i was writing this complicated blog post about gender essentialism and assumptions about womens’ motives, but i just can’t make a coherent argument about it. maybe one day…
instead, i’ve been thinking a lot about solitude and gender. my long term relationship ended last november. it wasn’t out of the blue, but it did completely change my life. i’ve started over on my own and it’s a strange feeling. sometimes i feel totally liberated and free, other times i feel lonely and lost.
i think part of the problem – for me and so many other people – is that i’ve lived my life thinking that romantic relationships are the solution to my problems, that i’m incomplete without romantic love. that sleeping alone is intolerable. that going to the movies by myself means i’m a loser. and on and on.
in general, doing things on my own became difficult for me sometime in my late teens. until then, i was content playing with my toys or reading by myself. in fact, i couldn’t relate with kids my age, so i didn’t hang out with them much. i usually had one or two good friends and hung out with them exclusively. later, i was someone who needed to be connected via telephone, usenet, and email all the time; recently, that’s been replaced by loading and reloading facebook, twitter, email – any site where i have an account and can interact with people, friends or strangers. in my more desperate moments, it’s as if i’m telegraphing SOS over and over.
all of this online chatter has been a way to fill up the empty spaces. if i don’t like the silence, i can always find someone to chat with or i can post something and get an instant response. and getting back to romantic relationships, they can become some kind of emotional wallpaper, some kind of placeholder for self. just because one has a partner doesn’t mean they feel whole. wholeness doesn’t come from being part of a relationship, even though it might feel that way.
so… where does this leave me? the annoying adage that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else is… true. i’m finding these broken bits of me scattered everywhere and putting them back together seems like top priority right now. i’m annoyed with myself, especially the way that my previous relationship seems to color many conversations i have. it’s like the world didn’t exist before and it won’t exist after and i’m in a holding pattern. except i know i’m not and life must move forward. and it has to be better this time.
solitude doesn’t have to be frightening, or silent. solitude can be a means to end. it can heal you, allow you to work through something without the noise of other people and other things. it’s self-care at its best. if i had a friend in my shoes, i’d for sure tell her to take care of herself first and foremost, yet this is the most difficult thing for me to try.
as a feminist, i don’t accept that being a divorced/single, childless, and nearing-middle-age person means that my life is over. no one told george clooney that he was washed up and worthless before he recently got married. nope, he was an international playboy, a free agent, the eternal bachelor. he was celebrated for all of that and now he’s being celebrated because he wed. the grass is always greener, right? certainly married life suits the narrative about men who make this transition: they had fun as a single guy, but they have finally found meaning in life and it’s through a relationship with a woman. i can’t think of a cis het woman in the public eye (or even in my own circle of friends) who’s celebrated for being happily single – whether casually dating or solitary by choice. while the narrative of fulfillment through relationships is similar for both genders, the consequences of choosing a solitary life – or choosing non-monogamous or casual relationships – seem to be more grave for women. why is it that i could be called a “spinster” while guys get to be “bachelors?” seems pretty unfair to me.
the flip side of the marriage narrative, at least as i see it, is that i have chosen family – friends i support and who support me. my family may not be biological or marital, but it’s so vital to my well-being. i’ve found old and new friends to be a great comfort lately and i’m hoping that the more i take care of myself, the more i can turn off the stories about the last few years and revel in the present.
who knows if i’ll ever find some kind of partner again? i want to love me, though. i want to know that i’m enough for me. i want to live brilliantly, without reservation, with conviction. i want to stand on my own and know that i can enter any relationship – romantic or platonic – from a place of strength and not because i need someone to prop me up.
i want to rest in the certainty of uncertainty – nothing is permanent or written in stone. i’m finding my way, one quiet moment at a time.
“loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.” – may sarton