Archive | July, 2012

Thank You Kate

9 Jul

My  best friend sent me an article last week entitled “All the Single Ladies” from The Atlantic. It took me a while to get through it, in fact I was skeptical when I started. Within the first few paragraphs you find that the Author, Kate Bolick, broke up with the ideal partner at 28 because “something” was missing and she wasn’t ready to settle down. One paragraph later, it turns out that breakup was in 2001 and Kate is now 39 and still single.

Still single! Ah! I have no shame in using the F word (Feminist!) and absolutely believe that our policies, work cultures, and social expectations still have a ways to go before there is a more true form of gender equality. But I must also admit that I do have a fear of being alone. I’m a social person, a huge extrovert, and thrive off human connections. Moving to a new city where I knew nobody ten months ago was  more than difficult. Living alone was a mistake. And yet I can relate to the Author and her desire for independence and this single person itch. I often go months to years between relationships and every time I enter into a committed relationship, I do find myself acutely aware of the trade-offs. The new friendships I’m not cultivating or the old ones I’m ignoring.

I have no shame in using the F word (Feminist!) …But I must also admit that I do have a fear of being alone.

So while I might be 24 and youthful and optimistic now, the vision of me waking up one day at 35+, single and lonely with no good available men gives me more than a mild level of panic if I entertain that fantasy for too long. So you can imagine how refreshing Kate’s words were to hear.

What I love about her piece is that she doesn’t really tell us, the reader, one way or the other: was she looking for a mate and couldn’t find one and therefore has accepted this alternative lifestyle of the single lady or does she genuinely not want to marry and have a one mate for life? She doesn’t quite define it, which is perfect because IT DOESN’T MATTER.

It doesn’t matter because her last page paints an alternative picture: no matter what you end up choosing, so long as you spend time investing in relationships of all kinds you can wake up 35+, single and not be chronically lonely (I mean even people in loving marriages have bouts of loneliness).

And part of what helps sell me on this possibility is her own life as an example: a life full of other female counterparts who are single and happy and have their own support network. You are no longer this rare specimen, the black sheep if as a woman that is what you choose. As a grown adult, what is wrong with having a house where you and several of your best female friends just lived together? It was fabulous in college, why should that community and level of camaraderie be sacrificed just because society has for so long disapproved of anything but the traditional picket-white fence family structure?

As an adult, what is wrong with having a house where you and several of your best female just lived together?

I mean that honestly sounds fabulous to me. I suppose raising children is always something that makes me a big uncertain because I really do think that balance is good and it’s critical for children to have 1) stability (which as a single woman by myself I know I would not be able to provide) and 2) both positive male and female role models.

And while I probably could raise a child in this commune style approach, I feel that though I’m all for using my own life as a social experiment I wouldn’t want to do that with children, especially because if I have children I want four (enough to justify having a lazy susan at the dining table!)

My takeaway from “All the Single Ladies” is this: we might be destroying the traditional concept of marriage only to replace it with a wider selection pool of how to conduct our personal life. As homosexul and transgender individuals start to carve out their own place in the bookshelf of life, why not reevaluate the traditional heterosexual approach in its entirety? We are constantly on an evolutionary path to something else after all.

We might be destroying the traditional concept of marriage only to replace it with a wider selection pool of how to conduct our personal life.

This is a double edge sword, however. Expanding the stamp of approval is liberating. But with so many more options- gosh, how do we ever decide?  I know the correct answer: act with complete conviction based on what you feel right now even if it that opinion or goal changes tomorrow. But given that success often requires long-term commitment and conviction and options also don’t have an infinite shelf life….the real question is how do we decide and live without regret?
How do we decide and live without regret?
Before for me it had always been about choosing “correctly.” If you believe in yourself and weigh your options carefully enough, even if you fail the bad outcome only could be SO bad because you put time and effort into being judicial in the initial choosing. But now as I’ve departed my college bubble and entered my mid-twenties/rest of my life bubble, there are more options and even more variables. Calculative judicial thinking and decision making, while still something worth practicing, can no longer be the isolated source of comfort. As my quarter-life crisis has taught me, it is also foolish to deceive yourself into thinking that you can always just go back and hit the rewind button.
Maybe the key is to just not get too attached, don’t sell yourself too completely on any one vision. Instead sell yourself on the feelings. Perhaps it’s not so much who do you want to be in ten years but how do you want to feel in ten years. There are a multitude of paths to feelings but not quite so many to identities. I don’t know how sold I am on this answer but it’s just one attempt at tackling an age old conundrum.
Perhaps it’s not so much who do you want to be in ten years but how do you want to feel in ten years.
So thank you Kate (and all the single ladies of the 21st century) for helping me feel slightly more at ease with infinite possibility and uncertainty.
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