I can see it in your eyes. The pity when you realize I’m 35 and single. The reproach when my aunts and uncles ask me what I am waiting for. And the disappointment when my friends ask me “what’s new?”, and I say “nothing”.
See, I’m a failure (and quite possibly contagious too). Regardless of everything else, if at this age I don’t have a family, it’s just, you know… sad. The common wisdom has it I should be sitting at home, shedding tears over my destiny, pining for the future I’ll supposedly never have. Except – and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it – I’m actually happy.
But, I have to immediately put a disclaimer here: my intention is not to gloat or say I’m better off single than I would be if I were married. Only that (since this is a year-in-review type of article) this was for me a year of the happy spinster.
In 2010 my parents finally gave up on me, and for that, I am grateful. There was a time a few years back, when I’d come home and there would be silence, like someone had died. My mum was crying once because “she’ll never be a grandmother.”
“I think it might be slightly more tragic if I’ll never be a mother,” I said.
A few weeks back, I met an old linguistics professor at the doctor’s and he showed me how selfishly old people think – probably my parents too, but they don’t dare to say it out loud, at least not to me. He told me his daughter got married and is pregnant, which is nice, but that he wonders if she should have just gone ahead and married her previous boyfriend of eight years, had a baby with him, even if she would have divorced him. Why? Because he and his wife are now too old to play with a grandchild, and the whole baby thing is really inconvenient.
My message to parents all over the world: Please control yourselves, and if you can’t, at least don’t speak about the reasons you want your kids to have kids. Like, ever.
Ah, yes, this guy had some advice for me too: “You don’t have to marry, but you should definitely give birth to something.”
As I said, the previous rule applies: Please control yourselves. Or just shut up.
When my last relationship ended on New Year’s Day two years ago, I was sad and scared of being alone. Like, forever. But, in the meantime, I’ve realized that, even if this happens – and unlike my parents, I still haven’t given up on me, but shhh – there’s worse things in life. Much worse.
Says a friend, married in her mid-20s, divorced in early 30s and now in love with a most wonderful guy: “We were actually lucky. We could have been born in some godforsaken place, married right out of high school, to guys who would beat us for years while our parents told us it was all right, that anything was better than divorce.” We were talking about the tragic case of Ana Magas.
(Since there’s no Wikipedia entry on her, here’s a summary: a Croatian girl, beaten by her husband for years, went out with another guy, came home slightly drunk, where her husband waited for her and started pushing her around and strangling her. She managed to fetch a knife, stab him in the back and kill him. Croatian courts, heavily influenced by her husband’s rich family, sentenced her to eight years in prison for exceeding necessary self-defense, stripped her of parental rights and gave the custody of her son to the abuser’s parents. She was later pardoned by the president, but in some interviews with the press she said that, when she told her mother her husband was beating her, she told her she should stick it out. Sorry, I digress.)
Last year a good friend of mine, a mother of a gorgeous two-year-old, admitted that she wanted a divorce. That, while she takes care of the house and their wee girl, her husband comes home from work, picks up his laptop and goes upstairs until it’s time to go to bed. That when the baby was a few months old, she asked him to look after her for half an hour while she takes a shower, and that he told her she could take a shower the next day, when her mother was supposed to be visiting.
“You can be just as stupid in your 30s as you were in your 20s. You shouldn’t hurry with getting married,” she tells me.
I say: when women turn 30, they panic. And yes, they can do stupid things.
Luckily, by the time you’re 35, the panic disappears.
My ex-boss used to joke that with age, women tend to lower their expectations. I now know it isn’t true. From the few approaches by guys this year I’ve realized that, honestly, a guy has to be perfect. I mean, perfect for me, just as I have to be perfect for him. No a-bird-in-hand-is-worth-two-in-the-bush or something-is-better-than-nothing crap. Otherwise, I think you wake up one day after five years and realize this was not the life you wanted.
(And, guys, don’t be afraid, I’m perfectly sensible when it comes to things I’m looking for. Besides, a guy who is afraid of me is not much of a man anyway.)
What I’ve also learned this year (OK, I knew this from before too) is that when you are a single woman in your 30s, people for some reason think normal rules of decency no longer apply. Probably because you’re such a deviation of nature.
In the words of my middle-aged next-door neighbor: “Why don’t you come for a drink to my place, my wife’s not home.”
Or the guy I had a crush on in high school and once a good friend. We met by chance after many years and exchanged phone numbers, but then he said: “I can’t give you my home number because my wife might answer the phone.”
“So what?”, I asked annoyed, while he smiled slyly – obviously forgetting that, back in the days, I was better friends with his wife than him.
Sometimes strikes come from places you aren’t expecting. When I tell a really good friend (surrounded by her two adorable daughters) that I’ve gone slightly overboard and put together a schedule out of hell, so I now two evening a week take a French class, two evenings I do pilates, on the fifth day I go out and on the sixth day I rest, she looks at me first with a look of exhaustion and then with slight malice: “You’ve definitely filled out your life. If those things can in fact fulfill a life”.
Okay, I really love her, so I’m not going to be mean. I had no idea we were talking about the meaning of life here. I was just telling her that on some weeks this schedule is sucking the life out of me. I do realize it’s not nearly as exhausting as having kids. My bad.
So, in the new year I’ve decided that I might put some additional things on my plate:
* Find love. Obviously. Wasn’t this clear from everything I’ve said so far? If you know where one can find love, please tell me.
* Have more fun. See more of my friends, go to more gigs, and generally, go out more. I mean, Friday is just not enough.
* Finish my novel. Oh, I haven’t mentioned it, have I? Usually two weeks every year I write, mostly rubbish. Last year I had a go at the NaNoWriMo, but I got to only 23.000 words. This year I’m aiming at a bit more.
* Jumpstart my PhD…. maybe. If so, I’ve decided the best course of action is to toss everything I’ve been writing for the last three years, find a completely new topic and start anew. Because, for one, “writing” in the last sentence was in fact an exaggeration: I don’t think I’ve added a word to it in 2010. And second, because it’s beyond repair. But, all of this only if I can find someone to pay me to do it full time. Because, crunching it after work messes up with my goal number two.
* Sing in a band. What would New Year’s resolutions be without one that’s completely insane, eh? I always wanted to do this, but I don’t think I ever dared to admit it. So, if you know of a band that needs a singer who can carry a tune pretty well, but has a pathetically small range and is on top of everything insecure and shy, let me know.
* Blog more. I’m joining PostAWeek campaign on WordPress and that is why you’re reading this. I need to write only twice as many posts as last year, since I’ve miraculously managed to crank out 24 in 2010. If you’ve missed them, like you most certainly have, allow me to suggest my personal favorites:
* And, the usual: more books, more gym, more travel, less food etc.