‘Don’t worry you won’t be on your own for long,’ a well-meaning male colleague said not long after my marital break-up. As though I only have value in terms of my worth to a man. I was in a state of single doom, not singledom in his eyes. He pursed his lips and looked sad. I was deserving of his sympathy because I was now single. I should have challenged him, but at the time I needed that reassurance that yes, I was ultimately loveable, and that no I wouldn’t be condemned to a life of single doom.
This is entirely counterintuitive to my recent experience of actually being single. I am free. I can do what I like, on the days when I’m not with my son. I don’t have to put up with a remote-control hogger or the crushing silences from someone you share a house with but doesn’t speak. I don’t feel that I need sympathy, and my women friends are certainly casting a slightly envious eye at my freedom. I feel inspiring and inspired, not in need of a ‘there there’ a man will soon come along and rescue you from terminal spinsterhood, as though I’m some old maid in a Jane Austen novel, sitting on the side of the dance floor waiting to get picked.
And talking of dance floors, a friend recently commented on a night out that I don’t ever scan the room for men, or engage with chatting to them despite how many interested looks I get. I’ve always had a lot of male attention, but I’m at the stage in my life now, where I don’t want to assess myself in terms of how much male attention I get. I want to go out dance and drink with my mates and have fun, without the constant engagement with potential partners. It’s wearying. I want to be me, and like me on my own without feeling the need to be completed.
It would currently take one very special man to shift me back into that state of perpetual compromise that comes with being in a relationship.
The chirpy monkey part of my brain that has been programmed by modern culture into thinking that I will only be complete as part of a pair still kicks in occasionally. And trust me, when you don’t have a constant person at home, then you have to make much more of an effort in order to connect with people and that takes time and vulnerability. Some days it would feel much easier to shut the door and have a companion waiting for me at home, than to keep up a constant set of balls in the air in terms of my social life and maintaining connections with people. You appreciate your friends a lot more when you’re not in a relationship, but sadly, in the past, for me, they have been the first thing to slide when I’ve met someone.
I’ve been telling everyone that I’m quite happy on my own, while at the same time talking about meeting someone, so maybe some part of me was struggling. But I had something of an epiphany this week. I sat on my own, on my sofa, in my house. It was calm, and quiet, and there was no panic, no voice in my head noting the absence of a potential other. There was just me in my space, perfectly happy to be there, feeling whole, and happy, and free. It was a lightbulb moment. I don’t need to have a man in my life, I’m okay on my own. But, if at some stage, I want to have a man in my life and am lucky to find someone compatible, then hopefully the relationship will be stronger because I’m ok with myself. In the words of Shirley Valentine, ‘I’m okay. I quite like myself actually.’