August 13th, 2014

The end of my single-girl cred

I am coming to the end of my credibility as knower of things about living single, which is sad but not that sad–it means I have been married for two years Monday, which is awesome, and people have come to picture me more with my husband than without him, which is neither here nor there but simply a fact of life. It is a little annoying when I attempt to suggest single people can be or do a certain thing and get dismissed because “You don’t have to deal with it; you have Mark.”

Of course, and lucky me, but I wasn’t *born* with Mark (that would be weird). I lived alone for ten years and for much of that was truly single–not on-again-off-again, not between boyfriends, but actually not in a romantic relationship at all. I had my good days and bad, of course, but I also learned a lot about how to make the best of the life I had.

I think I have some good advice left to give on the subject, but people are taking me less and less seriously as my married state becomes more the way they know me. And I admit, I have been guilty of saying some horrible smug-married-isms like, “It comes when you aren’t looking for it.” Ugh. No wonder no one wants to listen to me.

So here, the week after my second wedding anniversary, is my final reckoning with the most useful information I learned while living single. I will shut up on the topic from now on unless specifically asked. Promise. I wonder how long I have to be married to start giving advice on that?

Of course you can do things alone. Like public speaking, playing with big dogs, and flying on planes, the only impediment is nervousness, which lessens with practice. The idea that if you feel weird or awkward going out alone, you should stop is crazy–what if people did that on first dates? It takes time to chill out about any new experience. I started with movies, because honestly if you’re counting on a companion to entertain you at the movies you’re doing it wrong. I moved on to fast-food and food-court type restaurants, for practicality’s sake–I didn’t want to be limited in how long I could be out of the house alone by my fragile blood-sugar, and I’m not crazy about powerbars. I eventually got to mid-price sit-down restaurants like Swiss Chalet and Pickle Barrel, partly because I like them more than most of my friends do, but also because I went through a phase in grad school where I was so busy I couldn’t socialize on the weekends, but I didn’t want to sit home alone. The answer was to haul the laptop to Swiss Chalet and work there. At least I was among humans.

In all of the above scenarios, no one cared or even seemed to notice that I was alone.  I found this to be a little less true in really fancy restaurants, which yes, I’ve done on my own a time or two. Those were mainly because I was travelling and someone said I had to try such-and-such a restaurant, and no one was with me to go. Those weren’t bad experiences, but a little awkward–plus I almost never go to fancy restaurants anyway, so when I do I prefer to share the experience.

The other big deal is parties. Parties are actually a bit harder because you can’t read a magazine and it can be awkward if you don’t have anyone to talk to for long periods. But it’s also great way to meet new people (something a single person may well want to do) without feeling that you’re tethered to an escort and have to make sure he/she has fun too. I started by arriving alone at parties where i knew a very good friend would be–as soon as I could find that person, I wouldn’t be alone anymore. I also did stuff like organize my time around going to the bathroom, getting a drink, getting food, etc., so that if I could keep shifting position to a) see new people and b) not look pathetic. I also learned that, within reason, it is ok to initiate conversations or insinuate myself into existing ones, even with strangers. That was big news to me! I always try to be really low pressure, so if anyone turns out to hate talking to me they can get away pretty quickly. But it’s almost always worth a try. I was gradually able to move up to parties where I knew fewer people, or was less close to them. It turns out you, or at least I, can’t really go to parties alone where I know no one. It’s too weird and sad, and I had too little incentive to stay (truth: I left an “industry party” after 20 minutes once, after having gotten all dolled up and travelled 45 minutes to get there.)

The bottom line is that you have to push your limits to get a firm sense of where your comfort zone is. Honestly, mine is my couch, and I’m sure so is most people’s, but life is more interesting when I leave it at least occasionally. It turns out I have a wider, semi-comfort-zone of things I can do and enjoy without feeling too weird. One fascinating thing my friend John once pointed out, “Being self-conscious is still being self-absorbed” or–no one cares what you’re doing except you, most of the time. When I do stuff on my own (and I still do), I felt like people were glancing at me weirdly or wondering what my story was, but almost certainly they weren’t, because who cares what some random chick who happens to be in the same restaurant as you is doing.

 

That’s it–that’s the single greatest thing I learned while single. It still helps to remember these lessons when no one’s around who wants to do what I want to do, I’m travelling alone, or I’ve simply had it with everyone I know. Which are circumstances that will no doubt occur for the rest of my life, married or not. It helps to be able to deal with them.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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