This is not an advertisement. I’m not looking for Prince Charming. I’m very happy being single. In fact, it would take love on the scale of “hit by a thunderbolt” to get me to even consider changing my solitary state.
I like living alone. I like spending a lot of time by myself. And while I also have an extroverted streak and like the company of others, I would much rather be alone than spend time with boring people.
I am also profoundly grateful that I was born into an era in which a woman could be single and live comfortably. A few years ago I wrote a piece for an anthology called Talking Back: Epistolary Fantasies (edited by Timmi Duchamp and published by Aqueduct Press) in the form of a letter to my grandmother’s best friend, Lula Mae Cravens, who never married. In some ways, I feel like she is my ancestor as much (or even more) than my blood kin.
Things have changed since Lula Mae’s day. A woman no longer needs to get married for economic security; she can take up a well-paid profession instead. For that matter, a woman no longer needs to get married for sex, or even to raise children. And while some single women are still desperately searching for Prince Charming, I’m not the only happy spinster out there.
But there are still stigmas and barriers to life lived on your own. Psychologist Bella DePaulo has written an excellent book on the subject: Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.
While DePaulo points out the obvious – social exclusions and financial unfairness – the point she made that really hit home with me is her discussion on how our society has devalued friendship and non-spouse family relationships in its exaltation of romantic marriage. She writes:
Single people whose lives are filled with friendship and passion and marvelously developed talents and stunning achievements can be chided as not having anyone and not having a life simply because they are not coupled.
She goes on to cite a corollary – that people with spouses and kids are always expected to put their families first, no matter how important their job or great their talent. Those who don’t – or at least, don’t pretend to in public – are heavily censured in the court of public opinion.
There’s that old adage that no one ever lies on their deathbed wishing they’d spent more time at the office. The implication is that dying people wish they’d spent more time with their families.
Me, I suspect that most dying people wish they’d done a few of those things they wanted to do, but had to put off because their spouse didn’t like it, or because they had to look after the kids, or because it wasn’t “practical.” (My heart broke when I read a story in The New York Times this week about a talented high school violinist who’s headed for nursing school because “Everybody gets sick.”)
When I reach my deathbed, I’ll probably regret the story I never got around to writing or the fact that I never got to go to the moon, not spending so many pleasant years on my own.
Nancy Jane’s story this week – by no coincidence – is “Spinster: A Flash Memoir.” Her collection Conscientious Inconsistencies is available from PS Publishing and her novella Changeling can be ordered from Aqueduct Press.
Check out Nancy Jane Moore’s Bookshelf for more stories.