Best laid plans
When I came up with the idea for this blog in the winter of 2020, I intended to write a travel blog for the solo female traveler living happily as a single woman.
Circumstances intervened, of course, and Wonder & Sundry became something else. Instead of focusing exclusively on travel, this blog looks at what makes a good life, now. I like it, even though, or perhaps especially because, it wasn’t what I’d planned.
A spike in traffic reminded me
This little blog saw a big spike in traffic for last year’s Merry Little Solo Christmas Dinner series in the days leading up to Christmas. I believe that Omicron left a lot of people unexpectedly on their own for yet another Christmas, because the “solo” in “solo Christmas Dinner” was what did it. I even got an email from Google about Wonder & Sundry’s page rank for this topic.
This reminded me that I’d wanted to center living happily as a single woman in this blog. While I’ve certainly written from the perspective of being a single woman of a certain age, I realized that I haven’t written specifically about being single.
Happily so, even if this, too, was not my original plan.
I’m here to tell you that your single life can be filled with joy and wonder
A single life of joy and wonder
For I am living my life as a happily single woman. If you need to hear this, I’m here to tell you that your single life can be filled with joy and wonder.
We’ll be looking more at ideas for how to do this in the coming months, from everything to getting to be more comfortable with our own company and facing challenges that can come with being a single person, to having a load of fun on our own (including undertaking solo travel adventures!) and creating rich, rewarding lives for ourselves. If there’s something you would like to see, please let me know the comments.
Our lives change constantly
Life changes constantly, and rarely is anything permanent, and this goes for our relationship statuses. I may not remain single. If you’re partnered up, something might change for you (though I hope not, if you’re happy). We’re conditioned to believe that living a single life is not a good life, and that is simply untrue.
Your single life can be amazing.
My single life
I figured I’d start this with me. If you’ve been reading along, you know that I live alone (well, with my best dog Ollie, but I’m the only human of the house). I travel alone. I dine alone. When we’re in times when we do things out in the world, I often do them alone.
I spend most of my time alone.
You know what? I love it. Most of the time, even in this extended period of isolation, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
An extroverted introvert
Most people who know me in social situations would find this surprising, but if introversion is defined by getting one’s energy by being alone, I am an introvert. I love people, but y’all make me tired. I’ve heard the term “extroverted introvert,” and that resonates with me.
In my solitary existence, I pick the movies. I decide to get a dog. I eat chicken wings on the couch or a multi-course meal with a properly set table. I go where I want (well, maybe not so much these days), when I want.
My day-to-day does not involve negotiation about what we’re going to do and when. It’s awesome.
I enjoy my own company, and I've worked hard to make sure that I continue to do so
Enjoying my own company—and working at it
On a more serious note, I enjoy my own company, and I’ve worked hard to make sure that I continue to do so. I’ve cultivated my natural curiosity about life, and I’m able to observe a lot more of it when I’m not distracted by conversation. A lot of what makes me me are things that I do on my own.
A wonderful family
Having said that, we humans are social creatures, and I love my dear ones and am grateful for their presence in my life. I have a wonderful family who love me, and whom I love. I’ve developed a relationship with my parents as an adult that I might not have had otherwise.
My sister is just the best, and she makes me laugh so very hard. I have chosen not to have children, but I am an aunt to three of the most amazing young people on the planet, and I have it on their authority that I totally am The Fun Aunt.
I have an incredible group of friends who I’m so fortunate to have in my life. We have fun, share our hopes and dreams, and our challenges. I have new friends and lifelong friends. I love and treasure them.
I still find it highly amusing that one of my very closest friendships came out of a blind date. Halfway through said date about fifteen years ago, we both cracked up at the thought of us becoming an item and went and drank a bunch of beers instead of trying to impress each other. We’ve been close friends ever since (but don’t drink quite so many beers).
My people make my life richer.
Generally, though, I live a solitary life
My day-to-day life, however, is a solitary one. And I am happy and content to have it that way.
I didn’t always feel this way, and I spent a lot of my twenties and early thirties trying to find “The One.” It didn’t work out that way, and I’m glad.
Your life will change, and that change might involve a mate, but you are living your life right now. You’re an adult, and this is your lifeMy therapist
This is your life
“This IS your life, Sara,” she said. “Your life will change, and that change might involve a mate, but you are living your life right now. You’re an adult, and this is your life.”
I don’t remember what exactly I said to my therapist to prompt her to say this this during a session when I was in my thirties, but I have never forgotten it. It absolutely shocked me.
A shocking realization
However much I’d prided myself on living an unconventional life, I’d completely internalized the expectation that I would one day marry and settle down. This (extended) prelude of singlehood would come to an end, and, on that happy day, my life would begin.
What a load of crap.
My enjoyment of my life didn’t depend on a relationship
There I was, living on my own, making my own money, having fun with good friends, traveling, and continuing to learn, and I thought that my life was less than because it didn’t involve a long-term relationship with some dude?
I’d made myself absolutely miserable, feeling worthless, engaging in a lot of unhealthy behavior, all because I thought that my life was incomplete.
Society still doesn’t know what to make of we single people
My therapist gave me a lot to think about, because even in the 2020s when percentage of single, never married women in the US has grown to 30%, and that the percentage of single (defined as never married, divorced, or widowed) has grown to 50%, we single people remain misunderstood.
We have more positive literature than we used to, such as Rebbecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies (written by a married woman) and No One Tells You This, by Glynnis MacNicol, but, even as I write this, I’ve felt the need to justify why I feel happy as a single person. This tells me that we have a long way to go.
I may get to make all the decisions, but I also have to earn all the money
Real financial challenges
Single people, and especially single women, face significant financial challenges. A recent Vox article highlights the expense associated with being single (absolutely true). I may get to make all the decisions, but I also have to earn all the money, and I don’t get to split anything.
I’m writing this from a place of privilege. I am white, I am educated and hold a professional job. I also had access to safe and reliable birth control, so I did not have to bear children I was not in a financial position to raise. I’ve had choices and opportunities that other women do not.
Poverty is high among single women, especially those with children and those of color. Much of this, though, is due to the fact that society was not made for us. Society expects women to be married to men, and, given persistent pay gaps between men and women, to earn less money. These costs affect the ability to survive, let alone thrive, as single people.
We have considerable policy changes that must be made to reflect the society we live in, one that includes us.
Cultural touchstones lead the plucky single heroine down the aisle
Cultural touchstones of single women, from Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë to Bridget Jones and Sex and the City eventually point women down the aisle (or at least into long-term stable relationships). Our stories end with a “Dear reader” happily ever after. Or, they are supposed to.
Younger single women have carved out more of a place for themselves (Emma Watson’s “self-partnered” description comes to mind), but society still expects us to stop playing around and get serious about life.
Single often defined as less than or worse
We single women are no longer called spinsters (or thornbacks, the actual name for never-married women over twenty-five—I actually love it), at least not to our faces, but we remain culturally objects of pity, and even scorn.
Whatever the word you use for us, generally, it implies less than. Women who are not doing what they should be doing, which, even in 2022, means marriage and motherhood.
Single women are often infantilized
Society often infantilizes us, casting our lives as a perpetual prelude to some future in which someone will finally marry us, ushering us into adulthood. I love it when long-married women give me advice that equates their single days in their very early twenties with my current my life as a single woman in her late forties.
And, don’t get me started on choosing not to become a mother. I don’t get the “You’ll change your mind” speeches anymore, as that ship has all but sailed, but I’ve definitely faced judgment for this decision. Personally, I think that it was far less selfish to recognize that, while I love children, I wasn’t really cut out to raise them, than to try anyway just to do what I was supposed to do.
In my salty middle age, I have taken to calling people who judge my life choices. I encourage you to try it. It’s fun.
I’d spent all this time trying to sign up for couplehood. Maybe I didn't really want it after all?
Clearing my mind by taking a break from dating
After that shocking statement from my therapist that I was already living my life, coupled (pun intended) just needing a break after a few too many bad relationships, I took an extended break from dating or otherwise actively looking for a romantic partner. My break allowed me to settle back into myself. To do things that I wanted to do, even if that meant doing them alone. My mind quieted down, and I felt at peace for the first time in my adult life, really.
Seeing the cracks
One’s thirties tend to coincide with a lot our circles getting divorced or breaking up with long-term partners, each party having realized that they were just going in different directions. Sure, I had plenty of friends who remained happily married or coupled up, but mostly, the relationship landscape of that time in life is fraught with pain.
Some people thrive in relationships, I just wasn’t one of them
Even through the difficulties, some people thrive in relationships. I really didn’t. I tended to get lost in them. One risk that comes with a natural curiosity and adaptability to new circumstances—two of my most favorite traits about myself—is a tendency to adapt a little too much, to change into something that I’m not. Now that I’m older, I recognize the warning signs and can pull myself back, but I’d come out of even brief relationships not recognizing who I’d become.
Here I’d spent all this time trying to sign up for couplehood. Maybe I didn’t really want it after all?
Another shocking realization: I was living my life as a happily single woman
One fine early summer afternoon not quite ten years ago, walking out the Coolidge Corner Theatre after seeing film about a fraying relationship that I’d gone to by myself, I broke out into a huge grin. Sure as the sun shining down on my face, it hit me.
I was delighted to be single. I was happy with my life, exactly as it was.
“You dodged a bullet,” I said to myself out loud, breathing a huge sigh of relief. I even giggled, and then smiled at the stranger who caught me doing it.
I’m not slamming the door on the possibility of a long-term relationship, but I don’t check often to see if the door’s propped open, either
Not looking back
Nothing is ever permanent, but since that day, I haven’t looked back.
I’m not slamming the door on the possibility of a long-term relationship, but I don’t check often to see if the door’s propped open, either. I know what I want in a potential partner. If such a person crosses my path, wonderful. And if he does not, also wonderful.
I am living my life as a happily single woman.
What about you?
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences, especially if you are single. If you’re finding joy in it, I’d love to hear about it, especially if there’s something that can help others. If there’s an area where you’re struggling and would like to see a post on it, please let me know in the comments (or email me).