I attended a local swimming class for beginners about twice a week. I have a love-hate relationship with the water, in that soaring through the pool is truly a liberating experience. It frees my mind and diminishes my stress. Yet, having been cursed with no coordination, I frequently sink, inhale water (which burns my sinuses and leaves me congested the next day), trip, flounder and did I mention sink? I often wonder if one day I’ll ever have peace with the water--if it will ever seem less intimidating. I wonder if swimming well will ever seem less impossible.
There is an adorable kid who waits outside of the pool for her mom to finish swimming. We have forged some kind of relationship in that she feels comfortable walking up to me and giving me a hug, talking my ear off, and asking me the most embarrassing questions about my life. Given her precocious nature, very little gets pass her. And so one day having known me for only a few short weeks she asked me a single question—THE single question. “So do you have boyfriend?”
“No.” I answer shyly, taken aback by her directness.
Inevitably she wanted to know why.
“Because I like being single. I enjoy it.”
She scrunched up her nose and probed some more, “How old are you?”
“And you don’t want a boyfriend.”
“Why not. If I were 22 I’d have a boyfriend. Don’t you think boys are cute?”
“I sure do, but I have a busy life. I don’t have time for all the relationship drama. Sides I like being single.”
These answers made no sense to her 10year old mind. She insists that I should have a partner. One day I walked into the recreation center talking on my cell phone. When I hung up her curious eyes met mine. “Who was that? Was that you’re boyfriend?” On another occasion she happened to notice a key chain I carry with me. “Oh where’d you get that.” “A friend of mine gave it to me when he came back from his trip to Boston.”
“Oh a boyfriend.” I laugh as I tend to do after each of her interrogations.
She’s a sweet kid, even if she’s nosey. On another occasion she even had the audacity to ask if I were a lesbian. (I tell you kids nowadays). But she’s not the only one I have a difficult time explaining my singleness too. I also must defend my choice to be un-partnered to the rest of the world. As if the celestials will be in disarray and all of nature will reduce itself to utter chaos if I don’t choose to find a mate.
Among the Crystal-needs-a-man-to-be-complete contenders is my mother. I can’t go anywhere with this woman without her trying to hook me up with some guy—to my utter humiliation. I swear my mother would have loved to be alive in the time of arranged marriages. The other day we went to a carry out place and I happened to notice a tall attractive Middle Eastern guy. When we had received our food, she said, “that guy was checking you out.”
I rolled by eyes. “Ma, nobody was checking me out, I’m old enough to realize when someone’s paying attention to me.”
“Well I was standing their watching him check you out the whole time”
I gave in; there’s no reasoning with this woman. “Which one?”
“That short guy behind the counter.”
“He may have been.” ( I didn’t think so, but I pick my battles with my mother.)
“He wasn’t your type any way (of course she know just what my type is because mother knows best right?) “But that other guy was fine as he wants to be”
“O really, which one.”
“That tall fellow with the dark hair.”
“Yeah he was fine alright.”
“Oh really.” And at the point my mother beeps the horn of her huge SUV, rolls down the window and signals for the guy to come over. I protested. I begged. I pleaded, but it was all in vain.
“My daughter thinks you’re cute.” I shrunk in the seat. I buried my face in my hands in hopes that I would disappear.
“Thanks.” The guy said slighltly embarrassed.
“How old are you baby?”
“19.” I took a peak from my awkward hiding position.
“Aw you’re too young for her, she’s 23. You missed out, but you just as cute as you wanna be.”
On the way home I scolded my mother for her incessant meddling in my life. I was pissed off. She said I was overreacting. I just wanted her to understand that I didn’t want a relationship and that I like my time by myself. It was useless. For the remaining miserable ride home I kept silent, seething inside. Why don’t people understand???
I could write a book on how many guys my mom tried to auction me off to. Some were unattractive, some reminiscent of Steve Urkel, some obese, some utterly not my type. I rarely go out with her any more. I may as well give the woman a copy of my curriculum vitae and a recent photo and have her pair me off with some mendicant.
My mother isn’t the only one. At work the topic of relationships comes up. “Crystal do you have boyfriend.”
“Are you seeing anybody”
“Do you date?”
“ARE YOU GAY!!!!” my coworker practically spat the words,
Oh boy I knew where this was heading.
“Why should I date?” I asked, interrupting my coworker’s lecture. The room got silent. “I don’t know.” My spunky coworker reluctantly replied. “Exactly!!!” I answered. I have had dozens of similar conversation with my coworkers. They have tired to hook me up on blind dates, push me to date customers that enter the store and interrogate me about my love life. It seems no body respects or empathizes with my decision to remain single.
I have also been the brunt of many jokes. The slightest disagreement I’d have with my male associates or family member provokes the brutal words “That’s why you don’t have a man now.” The implication being that there is something so repulsive about my personality (my unabashed directness and assertiveness) that it repels all men. That statement is sexist on so many levels that it makes my arm hair bristle. Obviously holding strong opinions and refusing to compromise on my principals is a trait better possessed by a man. I’d better just sit in a corner and look pretty in hopes that some guy will take pity on me and cure me of my “single affliction”.
And then there are the would-be suitors. When men approach me respectfully and I turn them down they ask me “Do you have a man?” “Nope” They look hopeful as if the fact that I’m single means that I’m going to date any guy who shows the slightest interest. Then I add, “I’m not looking for anyone right now, I enjoy my singleness.” They stare at me with puzzled expressions as if I have just grown a third head. I politely exit the conversation and return to whatever I was doing before they accosted me.
Why is there so much pressure on women to find a man? Why should that be the impetus for my existence? Why does it matter? Most men don’t have to endure such pressure, but a single woman—well God forbid she becomes an old maid! No matter how accomplished, articulate, pleasant, or well groomed she is, she will always be viewed as a spinster if she does not have a man. (Never mind how exceedingly difficult it is for her to find a decent man, the woman is the one to blame for her single state.) A woman could put an American flag on the moon, rescue a busload of people from a tsunami single handedly, and attain 6 Ph.D’s in the hard sciences, but without her Mrs. Degree she is worth less. I think about this a lot. I think about the fact that many in my very own family would rather I find a successful PhD to marry than to become that PhD myself. Many would rather I forfeit my dreams, my goals, my ambitions, if it meant that I would have a man. My mother pushes for me to find a mate, but is almost disinterested in my desire to go on to graduate school and produce life-changing research. I can do nothing but sigh at the way our culture has been so poorly socialized. I don’t like being perceived as defective, angry, bitter, or repressed. I just want so much more than what any man could ever offer me.
The whole single thing wouldn’t bother me so much if everybody else weren’t so fixated on it. I don’t think as much about my being single as everybody else does. Personally, I have too many things on my plate to make “finding a man” a priority. After all finding one wouldn’t make me feel any more worthy, it wouldn’t make me any more intelligent, and it certainly wouldn’t make God love me any more or less.
I have a Caribbean girlfriend who insists that I am going to end up educated and alone with a bunch of cats. It scares me when she puts it that way, but then I evaluate her conclusion logically. I would be educated, I would own my own house, have my own businesses, have taught and met people all over the country, have moved about freely and made my own decisions without being distracted by what some man thinks. I’d have a detailed social schedule, a million and one allocates, and a strong spiritual relationship untainted by a man’s Godlessness, and I’d have my cats who I would positively adore! Last, but not least I’d have friends and family who would be with me in my last hours. Somehow singleness doesn’t seem as petrifying as sacrificing myself at the altar of some man the way many of my loved ones have done. It frightens me that I could, as they have chosen, lose my precious identity-- become a mere shadow of myself in order to live in subjugation to a man. And don’t get me started on a woman’s pathology, shrinking intellect, disturbing decision making, and reckless behavior when she starts being regularly ejaculated into. I’ve seen the decline of many superwomen as a result of sex!
In a way, I feel about relationships the way I feel about swimming. When relationships are good they are comforting and enjoyable, but when they inevitably go south they are like sinking and feeling the burn of the water you inhale inside of your sinuses and forcing it’s way down your trachea. Perhaps one day I’ll have peace with them, as I hope to have peace with the water. Yet unlike swimming, I don’t find relationships liberating, but restrictive and congesting. I find them as impossible as the hundred thousand single questions I receive. I’d rather keep on soaring through the water and leave them along the edge of the pool or drown them in its depths. I have more important things to conquer.