The Power of One
Single by Choice
Thirty years ago, when my mother's sister was my age and single, all of her girlfriends were married. Divorce was much less acceptable then, and since women were ill-prepared to support themselves and their children, unhappy marriages were often endured to the bitter end. My Aunt Evie took great comfort from the misery of others. She told me, "Whenever I feel bad about being single, all I have to do is talk to my married friends and I get over it right away."
My generation is different. I get no solace from listening to the complaints of my married girlfriends. They are living proof that love is still possible. At midlife, they have been married long enough to have weathered the inevitable storms and settled into comfortable partnerships. If they hadn't been able to successfully navigate the rough patches, they would have gotten divorced long ago.
And, unlike Aunt Evie, I have lots of single girlfriends. No one is shocked to learn that I am not now and never have been married. Few eyebrows are raised when I answer "no" without regret to the perennial "Do you have children?" My family and friends may have worried about how I would survive some of my relationships, but nobody seems to be worried about how I will survive being single. I am neither a spinster nor an old maid, as my aunt sometimes thought she was. Those awful, archaic terms were far more pejorative than the male equivalent, confirmed bachelor, because they lacked the connotation of choice. A man was single because he chose to be so, while it was inevitably assumed that a woman was single because she had failed to be chosen.
Women of my generation got to choose as well as to be chosen, but often we chose badly. Sometime around my forty-fifth birthday, as yet another romance that had begun in joyful hope ended in painful disappointment, I finally paused to wonder if there was something wrong with my selection process. My only criteria had been that the guy had to be good-looking, smart, available, and wildly attracted to me. I had neglected to choose men who were also trustworthy, loyal, and kind. I decided to take a break from romance and work instead on having a good relationship with myself.