Monday, April 14, 2008


I had the kind of weekend I almost need a weekend to recover from. Saturday was a social day, which was a ton of fun. Then Sunday I did my taxes. I suspect it was the latter that left me drained. The actual work of it isn't so bad, but I find it very emotionally draining. Plus, I don't like being reminded that I'd make more money and pay less in taxes if I got a real job. "Salary"-wise, I'm right where I was ten years ago. But I think I'm a lot happier. It's a lovely day, so when I walk to the post office to put the forms in the mail, I think I'll take a nice, long walk around the neighborhood, which should help me unwind and re-energize me.

It's funny how the universe so often works in themes, where bits and pieces of a certain topic all seem to pop up at the same time. I saw the first episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures Friday night, and I think I'm really going to like that series. One thing I love about it is that our heroine is a woman "of a certain age" who is considered glamorous, who looks great, who is independent, intelligent and active. She has a great house and a cool car, lots of neat tech toys, and a wardrobe that is neither grandma nor "mutton dressed as lamb." Normally, women in that age range (and I was surprised to find out exactly what her age is, and damn, girlfriend's looking good) are depicted as either shriveled, predatory cougar types or grandmas. Of course, they did have to bring up what seems to be frequently asked question number one for any single woman over about 35 who remains unmarried: "You mean you never married or had kids?" Sometimes they vary this and ask why you didn't marry. I know it's generally meant as a compliment, with the other person expressing surprise that someone as seemingly great as you are wasn't snatched up right away, but still, grrrr. I hate that it implies that a) great people will naturally be married and b) marriage is automatically better than being single. At least in this case, they weren't saying that her current life was sad because she wasn't married. The sadness was that she didn't have any real relationships of any kind in her life because she couldn't share the coolest things that had ever happened to her with anyone. I imagine that would rather put a damper on any relationship. She certainly couldn't have a conversation about how she spent her twenties, and people might get suspicious about her if she never talked about a big chunk of her life.

Unfortunately, I don't have that excuse. I didn't spend my twenties traveling around in space and time with an ancient alien in a little blue box. When I get asked the question about never being married, I just say that I haven't met anyone I wanted to marry who wanted to marry me. I'm not even sure that I've met anyone who wanted to marry me. If they did, they didn't try too hard to make me aware of their feelings. I may have met a few I think could have been compatible, but they weren't into me, and that's a rather important part of the equation. Trying to evaluate whether someone who wasn't into me might have made a good husband is like trying to decide if a chocolate cake recipe is any good if you make it without the chocolate. (Funny, most of my similes and metaphors seem to involve chocolate.)

Then in Sunday's newspaper, they ran an excerpt of this article about how women nearing forty or in their forties should settle rather than holding out for an ideal husband, otherwise they might end up (gasp!) alone. Here are some choice quotes: "Ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won't tell you it's a better career or a smaller waistline. Most likely, she'll say what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child)." For the record, um, no. What I think I want most in life right now is a bestselling book, or at least to have a publisher give a book the treatment it takes to become a bestseller. That would lead to a little more financial security that would allow me to do more of the things I really want to do with my life. Everything else I really want in life, I already have. Then there's: "If you say you're not worried, either you're in denial or you're lying." Actually, I felt like I was in denial about my ambivalence toward marriage for a long time. I knew the clock was ticking, and I felt I ought to do something about it. I even (gasp!) read Dr. Phil's book on finding relationships, and he said something that struck me. Paraphrasing, he more or less said that you don't really have to be looking for a relationship, that if you're not in one and you're not doing a lot to find one, then maybe you don't really want it, and that's perfectly okay. That was a major lightbulb moment for me. I was happy with my life the way it is. I don't really enjoy dating and all the stress and emotional upheaval that comes with it. I wasn't out there trying to meet Mr. Right because I was happy without him. So then I didn't need to read the rest of the book about how to do it, and I was much happier when I was no longer pretending to myself that I wanted a boyfriend just because that was what was expected of me.

Besides, I'm not sure who I'd pick to "settle" for if I were going to settle. Looking back on the men I've dated that I rejected (because it's kind of hard to settle for someone who rejected you), we've got:

1) Sir Galahad -- the guy I'd been friends with for several years (and even had a huge crush on for a while) who'd finally noticed me. We'd gone out a couple of times when I had knee surgery. It wasn't quite two weeks after the surgery, and I was still on crutches. My knee was still swollen badly, so I couldn't really bend or straighten it much. I had a third-floor apartment, so once I got home, I was home until I absolutely had to leave. I was back at work, but still not able to make it through a whole day, and then I had physical therapy twice a week. And this is when this guy calls to ask me out on a date. Then gets huffy when I decline and says, "When I'm dating someone, I like to go out with her." I'm not entirely sure what I said next because the pain pill I'd taken before he called kicked in about that time, but it must have been good because he didn't speak to me for months. It apparently didn't occur to him that he could pick up some takeout and a video and come over if he wanted to see me. He definitely didn't offer to come over and help me around the house (I might have married him if he'd just taken my trash out). And no, he didn't send flowers or so much as a get-well card when I had surgery. (Then again, none of my other friends at that time did anything, either, which is why I have different friends now.) Now, really, would being married to someone like that be better than being alone? I can just imagine, hours after giving birth, and him griping that a real wife would support her husband and go to his office party that night.
2) Lingerie Man -- oh, there was so much that was so very wrong with this guy. There was the fact that after only a couple of dates, he bought me this hideous thing from Frederick's of Hollywood for Christmas (I was pondering whether our relationship was far enough along for me to give him a card) and then claimed that he did it just to see my reaction. But the final straw was that, after only a few dates, he got in the habit of calling me at work around 3 on a Friday and asking what we were going to do that weekend. One week, I'd already made plans with friends, and he acted like he didn't believe that I had people in my life before I met him, and that I wanted to keep them in my life. The next week, I'd gone that morning to the doctor for a bad sinus infection and wanted nothing more than to just go home, take medicine and sleep, and he accused me of avoiding him. Of course, that made me want to avoid him. He snarkily said that when I wanted to see him, I could call him. I hope he didn't hold his breath while waiting. Again, another charmer who was more concerned with wanting to go out than he was with my well-being.
3) Sleeping Bag Guy -- I met this one at an out-of-town conference, and we'd been e-mailing a bit when he announced he'd be coming through my area on vacation and wanted to get together. So I invited him over for dinner while he was in town. He arranged to take me to lunch and then do some sightseeing before coming back to my place for dinner. By the end of lunch I was tired of him because he'd already managed to criticize much of my life (he talked about what a mess my house was -- when it was freshly cleaned for company; he criticized what I was writing because it wasn't worthy; he'd criticized the way I lived), but I didn't feel like I could take back the invitation for dinner. After dinner, he complained that I didn't rent videos and instead watched the ones I already owned that I'd seen already. I started in on the hints that it had been a lovely day and it was nice to see him, but bye-bye, and then he said, "I brought my sleeping bag. Mind if I crash here?"

So, which one of these would have been better than being alone? Most of the rest, I'd have had to file a missing persons report with the FBI to find, as that's what tends to happen with my relationships. If I think things are going well, I will never hear from him again.

I think the difference between me and that author is that having a husband isn't a goal for me. I'm not opposed to marriage at all, but it's not some kind of box I feel I have to check in order to have a good life, and therefore, I'm not going to grab somebody just so I can say I've been married. My approach is more that if I meet someone I really enjoy being with, whose presence enhances my life and with whom I do want to spend the rest of my life, and if he feels the same way about me, then I'll get married. If not, well, that's okay, too. And I don't think I'm lying or in denial.

Oh, and the end of this article is totally classic. Her proof that being married is better than being single is the fact that when her friends complain about their husbands and say she's lucky to be independent, she says if they don't want their husbands, they should just give them to her, and no one has taken her up on the offer. Or maybe, you know, they've made a commitment and don't treat their husbands like a piece of clothing that's no longer in style, even if they're not always totally happy with him at every single moment.

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