I think most single people my age detest being called “single.”
We all feel a bit like Hester Prynne walking around town with a consonant.
The “S” word for some is a choice, but for most of us, it’s a consequence of being divorced, busy, preoccupied or some other convenient public excuse to still the questions and help to make socializing in a coupled world a little more bearable.
We go to “singles” groups and functions because that’s where we “belong,” only to find them uncomfortable venues where solo men and women are in search of partners, willing to drop their standards to pair up or at the very least, hook up.
Okay, perhaps that was a bit of an unfair generalization, but if you’re single you know what I mean.
I used to be the life of the party. My natural gravitational pull was always to groups over individuals. I was socially savvy, interpersonally comfortable and could easily engage an entire room with my wit and personality all night long. At some point, however, I lost those skills. My recovery made me realize the shallowness of being the center of attention and as a reaction formation, I have probably swung the pendulum a little too far in the opposite direction instead of settling on a happy medium. Mental note: change that.
It started when I was divorced. When you’ve lived a coupled life, you develop coupled friendships and activities with other couples and oftentimes have more potential for social life than you have time on your hands. But, suddenly single, the quake creates a giant, nearly impassable crevasse between you and your former social life. Stranded on a cold, detached sheet of ice that is an outflow consequence, the growing distance can be pretty lonely.
For instance, I went to a Halloween party last night. Though the place was fabulously decorated, the costumes were incredibly ornate, the food and drink and music–perfect, I never felt more alone. Well, maybe not “never,” if I were to be honest and a bit less dramatic (enhanced self-pity is another consequence of being alone most of the time. Nobody is around to keep it in check.)
I suppose it didn’t help that it was populated mostly with high school friends I haven’t seen in 35 years. People look a lot different now. And of course, we were all in costume. For these two reasons alone, they all might as well have been complete strangers. I recognized very few except for those whose years had been very kind to them. The social trifecta was completed by the fact I was single. Being single at a party like that, at least to the single mind, feels like that scarlet letter once again. “He’s single? Must have been a bad divorce or else he’s gay or there’s something unpleasant about him.” In my case, you could make a case for all three, I suppose. But that’s how the single mind works. It develops thought bubbles over everyone’s heads to the point at which the popping sounds become overwhelming and you just need to bolt because the last couple episodes of The Walking Dead and your dog have been patiently waiting for you to come home for at least the past 45 minutes.
Any slightly believable excuse for the host and hostess if you stay long enough to say good bye. I didn’t.
Single adults now make up more than half the American population. This is a large, looming, lonely statistic. Our mind’s norm, however, still conceives of ourselves as the minority.
So I head home to be socially extroverted on Facebook and other “social” media where it’s safe to be single and the loneliness is controllable, fishing for likes as life partners rather than real relationships. I make lame attempts to belong by describing in detail and pictures the deep, meaningful relationship I have developed with my dog who would have loved to join me last night if I had a costume for him.
Sometimes I wish I was stupid and ignorant. But once a psychotherapist, always a psychotherapist. My training and experiences don’t let me escape self-evaluations like this very easily. Don’t get me wrong, though. I write stories like this one as a form of self-therapy and to educate, inform and inspire others who might have like experiences.
Honestly, I don’t walk around all day forlorn, feeling sorry for myself, prowling for a life partner. There are aspects of my singleness I greatly enjoy. I don’t feel entirely incomplete or unfulfilled, just a bit lonely at times when I observe happy couples who have grown together for many years and have someone to hold at night and talk about nothings as if they were somethings.
Though I should know the answers to my problem, admittedly, I do not. I have tried unsuccessfully to make some more convenient, spontaneous friends who could join me in outings like this. Though I don’t seem to fare well in these social misadventures alone, underneath, the invitations alone are a therapeutic salve I enjoy perhaps more than the event itself. For the uncoupled, it feels good and “normal” to be invited, wanted and desired.
I don’t drink. Or perhaps better said, I don’t drink very well. In an effort to stave off the increasing desire to bolt from the party earlier than I did, I quickly downed two vodka tonics in an attempt to loosen me up for an engaging conversation with nobody at my table. All I got was sleepy and this pounding headache at 4am the morning after. As a recovering drug addict, I have no business drinking but it’s never been my drug of choice and they weren’t serving bowls of meth at the bar. Alcohol and drugs are never the answer or solution to this internal problem. I’m intimately aware of this. But the desire to stay just a little bit longer hoping I could make the feeling pass was so strong, I was prepared to do anything just to last another half hour.
I dressed as Santa Claus first because I had the costume on hand and second, because my extra weight would be masked as part of the costume. There, I admitted it. For the most part, I really and genuinely like myself and who I’ve become as an uncoupled man. I recognize I probably would have never created such a mess of my life nor enjoyed the fruits of life changing recovery had I remained coupled. So singleness has been a blessing in that regard.
Well, I am pleased to report that my splitting hangover headache from that pair of vodkas has mostly subsided and I’m feeling pretty good about today, being a single man on a Sunday morning.
Sundays are always a reminder that while I may be lonely, I’m never really alone.
And that Hester Prynne never deserved what she endured.
Anyone have her number?
(btw, this story is unedited except for spelling and grammar, so if it reads disjointedly, blame the vodka and my laziness.)