I might as well say it out loud. I sometimes date men off of Craigslist. It a mixed-bag of cock and ab pics, men who are looking for sex-only relationships, kink, and men who are looking for ltrs (long term relationships). Recently, I posted an ad, looking for a brotherly type man to hang out with. I miss platonic male company. Imagine my surprise when one respondent, Matt, demanded, “Tell me a joke or a funny story so that I know you aren’t a bitter spinster or a crazy cat lady.”
After responding to Matt with a very well thought out, and eloquent, “Go Fuck Yourself,” I considered his request. A 40 year old single man finds it acceptable to ask a 36 year old, single woman to defend the idea that she could, in fact, be single, and NOT embody the spinster/cat-lady stereotype. Matt’s underlying questions: Can a woman be single at 36 and be unaffected by her aloneness? Shouldn’t single women be ashamed of the condition they find themselves in, or at the very least, deathly afraid that they will always be alone?
My journey toward being a woman alone started again for me about 6 years ago. I say it started again because when I was in college, about 18-22, I was happily, unapologetically a woman alone. No spouse, no boyfriend, and no awareness that being alone was something undesirable. I didn’t spend my energy trying to attract men. I dated. I broke up. I recovered. Through it all, I was myself. I was sometimes alone, but I wasn’t lonely.
At 22, I was married, and became a woman theoretically not alone. That was 14 years ago.
Seven years ago, I gave birth to my first child. I was married at the time, but I remember feeling so completely isolated in my pregnant condition. After all, I was the one carrying another human inside of me. I was the one responsible for his well-being. I was the one who would be going through the miraculous process of giving birth. Me. Not anyone else. And I felt not only alone, but lonely. I longed to share the experience with someone, but couldn’t connect with my partner.
Later, once I learned how to reach out and connect with other parents, I found mine was not a unique circumstance. That many of them, no matter how involved, caring or nurturing their partners were, felt alone in responsibility for their child(ren). Perhaps feeling isolated is part of the journey of parenthood. I can only say that it was and is part of mine.
For me, the loneliness didn’t end at childbirth. I felt isolated in child raising, making almost all of those decisions like I was a single parent. On another front, my two beautiful children changed my marriage in ways that I’m still struggling to understand. I was rarely by myself anymore, but I was lonely to the core.
Then, I decided to leave my husband. And aloneness sat down smack in the middle of my lap. I fought it. Well, I avoided it. I dated. I found relationship. And I avoided aloneness, without avoiding loneliness. And when you’re in relationship, but still lonely, the fear of being truly alone consumes a good part of your thoughts. What would happen if he left?
Two months ago, I broke off a long term relationship with a man that I still love to this day. There are many underlying issues, and I won’t go into them here. I relied on my tried- and-true method of dating to convince myself that there were “other fish in the sea.” Finally, last week, I laid claim to my identity. I am a woman and I am alone.
And now, I have a second confession to make. I am reading two self-help books.
The first, “Being Alone Sucks!” by Adam LoDolce turns out that to be the typical “reinvent your dating persona” book. I’m ignoring all the advice about how to make myself desirable to a potential date, and focusing on the parts about cultivating a sense of my true self.
I’m also reading “On my Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone,” by Florence Falk. It’s a more substantial read, and I think I’ll have good things to say in the future.
Right now, every day, I try to spend more time alone and in peace. More time in meditation and solitude. More time accepting a core part of myself.
I am a woman.
I am alone.
I am not ashamed.