Thursday, February 14, 2013

Being Okay with Being Single.

This post is a long time coming.  I started writing it in my head over a year ago, after reading one of Chally's final posts at Feministe.

It seems odd, I know, for me to write about being single now that I'm in the longest relationship I've had in years.  At least, longest consecutively-running relationship that can't easily be amended with descriptors like "Off-and-on" or "Dysfunctional" or "Toxic" or "Vaguely Demoralizing".

Like I said, I started this post in my head well over a year ago.  However, it seems relevant today since this is a day many people bitterly lament their single status and the often-frustrating search for Twoo Wuv™.  I was one of those people for many years.  Hell, in solidarity with my formerly single self, I still refuse to give this Hallmark Holiday more than a perfunctory nod, because love - of ALL forms, not just romantic or eroticized love - should be something we celebrate everyday and not necessarily the consumer-driven, materialistic, hetero-normative version that is pushed on the general public by the greeting card and diamond industries.

However, I digress.

I had, at the time, come to the conclusion that I was going to be Okay With Being Single.  Not "I'm okay with being single because I know someday someone is going to love me and I will have my Happily Ever After" but "I may possibly spend the rest of my life as a Single Woman and that is okay."  I was coming to the conclusion that I was done seeking the be-all, end-all, heteronormative ideal.. the relationship.  I vowed to stop thinking of myself as All Alone because, dammit I was NOT alone.  I had my children, my family and many wonderful friends.  I decided that would be good enough.  I may or may not consider having sexual encounters but solely on my own terms.   I was done feeling like a failure, like less-than because I was unattached.  

From Chally:
Singleness is treated as something to be fixed. It’s treated as a state one would surely want to change as quickly as possible. If you’re single, you’re automatically miserable, and everyone’s going to try and figure out what’s wrong with you... What would society look like if little girls weren’t expected to organise their lives around finding a sole and central heteronormative relationship around which everything else in their lives must then revolve?
The words rang true.  So I made my decision to stop searching and just enjoy my life as it was.  And then in true fucking cliche'd fashion, when I stopped looking.. boom.  That was just over a year ago.  And it was good.  And continues to be good.

So that post never got written.

However, that decision never quite went away.  I'm still okay with being single, even if I'm not currently.  Because the future is always uncertain.  Make no mistake, I hope that things between the Well-Travelled One and I continue to be good, for a good long time.  Frankly, I like him a lot.  I know, though, that if things between us were to go south for whatever reason, I will be sad, I will Cry the Ugly Cry and wipe my nose on my sleeves and so on and so forth and miss the hell out of the guy, but ultimately life would go on.
Source
It sounds callous, but not really.  It's actually helpful in quelling (some) of my myriad insecurities.  I'm here because I want to be and if  I didn't, I wouldn't have to be.  I have many years of experience in knowing I'm fully capable of being on my own.   On that same level, I like to think that he's with me because he wants to be and not out of any feeling of obligation.

Cliff Pervocracy wrote about the fear of the The Worst Thing In The World and framed this fear as something that may be a motivator for abuse and emotional manipulation in relationships.  The fear of the Worst Thing In The World (ie, a relationship ending) can provoke an extreme fear response:
I remember when my first "I love you" relationship ended.  I couldn't  abide the thought.  I screamed.  I cried.  I tried to seduce him.  (While still crying. Sexxxay.)  I threatened to harm myself if he didn't come back.  I called him until he stopped taking my calls.   The ridiculous thing is, I didn't even like him that much.  It wasn't about getting the joy of the relationship back.  It was about avoiding [The Worst Thing In The World]... What I did to my ex-boyfriend--threatening myself and refusing to leave him alone--was abuse. Fortunately it didn't go on very long, but it was abusive. And I didn't do it because it felt good to scare and upset him. I did it because I was so deeply afraid of losing him.
Cliff goes on to explain how realizing that this wasn't The Worst Thing In The World helped hir to deal with later breakups in a more dignified and mature manner, because it wasn't a 60-foot cockroach, it was only a 6-foot cockroach (read the full post if you're confused as to where cockroaches play into this).

Similarly, the Worst Thing In The World allows a lot of people to put up with a lot of bullshit.  Some people fear their inability to function without a significant other, that they cannot take care of themselves, support themselves financially and so on.  Some people buy into the idea that pairing up must be a life goal.  I had a friend, single at the time, say to me forlornly "I've never had a relationship last."  I looked at them quizzically and thought "Well, no shit.  If you did, you'd be in one right now."  It struck me funny but I realized afterward that in our society an ended relationship is seen as a failed relationship.  And this fear of failure becomes The Worst Thing In The World.

It's not, you guys.

Being single is not a failure.  It's not The Worst Thing In The World.  There is no moral imperative to get yourself all paired up.  Also, no one owes you a relationship.  Nor do you owe it to anyone else.  Spend time with people whose company you enjoy, without worrying if zie is 'The One'.

5 comments:

  1. Amen and preach on.

    Being a single woman can be the most empowering thing-ever. I may be married now, but I was single for a long time and it was scary at first. Then it was good. I am a whole and complete person alone, on my own. My husband doesn't complete me, he just enhances the best parts of me.

    So many people lose themselves in relationships that when they end, they don't know who they are any more and that's a tragic sad thing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great post. I think about this sometimes, because I can't relate. I try to help and understand my single friends who may feel down about that part of their lives from time to time, but I can only picture myself in their situation - never been there myself. (I'm one of those asshole people who started dating Hubby in grade 11 and haven't let up since - which comes with its own doubts and questions sometimes too, to be fair.) Thanks for writing it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Literally, one of the questions I asked myself -- as if it were the Worst Thing Ever -- at the end of my last long-term (abusive) relationship was, "Would it be better to be alone?"

    I was so surprised when the answer in my head was, "Yes!" Because that sort of went against a whole bunch of socialization.

    "Even if I'm alone forever?"

    "Yes!"

    ReplyDelete
  4. My moment left that was asking myself "would I be okay with possibly never having sex with anyone but myself again?" And I was surprisingly okay with that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It does not sound callous...it's just the healthy way to approach life.

    (mist)

    ReplyDelete

Engaging in discussion and/or general sucking up.. that's where it's at!

Like what you see?