Christine Macdonald

Author. Speaker. Recovering Narcissist.

Christine Macdonald

Christine Macdonald
Southern, California, USA
November 09
Contributing author of The Moment (Harper Collins). Former stripper, current writer working on forthcoming memoir Pour Some Sugar On Me: Tales from an Ex-Stripper. Activist. Public Speaker. Survivor.


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AUGUST 22, 2012 1:55PM

Normal: when all you know is Single

Rate: 21 Flag


woman feet up 

The sky is gentle this time of day. Her cool breeze tickles my skin, brushing loose, the strands of hair along the nape of my neck. I take my usual walk up the short flight of steps, noting my shadow; stretched out ladyfingers against the building. It’s my personal Funhouse mirror that I’ve grown accustomed to, but still smile at its lanky distortion.


When I reach the top, I find my key in the side pocket of my purse. Even though I’m on autopilot sliding the small metal grooves in the lock, I am ever present with the sound. It greets me every afternoon, clear and uncompromised, not competing with children, or a partner on the other side. It barely lasts a second, but carries weight beyond measure – the click of the unlock, the forward movement of the door – it’s the resonance of my life. The sound of a single person, coming home.  


The quiet space greets me like an old lover wanting attention, but at the same time, marinates in solitude.  After shuffling about, grabbing a bite over the kitchen sink, sifting through junk mail and stripping down from my work clothes, I pour a glass of Pinot, and settle on the couch. I curl up with alone; check my email, channel surf through recorded television programs, and downshift into the night. I take pleasure in my company.  


~ ~ ~


There’s nothing in the fabric of my childhood that would’ve sewn together a security blanket of traditional normalcy. Instead, my comforter was a patchwork quilt of father abandonment, stepfather indiscretions, alcoholism, neglect, abuse, and bullying. This was my Normal.


It made perfect sense that by my 19th birthday, I was a stripper.


In addition to working my mojo on stage, I managed to parlay my childhood dysfunction into a full-fledged drug addicted life, complete with abuse, and self-sabotage. Not only did it feel right, it was precisely in line with my master plan of having no real plan.


College was short lived, and not conducive to my world of eight balls, ecstasy and VIP rooms. Boyfriends were mere fabrications; failed attempts of transforming one-night stands into relationships. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve broken up with, who had no idea we were dating.


Even before I moved out on my own at 17, men were never to be trusted. Liars and abusers, yes. People you could count on, hardly.  So why the longing to morph short-lived liaisons into would-be picket fences and monogrammed robes? Because like every young woman, I still wanted the fairytale.


When Pretty Woman hit the movie screens in 1990, I was obsessed with the fantasy of it all. I was 22, and living in the fast lane with no seat belt or air bag. Connecting with the story of good girl gone bad, I allowed my mind to fantasize about my own modern day Prince Charming. I wondered if he existed, and would be anything like Richard Gere’s character, Edward.


During the final scene of the movie, Edward climbs up Vivian’s fire escape to whisk her away. Queue the music; zoom in on the embrace, and…scene.  As the credits roll, the camera pans wide, and we slowly float back to reality by way of a vagrant man wandering the street, shouting, “Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream?”  


Dreams have a way of changing with time.


Fast-forward twenty years and my fairy tale has become tied up in a kaleidoscope of hard lessons and unhealthy choices.  But hope is not lost, as each past love in my relationship rear-view mirror is fading, and I’m pressing ahead, navigating the winding road toward my true self.


Between kicking drugs, walking away from the stripping life, and other personal milestones, I’ve many reasons to be proud. But my trust issues with men remain, serving as relationship cinderblocks, pulling me under, in a vast ocean of possibility. Each therapy session is a valiant effort in chipping away at its core, and I’m realizing – I have the ability to stop pouring the cement.


When it’s all you know, being alone is normal; even when the world tells you otherwise. There’s a certain ease to flying solo. I never have issues with restaurant or movie theater seats, my belongings are exactly where I left them, and the only chores I do are for me, if and when I choose to do them.


Single perks aside, I still want to grow old with that special someone who makes you forget your name. Call it a fairy tale, wishful thinking, or a hopeless romantic pipe dream – I just know - I’m finally ready.


As a middle aged gal with enough baggage to fill an airplane, I realize I’m a red flag in the dating scene. In recently completing an on-line profile, I seriously contemplated fudging my stats. I thought about saying I’m divorced, because, these days, who isn’t? I’ve even toyed with the idea of going the widow route, but decided that’s way too Melrose Place manipulative. So I went with the truth: 43, never married, no children. So far, I’m beating them off with a stick.


~ ~ ~


My body is warm, the hours whisper by, and my eyelids feel heavy. It’s late, but part of me still wrestles with the night. I eventually surrender to the realization - I can’t stay up the way I used to. I laugh inside, wondering why I still try. The unfocused turquoise numbers on the DVR tell me it’s time to sleep. I shut down my living room, and say goodnight to my space.


When slipping under the covers in my bedroom, I occupy the center of my bed. My legs stretch; I embrace my pillow, and release a sigh of content. My heart beats slowly, within the walls of comfort and ease. In the quiet moments just before I drift, the corners of my mouth turn slightly upward, and I satiate in solitude, feeling safe and free.


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I'm divorced, but those last two paragraphs could have been about me. I've yet to tire of feeling safe and free, or to reach a point where I long for someone be there. We've been taught it isn't 'normal', but it is, and it is perfectly acceptable.

Peace to you and good luck with that online stuff !
Absorbing vignette. I want to read your memoir when you complete it. You are valiant and deserve some happy surprises.
Beautiful piece of writing. And oh so relatable to so many of us.
I like the piece, warm humor, accurate and precise that it is pretty ok to lie in the bed alone, and without concern about what the heck is going on with your things...
How I loved this truth, this work, this trying to build a new life, a love fairy tale, a new self..And your words my feel...

'..I satiate in solitude, feeling safe and free....''

I am so wishing you the "...I still want to grow old with that special someone who makes you forget your name...'' Isn't this all what we all want... Excellent work..
You describe a pretty dreamy life. Feeling safe and free and content is hardly a bad deal. I'm not a fan of Pretty Woman. I'm a fan of buying my own house, car, clothes, of traveling when and where I want, alone or with a handsome friend, just as good. Waiting around for a guy on a big horse is a story that wastes our time, and makes us believe we need a ride somewhere.
wow, have you always had "recovering narcissist" on your blog? I didnt notice that until now. my sig other is slowly recovering also although she doesnt regard herself in those terms :p
thx for dropping by my blog.
hey, I think you really need to count your blessings. there are girls who lived a life similar to yours, and are *dead*. seriously. addictions are like walking along the edge of a cliff. theres a lot of new info about it and scientists are realizing that just about all addictions are very similar wrt neurobiology.... moreover, addictions alter the brain. if you can stop the downward spiral, thats much more than can be said for many.... "normal" may be unexciting, but it sure is healthier.
Very sound prose. You have a unique vision for what we are. The goofy sense of what is normal for us has always perplexed me -- the idea that we are lining up for Noah's Ark, that we must do this -- or else. Are we going to die if we are not matched up? I think that we are outgrowing some of these constraints, these shackles to another time. We've screwed up a lot -- but somehow have grown out of the old paradigm egg of being broken ... coupled. How we survive tells us who we really are. R>>>>>>>>
@desert_rat: Peace to you, as well! I'm glad I'm not alone in my thoughts. :)

@Ellen: Thanks, I'm ready for some!

@Chicago Guy: Thanks so much. Happy you can relate.

@knuthf: Thank you for the lovely comment.

@Stathi: To love and be loved - yes, what we all long for. Thank you so much for the comment.

@greeheron: Agreed! There's something to be said for living our own lives - and not waiting - making it happen and enjoying the Now. I still love Pretty Woman though. :)

@vzn: Yup. Always. Tell your sig other I feel her plight. :) Trust me, I count my blessings daily. Every day above ground is something to be thankful for.

@inthisdeepcalm: My feelings exactly. Thank you!
Absorbing narrative, and so well written. You reference your history without being sappy, and tell your story boldly and clearly. Thanks!
Ms. Macdonald, I'm glad that you have been able to accept your current condition with such good grace. I never had a tenth of the problems you had, but I've been largely cheated by life and other human beings. I'm bitter and angry about it, I always will be, and not even God Himself or Herself could abate or change that.

I hope you find the one you love. As for me, the few women that don't treat me with hate, disgust or spite, think I'm silly and walk away laughing. But, as I say, I'm glad you can face the future with optimism.
What a wonderfully unapologetic and un-self-pitying (?) look back on your life and how your experiences have worked together to bring to the place you're in now. Not everyone could have gotten to where you're at and the realization that you "have the ability to stop pouring the cement". - love that. And no one could blame them either; you've overcome a bunch of obstacles that might've buried someone else.
I must be the only person who detested that movie Pretty Woman and also the equally irritating An Officer and A Gentleman. I guess I never bought into the notion that a man was going to save me; I found Looking for Mr. Goodbar more realistic than those other two. You could have wound up like Theresa in "Mr. Goodbar" - I think it's amazing you gravitated toward the hopefulness of Pretty Woman instead.
And what a lovely meditation on being single.
@kitd: Really appreciate your lovely comment, thank you!

@neutron: Trust me, I have my bitter moments, but The Universe always brings be back to Gratitude. All you have to do it turn on the world news to remember - there are so many people worse off, and happy with much less. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

@Margaret: I loved "Mr. Goodbar" too. :) Also, I was obsessed with (way more than Pretty Woman) All That Jazz when I was 11. Interesting that my road went down the drug addict/stripper path just eight years later. Thanks so much for your comment.
What a beautiful piece. As someone who was alone for much of her adult life, after a divorce in my 4os, I found late-love -- one husband post 50, one post-60 -- when I was least expecting it. (One husband died; I'm currently married.) Do not settle for someone who isn't kind and good. That's my only advice. Meanwhile you sound content with solitary living, as I was, and that is a peaceful place.
Thanks Lea. I'm very peaceful, but open to trusting men and continuing to work on my issues with that, so I can let the good ones in!

Thanks for reading and commenting. :)
Well done and well said.

I going to go out on a limb and say that you can write poetry just as well. A lot of your context is very dreamlike and rich in texture. Ride that fence until you nail down your voice, or ride them both like you stole them.
I was so happy to see your beautiful face on the cover today. Congratulations!
Beautifully written! As someone who has spent many of my adult years alone, I really loved how you expressed the contentment. And as one who found love late, I assure you it is out there. Just hold out for someone kind and good.
@andrew - I do write poetry, as well, but just for me. Thanks for the compliment and comment.

@mike! Happy to see you too. x

@OS Readers' Picks: Wow! What an honor. Thank you!

@Lea: Thanks, I will!
I love that you don't make one thing - being single or being in a relationship - out as the sole "good answer". The way you describe returning to your apartment and savoring your time to I love my alone time, too, and I never, ever try to make single people feel like they need to be in a relationship. Since you have explained your feelings and hopes on all this so well, I'll wish you luck, though, in finding a good person you deserve. He's out there, and when the time is right, he'll be there - but it's wonderful to know that you have a life you can enjoy even now, Prince Charming or no! Wishing you all the best.
Thanks Alysa. I made a conscious effort to steer clear of portraying feelings of self-pity, or defense. I have those moments, as we all do, but they do not define me. :)
You just described my 20's and most of my 30's. There is a peace to having your own space but when the time is right there will be company....It's a welcomed and difficult transition. Worth it, though. Hang in there, he's working his way to you.

@witchywmn: You just gave me a chill. Thank you. x
marvelous beyond words to you hit just right on
safety in solitude.
i feel the same:
"I curl up with alone; check my email, channel surf through recorded television programs, and downshift into the night. I take pleasure in my company. "

for different reasons...obviously...

the world is insane.
(julie robert's smile is insured for 30 million bucks,
i just heard)

to carve a small space of sanity is a one woman
or one man
only after the deep comfort of one's solitary self
is reached, and made crystalline,
made good,
one is ready for a mate.
Very nice piece. To be content, no matter what our relationship status, now that's something... ~r