The sky is gentle this time of day. Her cool breeze tickles my skin, brushing loose, the strands of hair along the nape of my neck. I take my usual walk up the short flight of steps, noting my shadow; stretched out ladyfingers against the building. It’s my personal Funhouse mirror that I’ve grown accustomed to, but still smile at its lanky distortion.

When I reach the top, I find my key in the side pocket of my purse. Even though I’m on autopilot sliding the small metal grooves in the lock, I am ever-present with the sound. It greets me every afternoon, clear and uncompromised, not competing with children, or a partner on the other side. It barely lasts a second, but carries weight beyond measure – the click of the unlock, the forward movement of the door – it’s the resonance of my life. The sound of a single person, coming home.

The quiet space greets me like an old lover wanting attention, but at the same time, marinates in solitude.  After shuffling about, grabbing a bite over the kitchen sink, sifting through junk mail and stripping down from my work clothes, I pour a glass of Pinot, and settle on the couch. I curl up with alone; check my email, channel surf through recorded television programs, and downshift into the night. I take pleasure in my company.

~ ~ ~

There’s nothing in the fabric of my childhood that would’ve sewn together a security blanket of traditional normalcy. Instead, my comforter was a patchwork quilt of father abandonment, stepfather indiscretions, alcoholism, neglect, abuse, and bullying. This was my Normal.

It made perfect sense that by my 19th birthday, I was a stripper.

In addition to working my mojo on stage, I managed to parlay my childhood dysfunction into a full-fledged drug addicted life, complete with abuse, and self-sabotage. Not only did it feel right, it was precisely in line with my master plan of having no real plan.

College was short-lived, and not conducive to my world of eight balls, ecstasy and VIP rooms. Boyfriends were mere fabrications; failed attempts of transforming one-night stands into relationships. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve broken up with, who had no idea we were dating.

Even before I moved out on my own at 17, men were never to be trusted. Liars and abusers, yes. People you could count on, hardly.  So why the longing to morph short-lived liaisons into would-be picket fences and monogrammed robes? Because like every young woman, I still wanted the fairytale.

When Pretty Woman hit the movie screens in 1990, I was obsessed with the fantasy of it all. I was 22, and living in the fast lane with no seat belt or air bag. Connecting with the story of good girl gone bad, I allowed my mind to fantasize about my own modern-day Prince Charming. I wondered if he existed, and would be anything like Richard Gere’s character Edward.

During the final scene of the movie, Edward climbs up Vivian’s fire escape to whisk her away. Queue the music; zoom in on the embrace, and…scene.  As the credits roll, the camera pans wide, and we slowly float back to reality by way of a vagrant man wandering the street, shouting, “Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream?”

Dreams have a way of changing with time.

Fast-forward twenty years and my fairy tale has become tied up in a kaleidoscope of hard lessons and unhealthy choices.  But hope is not lost, as each past love in my relationship rear-view mirror is fading, and I’m pressing ahead, navigating the winding road toward my true self.

Between kicking drugs, walking away from the stripping life, and other personal milestones, I’ve many reasons to be proud. But my trust issues with men remain, serving as relationship cinderblocks, pulling me under, in a vast ocean of possibility. Each therapy session is a valiant effort in chipping away at its core, and I’m realizing – I have the ability to stop the pouring of cement.

When it’s all you know, being alone is normal; even when the world tells you otherwise. There’s a certain ease to flying solo. I never have issues with restaurant or movie theater seats, my belongings are exactly where I left them, and the only chores I do are for me – if and when I choose to do them.

Single perks aside, I still want to grow old with that special someone who makes you forget your name. Call it a fairy tale, wishful thinking, or a hopeless romantic pipe dream – I just know – I’m finally ready.

As a middle-aged gal with enough baggage to fill an airplane, I realize I’m a red flag in the dating scene. In recently completing an on-line profile, I seriously contemplated fudging my stats. I thought about saying I’m divorced, because, these days, who isn’t? I’ve even toyed with the idea of going the widow route, but decided that’s way too Melrose Place manipulative. So I went with the truth: 43, never married, no children.

~ ~ ~

My body is warm, the hours whisper by, and my eyelids, they feel heavy. It’s late, but part of me still wrestles with the night. I eventually surrender to the realization – I can’t stay up the way I used to. I laugh inside, wondering why I still try. The unfocused turquoise numbers on the DVR tell me it’s time to sleep. I shut down my living room, and say goodnight to my space.

When slipping under the covers in my bedroom, I occupy the center of my bed. My legs stretch; I embrace my pillow, and release a sigh of content. My heart beats slowly, within the walls of comfort and ease. In the quiet moments just before I drift, the corners of my mouth turn slightly upward, and I satiate in solitude, feeling safe and free.

Here’s the part where you tell me: Did you feel “Normal” when you were single? Has society treated you differently as a single, or a spouse? Or, are you single now – and do you believe this is “ok”?

36 comments

  1. Christine,

    I’m right there with you feeling your aloneness and celebrating how far you’ve come through the hard lessons. Been there, done that and have learned to cherish my alone times when in years past it was a dreaded companion. Engaging and powerful writing which in my mind has become your trademark.

    Your new normal sounds great!

    Blessings,
    Kathy

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  2. “When it’s all you know, being alone is normal…”

    This is SO where I am in Life. When I divorced some years ago, I knew I didn’t want to be in a relationship immediately, but I never thought I would still be single / alone this many years later… *sighs*

    I SO want to feel comfortable inside of Love… but I just don’t. I’m afraid that mostly, it’s my issues…

    ~shoes~

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  3. Normal is such a relative term. I avoid it as much as possible. I have a number of friends who, if it were possible, would go out into the world and try to cure folks who are normal.

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  4. Well thought out, kiddo. We as a culture have the power to crush the sum and whole of our self worth under the naive fantasies of our childhood. Dreams are great and should never be given up, but they don’t define reality; nor do they set a precedence for “normal.” Normal exists only as an elusive, fluidic abstract anyway. Every generation has a new societal “normal.” Reject the concept, for it is as temporary as a sigh in a strong summer breeze. Keep along this path and you might discover what I’ve uncovered: It’s often the calm and placated release of a dream that allows us to see the opportunities to create our dreams in flesh.

    However I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to use the Force.

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  5. My same age female cousin Susan, who is adopted, jokes that I’m the one in our family taht seems adopted. I’m unlike everyone.

    Mental illness )anxiety disorder), abuse (from a family friend), and being a writer (no other artists in the family) made me feel isolated and alone.

    My normal is unknown. I would say that the life I made, on my own, that I enjoy now, is my normal. and it’s pretty damn crazy.

    Your story is amazing. I’m glad you’ve carved your own normal and made your way.

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  6. I adore your writing. I am so busy and feel like I hardly have time to read anything for pleasure, yet I cannot stop reading your stories. I can’t wait for the whole book!!! Xo L

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  7. So funny to read this tonight because my husband has been out of town for work, is coming back tomorrow, and I’m kind of sad about not getting enough quiet time and good sleeps in yet. Thankfully, I can quite honestly tell him this, too, and he’ll only be a teensy bit offended.

    I’ve been married since I was 34 (we’re the same age, you and I) and my dad was the only one who seemed to think that was ‘late.’ I felt totally normal being single (in fact, when trying on wedding dresses, the shop assistant stuck a veil on my head without warning and at the sight of myself in the mirror, I put my neck out. They had to bring me an ice pack). But normal is whatever you feel, right? I’d like to think there’s no such thing as not normal. Except maybe if you wanted to marry your cat. Although, on second thought, I don’t know, that’s really no big deal, either. 🙂

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  8. Boyfriends were mere fabrications; failed attempts of transforming one-night stands into relationships. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve broken up with, who had no idea we were dating.

    Oh, that sentence set a weight in my heart!!

    Like you, I have grown to appreciate the single life and the serenity of becoming used to the sounds that don’t come from the other side of the door when I insert my key into the lock. But from there, we begin to diverge.

    If I knew that such a beautiful woman would be single and available for love, maybe I would have set sight on you and headed your way! My life has been calm and relatively stable when compared to yours, and I think that allowed me to deal a twinge more effectively with the gauntlet of being young and “different”. It meant that I had the self-esteem to deal with the teasing and being ostracized as a young person.

    Man, as beautiful as you are inside and out, fearing to put an honest profile on a dating site… I understand why and wish it wasn’t so but that is the way it is. I only wish that I could be there now for you and we could go laughing together into more graying hair, dentures, baggy pants, and early bird dinners.

    Be happy. Be content. Find your comfort in being to yourself and before you know it, BAM! Someday it going to happen to you. I think it is less likely the more you aggressively pursue love and don’t concentrate on simply the BEING in human being.

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  9. I have been alone for 46-years. When I was 19-years old, my college boyfriend said “You will never marry.” He was not being mean. It was just a statement. And guess what he was right. I have an eccentric personality. Not in a bad way a good way. My father even made this comment a few weeks ago. U have always been a little different. Not like crazy cat lady. However, I do love my pups so much more than I love people.

    I am comfortable being alone. I do not hesitate to go to the movies, play, eating out or traveling alone. Ur “Being alone” video was my life anyway. I was happy to see that video too. I had friends that said they would never dare to be alone. They’d stay at home. It was too much “to be seen alone”. I’m like are u kidding me. Who cares what people who don’t even know u think. Just go enjoy urself. Needless to say I felt sorry for them. Lack of confidence of being by one’s self. Why miss out on stuff just cuz u won’t go alone or no one can go when u can go? Live life even if u have to do it alone.

    It would be lovely to have a companion to go do things with or to sit at home with and read or watch tv with. I would love that but it has to be someone I’m extremely comfortable with. And I haven’t found him yet. But a lot of people are living alone now. It’s just the way it is. I have not to this day felt like I have found the missing puzzle piece to my life. And I may never find it. I might be meant to be alone. Some of us have to be. There is not somebody for everyone. Oh I have loved and had crushes but never could I not live with that person. I need a person who let me be different but yet will do things with me. I have always been told “U r a wonderful companion.” I don’t nag, bitch nor do they have to ask my permission to do things. I only ask one thing of them. If u feel it is necessary to have intimate relations with someone else then please tell me and just leave me. And then I put them back into the friend category. Am I hurt? Oh yes at the moment. But not hurt enough to make them totally leave my life. If they have the decency to do what I’ve asked then I can respect them for that. This has happened with one or two and yet they still try to find their way back into my life. Turns out the hot looking chick really wasn’t worth it in the end. The companionship meant more but I can’t go back to the old way. Sex is not the answer. Loving someone is the answer. I can definitely say without a doubt I would rather cuddle and “love” someone than just have sex. Sex is overrated in my book. So overrated–

    Anywho–

    Great post. My motto is “Live like ur dog. Live in the moment.” My Patches passed two Mondays ago. I still have his brother in my life, Buttons. Truly they have shown me how to love unconditionally and to live in the moment. It means even more now that I no longer can see my Patches and be around him every day.

    “Life is short. Live in the moment.”

    StormyDawn and Buttons

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  10. I was single for the first time when I turned 40. Married the first time at 18, the second time at 28 — and I just remarried last weekend.

    There were a few years between the first two and this third — and although I dated a great deal, essentially I was alone (I have a child, but I’m speaking in terms of having a partner). Even so I never strayed from my side of the bed, regardless that there was no one there with which to share it.

    Looking back, I needed those single years because I had no idea what being single meant. Which I think is the same as having no idea what *I* meant, certainly in terms of value. I met myself for the first time after leaving two men I had loved and who had loved me. Turns out, I liked myself better. Better yet, I had time to figure out what a good fit for me might really be. I became determined to stop living my life in reaction to my past; I became determined to find my match through sheer intention, never settling.

    I do believe I have succeeded.

    Having said that, do I want to be single again? No. As history bears, am the marrying kind, and this one, for darn sure, is a keeper. Yet is there merit in being single? Yes, quite a lot, I think, as it was during those years that I learned the most about myself.

    Cheers,
    Crys

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  11. Feeling normal when you’re single might be the greatest gift in the world – not just for you but for your future mate. I think this is critical (particularly for women) to happiness – and sadly overlooked by many, many people. Being alone and okay is being powerful and secure. You need no one else to be content. That’s HUGE.

    If you ever want to chat about online dating, please email me! Mr. W and I met online and I’m a huge proponent of it. If you mix a little manifesting in with it, I think it’s a fantastic way to meet your right man.

    Like

  12. I can’t help but being reminded of a little meme I saw recently of one of those old-fashioned cartoons, and it’s a lady with her daughter, and the daughter says “Mommy, what is normal?” and the mom goes “Just a setting on the washing machine, dear.” And I feel like that so adequately sums up with it really is- a nonsense concept based on the past. There are so many people now who are not married at age 23, not having kids, not having what they were “supposed” to. People are getting smart, making it up as they go, doing what they feel. I bet you will find what you want soon enough 🙂

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  13. Normal ? Never !!! As I have grown up and accepted myself as a trans woman I have learned that word means less and less – thinking beyond equality and celebrating diversity, why would anyone want to limit themselves to being “normal”.

    Love you to bits xoxoxo

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  14. hola, hablar de las personas normales, solamente algunas conductas visibles son las que se manifiestan ante los demas para proyectar y ser calificado como normal, pero todo mundo tiene pensamientos, coductas, acciones, comportamientos que estan fuera de lo normal, y viendolos desde otros angulos, pueden ser calificados como normales; eso depende de los prejuicios que infuyen en la soiedad.
    por lo que yo he visto en los años que tengo, concluyo que todo mundo tiene en alguna medida algo de locura, que muchas es la que maneja nuestra personalidad y esos son nuestros instintos. esto es para discutirlo un buen rato. pero llegue a la conclucion de que no hay que luchar por llegar a ser normal, sino que hay que ordenar nuestra locura.

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  15. Hi! I also feel that being alone (single) is a comfortable place to be…I’m learning how to be me without all the extra input. Just living. Hey if someone comes along they have to be extremely special to change my ways…walls are up but the right person can chip it away..Until then I’m Ok being with me…Thank you for your writing!!

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  16. This is such a beautifully written piece, and I see myself in so much of it. I feel really emotional about it.

    I met my now husband at 36 and we married when I was 41. No kids together. Prior to that, I had two “serious” relationships, which in hindsight were just bullshit. You hit it on the head: “Boyfriends were mere fabrications; failed attempts of transforming one-night stands into relationships. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve broken up with, who had no idea we were dating.” I never thought I’d actually be with someone because I think I fooled myself into thinking I didn’t want to be with someone. But I know that was my armor talking. I just had so many hang ups about men that I wasn’t aware of then. To have “settled down” any sooner than I did would have been a disaster.

    Years ago, I knew a guy I went to high school with who contacted me right after our15 year high school reunion. It was a platonic situation. We were talking over coffee to catch up. He’d just recently divorced prior to the reunion, and was talking about getting back into the “dating scene” (I hate that term) and asked me if I’d ever been married to which I replied, no, and he said, I swear to god, ‘whenever I meet anyone our age (we were in our early 30s) who has never been married, I always think something is wrong with them.” I almost spit out my coffee across the table. I said, well that’s funny, because whenever I meet someone who has already been through a divorce, I have to wonder what’s wrong with them.” Of course I don’t really feel that way; people get divorced for many reasons, but why does having never been married carry more stigma than having been divorced. Why does any of it have to carry any stigma?

    I remember when my girlfriends were getting married in their mid to late 20s all around the same time (I swear these women travel in packs) and I questioned what my problem was, until in my mid 30s I realized, there’s not a damned thing wrong with me. I am where I am. That was a life changing thing, that realization that I’m really waiting for no one except ME. I started traveling all over the country, and then traveling alone overseas, having these great adventures, doing things I never dreamed I could do, gaining confidence in myself, figuring out what I wanted and didn’t want. Finding peace with my body, in my thoughts, being ok with myself and taking pleasure in my own companionship, taking each moment as something satisfying, like sitting on a hill in the Middle East watching the sun go down knowing everything I need is within me. My friends questioned my sudden urge to travel, to do things off the grid, as if I was going through a pre-mid life crisis, always saying the most condescending things like “so what’s REALLY going on with you.” And, “I’m concerned about you” as if doing things for me somehow made me a sad and pathetic person. I’d think, how dare you assume I couldn’t possibly just be living MY life, on MY terms, not the one you settled for. I disconnected from these friendships because I felt like so outside of their bubble. I thought, for fuck sake, I wore a shitty brides maid dress at your bloated, grotesque wedding. I did that FOR YOU so how about you do me a solid and just make an attempt to see my life through my lens. I don’t regret for one minute tanking these relationships and instead opting to cultivate and enjoy the relationship with myself. And get new friends, stat!

    I actually feel like even though I’m married, I’ll always be the single girl in my thought processes and how I see myself. That’s what makes my marriage incredibly challenging. I’m a bit of a lone wolf that way.

    Sorry for the long winded response, Chickie, but this topic is so near and dear to me. I feel your every word.

    You’re a wonderful writer.

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  17. I just have to say that reading this entry is freeing. I’ve had so much self-doubt and made so many mistakes in life. But now I feel good with who I am. Your writing is beautiful. Thanks so much. Glad I found your site. 🙂

    Like

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