On the Virtues of Being Single

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My Mom has told me about her single days, and they remind me of mine. At one point, one of her roommates, Janine, worked as a taster for Jack-In-The-Box (remarkably, she was quite thin). She filled their refrigerator with boxes of samples, tacos and burgers that bore angry notes addressed to her other roommate/cousin, Mary. Notes like “DO NOT EAT THIS, MARY” on everything. My Mom said they went to Black Angus to pick up guys, to which I had no response because that is a steakhouse you find in strip malls. They recovered from hangovers together on their couch in North Park. They were in each other’s weddings. It was a great time in her life.

When I think “wedding,” I think of a young Dustin Hoffman speeding to the church past Santa Barbara orange groves. Audrey Hepburn in a fit and flair, dancing expertly with Fred Astaire through a picturesque garden on a lake that looks not quite real. I think of the Dixie Cups, presumably singing in a hall somewhere, that they’ll “never be lonely anymore.” I can appreciate a chic taffeta a-line. Gabardine with skirt-filling tulle. And marriage is a beautiful thing, if you’re doing it with the right person.

But I am weary of the way single life is often treated like second best. It’s not second best. The fun moments with friends. The newness of a person you’re dating. The foreignness of them – not knowing what their favorite TV shows are and what their childhood was like – is thrilling. These things together are like a seam of gold running underneath my life. But sometimes it seems these things are disregarded.

I love living with and learning from the women that move in and out of my apartment. We share dating stories. Go to concerts together. Shop at boutiques. And I won’t be this age forever. I won’t do this forever.

I like how my time is my own. I think I’d feel a bit panicked if the perfect man proposed tomorrow. It would be like he had grabbed my lungs and started to squeeze. I’d worry about sharing my time. I’d worry that I’d never again feel that heart-racing, warm feeling you get when you’re overcome with desire for someone new. I’d worry he’d want me to have kids right away. In short, I’d worry that he’d clip my wings, when I needed to fly.

When my parents became engaged, they picked up lobsters from Point Loma and drank champagne all the time. My Mom did her florist’s nails for a year so she could get free flowers. My Dad was late to the ceremony inside the cool and imposing Immaculata, because he couldn’t find a bathroom. Later, they danced to Melissa Manchester’s “Ice Castles,” as the waters of the San Diego harbor glittered outside a restaurant that’s called something else now.

I watched the footage of my parents’ wedding once, and I cried a little. It was all very eighties. That’s not why I cried (but it could have been). Sleeves and hairstyles were pouffy. Mustachesonmustachesonmustaches. The bride and bridesmaids wore these very unfortunate headbands that came to a V in between their eyebrows. A single jewel dangled from the end of the V. I just can’t even with the headbands.

Anyway, when my parents stood on the scaffolding saying their “I do’s,” I teared up. One decision, one day, was like cutting a jugular and a billion things poured forth. Like the Saturday morning on which I was born. The times we all piled in the car and drove to nearby neighborhood to drink free hot chocolate and examine particularly good Christmas light displays.

It’s not that I never want to get married, I just think that it would be a shame for me to not notice how good being single actually is. Once you do get married, there’s a room in your life that’s closed off to you. And it bothers me that that isn’t a conversation that’s often had. Just how good being single actually is.

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