My friend and I recently agreed that there is much to be said for being single in your 50’s. So much so that we are both potentially in dire danger of never having a relationship again unless we are prepared to make a supreme effort to do something about it. Instead, we are destined to become smelly old cat-ladies living on our own, with whiskers and mad hair. (“Become???” I hear lots of my friends say…and they may well be right…slightly suspect I’m already there….)
One of my New Year’s resolutions was meant to be about making more effort to find a partner, but owing to unforeseen circumstances, it hasn’t even made it onto my top 10 list of things I’ve got to focus on this year. This is a massive worry, but also a massive delight. It has taken me half a century to appreciate how much more space there is in life when you don’t have someone else to worry about and how many wonderful other things you could be concentrating on. However, we are all more or less programmed to think that it is impossible to be single and normal, let alone single and happy. We all want single people to meet someone and live happily every after. We simply can’t help it…even I want me to meet someone and live happily ever after. So I will stick with my “Hope” New Years Resolution – because single people are allowed to have hope in bucket loads.
As a single mother, with my children still living at home, it has been a huge advantage to be able to focus on them exclusively – arguably not that healthy…I’m not sure. But it’s been a special time for us. It means I can spend time enjoying their company at this stage of their lives, without the influence of someone else in the mix. This time with them is not something you can ever replace. So for now, I’ve stopped worrying about it and for the first time in my life, I am able to sit still and feel comfortable in my own wrinkly old skin, without the need for someone else to complete me. This may just be an age thing, but it does at least mean that I can now walk into a room full of people without feeling sorry for myself, because there is no longer a gaping black hole next to me – more a shiny white space. As time goes by, there is a dwindling expectation of finding “Mr Right” (not under the sofa or behind the door anyway) and I don’t even know who I am looking for anymore or what I want to achieve from it. There will be baggage of course. Lots of it. And dodgy feet. How do you decide whose baggage you are prepared to unpack? My mother thinks it’s because I’m being picky. I haven’t got the heart to tell her there is nothing picky about having no men to choose from. Not sure where she thinks I’m meeting all these men I’m being picky about.
Whilst my friend and I agreed that we most certainly don’t want our current status to continue for the rest of our lives, we are not in a bad situation by any means, so we are aiming to go with the flow and enjoy it, rather than panic and stress about it. Like so many of life’s pleasures, new friendship and love rise to the surface when you stop trying to hunt them down. So I am going to try revelling in what is a great opportunity to enjoy some newfound freedom, to spend time appreciating friends and family and maybe appreciate the luxury of learning something new.
It also helps to remember that we are not actually designed to live happily ever after with the one special person who we fell deeply in love with a million years ago once we have procreated. That is not normal. Choosing to get married for “Romantic Love” is a relatively new concept, as is living a very, very long time. Historically people got together for survival and for the practical and financial reasons of bringing up children in what could be known as “The Art Of Compromise”. Expectations remained comfortably low and then they died. 250 years later and we expect the moon and back.
Living with another person is not easy at the best of times and there are many advantages and disadvantages to both living with someone and living alone. Living together can cause inevitable friction. Is being lonely in the marriage better or worse than being lonely and not in a marriage? Don’t forget being lonely is not the same as being alone. My friends are obsessed with the lack of intimacy, but is having no sex outside of a relationship better than being denied or having crap sex within the relationship?
Still, I am pining to have someone around to help me with JOBS AROUND THE HOUSE. My children are shit at that. So am I. I need a bin man. A car man. A fridge man. A shower man. A drain man. A cup of tea man. A chef…and I know I sound sexist, because obviously women can do those jobs too, it’s just that I’m a bit bored of having to do them all on my own. So whilst I’m not sure whether psychologically, I’d be up for sharing my space again, because I’m getting to be too selfish and set in my ways, I hope I might consider it one day. Jeanette Winterson was extolling the virtues of not living with her wife the other day on the radio and it sounded like a great solution (apart from the lesbian bit), one that perhaps more of us would do, if we could afford to have two houses near each other. It would no doubt be easier to keep the romance alive that way.
Anyway….all just food for thought but I’ve got to stop now. Off to empty the bins.