“Don’t get me wrong,” a married friend said to me the other day. “I love my husband to death, but sometimes I envy you so much.”
“Me? What on earth is there to envy?”
“Freedom,” she answered. “You come and go as you please. You have no one to answer to. You date. You travel. Come on, you’re never home. You’re always off somewhere.”
“Sometimes, I’m just in the supermarket,” I laughed back.
She said nothing I hadn’t heard before from other friends, relatives, and even my own children. Long ago, I gave up trying to explain to them that my life as they perceive it is not my life as I actually live it.
I’ve been divorced and captain of my own ship for a long time, actually since the kids were very young. But they have been grown and gone for years now. I have had plenty of time to enjoy privacy and solitude, get over not having the life I envisioned as a bride, and appreciate all the positives that everyone else sees in my life.
Sure there are some neat things about being an older, single woman. Thanks to Social Security and a pension, I can still live in my own home, pay the bills, and have money left to travel and buy gifts for my grandkids. In addition, I can eat cold spaghetti for breakfast, leave dishes in the sink, wear socks to bed, paint my fingernails purple, incur fender benders in parking lots, and spend two hours on the phone with my sister. I can do all those things without a single other person knowing, commenting, or even caring.
And there is more. I get to be alone doing the things I like to do totally undisturbed, like write stories, read in bed, watch Moonstruck at two in the morning, yell at the TV; and, sometimes, have a good cry.
I belong to not one book club, but two. With a group of friends, I take courses in art, film, and writing at a nearby college. Yoga class meets on Wednesdays. I lunch once a month with retirees from the school in which I worked. On Thursday evenings, it’s wine and cheese with neighborhood women who have supported and loved each other through the trials of marriage, divorce, widowhood, careers, child-rearing, deaths, and tragedies. Each week we celebrate our enduring strength and having survived to senior citizenship.
In addition to my network of friends, I am fortunate to have grandchildren. Birthday parties, baseball games, and dance recitals are circled on my calendar. An evening of babysitting, which includes playing video games and watching of Beauty and the Beast for the hundredth time, is heaven for me.
Dating? Yes, I’ve done that too. I was lucky to meet a great guy and have a relationship for many years. Several years after his death, I tried dating again. This time, nightmare experiences almost convinced me that I’d be a fool to compromise my independence just to have a man at my side. But then came a surprise. Thanks to a dating site I swore I’d never resort to using. I stumbled upon a good man, fun and romantic. In his company, I was reminded that, in my happiest days, I was the special woman in a special man’s life.
It is true I grabbed for a good slice of life whenever I could, but honestly, no woman should envy me.
Getting my kids through college on my own and dating men on Match were never in my anticipated future. Fine, things happen. Life threw a curve ball and I did not shrivel up and die. Instead, I recreated myself into a woman able to manage both a career and a family.
And, once the nest was empty, I recreated myself again, this time making the best of a solitary life, one that others insist is perfect.
But it isn’t perfect, at least, not for me.
My life is comfortable and sometimes exciting. But it remains a lonely life. When all is said and done; when the vacation to Paris, or the evening with the grandkids is over – I crawl into my bed alone with my book or a Netflix special.
I’d be willing to give up a bit of my freedom, my privacy, and even my cold spaghetti binges, to hear the man lying next to me in bed ask, “Honey, know anything about that dent in the front bumper of the Chevy?”
And to hear him laugh when I respond playfully, “What dent? What bumper? What Chevy?”
Recreate myself, again. Maybe.