Originally published on Medium
“Have you gone on any dates? Are you seeing anyone? Have you tried meeting people?”
These are the questions I’m asked more frequently than not.
“I’m just not in a place where I want that right now. And I don’t like dating apps,” I reply.
“But that’s how it’s done now! You won’t meet anyone if you don’t use a dating app. And you should go out on dates!”
Why “should’’ I do that? Why is the goal of a single life always to pair?
When I was in high school, everyone wanted a boyfriend/girlfriend and a date to the prom. College was the time for meeting friends, hooking up in door rooms and weekend parties, and finding the potential long-term mate. As a single young adult, the goal was to find a husband (or wife), get married and have children. And then, congratulations, you achieved success based on society’s standards. If you later find yourself divorced, condolences and support are offered … and then the questions turn from custody arrangements to when you plan to start dating.
It’s an interesting paradox. I can’t scroll through my Instagram feed without seeing several inspirational quotes telling women we’re enough … that we should forge our own path, live our best life; that we don’t need a man. Yet, in real life, when a woman is living her own authentic and brave life, she’s questioned about why she’s single.
Why is it so difficult to believe that a woman could be — gasp — happy alone? Or more shocking, choose to be alone? Where does it say that living your best life should include a partner?
This idea is not innovative, nor is it mine alone. Research conducted by happiness expert Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, shows that women who are single and without children are the happiest in the population. His data comes from an American Time Use Survey that shows that while marriage and children are typically considered markers of success in society, women who do not subscribe to that pressure, despite the stigma, tend to be happier and healthier as a result.
And yet, it’s still acceptable for society to judge a woman for not being married. It’s common for me, and many of my single girlfriends, to be asked why we don’t have a significant other. Someone recently told me I’m “a catch” and could easily find a boyfriend. I took that statement as a compliment and I appreciate the thought … but I’m a catch for ME, not for someone else.
Someone told me they thought my weight loss meant I must have a boyfriend. I told another friend I wanted to lose a few pounds in my chest area. She replied with, “But men like a well-endowed woman.” Whether it’s running, weight loss, my health or my boudoir photo shoot, I have never altered my physicality for anyone but me.
I am 46-years-old and I spent 20 years — just under half my life — in a relationship with my ex-husband. And I’ve been officially divorced for just over two years. At this point in my life, I’m giving myself the time, love and energy to grow.
I attend yoga classes at least three times a week. My body and mind feel healthier and stronger from that regular practice. And sometimes, while laying on the mat in the heated studio on a Friday evening, I have wondered if I had a partner, would I feel as free to be completely immersed in those moments for myself.
The same can be said for my running upwards of four times a week and on weekend mornings. I did run when I was married and my ex-husband supported me in that endeavor. But I also had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that maybe I should be home; maybe he was wondering what time I would be back. It was as if my life wasn’t completely mine. Now I can run completely free of that feeling.
I have a freelance writing business, which I managed to pick up from despair in the 2020 pandemic (my divorce was finalized at the start of a global pandemic). I had this same freelance writing business when I was married. But one of the biggest differences is that over the last few years, I have been the sole provider for me and my 14-year-old daughter, Sophie. My salary is the only household income we have. Every single thing I purchase or own — my home, household repairs, food we eat, health insurance — comes from the money I make through my writing and content/marketing business.
Sophie recently confessed one of her fears is she won’t be able to make enough money to support herself and all the things she wants in life. To be able to show her that it is possible for her to achieve that because she sees her single mother doing it every day is incredibly powerful, not only for me but for her future self.
Am I saying I never want to be in a relationship again? No. There may be a future version of myself open and ready for that. But today’s self wants to cherish the quiet and richness of this time. Being alone right now doesn’t feel like a failure. It feels necessary. It feels good, even on the days when it feels bad. I don’t feel like my life is lacking. Instead I feel its abundance. Every day, I choose myself. And that’s a choice that feels right.