Am I a cautionary tale?

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).

A good day

A good day

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.

Nana kids spouses

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.


19 thoughts on “Am I a cautionary tale?

  1. joeyfullystated

    I don’t think it’s a deadline issue. I was happy single, and I’m happy married. I previously had no desire to be married. Seriously. I thought when I was really old (the age I am now) I’d go to a sperm bank or somethin — always knew I wanted children…
    I would hardly call you a cautionary tale. It implies that something is wrong with your life, when in fact, your life seems quite full, and you seem happy! But you truly cannot predict when or if love will come along and wreck all that, and make you want him more than being single.

  2. A.M.

    I get asked that question a lot too. The best response is “hey, just haven’t found the right one yet. Do you know him?” That either makes them laugh or shuts them up 😉

  3. hollie

    I got married far too young and with the wrong man entirely. I was divorced by 25 and now, at 31 I get the “why are you still single?” questions. Well, the fact is that I learned my lesson last time. Marry in haste, repent at leisure. I think far too many people feel like they have to get married and by a certain age…so they end up marring someone with whom they don’t fit. It is sad really. If you’re happy single, then be happy single. That is not to say that if the right man comes along you won’t then desire to be married but if that never happens, so what? There are things that I’d prefer to have a serious partner for, but I’d take doing those things alone over doing those things with a man who is not 100% right for me…so I stay single or single-ish. I don’t feel personally like my life will be less fulfilling or I’ll be somehow less happy if I never marry again. I’m not shutting the door on that possibility…but I’m also not looking at every man that walks my way as a potential husband. I don’t mind the “how are you still single” question nearly as much as I mind that everyone feels like they need to set me up with people they know who are also single. It is like they think I can’t possibly be happy single, which is super irritating.

  4. BerLinda

    Ugh, the wedding singles’ table… 😉
    Yeah, I’m in the same boat as you! I get those horrible questions as well and really have no answer. Still, I’d rather be happy single than settled down just for the sake of it. If it’s meant to be, it will happen! 🙂

  5. JoannePistonFan

    Yes, you are a cautionary tale for how to be honest with one’s self while living a happy and successful life. Nothing wrong with wanting love, but just know that your life is amazing just the way it is.

  6. Mindy

    This post is EVERYTHING. Also, my go-to response is “oh I’m married to my job” and I’d really like to stop having to say that. I too never really worried about my single status (well until recently I’ve started to really wonder the ‘is it me’ stuff, I blame: the ⏰ ticking). Though regardless of any of that, I feel very fortunate to have had many wonderful experiences that my married friends haven’t and am happy to be happy despite my lack of husband.

  7. lelamb

    Thank you so much for this. I have actually been pondering how to put almost this exact same thought into words for weeks. You hit the nail on the head for me.
    And if I get pulled out to catch one more bouquet I might throat punch someone.

  8. Wendy McCall (@wmweeza)

    We just need a Chickette version of The Bachlorette!
    I kissed a ton of toads before I found my prince, and I met him at a bad time in my life. My Fiance had died and I certainly was not looking for a replacement. When I first agreed to meet him and saw him from across the room my first thought was “Oh dear god, don’t let that be him!”, but I thank god every day that I gave him a chance. Don’t ever give up your standards; Family, work and personal requirements, those are important, but don’t overlook the geeky guys. Those geeks can be great allies and the best boyfriends/husbands ever.
    You didn’t miss the boat, you’re just not willing to hop on every dingy when you could have a yacht pulling up soon. Either way you are brilliant and funny and make my life a tiny bit more entertaining and happy!
    You aren’t selling yourself short, you are looking for a great fit and companion, and you know what you want. That’s half the battle.
    *insert witty comment here* that’s all I have, but just know you are worth prince charming, with a rose, in front of Chris Harrison…lol


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