The second question is much easier to answer: I don't depend on others to give me a life. I have built a really fun, exciting life. I have moved around quite a bit for my career and have had to come up with ideas to make friends. I have spent holidays without family and have found create ways to make them special and fun. It's not always easy to be single, but it certainly doesn't have to be sad.
The dating scene can be annoying, sad, disappointing, whatever word you want to use to describe it. Or, it can be funny and interesting. I date a lot, and in doing so, I have seen it all! But instead of getting depressed about it, I turn those dates into great stories for my friends, especially the married ones, for us to laugh about.
I would love to be in love and have someone love me back, but I won't settle, so unless that happens, I will continue to build on my life and make it better and more fulfilling every year.
Why is it that singlehood is perceived as a curse by many? No one ever says, "I'm sorry that you're married," yet singles are made to feel as though they are somehow inferior to those who are married or in a relationship.
I've always held the belief that marriage between two people who are truly compatible, supportive of each other, and in love with each other is a wonderful thing. My parents have been married for more than 40 years, and finding love like theirs is one of my goals in life. At 35, I have had boyfriends, a couple of long-term relationships, learning experiences, and disappointments. Like most other singles, I've had my heart smashed a few times. I haven't given up on finding someone I am compatible with, but the singles scene can be frustrating and exhausting. I become enraged when websites and dating services charge exorbitant fees yet don't seem to work for the majority of people who eagerly sign up for them. Sometimes eating alone, waking up alone, and not having that special someone to walk through life with is depressing.
Despite these feelings, I strongly believe that being in a relationship with Mr. Wrong would be far worse. I would never want to be in a relationship just for the sake of being able to say that I'm spoken for. I abandoned the fantasy of meeting Prince Charming a long time ago, but refuse to settle for a relationship that just doesn't seem right. In my mind, this would be a fate worse than singlehood.
In my twenties and early thirties, I witnessed many people in my life settle for Mr. or Miss Good Enough. They seemed much more enchanted with the idea of getting married than who they were marrying. The Big Day holds such importance for so many that the most essential part of the equation is lost. Finding someone that you can communicate with, respect, and form a healthy relationship with is what matters most.
It is hard to say how I ended up single. Perhaps I am too picky or have had bad luck. I can't say that I am extremely happy to be single, but I'm not unhappy about it, either. It is my hope that one day the stigma of being single will fade.
Carolyn Marie Komperda
Saw your inquiry about what it's like being a single mom. Let's add that I am a single mom of a child with special needs, and we take this solo journey to a whole 'nother level.
Just so I don't make out Jeremiah's dad to be a monster, he left me early in our marriage, BEFORE I found out I was pregnant at age 37. This was definitely NOT the plan, but this is what happens when one listens to one's biological clock ticking loudly. Of course, that's another story.
I the eve of my son Jeremiah's birthday, I recount that I was ecstatic to know that I was pregnant, as many doctors had told me I couldn't conceive. Naturally, Jeremiah's father thought I was just trying to lure him back, which is why I almost didn't tell him I was pregnant. It wasn't until after Jeremiah was born that I found out he had Down Syndrome.
I speak for the single moms out there who had no one to call when they went into the hospital. I speak for all the single parents out there whose marriages didn't survive the tsunami that occurs when child with special needs enters your lives. And I speak for all the people who know that children with special needs teach us far more than we teach them.
Carol A. Hill
Director of Development
Community Partnership School Philadelphia
Well, it is 3:30 a.m., and I am wide awake sending you this e-mail regarding the single life.
I believe that I am single both by choice and circumstances together.
While I like living alone and sometimes being alone, I do not like being lonely at times. However, due to my lifestyle, creative career (actor), and my "vampire" schedule – somewhat due to insomnia-like symptoms and the fact that I am a night person/creative individual who is most active during those hours – it is more difficult to find that woman who would be my soul mate.
My positive qualities include being a good person who is a nonsmoker, non-drinker, and drug-free. My negative ones may include being somewhat self-absorbed in my "fame" pursuits with limited financial resources, as well as now being overweight (by almost 100 pounds) – and a 49-year-old man somewhat set in his ways, too.
What I do seek (for Valentine's Day and beyond) is my special gal, a true partner and lover who understands/supports and truly cares for me, as well as shares the same good qualities and values/dreams – plus is cute and fun (while liking mature/husky men like me! yes!).
Due to the death of my husband (John F. Hollis) in April 2011, after 11.5 years of a wonderful partnership, I am living solo primarily due to circumstance. Yet, I have chosen to live alone henceforth as well. Having been single-again for 28 years between marriages - the first 12 sharing custody of my children - gave me an understanding of the kind of life I wish to live.
My first step was to reclaim my combined studio/live space - where my husband resided as well, but had studio space elsewhere - to facilitate and support my own creativity as artist and writer. I doubt I could have chosen a more effective healing process, for I am now going forward with my life with renewed vigor toward achieving the quality of fulfillment in my career that I experienced in my second marriage.
The primary advantage is the vitality I feel, due to the reduced responsibilities I carry. Household and daily living chores are diminished by much more than 50 percent. I have only my own schedule and needs to address, and interruptions of my work time have virtually disappeared.
John's absence, while I'd never have chosen it, is a presence of its own kind. To keep loneliness at bay, I attend many concerts and other events, bike to the gym to work out three times a week, contra dance for fun and safe physical contact with a variety of men, and visit with friends. As ever, I remain behind in my reading.
Deborah Pratt Curtiss
I'm 42 years of age. I attended both St. James Elementary School in Elkins Park and St. Luke's Elementary School in Glenside. I graduated from Bishop McDevitt in 1987 and Peirce in 1989. I was married briefly from 1990 to 1993, after which I moved first to Belmar and then Neptune, New Jersey, which most people would recognize as "GTL country."
My career here in New Jersey has included a 13-year stint at American Express and two years at Toys R Us headquarters. In addition, I was elected to the Neptune Township Committee in 2006, re-elected in 2009, and am up for my third re-election this fall.
I live on the border: I receive both Philadelphia and New York TV stations and papers, and, thank the Lord, Wawa has taken a huge shine to my own, as they have opened one new Wawa with gas pumps recently and have received approval to open another store (conveniently around the corner from my house!).
Mary Beth Jahn
A couple of thoughts:
Being able to enjoy the comforts of your home in total silence with only your thoughts.
Last year, for the first time in my life, I began living alone. It was not my choice. My beloved husband of 45 years died of cancer.
I married at 20 years old and went from my parents' home to my husband's.
Besides the grief and loss, I now have to deal with things on my own that I never did before. I have to balance my checkbook, get my income taxes done, and make sure my car is inspected on time.
I miss my Joe's sweet personality, his touch, his smell, and his happy presence. I miss his company and the light that shone in his eyes whenever he looked at me.
Although I will always miss him, there are one or two advantages to living alone. I eat whenever and whatever I like, I nap when I feel like it, I get to hold the remote control, and, best of all, I never, ever have to watch any more sports on TV.
Emma M. Lee
It's going to sound strange, given how long I've been single at this point (I'm 47, and have never been married), but I wouldn't say that I'm single by choice. (Or maybe I am, but just haven't been honest enough with myself about that up to now.) I feel like I've come to this single place in my life because I either haven't met the right person, or because my expectations for who that person might be have been too high up to now. If someone were to force me to choose what I honestly thought, I would still lean toward the former, but who knows at this point?
If I had to describe my feelings about my single life right now, I'd describe my attitude as trying to make the best of it. There are some nice things about living alone: I like coming home (I bought in the city not too long ago) and having the freedom to do whatever I want, when I want. Like going for a run in the park, and then preparing a nice dinner for myself and sitting down to it with a favorite book, or a Sixers or Phils game on TV. Or, if it's the weekend, doing some home improvement projects around the house . . . I'd put traveling to different places on that list, but the few times I've done it, I haven't liked traveling alone.
But if I had a choice in the matter, I'd rather be living with others. I'd really rather share things like those I just described with someone else (like a wife). I'm also still holding out hope of having kids of my own, even though I know that I'm not getting any younger for that. But at 47, I'm also trying to come to terms with the fact that those things may not happen in the way that I've always imagined they would. But I'm still hoping that they could happen in some form.
I do think that there are some things that are hard about being single. For me, the biggest one is feeling like my life is still meaningful, even though it doesn't include a family of my own. I'm fulfilled by my work (I'm an English teacher), but I wouldn't say I'm fulfilled by my personal life as much as I would like to be, and think I would be, if I had a family. It's also tough maintaining friendships with people who have kids of their own. Most of my friends and siblings have families of their own, and there's quite a few of them who I don't hear from very much. I accept why that is – I know that they're caught up with raising their own kids, and I know how much time that takes. But it's still hard not to feel like your life is peripheral to people you used to see and hear from a lot more.
Finally, it can be tough being the only one who's taking care of your own life – the only one who's doing all the things that keep it fulfilling, or at least running smoothly, and the one who's always planning things so that you don't get to feeling too lonely or isolated. There are some social advantages to being part of a couple. I'm sure that people who are married with kids would probably scoff at some of the things I just wrote, and say that they would give anything for a night off from the responsibilities of being married and raising kids. But as far as having meaning already built in to your life, I think that having a family takes care of some aspects of that.
I am single, very single if there is such a category, and have been for close to a decade. Your solicitation for stories caught my eye and made me think, first, about whether my singleness is by choice or circumstance, and second, about the advantages and disadvantages of being single. I am 45 years old and have lived in the Greater Philadelphia area (mostly in Wilmington) since 1998. I have been in love twice in my life and have been told I'm "a catch." But I have never been, ummm, "caught" truly.
Subconsciously, deep down in the recesses of my mind and heart, I believe being single is my choice or else I wouldn't be. I am the type of person who, once I set my mind on something/someone, I achieve it. I have friends who made it their mission to meet the right person, and they kissed many frogs in the process, endured many OK relationships, joined churches, went on blind dates, bar-hopped, did Match.com, eHarmony, etc. I have done none of those things. I tell friends I'm open to it "if he fell in my lap." Well, truth is, this type of life change, lasting love, and partnership, rarely falls into one's lap. You have to keep your eyes and heart open and be looking for it and feel worthy of it. I score below average in these areas.
Consciously, however, what I tell myself and friends is that I'm single by circumstance. I haven't met the right guy. The online sites feel artificial to me. My last attempt at "selling myself" sounded something like this: "Former journalist, not ho-hum about anything. Loves quotation books, long walks on the beach, and skinny dipping; still reads the newspaper every morning; goes through binges of yoga and using the crockpot and can procrastinate, which is why this 40-something woman is finally being proactive about dating." That summation never made it farther than this essay, and I'm struck that I thought my affinity for quotation books was worthy material. I am a single mother of a six-year-old girl. Where would I find the time to date? If you ask me this second, "What would you do with three free hours a week?" – my answer would be yoga. I would spend three hours a week doing yoga. I have a full, rich, happy life, a satisfying career, a huge village of friends, and a phenomenally supportive family. And what about my lifestyle/routine? I support myself. I've bought two homes by myself. I've adopted a daughter by myself. I also like being by myself. It is hard at this stage to imagine sharing a home with another adult. Fact is, the longer you go without a partner, the more you adapt. There is not a void in my life that I feel compelled to fill.
I have been on dates. With a guy who drove me to dinner with the Bye Bye Birdie soundtrack playing when I stepped in the car. With a guy who I invited in after a not unpleasant dinner only to be completely turned off when he took off his shoes and curled his smelly feet, in ragged socks, on my couch. With a guy I had good chemistry with until he showed up wearing a button-down shirt that had flames of fire going from the buttons to his shoulders. I've also dated a couple of seriously fantastic men who I let get away.
This brings me to another aspect of La Vida Sola. Being around married people often reinforces my status quo. I am close to many married couples, so close that many have no qualms bickering in front of me and complaining to me about their spouses, with both of whom I am both friendly. I no longer fantasize about walking down an aisle. I did in my 20s. I did in my 30s. But somewhere along the way that married life with a picket fence scenario ceased to be magical to me.
This is not to say I don't yearn for romantic love. For the past four years, every New Year's Eve (minus 2011 because I got sick of writing it down, tacking it on my fridge, and being constantly reminded of a part of my life I neglect), one of my resolutions was to have "one good kiss" that year. That hasn't panned out. Because no one fell in my lap. But I am beginning to think about it more, to contemplate embracing this side of me that has been dormant for a long time. I want to be intimate. For me. Full disclaimer here, however; recently I have given more thought to being proactive in this arena after my daughter, watching one of those Teen Disney shows, looked at me and asked, "Have you ever kissed a boy?" Ummmmmmmmmm. Yes. And it is time to again!
Advantages, disadvantages, there are plenty on both sides. I like raising my daughter as a single parent and not having to also juggle a marriage, or a long-term relationship with inevitable ups and downs. I like being able to do my own thing, plan my own vacations, and I like the simplicity of my small family.
Disadvantages: I haven't grown in a long time by learning more about myself through a loving relationship. I would like to share my hopes and fears with a partner. I crave security sometimes, and feel scared that I am in this life alone, despite the big village described above. I'd love to have something for myself beside my daughter. I'm not telling her crazy stories every night about what went down at work. I want to feel that pure joy of early love and have it grow and evolve. I want to meet someone who laughs at me and my stories, gets me and vice versa all the way. I want to be known.
I am single by "circumstance." Here is my story.
I can't imagine anyone wanting to live alone all their life. I was married at 21 and divorced at 27, no children. I have no desire to revisit marriage, but I would live with someone.
In 1973, I met the man of my dreams but found out early on that he was a confirmed bachelor and he meant it. By the time I was 38, I left the confirmed bachelor in the hopes of meeting Mr. Right, but that never happened. When you are young, you still have your single friends to go out with but not when you're in your 50s and 60's. Most of my friends remarried long ago and remain married.
Over the years, I've spoken to many "newly" widowed or divorced women who were shocked to find out that you are no longer a part of your married friends' inner circle because you do not have a husband anymore or a significant other. I would really hope that if I ever meet someone, I won't start feeling that way about single friends. I think it's awful. Don't get me wrong: No one wants to be invited to an all couples' party without having a date, but do you mean to tell me you can't go out with a longtime friend once in a while? The only time I see my married friends is if I invite them to my annual Christmas party or during the holidays, when they invite me so I'm not alone. What makes matters worse is that I am an only child with a family who lives 400 miles across the state (my parents left their hometown before I was born). However, I make friends easily, and I've met many single women over the years. But most of them only want to "meet for dinner," which isn't my thing. I like to go out dancing, see Broadway shows, casinos, traveling, day trips, to name a few. Since I still work full-time, it simply amazes me that the older we get the less money people seem to have, which I can't figure out.
Another frustrating thing, I have no one to travel with, and people give you one excuse after the other: "Maybe next year" (maybe I'll be dead by then); "I'm not a cruise person"; "When my daughter/son finishes college" (maybe I'll be dead by the time the kid graduates); "I can't afford to travel" (maybe you should have saved that dinner money). It's always something. Of course, I realize that most people have grown children and grandchildren whom they are still giving to or helping in some way. I even called my parish church to see if I could put an ad in the church paper looking for a travel companion. I also mentioned in the ad that I was a parishioner. The church was happy to do it and for free. I had one bite in two months, and the woman who called me said that she couldn't travel for two years because she was taking care of a sick family member, so why did she call?
The only "advantage" to this lifestyle is this: I don't have to come home from work and cook for someone or answer to anyone. The "disadvantages": loneliness, lack of someone to talk to when I get home, worry whether, if I got sick, I could get to a phone fast enough to call for help. And rarely does anyone call you. In retrospect, it is not a singles' world, but I'm in it!
Yes, I live alone, and I love it. I tried marriage and living with someone, and it simply didn't work out. Perhaps I just don't like being told what when and where to do something. Maybe it's me, I don't know. However, I am enjoying my life more than ever. I am doing what I want to do, without being judged. I can work in the garden all day, or just sit on my porch and have a few beers. If I feel like taking off from work for a mental health day and doing absolutely nothing, I am OK with that.
I have many friends that come over often and I don't have to worry if someone else is going to judge them poorly. After all, they are my friends.
It sure would be nice to wake up next to someone I care about, but sometimes, it's just not worth it.
I live alone, not by choice but by the cruel hand of fate. On June 5, 2010, my husband of 31 years went on a bike ride and suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 56. I had no idea when he kissed me goodbye that afternoon that it would be the last time I ever saw him alive.
Our sons had recently left home to start their independent lives, and Tom and I had just begun to enjoy our new life alone, together. Instead I found myself at the age of 54 thrust unwillingly into a new life alone, by myself. Not only was I alone but also I had acquired a new identity, that of widow, with all its associated baggage.
I always assumed that I would someday become a widow living alone, but not for another 30 years or so. Like most couples, we had a division of labor. Had I known that widowhood would come so soon, I would have paid attention to things like how to use the snow blower, maintain the car, do the income taxes, or update the computer. Every day of living alone presents some new challenge that I approach with a combination of sorrow and anger. But those are just the material challenges. Worse is the absence of emotional and physical intimacy born of decades of loving, comfortable camaraderie. Questions asked and answered without words, the goodbye kisses taken for granted.
My mother, who was also widowed at an early age, lived alone for more than 30 years. She said I wouldn't like it but I would get used to it. I think the "used to it" part will be a long time in coming for me.
I'm an introvert by nature, which means that being around people, even people I really like, drains me. By living alone, I'm able to recharge my batteries more completely and effectively than I could do when living with other people. This has allowed me to be more outgoing and social than I have been before – just because there is a place to escape to when I need to recharge my batteries.
The "retreat" aspect is one of my favorite things about living alone. I've actually taken a leaf from small bed and breakfasts I've stayed at around the world and recreated the experiences they offer by buying hotel and resort bathrobes, arranging nice magazines, toiletries, and snacks on pretty trays throughout my apartment. By keeping things luxurious and attractive, silencing my phone, and not telling many people where I live, I can spend whole weekends living as though I were worlds away from the daily grind.
Since most of us are tight on money and exchange rates are dismal, these staycation retreats make for a real moneysaver, though they wouldn't be possible if one were surrounded by spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, family, or roommates constantly bursting ones bubble.
Simone Haruko Smith
Palo Alto, Calif.