We don’t talk about it enough. But it’s hard to be single.
And not just because of the constant pressure from other people who are fond of finding subtle ways to tell you that life has no meaning without romantic love — although that pressure certainly can make being single stressful for those who would rather not have a relationship.
But there are also logistical barriers that can make it very hard indeed to be single, even if that’s what you want.
In my own case, I don’t believe I ever felt that staying single long term was going to a realistic option. That’s because in a practical sense I haven’t been able to be single for very long because for much of my life — particularly my young life — I couldn’t afford rent for a place on my own.
What about platonic roommates? You might ask. Yes, I had them. However, they kept leaving me and moving out to live instead with their romantic/sexual partners.
This stuck me with the entire rent, something I couldn’t swing on my own when I was young and trying to work whatever jobs I could find in rural Maine (where I grew up).
So it became more and more evident that to survive, I had to shack up with someone. Someone I was romantic/sexual with, because that was how people were pairing up anyway.
This was especially true because I grew up in an abusive family situation, and so moving back in with my parents was about as attractive and safe seeming for me as homelessness.
It was never a fair choice — to date or not to date. I couldn’t afford to live on my own, and every non-romantic/non-sexual roommate had a way of drifting off to live in a romantic/sexual arrangement.
I suppose it doesn’t help that people marry young where I’m from. I was married for the first time at 24 — which seems young to me now, looking back so many years later. But at the time, I’d been fending off the queries of “so when are you two getting married?” for years and years.
Once I Finally Had the Choice to Be Single, I Met Someone Who Made Me Not Want To Be
Anyway, I’ve since divorced. And remarried. And I’ve moved cross-country not once, but twice.
My life these days is very different than my life back then. (The new life is a chosen life, one I adore. I love my home. I have a new book out, Psychic City, a slipstream murder mystery.)
And sometimes I’ll talk to people who are surprised that I’ve spent so little of my time single/unpartnered. Because I’m fairly self-sustaining emotionally. I’m good at entertaining myself. I don’t seem the clingy or desperate type to them, the type that needs to be dating someone at all times.
In some ways, a lot of my personality and behaviors mirror the sort of person who might choose to be single indefinitely. But I never saw being single as a real choice, not when I was young and trying to survive. There was no silver spoon in my mouth. No one who was going to help me survive. And what other people did (moving in with their significant others and sticking me with the entire rent) affected me — whether I wanted it to or not.
There did come a point where I managed to carve out a life in which I could have survived as a single person, but by that point, I was already long married. Already committed.
It wasn’t until after my divorce that being single was even an option. Because I was on my own and had built my career to a point where it was tenable. And a lot of those who married young were beginning to split off in a similar way and could have been good platonic roommates.
I do think that if I hadn’t met Justin, my second husband, I would have stayed single for a very long time after my divorce. But sometimes you’ll meet someone who combines the best of both worlds: Someone who makes you feel single in all the best ways and partnered in all the best ways.
And I did meet someone like that. And so the second time I got married, I actively chose to do it over being single.
It was an extraordinary bit of timing: Once I finally had the choice to be single, I met someone who made me not want to be single.
But it does bother me that in all of the conversations we have about being single versus being in a relationship, we ignore the fact that a lot of people who would rather be single can’t afford to be.