress. I was depressed for a couple of days before realizing one thing. They should have divorced long ago. My mother's former boyfriend was the one that fit into her social network of barnhouse parties and affectionate friendships in the mid to late 70's. He was the one that her family knew and loved. An opinionated, sociable person, he made himself loved by all. My father came in as a loner and an introvert, too dense for others to get to know in any meaningful way. I can only imagine the transition this made for with the family. When in normal situations the ex leaves the scene after the relationship ends, mom's ex remained a central part of the social atmosphere and for years there was a tension that seethed as my parents appeared at events where her ex was already making the rounds.

In the early years of my parents' marriage, this tension combined with my mom's alcoholism and my dad's occasional inability to see other people's points of view. The result was half a decade or so of tremendous fights that often left furniture broken and the house a general wreck, years where divorce was tossed around as a threat during arguments. Dad retreated to music and computer programming, and mom went into an early menopause.

Alanis Morissette sings of "princes familiar," seeking a mate that is similar to the archetypes built by her parents. In many ways, this is how I view relationships. Because of my parents, I expect to meet someone who challenges me mentally and emotionally, who is interested in the outdoors as much as I am history and science. It is also the reason I fear for the negative cost of a long-lasting relationship. It is why I sometimes shy away from serious debate. I confound the flighty Sagittarian by not seeking fifty relationships at a time but also taking it further by not engaging in extremely close romantic relationships. Instead, I have very close friendships with mostly intelligent and challenging women. Do I want more? Absolutely, but I've not settled on a therapist to talk over things first, and I think it's advisable.

The two relationships I have had were short and energetic couplings with women who were rebelling against their raised faith and authority. As a consequence, I now seek relationships with people who have found their peace and am often turned off now by people who are just achieving that type of freedom. The half was a year-long engagement with a friend who was still affected by a former relationship and who was afraid of commitment. By the time she had started to change her mind, I was subconsciously making decisions that were destroying what progress I had made. Where the two and I occasionally still speak, we do not try often.

Personal balance is important to me, and I know that I struggle with the issue. I get very consumed with my teaching job and with my schooling, and I wonder if I would be able to maintain a relationship with someone who wasn't as busy as I am. I see many who engage in relationships with overly full lives, but I also wonder how close they are with their lover. I do not seek anyone that completes me. That strikes me as codependent. Instead, I love the idea of a partner to exchange with but who I know would be quite alright, perhaps even thrive if the relationship were to end.

In considering all of this, I've managed a primarily positive experienced as a usually single person. I've a wide spectrum of friends of various intimacies. I'm achieving academic and professional goals. It's once or twice a week or month however when I look at the pictures of those left behind and wonder if it might have worked given better mental and emotional balances on either side.

I want a relationship, but I know that I am still working on some things. I don't pass up opportunities around, and I maintain profiles on okcupid and eharmony, but allow myself to be somewhat carefree about whether or not those attempts will yield anything. This summer will be the first where I am not searching for a job. I'll be moving into an apartment and starting a new life. With that, I think a new hope will emerge.


Story #3:


Most of my life I have struggled with being single. I always seemed to want to be part of a duo. The first such relationship was with my older brother, Vincent. We share the same birthday although four years apart. I was raised from an early age to essentially be his sidekick. But in a way that to me seemed natural. We had similar interests and even similar personalities. I
often wonder if I am who I am today because of his influence or was it a natural progression that we share due to the same nature and nurture. It didn't hurt that I idolized him, as younger brothers are want to do.

In any event, I was proud to be Robin to his Batman. But four years apart is a long time and eventually he had friends that he chose to hang out with over the company of his "baby brother". At this point, I searched around for someone else to fill that void. Like Most children, I had several friends but I always seemed to want to gravitate towards one person at a time. A best
friend if you will. I wasn't good at juggling the intricacies of having more than one it seemed. For me, having one person that was my confidant and companion worked so I left it at that.

So from the earliest time in my life, I can see that I had a yearning to have companionship of someone else. This was satisfied by a series of friendships that were very intense but short lived in the span of a childhood. One of the earliest friendships was with John. His mother was a
teacher at the local high school. John was brilliant and easily a genius. However, he was unfocused and extremely undisciplined. I found a kindred spirit in John. He was like my brother Vincent but the same age as I. As we grew older, John grew more rebellious and I eventually stopped hanging out with him. The similarities hat had brought us together had faded and we
drifted apart.

I spent the next few years of high school hanging out mostly with other kids that lived on the same street as me. In each case, I found something missing. I just didn’t think like they did. I was focused on the creative and fantastic aspects of life and they were quite honestly mostly focused
on their hormones. I guess I was late bloomer. To me, it was more important to hang out with people that challenged the way I thought and wanted to explore the wealth of knowledge the world had to offer. Most of them seemed to want to just "have fun" and not get close. Looking back, I guess I was looking for some mental intimacy. That sort of thing just isn't very prevalent
in young children and especially not in teenagers. I graduated high school with few friendships and only one or two have truly endured the test of time.

For the next 20 years of my life, I stumbled through relationship, platonic or otherwise. My romantic ones were notoriously unsuccessful. It took the spectacular failure of my marriage to force me to take an honest and detailed look at my actions through my life to try and figure out what was really my issue. It turns out that I wasn't very comfortable with myself. I didn't hate
myself or anything quite as deep as that. I just wasn't comfortable. And I had
been searching for some sort of external validation for myself in my companion. I had received it in droves from my older brother, but only so long as I was his sidekick. Even to this day, I'm only seen as an equal when I agree with him. I had sought to emulate my friends to get their approval. That approval was like a drug. And I thought I could only get it in a relationship. This
epiphany was a hard one to swallow. But swallow it I did.

I do like myself. I am odd in some ways and exceedingly normal in others. The judgment or condemnation of me by others doesn't define me. And in that truth, I was able to find a sort of peace for myself. And to find comfort in who I am.

I still like the idea of a relationship. There is something unique about having a spark with someone that both inspires me and interests me. That instinctive attraction that is like an adrenaline rush. I think for the most part we all like that. But first you have to want to be with yourself. Then you can add someone else too the mix.

I think if I had to give anyone else advice on relationships, I would have to say, "Work on yourself first." If you don't like the person that you are, why would you like someone else that does?




Story #4:

I guess my story for being single starts my ex-wife telling me she wanted a divorce November of 2000. It was the proverbial last straw for me in an awful year. I lost my job in corrections due to diabetic complications, had to give up sports due to a herniated disk in my back, and then my marriage is over too.
I was diagnosed as severely depressed and given a bottle of Zoloft. I was determined to beat what I did not understand by myself and threw myself into work. Once the Zoloft was gone, so ended all “treatment.”
5 years later, I entered another relationship, even got engaged to be married. However, in Feb. of 2008, I could see signs that relationship was on the rocks that led to another bout with depression. Suicidal depression. This time I decided to seek treatment.
This time, the right questions were asked – when did I first become depressed? Adds for depression medication is so misleading, yes those people are suffering from depression, but even more, they have succumbed to depression. People can fight depression for years without exhibiting any of those symptoms.
My depression goes back to 4 years of age. Meeting with my therapist allowed me to focus on the root cause that kept bringing me back to 4 years of age, right before my sister was born. My brain had blocked the actual event for nearly 35 years.
A single case of sexual molestation and assault had been buried. My entire life affected by an event I couldn’t remember. I still don’t remember much in detail; I have like a few snapshots of the event. The official term is a “dissociative reaction.” I have the cliff notes of that day.
The past year has been one of great release. That traumatic event had imprisoned me. Like Forest Gump running out of his braces, I’m finally free of that bondage.
Resolving those issues earlier would not have saved my marriage; in fact, I probably wouldn’t have married her at all. Same with the relationship a couple of years ago. Neither woman was right for me.
I am content to be single. I would love to find the right woman and get married until death do us part. However, I’m no longer going to try and make bad matches work in the desperate hope that a good marriage will miraculously appear. Odds are, I will remain single for the rest of my life – and I am OK with that.
Quite simply, we live in the fast food, instant gratification era. Gone are the days where you work the same job your whole life, live in the same house, married to the same spouse. Half of marriages end in divorce. Jobs are here today and gone tomorrow. Everything, including spouses, constantly gets “upgraded.” Me, I’m old school. I want to find a life partner. Unfortunately that is an exceedingly rare commodity. So if I get lucky, I’ll get married. Otherwise, I’m very content to be a single guy.


***

As I read these stories over and over again, I kept asking myself questions regarding my own situation; would I ever find love, or was I doomed to be “single” for the rest of my life? Would I truly be able to enjoy my life alone? Was I just lying to myself? These were hard questions to ask but the answers from within were even harder to accept. However, I am better for it and embrace what I used to treat like a disease or ill condition. So, if being single these days is gaining acceptance by more and more people, why are we still seeing more and more ads for dating websites, published books on how to find the “right one” and singles groups in churches and gathering places? Why, then, are we still being bombarded with messages informing us that perhaps a single life is not normal?
After reading the book Singled Out by Bella DePaulo not too long ago, I realized that we as a society are inundated with the married life for the simple fact that no one should be alone, whether they like being alone or not. We should all have a partner and eventually a family; having a family offers instant and possible lifetime support and protection from the curve balls Life throws us. Once one gets married, all of our frivolity goes away and is replaced with sensibility, being an adult and settling down for the rest of one’s life. No offense, but I don’t buy it.
As I am typing out this essay, I am alone and listening to a nice CD while the rain falling outside creates a constant cool breeze throughout my apartment. This, to me, is bliss. Of course, it is not for everyone, just like marriage, but I am content and happy with my quiet solitude just like those who are content with being married.
Am I dissing marriage? Of course not. However, I have realized that it is not for everyone, no matter what the ads say. It is simply not for everyone and that is okay. My life is my life, just like the stories listed above. What I decide to do with said life is my own choice and not to be pushed towards an ideal that doesn’t jive with my own. Every day is a new challenge for me; what will happen, what could happen, what will not happen. I look forward to doing something new, something crazy all the while learning about a new subject or idea. Not too long ago, I asked a fellow generalist and open minded thinker if it was possible that the more one knows, the lower the number of friends. He agreed with me and understood the frustrations of said Catch-22 predicament (he is also a single parent!) and we both wished that it could be different. Alas, it is not. When one learns more, one ultimately becomes more and more of a minority.
So, where do we go from here? Do we continue to live out our lives happily and fulfilled as single people, or do we submit to the browbeating of those who know what’s right for us? Extreme cases, yes, but still a valid point with many people who choose or are forced to be single. I hope that the contributors to the story and overall project find happiness, no matter what form it may take, and that their lives are enriched with magick every day. As for me, I plan to continue seeking out new ideas and concepts, making new friends, continuing with my violin lessons, sharpening my culinary skills, watch more foreign movies, listen to more jazz CDs, attend the theater, read Shakespeare for fun, read quantum physics for fun, traveling to different sci-fi conventions as a literary guest, writing more books, reading more books, spending time with good friends and family, watching a full moon in the night sky and simply love myself and be glad I am who I am.


Thank you and good night.

1 comment:

Just a guy called V said...

Strangely enough, I have discovered that the more I learn, the more people I know. Perhaps its just that being a person of knowledge simply amplifies what you already are. If you are very outgoing then you are more so. If you are more reserved then you seem to migrate towards solitudes.

In any event, a very good read. And I wish you the best of everything in your journey.