I never craved marriage. As a kid, the marriages around me didn’t seem like something to hope for. To aspire to.
As I remember it, my parents fought (a lot).
To be clear, theirs was not an abusive marriage. Instead my parents simply seemed like a mismatch.
I feel guilty typing these words now for they weathered the storm. They love each other. But I can’t deny what was, or how it affected me.
Both of my grandfathers died before I was born so I never saw what their marriages to my grandmothers looked like.
My beloved aunt (above right, foreground) was married to an alcoholic who disappointed her and us and everyone with such regularity that even as a little girl, I wondered to myself “how can she love him?”
As a young adult, I understood all too well how strongly one can love the unlovable. Ask me how many alcoholics I dated through my twenties. Actually, don’t.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t – and don’t – want love. I craved it. I relished having crushes and through the years, had oodles of them. When I think back on my adolescent flirtations, I can still feel that rush of excitement I felt when I saw the object my affections without any effort–even if many of the boys’ names have evaporated from my memory.
I had my first “boyfriend” when I was about six years old. Through the years, my friend Kristin and I took turns chastely claiming Kevin as our own. At our elementary school roller skating parties, we would divvy up the Couples skates ahead of time, telling Kevin who he would skate with at the appointed time. The arrangement continued mostly amicably until sixth grade when a new girl moved to town and caught Kevin’s wandering eye. Mercedes was her name and she did not share Kevin with Kristin and me. Damn that girl.
Not long before he was ripped from
my our clutches by Mercedes, Kevin had given me my first kiss. As the youngest kid in our class, I was eleven and he was twelve. It happened on a ski lift at Montage Mountain where we had gone skiing with our friend Bobby, Bobby’s dad and Bobby’s little brother. We were all new to skiing, but at this early point in the experience, Kevin and I were a little better than Jamie. We just to think it was funny to ski-charge to the lift up to a cluster of intermediate slopes at the last second so Bobby couldn’t catch up with us and ride in the three-person chair.
On one ride to the top, Kevin put his arm around me, its motion exaggerated by his restrictive parka. We were quiet, but inside, I was going crazy, my heart bouncing around inside my chest.
We stared into each others’ eyes. I remember the sound of falling snow landing on our parkas. The sound of Kevin’s and my shallow breaths.
But he didn’t kiss me then. He waited until our next one-on-one ride up the mountain. When he finally did, I was glad I hadn’t gone and kissed Kevin first, something I had seriously considered. Patience has never been my virtue.
We remained friends throughout high school. This is us at one of our reunions. He’s still a great guy, just, you know, married.
* * *
Throughout my twenties, I just about always had at least one crush, love interest, flirtation or boyfriend situation going on.
In fact, once my friend Carolyn‘s then-boyfriend once told me that as much as he liked me and appreciated my friendship with his girlfriend, he worried a little about our nights out together. Hearing this, I wasn’t insulted. I was fascinated.
I always figured I’d just know when the guy I was dating was right for the long haul (or at least a longer haul). While I stressed about plenty of guys, I never really stressed about being single. Probably because I was rarely single for too long.
Truly, I thought I’d have found someone to have and to hold by now. But no. I meet men all of the time–alas most of them are married, gay or well, full of wrong-ness. The eligible bachelor is akin to the disappearing honey bee in my world.
Did I wait too long? Did I overplay my hand?
Today people ask me “how are you single” or “you’re still single?” and I trust that a portion do so with good intentions. But I’m left with no viable answer.
If I laugh and shrug, I run the risk of appearing completely lacking in self awareness, which I am not.
Sometimes I respond “because I can run really fast!” in an effort to deflect the awkward question with humor.
But the truth is, I just don’t know why I’m still single. Are there things wrong with me? Of course. But I’m no worse than plenty of other people who manage to be (or appear) happily coupled up.
I have often said that it’s a good thing I didn’t settle down with any of the guy I dated when I was, say, 22 or 27. My choices weren’t the greatest. In addition, I have changed so much that I wouldn’t reasonably expect a man to understand old me AND current me. It would have been a recipe for divorce.
Did I wait too long? Did I overplay my hand? There’s no way to know really. I’m not unhappy single. In fact, I am usually quite happy on my own.
Attending weddings as a single person is a total pain in the a$$, though.