Life sure is full of twists and turns, sometimes taking us in directions we never expected to go in. In the 1960’s, when I was born, little girls were groomed to depend on men for a fulfilling family life. Learning to cook, clean and be ladylike was the norm back then. Watching “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty” and other lovely Disney movies, we waited for our handsome princes to come take us away. For me, that never happened. Instead of finding Prince Charming, I kissed a lot of attractive and successful “frogs.” Looking fashionable and cooking gourmet meals for men just didn’t do it for me, somehow. I kept my figure, wore high heels and pretty dresses, had my hair done every eight weeks and did the whole “Stepford Wife” thing (I can make a killer batch of cookies.) Still, I felt totally unfulfilled and worn out, sick of trying to be pleasing, responsible and patient while living with someone who wasn’t compatible with my personality. My husband always found things to complain about, no matter what I did, and made sure to let me know if he thought I’d gained any weight or if dinner wasn’t to his liking. Standing up and defending myself didn’t help. I felt unappreciated, disappointed and bored in the lifestyle I thought I’d wanted all along.
Marriage in itself is a fine institution for those for whom it worked out in. In my case, my marriage was disappointing, and a lesson in self-preservation. That picture-perfect husband of mine looked like he walked off a fashion runway somewhere. Behind that dazzling, pretty face was the heart of a cold, heartless, psychotic and dangerous monster. He morphed himself into an angry, dangerous drug and alcohol addict, after spending too much time with his womanizing, drunk friends. I divorced him after enduring a roller coaster of problems, threats and his infidelities. Enough was enough, so after awhile I filed for divorce when all hope for reconciliation was gone. After trying to get him help, with no success, I realized he wasn’t going to get better, and concluded that if I valued my life, I had to go and not look back. His putting a knife to my throat was the last straw. That was ten years ago.
After my marriage ended, I was in my thirties, footloose and fancy free. Going out with my other single or divorced friends, we had a lot of fun going dancing, and out to restaurants together. We met up every week in downtown Cleveland high-class watering holes, and would go out to eat afterwards. Together, we visited places like Jamaica, Mexico and other exotic travel destinations, just for fun. I even lived in Mexico for two years, which was an unforgettable adventure. As time went on, one by one, my friends and I all started dating new men and saw each other less often. My next boyfriend lived in another city, and I moved there to be with him later on. That was a big mistake.
My last relationship lasted for two years to a compulsively lying, traveling salesman who it turned out had more ex-wives then he’d told me about. During his travels, he hooked up with various women, and was eventually busted later, when I found phone numbers and makeup on his shirts. He was a notorious flirt with waitresses in any restaurant we went to, and had excuses for everything. In the beginning I stood up for myself, but my patience ran out. I just accepted the fact that he couldn’t be trusted and left. He freaked out and stabbed my hand with a fork as I moved out. He was put in jail and I got a restraining order out against him as I moved far away and never looked back. Good riddance.
A few years later, here I am, happily single and proud of it. My life is full and complete, and I’m happier now than I ever was as a girlfriend or wife. Why is it so wonderful to be alone, you may ask? For starters, if I want to date, I can, but I can go home to my own place afterwards. No worries about making dinner every night. I can and do, eat cereal for dinner, without ridicule. Captain Crunch is my favorite. My second childhood has arrived. I have the whole bed to myself (except for my cats, which sleep on my feet.) If I want to take a trip, I just grab a friend and off we go. No long lectures about how that kind of thing is frivolous. I make enough money to live well, and do what I want.
Ok, so there are a few things about being single that aren’t easy. I have to clean the cat box and take out the trash. There was nobody to help me cope with a recent slipped disk in my back, which left me sleeping on the floor for weeks, due to the severe pain. No situation is perfect, and it would’ve been easier to have a partner to get through these things. But, I made it through my pre-conceived list of undesirable situations, and am now stronger for it. Before, I was more dependent on men. Now, I choose not to be. I have no idea how to fix my own car, or hang something really heavy on the wall. Handymen and mechanics are hired to help out with anything I cannot do. With practice, a workable system forms, making it easier to do all sorts of activities and chores.
At this point in life, I date but only a little. My world is complete and I enjoy my solitude. If I want companionship, I call up friends or play with my pets. Animals unconditionally love, and they make great companions. No, I’m not a crazy cat lady. Just one who likes to do things my way, and is much more sane and happy by being free to be myself. Men ask me out here and there, I enjoy their company but tell them that I am looking for just friends. Life taught me what works best for me. I like the unconditional acceptance of my pets, the ease of working from my home office, for my job. Nobody forgets our anniversary or scolds me if I didn’t do the laundry. Every year I buy myself a gift at Valentines’ Day. I have no problem with this holiday. Though some single people I know despise it. Why? It’s a celebration of love, so enjoy it. I call my parents and tell them I love them, pet my pets, and talk to friends. Later, I go and get a latte at Starbucks. Life is good, and who knew being single could feel so good? I now “see the light..”
Ten years ago, I’d have said that anyone who felt like this had given up on life and love. I haven’t but my priorities have changed, for the better. Now, I can live out sort of a combination of midlife crisis and a second childhood, by watching movies like “Shrek,” “Harry Potter” and “Finding Nemo” without boring and annoying my remote control-obsessed ex. He would rather watch the stock market on CNBC twenty four hours a day. Now, I can buy a nicer car than before, too. In my previous life as a married person, I resigned myself to something cheaper, since our budget wouldn’t allow anything fancy. On holidays, I’m not stuck visiting my ex’s fighting relatives. It feels good to sleep in or celebrate with those I want to be with. Maybe now I’m a bit selfish, but for the first time in my life, it feels good to think of myself instead of putting others first.
For anyone dreading being single, remember, it’s all in your head how to react to the situation. You can be miserable and lonely, or you can get out there and enjoy your life. Now you can do what you want to do and settle down later if you choose. Things aren’t black and white, they’re gray. Who knows what life brings us. I go with the flow, and if someone worthwhile does happen into my life at some point, after checking his criminal history, I’d consider settling down again. But for now, I’m having too much fun being free, living life to the fullest and working hard. I’m no longer dependent on anyone and it feels great. Freedom feels good. Do whatever works best for you, but the bottom line is to live a happy life. Make whatever situation you’re in work for you. Life is too short to be stuck in a relationship that makes you miserable.