It’s often in my kitchen, doing dishes or cooking (and when I say cooking, I mean barely) that I think about what it means to be single. There’s often the idea that a single person doesn’t necessarily choose to be single, that she or he becomes single because they just haven’t found “the one.” But I’m in the process of taking ownership of my singlehood in a new way, in a way that doesn’t suggest I’m single out of sadness or a lack of having a significant other that is somehow supposed to make my life seem more meaningful. My life is full of meaning and beauty just as it is.
When I was ending my last relationship, I remember realizing that my fear wasn’t necessarily being alone; my fear was that I would choose it. My fear was that I might like it better.
I was good at marriage; I am good in relationships. I give a lot. I am a loving person. But my problem was that I wasn’t always good to myself. I didn’t always know how to balance my own needs, my own dreams for my future, with the needs of my partner. In loving fully and loving much, I don’t know that I ever learned to fully first love myself.
In one of my favorite movies, Singles, directed by Cameron Crowe, Bridget Fonda’s character is head over heels for a guy in a band played by Matt Dillon. She’s always hanging around him, wanting more of his attention, but he’s apathetic toward her at best. She even considers getting breast implants to be more of the kind of woman he finds attractive, until the plastic surgeon tells her her boyfriend should accept and love her as she is. One day, sitting next to her boyfriend, she realizes she doesn’t have to be there. She is not held by anything to be at his side. She can just walk away. With that comes liberation, comes her ability to bask in the sun by herself. “Being alone…” she says. “There’s a certain dignity to it.”
In the past two-plus years of being alone, I’ve really discovered that sense of dignity. I’ve gotten to know myself better along the way, gotten through hardships on my own, not relying on a spouse or partner to help me. I think I used to be more needy, more dependent, more wanting of someone’s time. Now I know how to give that time to myself. Instead of one person, I have a network of people to reach out to when I need a kind word, need advice or to vent. And I’ve realized the significance of friendship—true friendship, the goodness of people—in a culture that often makes friendship a blip of status updates and instagram pictures.
I think there is the idea that we’re half a person without a significant other, but that’s not true. The best way to be true to another person is to be whole in yourself.
I’m not opposed to someone coming along and adding sweetness to my day, but I’m not seeking it out either. I can add that sweetness myself—through a good book, dancing in my apartment with my kids, great conversation over coffee or tea with an awesome set of friends. I am single by choice, enjoying being in a relationship with myself after spending a large chunk of my adulthood with someone else. And finally, after settling in and accepting it, singlehood feels really good.
Image: “Flower” by Oatsy40 via Flickr.