For just the low price of $19.95
My life is stuck in the black and white half of an infomercial. I’m the doofus who is fumbling with the spaghetti strainer — the one that, even though designed to perform the task at hand, can’t successfully drain boiling hot water without making a steamy, starchy, hot mess all over the counter and the floor. There must be a better, streamlined, singular approach that effortlessly serves up a pasta dinner in minutes. If only!
Sigh. I wish it were that simple. If my biggest concern right now was the inability to strain spaghetti without burning my fingers, I’d just stop eating it and call it a day. No, instead of simply being incapable of making a flawless Italian meal without the proper implement in hand, I’m clumsily making a life for myself without an ideal partner by my side. After a heart-breaking divorce and two years of badly navigating the dating scene, I can’t help but feel like the “before” for single women in their late 30s who haven’t yet found the perfect match with whom to settle down and raise a family.
My infomercial goes a little like this:
Single, black & white me: Sitting on my couch on a Saturday night, teary-eyed as I watch Armageddon for the 112th time, stuffing my face with organic cheese puffs (cuz I can at least afford to shop at Whole Foods, bitches) while my cats indifferently crawl across my chest.
Married, in-living color me: Running in the park with my Greyhound rescue trotting beside me on a Friday evening; I’m all bronze and svelte (and I think I even grew three inches) as I casually wave at my Tom Hardy look-alike husband playing hide and go seek with our smiling, happy kid.
When single, B&W me attends my college friend’s baby shower, I’m hovering over the food table seeing how many deviled eggs I can fit into my mouth before I start to make the guests feel uncomfortable. Of course, married me would be on a second baby now, with my first quietly in tow. My gift to my friend would be the nicest one wrapped and all the ladies would ooh and ahh when they discover that what’s inside is a hand-stitched quilt I made out of vintage T-shirts. I don’t even sew.
Married me would have made the deviled eggs out of my grandma’s secret recipe for aioli using eggs from the chickens my husband and I raise in our backyard. And I’d be sure to tell all the people in the room that little fun fact as they smile, impressed.
Single me would want to punch married me in the face right about now.
And the worst part is, the infomercial is constantly reminding single me that I’m running out of time.
It’s challenging to not want to find a quick and easy fix to being alone. I am the friend who attends events solo while everyone present discusses family trips they are planning, milestones their kids are passing, and home projects they are undertaking. To relate, I bring up the time when my ex and I took my stepson to NYC for spring break because he was fascinated with skyscrapers. My story doesn’t land the same way. It’s my ex and my stepson. I get sympathetic glances and disinterested nods. Really, I’m just talking to make sounds because I don’t know what else to do in these situations.
Single me is now bolting for the door.
When I go to client meetings, single me counts the wedding bands in the room, acutely aware of the one that is no longer on my finger. I’m suddenly ashamed. How can they trust me to see a project to completion if I can’t even see my marriage through? Meanwhile, married me would be happily noting all the men in the room, married or not, checking me out. Their disappointment in the fact that I’m taken when their eyes land on the giant rock on my finger is palpable. He must be one lucky bloke, they all think.
My married with kids friends would tell me that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows from their perspective. And I get it. I have freedom. I’m not anchored to any one location or any one person. I get to experience the excitement of meeting new people and then possibly having sex with them. Over and over and over again. I don’t have to wake up at 4 a.m to change diapers, breastfeed, console a crying infant, etc., etc. I can eat ice cream for dinner…using just my fingers. Pots and pans become my plates. Cat vomit can remain on my floor until I have guests come over, which could very well be weeks. I answer to only me.
Regardless, I can’t escape the feeling that I’m dangerously running out of time. I’m frantic. A new person enters my life and I already begin writing the invitations to our wedding. I expect a relationship from day one. By day 368, we better be working on our first kid. By year 3, our budding genius best be enrolled in the finest day care money can buy.
The clock is ticking. I don’t want to waste another day. Isn’t there a quick fix, an express pass if you will, that I can purchase to get through the messiness and awkwardness of navigating singledom?
I was compelled to watch The Wizard of Oz the other day because I was thinking of this whole transitioning from black and white to color — leaving an undesirable amount of challenges behind in favor or an idealistic land where all my dreams come true.
At the end, as Dorothy recognizes she has had the power to return home all along, she asserts: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
I can’t go looking for and expect happiness and love in a relationship if that happiness and love doesn’t exist first within me.
And whatever streamlined solution my infomercial is advertising will never provide the same reward and satisfaction as my own experience with solving my own problems, no matter how ugly my approach and process might be.
It’s all too easy for me (and I’m sure others in similar, lonesome situations) to believe in a way out, one that magically and painlessly ameliorates the unpleasantness of fumbling through life. Because it’s hard and it hurts and getting through life with another person on your team feels manageable.
I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that my clumsy, imperfect and very much single way of life is exactly where I need to be right now. Even if that means I never get to see the other side of the rainbow, at least I’ll know that I’m living for me and figuring this shit out on my own, without using a quick fix to make it temporarily better. We all know where those fancy, $19.95 spaghetti strainers end up anyway — in the free pile left on the side of the road post yard sale.