When I was in my 20s I was sort of single. What I mean is I was sort of in a relationship but I still sort of acted single. Hey now, don’t judge me. I was in my 20s. In a band on the road. Living with my best (female) buddy, enjoying crazy adventures and not worrying too much about the future.
In my 30s I got married. And thus began a new kind of life; a life devoted almost entirely to socializing with other couples. It just seemed the thing to do. I still had some single friends and I did still see them on occasion but I confess I was always happier when they got coupled because it meant socializing with me and mine didn’t become a triangle. Even numbers are better, right?
Once I had a child the social network expanded to include other couples with children. I still had coupled friends who were childless and I still had single friends and I saw them all when I could but once you have a kid it just becomes so much more simple to socialize with other couples with kids. Now when I look back on those days I almost throw up a little – picture kids outside running around, men downstairs at the basement bar, women in the kitchen babysitting large goblets of wine. I mean Holy Shit! This was not the 50s! We’re talking the 90s here, even moving into the new millennium.
When I divorced at 48 the entire universe shifted. For a brief spell I was newly coupled and me and my fellow coupler somehow managed to create a whole new circle of friends (with kids and without). But once that relationship ended I found myself resoundingly, screamingly, horrifyingly SINGLE.
Ouch. Because if you have been warbling a duet (in key or not) for over 20 years, finding yourself suddenly singing solo is a harsh wake-up call. And there I was. Wide awake.
So what did I do? I invented a social life. I invited my equally single girlfriends for wine. I cajoled them into staying for dinner. I invited my unhappily married girlfriends for wine. I reluctantly allowed them to depart to feed hubby’s hungry belly. I hosted parties and barbecues and jam sessions and I invited everyone, single or coupled. And I just kept at it relentlessly so that I would not die of abject loneliness.
Once I found myself harnessed again, I would like to think I didn’t forget my single friends. New love is difficult competition, that I remember. And now that I was solidly back in the couples game I was enjoying those perks once more.
Until I found myself, after two and a half years, single yet again. I had moved to a new town. I had a few friends (but not many) and I was alone without even my son’s company to ease the sting of my solitude (he had grown up, as it turns out). And there it was, Easter long week-end, and I was staring at a decidedly empty dance card. Until a new young (in her 20s) friend mentioned she was hosting a surprise anniversary celebration for her parents. I had met them (maybe once) and I barely knew her but at the end of our conversation she said “Hey, come if you like. I’m sure they’d love to see you.”
You know, we old folks can learn a lot from the younger tribe. They run how they run, with whom they run, without so much emphasis on coupled or not. And with that simple invitation that young woman changed my life. Because I then realized that NO MATTER WHAT I would never again forget my single friends. I would include them whenever humanly possible because I do know the pain of loneliness. And I also know the thrill of inclusion.
And so I ask you … if you are hitched do you remember the unhitched when party planning? Are your dinner parties always an even number? Do single folk frighten you (there but for the grace of God go I)? Are they just not on your radar? Is it just easier to forget them?
In that same new town reside my cousin and her hubby still. Now, I know we are family and maybe that changes the guidelines a bit but whilst living there I dined with those two almost every week. One week at their home, the next at mine. Oh, how I looked forward to those evenings! As a single woman with most days nobody but a dog for company, I relished that camaraderie. And was always grateful for the inclusion.
And that, my friends, is the word of the day. INCLUSION. Because even though I am once again happily coupled and have been for almost five years I include my single friends whenever possible. I mean, I consciously create events to include my single friends. Sure, every now and then my partner and I host an intimate dinner party for four (two couples). But we have also been known to host an intimate party for nine – two single mothers, three children, one single cousin and a neighbour. And boy, do we have fun.
I’m not claiming here to be Mother Teresa. All I’m saying is that once you get into your 50s you realize that the single population has burgeoned. Whether by choice, fate, divorce or death of a spouse, I suddenly know a LOT of single people. And most of these fine people still crave human interaction. Adult interaction. Hugs. Laughs. Love. Even if it isn’t romantic.
Let’s help them out, okay? Most (not all) of my un-mated friends actually long to be entwined. It just ain’t happening (yet). I get that. Been there, done that. So let’s all think about that next time we plan a get-together. Let’s think about all of our unattached pals next time we want to celebrate. Let’s remember that this is not a couple’s world. It is a world made up of individuals. Some are united. Some are not. But we can all unite. We can all reach out to those who perhaps long with all their hearts to have what we do. We can all think “young” no matter how old we are. We can all act just like that inclusive young woman did for me.
Look at it this way – if you are currently a contented half of a contented pair, then Yay you! But it really is a “There but for the grace of God” kinda world. And you never know what tomorrow will bring.
So let’s all make an effort to pay it forward now.