Singular Sensation

Hi, Boomers,

As you know, last week I admitted myself into the hospital for a laparoscopic procedure. But what I didn’t write about was the following incident, which has stuck in my mind since the day I was admitted.

My friend had dropped me off at the Santa Monica UCLA out patient center on 15th and Arizona. very nice lady escorted me into the admissions room where I waited briefly to be admitted. A young woman was my contact. Sitting behind the desk, she seemed adequately pleasant but just a little “down.” I thought, perhaps, that she was worn out by admitting patients throughout the morning. After all, it was 11:15 by the time I got in front of her.

She asked me the usual questions – standard procedure responses from me – and then she asked, “Married, Divorced, Single.” As she said the phrase, a phrase I had heard many times over, I thought it sounded like a Sondheim song.

“Single and happy,” I replied.

Her head bolted up from the form and a look of shock over took her visage.

“What?” she asked in a voice supported by too much energy.

“Single and happy,” I responded again.

“Are you?” she asked curiously.

“Why, of course. It’s wonderful to be single at any age.” She studied the form to find my age. She looked up again. “Wow!”

“Wow?” I prompted.

“I would have never guessed your age. And you are happy single?” It was a rhetorical question.

This young woman told me that she had never heard that before from anyone woman, old or young. Someone is single and happy. Everyone tells her that she is miserable single and that she should date and find a man. Every woman needs a man to be happy.

“I’m not interested in finding a man,” she said. “I’m okay with how it is. I’m single and that’s okay.”

I told the young woman that it was perfectly wonderful to be single. We singles have our own life and we can determine how our lives are to be lived. Sure we have family and kids and grandchildren, but singles are really free to make unfettered choices. Being single is a totality of our being. It isn’t just one thing, one man, one event, one moment. We live single on a continuum and are surprised by all that it includes in our lives.

“I love my time alone after work when I can prepare my dinner and relax and not have to talk to anyone. But sometimes I want company and I go out with a lovely man or have friends over or go out with a girlfriend. It’s all good.”

I thought of the many times in the last years when someone surprised me with an invitation to go to a concert, to a movie, to dinner, made a new friend, didn’t have to ask permission, didn’t have to look after the needs of someone (of course, when one is love, that’s part of the relationship), flitted off to Bali for a week’s vacation, tangoed in Amsterdam, climbed the volcano in Costa Rica and thought that my life was completely and wonderfully fulfilled.

A big smile blossomed across her face. “I feel the same way but I don’t tell anyone because they’ll think I’m crazy, different, that I’m weird in some way.”

That was a sad thing for me to hear: the conventional wisdom says a woman isn’t happy without a man. Really? Who made up that propaganda? Or more to the point: that’s a myth we can dispose of.

I got to thinking that it’s oftentimes hard for people to think of being single as being normal. Being single doesn’t mean we are isolates or kooks or people who have developed fears along the way and are masking anxiety with living alone. In fact, living alone gives us the opportunity to face our fears with resilience and optimism.

I’ve been married for eighteen years, been in a long term relationship for sixteen years and have dated off and on for perhaps four years. However, when I divorced and started on yet another part of my journey, for the first time, I felt in control of my life and my choices. It was a perfectly freeing experience. And I haven’t lost my passion for life and living. I still work teaching yoga and meditation; I just wrote a book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer, I blog, I dance Argentine tango, I date when I want, I visit my adult children and grandchildren once a month; I have time to write a keynote speech, go to book festivals, be a supportive friend, keep up all those I love within my thoughts daily., and more importantly, have gratitude for all of my gifts.

I suggested to this young woman in admitting that as a single woman she will be able to follow her passions, stay present in her work, be more conscious about the choices she makes, and take very good care of her mind/body connection.

“Thank you,” she said to me. “I’ve never heard that before from anyone and I’m so happy to be finally validated about how I feel about being single.”

I wished her luck and walked into the hospital arena where I, as a single woman without an advocate, forged my way through the maze of hospital bureaucracy and took care of my needs as a single woman (as I slowly dehydrated and almost fell into a low blood sugar coma) until I saw the doctor who was two hours late for my operation. I passed out before I could tell him that I didn’t need a man to compliment my natural instincts for survival.



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