A while back I was sitting in an upscale New York City bar with one of my girlfriends, catching up over a couple glasses of Chardonnay, and the conversation gradually turned to dating, men, and marriage. I eventually remarked, "As much as I would enjoy finding a mate and getting married, if that never happens, I’m okay with it.” To which my friend responded, “I don’t believe you.”
Her response slightly offended me. I thought, really, how long have you known me? Then it hit me, she didn’t believe me because she is not okay with that scenario for herself, so she was projecting her fears and insecurities onto me. I let it go and changed the subject.
A few months later, I was recounting this story to another friend, who has known me a few years longer than the above-mentioned woman. This friend responded with a smile, “I think most women are not okay with never getting married, but I believe you really are alright with that.” Validation!
In all my years of being single, up until my cancer diagnosis, I imagined I would one day get married, or at least as a single woman adopt a child. Neither one has happened.
I experienced two long-term relationships in my late teens and early to mid twenties—one two years in duration and the other six years. After that, I spent the rest of my twenties and early thirties pursuing and dating the wrong type of guy. I was attracted to the extroverted, charming, creative type who also possessed some amount of business acumen. These guys were inevitably devastating to my confidence and self-worth; I was immersed in drama. Granted, I am an actor, I love drama, but not in my personal romantic life…okay, maybe a little. But this particular drama was destructive and oftentimes self-inflicted.
I always considered myself to be a smart, independent woman, yet I felt inadequate and allowed myself to be used. All this was quite destructive to my self-esteem, so I simply stopped dating. Plus I had many goals on which I was focusing, so there was little time for a relationship.
I was highly involved in the theatre community, as I’d co-founded a semi-professional theatre company with some friends, so I was acting, directing, and producing shows and managing the company. I was enrolled in ballroom dance classes at Arthur Murray, which was an absolute blast and opened me up to a whole new community of people. We went out dancing three to four nights a week—Monday was salsa, Wednesday was swing, and Friday and Saturday salsa or swing—going to whichever club had a band playing those styles of music. I even started writing and performing cabaret. Then I decided to make a move to New York City to pursue acting professionally. Although I was leaving my sister and some dear friends, I had no boyfriend or husband holding me back or to take into consideration, so I forged forward making plans to move the following year.
I arrived in the Northeast on August 31, 2002, alone. Thanks to my other sister and her husband I had a place to crash until I found my own apartment. I loved, and still do, having the freedom to act on a decision and not have to worry about consulting a partner. Perhaps that’s selfish, but I do value it.
Fast forward three years later with my cancer experience behind me, in 2005, I was back in the workforce and started dating a little, but quickly discovered that I lacked enthusiasm for maneuvering through the dating scene. One of the first guys I had any interest in post-cancer, I quickly kicked to the curb. I am too old for games, I decided. If I have to worry about if someone is going to call me or not follow-up on a date or if I’m wondering if I should call him, or whatever, he isn’t worth my time. I told him, “My life is refreshingly uncomplicated at the moment, and I want to keep it that way.”
Now, I know love and relationships can be messy, and that messiness can at times be fun and exhilarating, but the emotional wounds I endured the few years pre-cancer, though healed, aren't forgotten. I find immense satisfaction in my relationships with family and friends. My nieces and nephews are my life. Being an aunt is fulfilling beyond what I ever imagined.
I sometimes feel a bit out of place when I visit my sisters’ families and attend parties or the kids’ sports activities, where other married couples are also in attendance. It is in these circumstances I am acutely aware of my single status. However, most of the time, everyone is kind and inclusive, and I’ve never been asked uncomfortable questions about being single or made to feel like an outsider.
My nieces and nephews also make me acutely aware of my being single. In their young minds, if you’re an adult, you should be married. Below are some of my kids’ quotes I’ve accumulated over the years (these were spoken by them at ages 5-8):
Grace: Aunt Deborah, why aren’t you married?
Me: Well, I haven’t found the right guy yet.
Grace: You just need to go out into the world and kiss a boy and marry him.
Me: (Thinking - yes, that’s so easy; then I think, I’ll throw her an idea she can appreciate): I also don’t have to share anything.
Grace: (without skipping a beat) Well, that’s not very nice.
Aidan: Aunt Deborah, you need to get married.
Aidan: Because then you’ll be a grown-up.
Me: Andrew, when you are older and I have more money, I’m going to…
Andrew: What? Buy a husband?!
Andrew: (to his then 20-year old sister who was without a boyfriend at the time): Alyssa, you better watch out or you’re going to end up like Aunt Deborah.
Me: (mouth dropped open in protest)
Alyssa: So? What’s wrong with that?
Me: Thank you, Alyssa! (This smart young lady received a huge hug.)
Despite the kids thinking I should get married, I try to make them understand that it is okay to be single and to enumerate its advantages. So why do I enjoy being single? The reasons are many but the most basic ones are: I can do what I want when I want, I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, I spend my money how I want, I clean-up my own messes, and I don’t have to share a bathroom. Admittedly, it would be nice to have another income to ease the financial burden and someone to repair things in the apartment (although I have Super so that is not really an issue) and to assemble big items. Though when I moved into my apartment in 2006, I, by my little 5’2”, 105-pound self, assembled two book shelves, a storage cart with wheels and a cutting board attachment, and a wrought iron, glass-top wine buffet that I purchased along with my table and chair set. That last piece was a definite challenge.
When the table and buffet were delivered, the deliveryman put the table together but the buffet was not on the work order. “I can’t put that together,” I exclaimed, and spreading my arms wide said, “Look at me!” He just shrugged and walked out the door. I was steaming mad, but in the end, I assembled it; it wasn’t easy because it was heavy, but somehow I managed it. Upon completion, I felt quite accomplished.
I have many goals – acting, writing, cancer advocacy, politics, and I also work a full-time job. My life is very full. The gauge for measuring my interest in a guy is if I am willing to give up a weekend night to go out with him. If not, it’s purely platonic. I would like to date, but I don’t meet that many eligible men, or ones who interest me. Granted, I am picky and have been accused of it repeatedly, but I believe we should be picky. Plus I am still a work in progress, so maybe I won’t meet the right person until I am satisfied with how my life has evolved. I’m slowly getting there, though.
One downside I recently discovered of being single—at least for me—is finding an overseas travel partner. Last summer, I began planning a trip to Paris with a close guy friend, who at that time had just started dating a woman. Five months later, they were still together, and she was less than thrilled about him accompanying me to Paris. In the end, I released him from his obligation and despite my fear of traveling abroad alone, mustered the courage and decided to do it.
I have only been abroad a few times and never alone, so this takes me out of my comfort zone. These past few months, as I’ve been planning my solo trip, the excitement to travel and explore by myself has been increasing while the fear has been decreasing. Here is my chance to finally be the independent woman I always imagined myself to be, and that’s thrilling.
Over the past few years, I have become a more solitary person, enjoying my alone time. I lack the vibrant social life I did in my younger years, but I am largely fulfilled in all my endeavors. The people in my life are here because I love them and they add value.
I believe I remain single because while I can totally envision myself getting married—the production of it, the bridesmaids, the dress, the party, the flowers, the band, the handsome man (though I have no idea who he is), I can’t envision myself being married. This is why I am okay being single now and in the future.
Some people will never get married; some of us will never be parents, whether by choice or by chance. Today, I’m not sure I even want the responsibility of raising a child on my own—I used to think so, but now, I don’t think I do. Unless of course, fate brought my nieces and nephews under my care should something tragic happen to their parents, God forbid. I’d jump into parenting those children with no reservations.
I have a wonderful life that includes many adventures. It will take someone pretty spectacular to sweep me off my feet and make me willing to alter my life. Who knows, if the right guy comes along, it could happen. My friends and family would be pleasantly surprised, possibly shocked, because I haven’t been in a serious relationship in over a decade.
I am not opposed to or afraid of being in a committed relationship, whether it results in marriage or not. However, I refuse to live my life--as many women do--obsessing over when Mr. Right will show up, if ever. I’ve gotten used to being single, and I actually like it; I honestly do.