I am standing on the balcony, enjoying the late afternoon sun warming my skin, savouring a smooth Cabernet Merlot, when a ladybug alights on my cheek and then flies away. So nice to be kissed by one of God’s tiny creatures!
My eyes drink in the meandering ribbon of water flanked by leafy trees fol
lowing along the riverbank. I turn and admire the picturesque slice of golf course glimpsed between the buildings across from mine. Someone observing me might pity the solitary woman sipping wine on her balcony. But, in fact, I am content. No, more than that; I am happy.
I was chatting with an elderly neighbour the other day, and she told me that her husband had left her shortly after they came to Canada. At 55 she had to work to support herself; thankfully, the children were grown and independent. We agreed that being alone was preferable to being with the wrong man, both of us having lived alongside horror stories of friends who disagreed.
Society is skeptical and wary of single women. I often observe the frowns and whispers of couples when I am in a group, the women fearing either competition or that solitude might be catching. The truth is, I have lived three decades captive to the idea that life can only be enjoyed when one is half of a couple. I was panic-stricken at the thought of being without a man, so I never left one relationship until I had another lined up. It was this misconception that resulted in my two-year marriage to a drug addicted criminal. And it was this marriage and its inevitable failure that purchased tolerance of my single state from my parents and relatives.
I must confess, there are two situations wherein I really do miss having a man around. One, carrying heavy packages, and two, fixing things around the house. And no, for the lascivious-minded among you, I do NOT miss s.e.x. Been there, done that – many times with many men – good, bad, mediocre and excellent. Even the best, um, interludes, however frequent, offered no dramatic or lasting enhancement to my life.
I don’t mean to be a pessimist and I am not criticizing women who are in a fulfilling relationship – good for you and God bless you if you are. I am not saying it cannot be done; I am saying I don’t want to do it.
Yes, there are times when it’s a challenge being a single woman. To cope, I have mastered the art of being alone in a crowd. Perhaps it’s a skill that introverts develop unconsciously. The trick is to not appear aloof or standoffish; rather, to seem approachable yet slightly preoccupied. I have had many opportunities to practice and hone this skill at family gatherings. As a single 50+ aged woman I am an anomaly among married parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. My brother is single but, at 40+, he has not yet been written off. For me, they still hope but don’t hold their breath waiting.
Last weekend, we celebrated a milestone birthday of my aunt’s at a nice restaurant with good ethnic cuisine (the next best thing to home cooking, harder on the wallet but easier on the host’s limbs and joints). It was a pleasant celebration, lubricated by aperitifs and beer and wine with dinner. After a rich meal and plenty of conversation and laughter, it was a relief to come home to my peaceful solitary condo. To unzip my slacks and finally breathe freely. To simply relax, with no demands, no one wanting to talk or cuddle. Just me, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, and then a good night’s sleep in my comfy queen-sized bed.