Autonomously Inter-connected since 2006
In 2006, I staged a revolution on my life. I was twenty three and emerging from my second divorce. I had been a play girl, a performer, a party girl and an intellectual, a writer, a sister, an academic and a partner, a punk rocker, a researcher, a high school dropout and a college graduate, a rebel, a ring girl, a wife and a whore, a social activist, an undergraduate, a vocalist and a glamour queen. What I had never been was alone.
In grade one, while attending a religious private school, my mother received a phone call about the necessity of monitoring her adventurous five year old a little more closely. In the thirty minutes it took to drive to school, I had managed to plaster bright red lipstick on every girl requiring a pick me up. In grade two, I cowered in my desk praying for the mystery to continue, as my plain and severely disgruntled teacher, held up a scribbled anonymous love letter, littered with images of half-naked women carefully cut from the lingerie section of the sears cataloge. Christopher and Harry began competing for my affection that year. In grade five, I received a love letter from a little chap named Dustin who meticulously outlined all the boys within our class that had crushes on me and carefully began building his argument on why he was in fact, the best suitor. By grade seven, I had successfully taught three of my besties how to masturbate (compliments of Sue Johanson’s Sunday night sex show) and developed a crush on my grade six teacher who wasn’t a dude. By eighth grade, I had a rotation of six boys that took turns walking me home. Although I took full advantage of their companionship, my boyfriend at the time was a high school quarterback. Unfortunately for them, walking with me for eight blocks was as far as they would go.
My wealth of male interest kept me from ever needing to consider what it might be like to be alone. It wasn’t a thought or even a fear per se; there simply wasn’t enough time in between relationships to even consider the possibility. While one was on his way out, in his place was a line of others that were waiting in the shadows for their chance in the limelight. I can only cringe now to think of the trail of devastation that was left in the wake of the “Unl-awful aftermath”. Don’t worry though; karma had big plans for me.
By eighteen I sold my belongings, packed up my mixed tapes, phat pants and old love letters and boarded the jet plane California-bound, to be reunited with my flame of a surfer. Together we would naively begin to construct our “adult” life together. First stop, Nevada, a white chapel, a hobbling limo driver decked out with Harley Davidson bling, and two paid witnesses. Three hours later we were married. Three must have been our lucky number, as three short months later we were searching for an annulment. I got back on that jet plane this time in the opposite direction, nursing a broken heart, a broken dream and a pain so bitter I thought I would never recover.
Lucky for me I didn’t have to. Less than one month later, husband number two came round the corner. Well established, eleven years my senior, in exchange for my youthful good looks and my brazen intelligence, he offered me a shelter that I couldn’t refuse. Long-term stability and predictability, a refuge from the expanse of the great unknown, a hiding place from my heartbreak, my lack of independent identity or more importantly the self that I had never taken the time to get to know. That refuge was called relationship. Although safely nestled in the realms of social acceptability for a good five years, sometime between sociology 101, my husband’s affair and that nagging whisper of a voice inside, I had failed to notice the woman I had become was no less than an interrelated web of roles and socially constructed identities I mistook for my own. Horrified, I picked up my shovel and began the seven year dig, through lost soul parts, psychic debris and mounds of repressed emotion. It was going to take a little muscle and a lot of chocolate, to get beneath the mountain of relationships I had erected, to simply glimpse a sliver of who I might be in spite of them. The revolution had begun.
In her book “The Art of being a Woman Alone” Florence Falk shares a story of one of her clients who had also been brave enough to walk to the edges of her own archetypal spinster, closed her eyes, plugged her nose and plunged into the dirty depths below. Falk writes, “The shattering impact of her realization also catalyzed (her) search for self. Not only had she made the choice to be a woman alone, she also understood that her whole life was now open for exploration”. Thank God I had Ms. Falk to comfort me in those early days.
I can attest to this as fact. After you pick your pathetic self up and out of the ice cream tub, face the full bodied convulsions of terror aroused by the abnormal attendance of social events on one’s own and find an extraordinarily large stuffed animal to cradle in your sleep, an exploration is indeed what arrives. Rumi was right this being human is a guest house.
Being a woman alone, does not mean you must trade in your shameless sexual appetite for an extended battery life on your dildo, your social life for a pilgrimage to a convent, or your clothing budget for therapy. (That is, until after, your therapist helps you process the initial stages of post-relationship-stress disorder.) Instead, it gives you an opportunity to explore everything that’s burning under the surface, push your boundaries, try things on, throw things out, re-evaluate your principles, question your assumptions and pulse with the excitement of a life woven of the fabric of your own, unique, edge. When you decide to trade in your solo status for a relationship again, you do it because it is a relationship of your own making, based on the principles of your own hard won wisdom and not something you passively inherited as a justification for your existence. C’mon ladies did our ancestors burn their bras for nothing?
When people ask me about my relationship status I often say “I have been single since 2006”. But my friends say “single” doesn’t properly reflect my first torrent love affair with a woman, or my attempts at sexually re-defining myself in an (almost) exclusive sexual relationship for 4 of the 7 years. ‘Nor does it include my adventures into the wild west of open relationships, polyamory, accidentally falling into a triad or falling ass over tea kettle in love with a man where a relationship never materialized. Despite the fact that none of these situations evoked a binding of self to other in relationship, they can’t compete with “being unaccompanied by others” as Mr. Webster tells us the word “single” is defined. Yet I still file “single” on my tax return and sleep on one side of a generally empty bed, without quivering like a misplaced orphan dropped from an outer space planet that used to be called home. I independently financially support myself and maintain full autonomy over the decisions and direction of my life, without compromise.
It wouldn’t be a revolution if I sought completion by simply over throwing an established governing order. No, a true revolutionary must also bear the responsibility of suggesting alternatives and paving a new way. You must re-birth what you have allowed to die. With so little to work with in describing what an exploration of identity looks like for a woman alone AND accompanied by others, I had to invent a new descriptor. Call it a flexible category or a relational status in the event that Facebook becomes interested in one day leaving a category for “other”. I discovered that the world of love, sex and relationship must be uniquely designed by each of us with a knowing that it is shaped by our experiences with all of us. I had not been partnered, or single, but autonomously interconnected since 2006, at least, for now.