Redefining Singlehood

Say good-bye to chocolate cake once Mom leaves, kids.

I reconnected with a college friend over dinner this weekend, and we were so thankful to spend time in conversation with someone who is in the same stage in life. We are both among the youngest in our offices, and while a 50-year-old man or 30-something single mom certainly has valid opinions and advice, it can be difficult for them to understand our current situation and experiences. We were raised in a different era. We have made different life choices. It is impossible for them to relate completely. My friend and I, however, spent close to 3 hours in a booth at Chili’s comparing recent life developments and discussing the revelations of post-graduate life.

My friend shared this story about her recent business trip to a symposium and this woman she met there. The woman, at 33 years old, was in her 8th month of marriage and was expecting her first child. “I’m glad I waited until I was older to get married,” she told my friend. It had taken her those 33 years of life to become a successful, independent woman. She was financially capable of supporting herself and developed the skills necessarily to survive on her own in the modern world. Her future husband found himself just as successful and independent.

Their decision to marry in spite of their established independence, I realized over the course of the conversation, was a vastly beautiful display of their love for one another. By becoming husband and wife, they have essentially declared, “I do not need you. No, I want to spend forever with you.” The popular notion maintains that need is more romantic than want.

“Love? Above all things I believe in love! Love is like oxygen! Love is a many splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love!”

“I love you. You… complete me.”

It sounds so dramatically romantic to say you need someone, that you would absolutely die without them. But isn’t there great love in knowing your needs are already met, yet in spite of that, you still want to share your life with that other person because they make your life… better? That sounds more romantic to me, to have someone say “I could choose to live my life alone, but instead I want to live it with you.”

My friend mentioned, on a more practical note, the benefits of two independent people choosing to live their lives as one. They don’t need each other – or, they are not dependent on each other to survive in the modern world. The husband isn’t going from one mother to another; the wife isn’t going from one father to another. As individuals, they are both capable of taking care of themselves and the household. Together, they can share that load. My friend’s parents were high school sweethearts and got married soon after college. If her mother were suddenly no longer in the picture, her father would be at a loss – and with a lot of dirty clothes. Without that time of living on his own, he never learned to do laundry. Her mother never learned to manage finances.

With a high-five across the Chili’s table (literally), my friend and I decided to redefine singlehood in our own lives. It’s no longer this time of disappointment or self-pity because of rejection, awkwardness, or sheer lack of age-appropriate available men. Instead, we are reclaiming this time as our period of developing independence. It is our opportunity to become financially independent from our parents and to learn the skills that will carry us through life. This is our time for becoming successful individuals who, when love comes around, can say, “I want to share my life with you.”

Flashbacks

On Saturday, my mom broke her ankle – ironically while she and my dad were attending their AARP safe driver seminar. When my dad called to let me know what happened, I knew something was wrong from the beginning. The way he said hello, the strange noises and voices in the background, the way he asked me if I were at home. I could hear concern in his voice as he told me about how my mom would be needing surgery and how our family’s plans to be together for Thanksgiving would probably change. A broken ankle doesn’t seem very severe, considering my parents were recently in a car accident that totaled their van – the reason for their safe driver seminar in the first place. It’s just that the phone call with my dad just seemed strangely familiar.

It brought me back to March 27, 2008. I was a junior in college sitting in my dorm room. My mom called, or maybe it was my sister. My mom was to see a specialist – a blood doctor – to look into some of her levels. Hemoglobin. White count.

March 28 – a second call. I could tell in my mom’s voice that something was wrong. The way she said hello, the strange noises in the background. The appointment with the specialist had her going to the hospital for blood transfusions. Leukemia. From the hospital, she would go to the oncology unit at UPenn, where she would spend a month in chemo. It was so difficult being away at school – away from my family – at that time. Nothing felt certain anymore.

Over two years later, my mom continues to be in remission. That month of 24/7 chemo rid her body of cancer, and for that, our family is extremely grateful. Considering what my mom has been through over the past few years, a broken ankle seems like nothing. Those phone calls, though – they just trigger feelings of helplessness, uncertainty, fear. However, if I learned anything in 2008, it is that there is no need for fear – only faith and hope.