Typically women my age and older were groomed starting very early to be good wives. It was instilled in us to believe that our self worth was directly related to our ability to find and keep a man who would take care of us.
If you can just be:
◦ a good cook
◦ smart (but not too smart)
◦ good at sex
◦ good with children
MAYBE a man will find you worthy enough to be his wife. If you can keep up with all of these requirements he might not cheat, abuse or abandon you. If he’s not a good provider, you have to step up and make the money stretch further. Be better on your end and he will be better on his end. If he’s failing, it’s because you aren’t supportive enough. If he leaves, it’s because you haven’t done enough to keep him. If he cheats, you’ve let yourself go or haven’t been fulfilling your wifely duties.
If a woman leaves a man she’s ungrateful and has forgotten her place.
When my ex husband asked me to marry him I thought that was his word that he would rise up to be my partner in life. To him, that ring was a handcuff. It meant I agreed to stay with him no matter what. That he’d “caught himself a woman” and could stop trying on his end.
When I told my grandparents he’d asked me to marry him and that I had said yes, my grandmother said, “Well, I hope so.” My head started spinning immediately. What did that mean? I was 27, it was about time I settled down? I should be grateful someone finally picked me? I was an embarrassment to the family because we were living in sin? I’ll never know what she really meant. She doesn’t remember saying it. Her memory has been failing or she might recognize how awful that was to say.
I hate that my self worth is still attached to my ability to attract and keep a man in my life. I know better but the reaction comes from years of conditioning and requires constant vigilance to keep it in check. It’s an ongoing battle and has me exhausted at times. Daily affirmations and distractions so I don’t get too wrapped up in my own thoughts. Choosing to leave a marriage and then being fussy about who I spend my time with?
…HOW DARE I ?
Wait! It’s not as easy as all that.
I have a lot of friends. People like me. I’m kind, outgoing and pretty funny. People ask if I’m seeing anyone. Tell me it’s a shame that I’m not. I just say, “I don’t get asked out.” They make some kind of encouraging remark, add some advice and give me that virtual pat on the arm. (Sometimes it’s not virtual, they literally pat my arm. It’s dreadful.) Encouraging words almost always translate to “someone will choose you if you’re lucky enough.” There always seems to be this expectation that I should be “putting myself out there.” What I want to know is, how? How do you meet people? Online dating isn’t for me. I don’t judge people who do it, I understand that that is how the world works now, it’s just not for me. It triggers anxiety. It makes me feel objectified. I can chat with someone online a bit but then when it comes to meeting them, I don’t want to. I would rather be single than to put myself through the hassle of online dating.
I would rather be single than settle.
Despite feeling lonely at times, I would never put myself through the torture of volunteering to be miserable. So I’m picky. I am selective about who I spend my time with and this goes for friendships as well. For 14 years, I worked hard on a relationship that would never give any return on investment. It felt like I betrayed myself for having stayed so long. You know that cliché romantic idea that if you give enough love and attention, he will be good to you and you can make him better?
I’m done trying to make people better. I’m done trying to convince people to love me.
So there it is, lonely but unwilling to compromise on my standards. Trapped in a timeline where people don’t meet in public spaces. Waiting for a romcom style meeting with a man who truly cares about me without persuasion. I think I’ve earned that.
I’ve managed to navigate through the last few years without really suffering from loneliness. I’ve spent a lot of time alone throughout my life but have only felt lonely in short, trivial spurts. In fact, most of the time I don’t even really identify as single. I’m just me, going about my day, acting like I know what I’m doing. I miss being a passenger sometimes, having someone to express my feelings to, having someone in-house who can identify the difference between a mole and a pimple on my back, having a zipper puller upper (and downer) that sort of thing. On occasion, I end up at a family dinner or out with friends where everyone is sitting next to their partner and I suddenly become very aware that I am a party of one.
More than that, I sometimes become aware of couples. Out and about holding hands, talking, standing close, hugging, laughing…generally being affectionate. There are most definitely singles around as well, but in certain moments I only see the couples. When I find myself noticing my singledom and acknowledge the empty space next to me, the loneliness rings in my ears and sits heavy in my throat.
Tonight, we picked up pizza to eat on the lawn behind our building. While I was paying, I mentioned we were planning a picnic. The kind man behind the counter offered us paper plates and napkins. He passed me four plates and that lump in my throat prevented me from correcting him. An act of kindness turns into an unexpected reminder of the empty place at our picnic blanket.
When I was leaving my marriage I had a lot of people who didn’t really know me or really have any right to declare an Opinion tell me that I was going to have a rough life. Some of my favourites include: “I hope you know what you’re doing” and “you’ll go back.” My confidence was already shot so it was just adding to the pile of crap I was already thinking about myself. But I had decided that there was a better way of living. That I wanted more for myself. And despite my fierce independence, I would have to ask for help sometimes to get back on track.
When you have some other adult standing next to you and you’re carrying an armload of groceries on one side and a kid (or two) on the other and you’re fumbling with your keys to unlock the door, people just figure the adult standing next to you is going to step up and help so they keep walking. The truth is that sometimes, while you’re fumbling with the keys and the kids and the grocery bags and your hair falls in your eyes and you can’t seem to remember how to turn the key…that other person standing next to you is too busy being frustrated with how long it’s taking to open the door to see that they could be helping. Or sometimes they decide to complain rather than help.
How could someone know? How could anyone know how much I was carrying? Until I started to communicate. It sucks to ask for help. It sucks to feel like you need it. But it sure does feel amazing when you have other people care enough to WANT to help. And ASK how they can be there.
I am incredibly blessed for the network of friends I have to call on when I am in need and feel most fortunate when I’m able to be there for someone else.