How to Be Single: Get your own Sh*t

***This entire post is a petty party, so if this is not your thing please scroll on by to the next post for your inspirational message fix.***

While I am not a big jewelry person I do love the occasional ring. Unfortunately, all of the rings I own are either linked to a relationship or look too relationship-y for me to wear without getting the usual run of intrusive questions. So to treat myself after a particularly rough semester I searched for a good right-hand ring.

This is one of the first things I stumbled upon.

 

*rubs temples*

While I’ve written of the pressures to always look “happily single” before, this particular piece of un-married-un-parent life irks me.

I just want my own shit.

I’m tired of being marketed to as an alternative to a “normal” life. It annoys me that mass marketing packages living unmarried or childless as some sort of consolation prize to find the upside in. I want to set every list of “why being single is awesome” on fire. I do not need to counter every parent appreciation hashtag with a childless version, or every engagement photo with the patriarchal downsides of marriage. I have no interest in living life as a half of a sandwich.

My life is my choice, not an accidental crisis.

One of the things I appreciated about being in a relationship was it took a lot of pressure off me to fit everyone in for the holidays. Because it was assumed I was starting my own family, I was given freedom to start my own traditions. It was the one thing I chose to take with me back into unpartnered life as a hard line item. Why should I only be allowed to have a ritual or tradition of my choosing when I had a husband to share it with?

I want my own shit.

I just don’t want it to be the poor man’s version of a couple’s tradition.

 

 

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How to be Single: The Myth of Self-Care

Confession: I don’t believe in “self-care”.

In fact, I think it’s a load of bullshit. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how I got here.

There was a point in my life where I became sick of sex. This was highly inconvenient, as at the time I was involved in a relationship with a man that was born of an electric sexual connection. Sex was our glue, and when we didn’t have it, our cracks would show. But I tried like hell to make it work because I had not yet discovered the revelation called “affairs”, and at some point I was the only one trying.

And I was EXHAUSTED.

I had work. I had my side hustle. I came home and made dinner. Sex was not therapeutic. Sex was not release. Sex just felt like another chore, another person I had to become after a day full of being a worker, a counselor and a pretend housewife. One more person that wanted a piece of me. One more thing I had to do before I could see my pillow. One more thing blocking me from sleep.

What was missing?

HELP, dammit. I had no damn help.

Not one person in my life was meeting me halfway, or picking up the slack, or allowing me a moment to breathe before they requested something from me. None of the things I did were “for” me. Not even the horizontal polka. No one acknowledged that the hours in a day were not infinite and my energy was not an inexhaustible resource. My clients were my responsibility, my man was my responsibility, and I was my responsibility. And there simply were not enough hours in the day to accomplish all three.

That’s all I see when I look at conversations about “self-care”.

Not one damn thing about it sounds attractive to me. If they’re not advertising it as a way to be more efficient in servitude (“put your oxygen mask on first! You’re no good to others if you don’t take care of YOU!”), they’re heaping pressure to either make it instagrammable (no, seriously…search #SelfCare) or shaming for not engaging (“self-care checks”, anyone?). And not ONE person has yet to explain how I’m supposed to find the hours in the day for this magical “self-care” if no one else in my life is volunteering to do all the things I’m not going to get to in order to fit it in.

And who benefits?

Everyone but you.

Everyone who has been let off the hook to be supportive, to take care of themselves, to not rely on you to be everything while you are made to feel guilty for asking for crumbs (because self-care, like self-esteem, is of yo damn self, so don’t ask me for shit). Don’t believe me? Ask yourself when’s the last time you engaged in “self-care” for the sake of SELF and didn’t have to recite a mini pep-talk to get out of the guilt of doing it. Ask yourself the last time you didn’t have to reframe taking time away from others to make it sound better. Ask yourself what your “self-care” even looks like, and if you’ve chided yourself for it not being able to fit in a 1×1 picture box.

Fuck “self-care”. You ever notice there are few popular sites that recommend “self-care tips” to men outside from “get regular check-ups and try to cry every once in a while”? It’s because they call it doing you, and it is not something to apologize for. And “me” is what I do. If I’m the “only” person responsible for “taking care of me”, that time will be subtracted from everyone else. Not stolen, not borrowed, not owed, but consciously taken. Whatever you needed from me you will attend to, by yourself. Not “it will have to wait”… I’m not doing it. I’m not assigning myself delayed double-duty to “allow” the time for self-care just so I can be re-invigorated to the task of taking care of someone else.

Nothing I engage in for the sake of self-enrichment or self-preservation fits within the advertised realm of “self-care”. My self-care looks like turning down events because I’m tired. It’s considering whiskey a food group. It’s telling a man “sorry, I’m not attracted to you” instead of wasting precious minutes concocting a long, padded let-down. It’s turning down that second date. It’s selling a blouse on Poshmark so I can afford to pay for a cleaning service. It’s using “no” with a full-stop at the end. It’s turning off my phone on Saturday night and daring to not be instantly accessible. It’s answering a text at a convenient time for me instead of the convenient time for you. It’s posting a thirst trap because I was feeling myself that day, or posting myself looking a mess cause I was feeling myself that day, too. It’s everything they told me that makes a woman a selfish asshole. And I apologize for nothing.

Fuck “self-care”. That shit was a scam, anyway.

How to Be Single: DEMOLISH

I was supposed to be a wife.

I’m supposed to have a teenage daughter getting on my nerves right now.

I was supposed to be a partner.

I was supposed to laugh at the people who hadn’t figured out the key to this life thing was two people, showing up.

I was supposed to be celebrating my 10th anniversary in Rio, surrounded by the revelry of international sport.

I am not supposed to be here. Not alone.

My stages of grief seemed eternal. The hamster wheel of what was, how it should be, what it isn’t, how I am here. I mourned the loss of what was. I grieved what would not be. Tears with the patience of a hungry infant spilled clumsily into my daily activities, pockets of grief expelling themselves at the most inconvenient of moments.

Then The Dream Died. And I stopped.

I stopped. I stopped trying to make up for lost time. I stopped trying to catch up to where I would have been had my Dream not been deferred. I stopped fucking lying to myself about the source of my giving nature. I stopped identifying myself by my relationship status. I stopped believing myself a temporarily displaced wife. I stopped wondering if every man I met and liked would be the one to relieve me of my displacement. I stopped conducting myself as their temp-wife in preparation. I stopped believing everyone else was more deserving of my exquisitely transcendental love than I was. I stopped. I stopped. I did not let The Dream die. I killed her.

I don’t know when it happened. The day I killed The Dream. If I did, I’d have a fucking anniversary party.

Somewhere amidst the clouds of bereavement my soul sat up and said “this. This here. This is it. This is your life. Now get on with it.” And I saw the sun, and I took a breath, and the air was mine. I was no longer on borrowed time. My life is my own. And the possibilities endless.

****This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a Twenties Unscripted 10-Day Writing Challenge. This particular word stood out. Don’t ask me if I’m gonna get to the rest of it.

#WYAOApril

How to Be Single: Give Your Energy to Women

Let’s face it; the majority of women’s lives have been cultivated around the idea that we “exist” to make men’s lives easier.

In some capacity, whether large or small you may do it, too. It may be adding “women’s touches” to the home of your male friend or relative. Or it could be identifying ways to streamline your boyfriend’s “busy” schedule so he can spend more time with you. Perhaps you introduce the man you just started dating to new foods, or take your male bestie to his first pedicure. You saw that “thing” he (didn’t even know he) needed in a store window and bought it without hesitation. It is nurture, it is concern; it is mindfulness and thoughtfulness. And most importantly, it is the ability to make such effort look “easy”.

So easy, in fact, that our lives look exasperatingly difficult in comparison. He believes himself to not be a picky eater because he’s never noticed the two of you mainly eat at restaurants where he would not have to “pick”; meanwhile our mental gymnastics to decide on an establishment that would feature things we both like has been a long-standing joke. Crammed with details and minutiae, our lives look difficult simply because there is no one present in our lives to make it “look’ easy-that’s our job.

And personally nowhere was that more apparent than in my dating life; the minute it was decided that I “liked” a guy I immediately found myself invested in his well-being, setting out to make myself “useful”. Becoming familiar with his daily process and how I could make them more efficient; finding ways to add “value”.

This realization came from the need to take a deeper inventory of how I spent my time and energy. As a single woman I was baffled as to why I was always still so tired; apart from having to tackle the adult-ing stuff alone with less time and less help, I seemed to walk in a constant state of burnout. I withdrew from meeting people as interactions were increasingly draining. Dating was laborious; I was not built for the roller-coaster of endorphin rushes and let-downs. And as I noted where I chose to place my focus it became clear that I simply had no energy or concern allotted for myself.

The act of thoughtfulness requires energy. The daily process of being mindful; being cognizant of a person’s process, their movements, spotting “needs” that could be met, all take effort. The worry when they are not present, the absorption of their problems, all take energy. And yet we are often conditioned to do this with so many people- men in particular- that we encounter, that we reserve energy on purpose. It is no mistake that women, often socialized to do this for friends, lovers and bosses, are overwhelmingly considered for support positions in the workforce. It is a learned skill mistaken for an aptitude naturally created by DNA.  And this thing, this thing I took pride in, placed my worth in-was draining me of vitality. Of life.

The refocusing of my concern was nothing short of revolutionary-even as I battled the guilt that came from intentionally not caring. But despite my guilt and fear, no one’s world crumbled from my lack of effort. To be honest, I doubt many people noticed I stopped volunteering my efforts.  And while at first, people did bristle at “no” being added to my vocabulary, they eventually went back to however they conducted their lives without my assistance-which again, didn’t make anyone’s world crumble. And while my dating calendar isn’t as full as it used to be, it is largely free of the energy-vampires I used to attract, that gravitated to my need to show my worth in service.

It is new territory, believing myself “enough” separate from my aptitude in “service”. It takes time to drown out the din of voices that say you’ll be “forever alone” because you didn’t offer to cook for a man immediately after you met. It takes time to believe yourself “worth the effort” if you do not immediately rush to make yourself useful.  But as I released the need to take every new person on, I noticed my energy improving. As I took back time I used to think on how I could add to everyone’s life simply because they were in my proximity I gave more thought to how my own life could improve. And as I gained energy back I found a newer resolve to give some of it back to the women in my life. Whether it was lending an ear, or sharing a meal, or putting in a good word, forwarding a contact, promoting someone’s work, it was a support and thoughtfulness often reserved to prove wife-ability I actively chose to reinvest in the women around me. And it has proven renewing and edifying in a way I did not receive when I simply poured energy out to prove my worth.

To be clear, I am not saying I stopped doing anything at all for the men in my life. And I’m definitely not saying I actively chose to instead over-extend myself for women. I am saying that I shut down my habit of immediately pouring effort to new connections out of fear that if I did not, they would see no reason to continue being in my life. And I then took that energy to invest in myself and the people who chose to not only stick around, but invest in me, support me, check for me. I let go of the thought that my assistance was needed to make a person’s life better-that’s quite an egotistic thought when you sit with it anyway-and allowed people to live their lives. I met people where they were-or left them where they were. And as people seasonally enter and depart, I found I was more accepting of their place in my story and forced less. What’s for me is for me, and people meant to be here do not require my essence as sacrifice.

I do realize for some this is no revolutionary conclusion, and believe me, I envy the selfish. I guess everyone is just figuring this life thing out as we go. Here’s to the journey.