I am single. This is not particularly noteworthy, as lots of people are single, but as someone who spent ages 19-29 coupled up, it feels like a bigger deal than it should. If you want to get technical about it, I'm still legally married, but I am living alone, and "seeing other people," and have a whole bed to myself. (Well, I share it with a spaniel, but you get my drift.)
Though I've been single before, I've never really been a single adult, and being a single 29-year-old is very different than being a single 19-year-old. In 2006, I moved directly from my mom's house in California to my boyfriend's house in Florida. In January of 2016, I moved from the home I shared with my husband in northeast Portland into a studio apartment in southeast Portland. Oddly, it's not the day to day living alone stuff that makes me feel single. I actually enjoy having my own apartment, with everything arranged exactly how I want it arranged.
Actually, it's a lot like the Dylan song "Most of the Time," but every once in a while, something will click, and the vast difference between how I thought my life would go and how it is actually going will become very apparent. It's not always as tragic as it sounds, sometimes it's invigorating -- freeing even -- but it's always startling. Below are a few of those things that are making me feel single, for better or worse.
My 30th Birthday
It's the math of it that annoys me the most. The year two thousand sixteen was supposed to be one of three major milestones. It would mark ten years since I had first met my husband at Coachella, five years of marriage, and thirty years of living. All of these anniversaries would be divisible by five, which is my favorite number. (I don't have a lot of "favorite" things, but I have a favorite number.) I was bizarrely excited for 2016.
Almost exactly a year ago things started to crumble and, though I remained in hardcore denial for many months, it became apparent to me that 2016 would not be the year of the 5-10-30 celebration I had been looking forward to. I feel sad about it, obviously, but mostly I'm just really fucking annoyed. Would it have been better if all of this had happened next year? No, of course not. But there is a tiny, number-obsessed part of me that wishes he had just let me had my perfectly divisible-by-five year of anniversaries, which I realize is insane.
Obviously, I am still turning 30. This is an unavoidable fact that I'm honestly not that upset about. I love my birthday. I love celebrating my birthday. I am Chris Fleming in the video below.
Turning 30 is not depressing me. Planning my 30th birthday kind of is, though. I've come up with a party plan that I'm happy with (drink a lot of gin and roast a whole pig in the yard) but each step of the planning process makes me acutely aware of the one person who will not be in attendance, and frankly it's just really fucking weird, as that person has attended my last nine birthdays.
A couple of weeks ago, I was writing an article on the many joys of pimento cheese, when I found myself confronted with two particularly stubborn jars of pimentos. I could not open these fuckers. This may have been an overreaction, but I became certain that I would never be able to open these stupid fucking jars, and that my article would be late, and that I would be fired, and that being a feeble, sad, single girl would be the end of my career as a food writer.
If men are good for nothing else, they are good for opening stupid fucking jars.
I got the jars open, and I wrote my article, and everything is fine, but that moment of helplessness was one of the most embarrassingly and infuriatingly cliche reminders of my single status. It was also a reminder that maybe I should partake in some sort of exercise, or maybe buy one of those grippy, jar-opener things.
I have been flying at least twice a year since I was six, and I have always had someone to pick me up at the airport. Airports have always been places of joyful reunions, with faces that would light up as I walked out of security, with hugs and hurried, excited conversations in which the participants try to catch up on all they had missed since they had last seen each other.
When I was a child, it was always my parents, then it was a mixture of my parents and my husband. My parents still pick me up when I visit them, but I take cabs home from PDX. Again, this isn't particularly interesting. It's a mundane, very boring detail that is true for a lot of people, and I doubt most of those people think about it. This new, somewhat unremarkable detail of my life didn't hit me until last weekend, when I returned from a weekend in Davis celebrating my sister's graduation.
As I walked towards baggage claim, I saw a massage parlor, and it occurred to me that, if I wanted to, I could stop for a massage, or eat at the airport Panda Express, or buy a blanket at the Pendleton store, and no one would text me, wondering what the delay was. No one was waiting for me, and this was at once slightly depressing and extremely freeing.
Though my ex and I had a lot of differences in terms of food preferences, we always enjoyed eating together, and my diet and meal schedule has been beyond whack since we split up. Though I've never been a pinnacle of dietary health, I at least used to eat at regular mealtimes.
I also have no idea how to buy food for one person. It doesn't help that I eat out a lot, but I consistently buy too much and cook too much for a singleton, and most of what I prepare goes bad before I consume it.
On the positive side, I am now free to eat a meal made entirely of mashed potatoes, without having to hear even one comment from anyone. I can also cook stinky seafood or reduce a pot of pungent vinegar into a syrup, and the only one who has to deal with it is me. (I do apologize to my dog though; I don't think she likes the vinegar.)
So it's kind of a mixed bag so far, but it's really not being single that's hard. In a lot of ways, being single is far easier than being in a couple. Being in a couple takes hard work, constant communication, and dedication. Being in a couple means making compromises, and sometimes not getting your way. But being in a couple also means security, affection, and a lot of other really awesome stuff.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss being in a couple. I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes completely hate this new single existence. But I'd also be lying if I said that I wasn't finding small, brilliant moments where I thoroughly enjoy it. Having the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want whenever I want is a completely new thing for me, and I'm still figuring out how to take advantage of it.
Now I just need to figure out a surefire way to open those fucking jars. Then I'll be unstoppable.