Friday, February 25, 2005

Single-Never-Married

I didn’t know bad poetry was a side effect of a crappy love life. It’s a boring subject. I’m bored with it. I am sick of my own one-color whining and my same old story. Blah blah blah.

I wish I could end my self-judgement. I wish I could stop seeing myself as a loser and a failure because I’ve never been married. I’m just not good at deflecting the question I got again just two days ago from a first date: “So, if you’ve been doing all this dating and you’re an attractive person, why are you single?” That question, which I ask myself all the time, feels condemning. It feels like being asked, “So, what exactly is it that’s wrong with you?” And I can’t counter it with, “Why are you still single?” because the people who ask it are usually divorced. In the single, dating world, to be divorced is to be normal, to have demonstrated commitment, to have made one’s best effort at the coupledom that everyone seeks. To be divorced is to be proven desireable, responsible, capable of giving and receiving love. To be divorced is to have had a full love life of courtship and marriage and separation and termination of marriage. To be divorced is to have been productive with one’s (love) life. One who is divorced has produced wedding photos, in-laws, living arrangments, probably children. To be divorced is good and respectable.

But to be single-never-married is to be undesireable, unproductive, incapable of commitment and responsibility, left on the shelf undoubtedly because of serious defect or “issues.” To be single-never-married is to have wasted one’s life, to have failed to produce or inspire an engagement ring, to have failed to create a new life with another, or in-laws or children. To be single-never-married is to live a life barren of love, pregnancy, “we”-speak, or bedcovers-sharing. I’ve had single men dismiss me because at the age of 38 I’ve never been married or engaged nor have I ever lived with a man. They’ve conveyed to me that if I’ve lived alone for this long, I’ll undoubtedly have trouble making room in my narrow spinster life for another. And I don’t hear from them again.

This is why I say I wish I were divorced. This is why I joke about marrying someone, anyone, for just a few days so we can then get divorced and I can join the ranks of the productive, worthy divorced people. Gone is the old-fashioned suspicion of those who have failed at marriage, gone is the old-fashioned respect for those who have a “clean” record of no marriage or divorce. Now to be single-never-married is the negatively marked status.

I wish I didn’t agree with the rest of society that there is something very wrong when an attractive, slim (the guys always want “slim,” right?), charismatic woman like me remains unmarried and un-boyfriend-ed after 23 years of dating. Why does single-never-married mean immaturity and avoidance of commitment? Why can't single-never-married indicate a strong ego that blazes her own trail, refuses to bend to social expectations, and lives the life she wants, free of the confines of socially expected coupledom? Unfortunately, single-never-married is an inferior state in the eyes of society and in my own. I wish this piece were a declaration of the normality and worthiness of never having married. I wish my statement were one of self-esteem and to-hell-with-social-norms empowerment. I wish I could create my own definitions of “productive” and “respectable.” Unfortunately, I cannot.

I remain at a loss as to how to respond when first dates (or anyone else) ask why I’m still single. I know it wouldn’t sound so condemning if I could stop condemning myself.

Possible responses to, “So, why are you still single?”

- “Why are you divorced?”
- “Because I just haven’t met The Guy.”
- “Because I’m an axe murderer.”
- “That doesn’t really feel like a first date question to me. Could we come back to that later?”
- “Because happiness is more important to me than marriage.”
- “’Still’ single? Has it been that long?”
- “So far, I’ve preferred staying single.”
- “Because no one’s found the unmarked graves yet.”

1 comment:

Sister said...

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