Every Tom and Dick and Harry
You must be strong of you to go it alone
Here's to the bachelors and the bowery bums
Those who feel that they're the ones that are better off without a wife
--Tom Waits, "Better Off Without a Wife"
Ernie Brown's recent (and excellent) article inspires another post. This time, instead of wondering what to call this decade (I'm still not so sure about the Oughts as a title), I gotta say something about what his article is mostly about: being single these days. I still stand behind what I wrote the last time I talked about this subject, but Ernie's article got me to thinking about many other matters.
To recap: I'm single and have been single for a handful of years. Depending on what I look at, that can be considered a blessing, a curse and sometimes a mixture of the two. I would like to be with somebody not for the sake of thinking I'll be a "complete" person, but for the sake of sharing who I am, warts and all, with someone who cares, understands and inspires. This kind of relationship goes deeper than a close friendship, but it's not that far off from one.
Ernie describes a situation that I think we've all heard of:
. . . I've lost count of the number of male friends who have approached me in confidence over the last 25 years and given me the "side of mouth" whisper, "You don't know how lucky you are . . . I mean, I love her and all, but just be glad you're single." Usually that whisper is followed by the wife calling the husband to drive with her to Bed Bath and Beyond so she can browse the tasteful decorating ideas while the man can look for any object with which to discreetly kill himself with a minimum amount of attention drawn to the act of hari-kari.
This echoes a fear I've had for years: giving up a lot of myself in order to be with someone. I used to think that compromising involved giving up a lot of my time, wants and desires and getting almost nothing in return. Well, I realize that doesn't have to happen and that doesn't happen that often (or at all) in relationships. In the case of the Bed, Bath and Beyond trip, if there's also a trip to a local CD store afterwards, this is not bad at all. At least in my eyes, this is a healthy compromise. If she wants to spend an hour looking at linens and curtains then I think it's very fair for me to spend an hour looking for used copies of Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello and Ride reissues.
In the last few years, some of my closest friends have gotten married. Do I think it's alienating to see this? Not at all. These friends are still close friends of mine and they're doing what they want to do. They're married to really cool people and they're happy, so what's the problem with that? Yeah, I might not get to spend time with them now as much as I used to, but there are plenty of other non-marriage factors that make matters this way. Be it the job situation, family commitments or whatever else, I make time to be with my friends if they're available.
Seeing what I've seen, I know that certain people are baffled by the notion of those that have been single for a long time. People tell me that the right person is waiting just around the corner, but I've heard that for a good eight years at least. This is not a matter of giving up too easily or trying too hard -- I argue this is fate more than anything else. I strive for happiness with what I have now and hope I can still strive for happiness with the augmentation that occurs when involved in a dating, serious or committed relationship.
For some reason, we are led to believe that being with someone in a relationship is a symbol of belonging in society. Well, what if you're in a bad relationship and you're miserable all the time -- how can this be a good thing? For people that observe others by only looking at the surface of other people's lives, being in a relationship is way better than being single. In these people's eyes, being single means there's something wrong with you or you don't have a grip on your sexual orientation. And being in a bad, unhealthy and unhappy relationship is a better situation?
I won't lie -- I'm pretty darn inspired being around couples that are made up of two inspiring people who deeply care for one another. On the flipside, I'm downright bummed being around couples made up of two people who rarely get along, bicker constantly and act like they don't care for one another. I know the luster of being in a relationship can fade, but I argue that a major part of a relationship's foundation is an enjoyment of the mundane together. Sure, it's fun to spend the day at Six Flags, spend a weekend on a beach, have sex on a regular basis and so on, but what about all the other hours in the days, weeks, months and years when you're not doing that kind of stuff? I'm talking the hours lying around the house reading, listening to music, walking the dog, watching movies, preparing meals, running errands, writing letters, doing laundry and so on. That's what so much of life is (at least in my eyes) and if there's an enjoyment of that, this is a step in the right direction.
But still, people think there is some sort of failure with being single. If these people can't understand my reasons and views about why I am single, then it's rather futile to convince them otherwise. I'm of the argument that the most important matter of life is a sense of inner happiness. Sure, a relationship, a lot money, a big house and/or a nice car may lead to that, but those are matters that augment life, not fill it.