August 27th, 2016
Ah yes, the shelf, and the corollary question of loneliness.
As a woman past the big three-oh (we’ll discuss the hilarity of that insanity later), I’m well on my way to being considered on the shelf.
There’s this notion in the air that I must make efforts to change my single status, whatever it takes, and even more interestingly – the onus is on me and me alone.
But wait, one thinks, shouldn’t the onus be on the person wanting to get married?
Yes, but we’re not just talking about the usual expectations of cleaning up, putting on a face, and walking out of the house to put myself out there (we’ll discuss this later too).
If I were to put it in marketing terms, this isn’t about flogging the product, commissioning a gorgeous cover for the book, or making sure that it’s in the right channels for widespread availability. This is the editor suggesting changes to the plot, to the characters, maybe even something that changes the story as fundamentally as whitewashing or moving the setting to a different planet.
There’s also this idea, not ever fully verbalized, that whatever it takes doesn’t just expect me to contort to fit whatever box will have me, but includes shifting my expectations, my paradigms of fairness, and changing what my notion of the ideal life would be.
And the prize in exchange for all this?
A husband (and kids).
By the way, a happy ending isn’t part of the package. That comes separate. The idea floating around me right now is to hop on the bandwagon lest it pass me by, so I will have security, and to have kids before I’m too old to have any.
Everything has a price, it’s true, but you need to know the value of what you’re trading and the worth of what you’re buying.
Who is the best person I can be, and what will singledom look like as that person?
What will my ideal life look like if I plugged the preferred version of myself into a relationship?
What will I be giving up that would be irreplaceable if I were to stay single?
What will I be sacrificing to be part of a couple?
How much does fear and loneliness factor into all of this?
How far away can I push the fear?
First off, I’m rejecting all the worst case scenarios that people like threatening me with.
There’s no saying that my spouse will live as long as I do.
There’s no guarantee that even if they do, that they will be willing or able to take care of me should I need it.
There’s absolutely no promising that they’ll be a shield against loneliness rather than something that causes it. One of the times I’ve felt absolutely alone was in the same bed, cuddled up to my then-boyfriend.
There are things that no one can protect you from, not even if your love is true. There are things that are beyond the best of us. And whereas the world at large loves the stories of devoted spouses working tirelessly for the people they love, I don’t believe that is the only story. Or even the preferred story. (we’ll discuss the questionable practice of over reliance later)
My friends have dragged me past the quagmires of depression, out of self-doubt, talked me down from the ledges of anxiety, prompted me to pursue my dreams, and stood by me while I struggle with an unnamed chronic illness. The person/people I would like to thank the most for helping me get to where I could publish my first book is not my then-boyfriend of nearly a decade.
And honestly, if the entire world wants a younger, prettier, more polished someone else… I refuse to believe I’m missing out. And if who I am can’t shine brighter than physical attractiveness, well then, might as well know we’re not a good fit now rather than later.
My ideal life right now is one where I have enough money to pay the bills, travel a bit, and indulge once in a while with my friends. In an ideal life, I would be writing as much as I wanted, have the means to engage in art at my whim, and have the health to do what I wish.
If I had to put what I wanted onto a checklist and shuffled them into order of importance:
1. Health/energy/time to do what I want with my life
2. A sufficiency of resources (monetary or barter or whatever makes the bills go away)
3. Friends/family to share my life with
4. My writing/art-ing
Those are all things that I would not exchange for a husband. Everything else is negotiable, depending on the husband in question.
Compromise is a beautiful thing and I’m not saying my way or the high way, but I’ve lived a situation where what I really wanted out of life was ever so slightly out of reach because of how the relationship ended up being parsed.
Maybe one cannot have everything, but as they say: quality, price, speed, pick two. Or back in college it used to be: sleep, grades, social life, pick two.
Having a comfortable life and my art. That’s my two.