The New Unmarried Woman
Michelle Brooks: 47, never married
Occupation: Federal international agency executive
Location: Alexandria, Virginia
A typical month might find Michelle Brooks conferring with congressmen, senators and ambassadors, attending White House briefings and embassy events and jetting to foreign countries to meet dignitaries and community leaders. She owns her own home, works out regularly, goes to church, volunteers at a local philanthropic organization, dates actively and has what she describes as "tons" of friends. In every way but one she's living the life she dreamed of when she fell in love with politics as a child and determined, she says, during a family vacation to Washington, D.C., that someday she wanted "to live here and make a difference."
Her path to the nation's capital started in California politics. After graduating from college in San Luis Obispo with a degree in business administration, she held a few local political posts -- working for a state legislator as a staff assistant and later as a lobbyist. After volunteering on several state-level campaigns she even flirted with the idea of one day running for office herself.
Instead, when she was in her mid-30s Brooks decided to fulfill her dream of moving to Washington. She phoned someone she knew there, sent him her resume, flew in for an interview and within a week of her original call had nabbed a job as a lobbyist. In 2002, after volunteering in George W. Bush's presidential campaign, she was appointed to her current post.
Brooks had always imagined she'd get married, but none of the three serious relationships she'd had in her late 20s worked out. "It boiled down to having different life passions," she says. "The kinds of activities and people we liked became increasingly different as time passed." Her political aspirations were another issue. One boyfriend was worried about the scrutiny to which candidates and their associates are subjected, she recalls.
Brooks assumed that in Washington she'd meet men with whom she had more in common. At first that seemed to be true. "When I got here I was the new face in town, and there was a flurry of activity," she says. But work remained a consuming passion and she eventually found herself more focused on it than on romantic relationships.
Seven years ago, at age 40, still single and childless, Brooks says she began a grieving process. "It sometimes involved tears," she confesses. At times it would be difficult, she explains, to get invitations -- including to the 2004 presidential inauguration -- for "Michelle Brooks and guest" and to not have someone to bring with her. "I had to remember that my value as a person wasn't based on my marital status and to let go of some old expectations," she says.
Part of that letting go meant fully enjoying her life rather than waiting for a better one to come along. She started to increase the number of vacations she took abroad, then began shopping for real estate. Recently she's begun thinking about adopting a child internationally.
"I've been blessed in a lot of ways," she says emphatically. "I'd love to be married, but I enjoy my life. Being single has enabled me to pursue a dream and take chances I might otherwise not have risked."