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This is my tenth anniversary of being single. I suppose that wouldn’t be significant to most people. But, to me, this is an occasion worthy of reflection.
I was married at 21 to the first man I had ever slept with. I stayed married until I was 43. I had missed the exciting early years of the “sexual revolution.” I’d spent more years with my husband than I had with my parents, and had never really lived as a single. Now, in middle age, I was not shy in most ways, but with boys and men, I was scared out of my wits. My father helped create that fear. I was the oldest of five girls. He was not a bad person. He simply did not know how to grow girl children. He became irrational when faced with teenaged boys during my teen years. I did no dating in high school. Eventually I did escape, to college. I actually began to agree with my father that all young men were creeps after dating 14 different guys my freshman year.
I came home for summer vacation, to work as a manager of a non-profit summer theatre company. I could have cared less about men. In July, I met Tim. He played Demetrius and I played Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Making out with Tim was a source of late-teen thrills for me. I had never felt this way before. Tim hopeful drove me back the 500 miles to college. As we traveled past cities and golden cornfields, Tim grew on me more and more. He decided to move to my college town and take some classes. For the next two years, my relationship with Tim was on-again, off-again. He would take off suddenly when he got bored. Eventually, though, he came back. We proposed to each other after having lived together for four months. Tim was 20, I was just barely 21. Most of the 22 years we stayed together were happy. We never had children because Tim knew when he was ten years old that he didn’t want to be a father. We were each other’s best friend. But my husband had another ongoing relationship, this one with substances and depression. I walked on eggshells for a long time, though I only realized this in retrospect. As the darkness overtook his heart, he told me he was upset with me for something he had clearly made up. When I quietly and carefully told him how I remembered the incident, he realized he had changed history. Finally, he left to sail the seas. He wanted to be alone, but ended up re-married, just four years after we split.
That’s when I questioned my decision not to have children. Children would have buffered the aloneness. It took me the first two years of single-hood before I knew I would be o.k. After that two-year haze of post-marital shock wore off, I hooked up with the first man who I saw as appealing. Gerry was fun for a while. He was separated, and convinced he was ready for a relationship, but he was not available. And, in different ways, all of the men with whom I have had contact since have been unavailable. So here I am — ten years single — knowing I’m just fine, celebrating an anniversary and clarifying my space in the world. I’m reincarnating into a properly seasoned goddess. If I ever do find “Mr. Right For Me,” fine. He must be able to “meet” me at all levels. He must be willing to be emotionally and spiritually available, in addition to the physical. He can’t be intimidated by my job, my avocations, or my cats. Those are my tenth anniversary boundaries. Those boundaries may bend (I am human, after all), but they will not be broken. I’ve learned. At least, I hope so.
Sondra Singer is a professional storyteller, musician, and writer who works in radio in Denver, Colorado.