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”?