Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mission Possible: Celebrating Singlehood and Three Blessings

About a week ago, I had an extremely clever and witty post so carefully crafted and ready to go. It was going to be called "Celebrating Singlehood." With an invitation to a bridal shower and Valentine's Day looming ahead on the horizon like a storm, I was determined to avoid getting soaked in envy. I was intent on focusing on all the advantages of being single and even went so far as to pray for sincere feelings of well wishing for the bride-to-be, rather than a feigned polite response. I even made a Top 10 list of the best things about being single, and then consulted another single girlfriend, who was more than happy to add a few things herself.

Just sharing the frustration and loneliness with a friend my same age in the same life stage made me feel 200 percent better.

That was the first blessing. Here's what we came up with:

top 10 list of a SWINK (single with no kids)

10. Total freedom to go where you want when you want for however long you want
9. No obligations or expectations to cook
8. No obligations to do some else's laundry
7. freedom to spend money on whatever you want
6. No in-laws to deal with
5. No one to shove over on their side of the bed to stop snoring
4. No one to criticize your clothes, your cooking or your decorating choices
3. No one to horde the remote control
2. No need to shave legs or any other body parts
1. the time and space to develop gifts and talents and an identity separate from parent and spouse

This list is intended to be gender neutral, including both single women and men.

We agreed to prohibit Hallmark from making us feel like outcasts just because neither of us expect to receive a dozen red roses or chocolates or a diamond necklace or engagement ring from a man. She had a brilliant idea of creating and sending cards to a few of her other single girlfriends and writing something along the lines of "Congratulations on staying single and not caving into social pressure to settle for fear of being alone! You rock!" Last time I checked, Hallmark doesn't make those kinds of cards. We also agreed to put a temporary embargo on all romantic comedies, and there are at least three playing right now in all theaters near you. Interesting how the girl's life is always portrayed as being better and happier when she chooses the boy and tell me that a continuous diet with that message doesn't contribute to the general feelings of dissatisfaction and discontent among single women today.

In the 1950s and 1960s, when the majority of young single women walked down the aisle almost immediately after high school graduation, bridal showers made sense in order to help them set up their home because they wouldn't have had an opportunity to acquire those things. But today, when women are establishing careers and financial independence, they have more than likely already spent few years living alone and have thus already accumulated most of the necessary household items. Is the purpose of bridal showers now to simply remind us single gals that we're still single? My friend couldn't have given me a better quote if I had actually asked her for one, "It's the same horrible feeling of being in high school gym class and getting picked last when teams are being formed for the softball game. When will my turn come?"

Then I thought about a "Sex and the City" episode. In Single and Fabulous, main character and columnist Carrie Bradshaw is asked to be interviewed about her life as a 30-something single woman living in Manhattan, New York. Unfortunately, she makes the mistake of partying all night before this interview and photo shoot and shows up late and hungover the following morning. She is told that make-up and styling will come later and is photographed with "test shots." She ends up on the cover of the "New Yorker" looking horrible and the proceeding article admonishes the behavior of single women and encourages them to marry as soon as possible in order to "behave properly." Naturally, Carrie and her friends are horrified and each must confront the uncomfortable reality of whether or not they are indeed actually happy and "fabulous" as single women.

And then something unexpected began to unfold last week before I had the chance to post this. Ironically, I got distracted from my single minded pursuit of delighting in singlehood. By a boy, of all things. I know. I promise, it will NEVER happen again. I actually began to consider the possibility of maybe dating someone. We began enjoying each other's company as I have finally begun to accept myself for who I am. It has been an odd experience of seeing a part of myself in him reflected back to me. This must be a glimpse of what it feels like to admire someone.

The sermon this morning was about . . . take a wild guess. The second blessing was how I knew God was hard at work on my heart. Contentment. Not dependent on circumstances, but on condition of your heart. So simple, yet so complicated.

As for the bridal shower, that was blessing number three. I knew the bride-to-be very briefly when we both lived in Ames, Iowa. Then she moved to Manhattan. She sought me out when I first moved to Manhattan and we met regularly for a few weeks and she kindly and graciously listened while I was still licking my wounds from personal tragedy. Today she looked radiant at her bridal shower. She has chosen to leave a job she liked and her circle of friends in Manhattan and move to a town with a population of less than 1,000 in another state west of here where she is unemployed and knows no one but her fiance and future in-laws. The nearest Wal-Mart is 25 minutes away and the nearest shopping mall outlet is two hours away. And the greatest miracle of all is that I do NOT envy her choices. Not even a little. I am sincerely glad that she is happy, but I can't help but wonder about all that she has willingly given up to get married. How much should a woman be willing to give up in order to join her life with a husband without losing herself? Maybe if it's truly right and God ordained, a bride doesn't think of it as a sacrifice or as something she is "supposed to do" because she reached a certain age and "it's time." Maybe my musings are an indication that I'm truly gaining a sense of myself and who I am. (Refer to #1 on the top 10 list above.)