Single Doesn’t Mean Alone
(This I Believe, 2010)
I believe that for some women—for me—choosing to be single can be a positive good choice. That seems a simple enough idea, but of all the decisions that I have made in my life, of all the paths I have taken, single by choice is the one that other people find the most puzzling. Why this aspect of my life should be the strangest thing about me, I do not understand. Why this fact about my life—and it’s not as if I announce it: it’s just how I live—should be the subject of more questions, more probing inquisitiveness, than anything else I do, I do not know.
In truth, this choice of singleness didn’t occur to me originally. After ending a long marriage and moving back to New York, I did wonder where my life was going next. I thought of several possibilities. I thought of adopting a child, I thought of living abroad. I even thought of men. But I wondered if it was really men I desired since I so easily lost interest in them once I began my own most serious life’s work. Yes, that was it. It was my work that enthralled me and that was the turning point. I realized that my strongest need was for the work I love and for my writing, which I love when it’s finally finished. I do have a passion—to use my mind, to make my own money—and I don’t have all the time in the world in which to do it. Therefore, I decided that for me, further education, honorable work and serious writing are my truest pleasures. You know, I adore my grandson—but I wouldn’t give up my work or my writing for him.
You might say that as I sought and continue to seek my personal best, choosing a single life turns out to be an integral part of it. Yet people persist in asking about it and assessing it. They often ask—or rather state—“You must be lonely.” (Really, only single women?) When I was 50 years old, a friend insisted on telling me that “there are many men in their seventies who would still find you attractive.” (Thanks, I’ll get right on it.) Others suspect that I have a strategy, a clever ploy to find someone. A friend’s husband actually said to me, “I see. If you don’t appear to be looking, then men come around. You’re doing it like fly fishing.” And finally, the very people who brought the subject up in the first place, who insist on talking about it, pat my arm and play their trump card: “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find someone.”
Why is it strange or unbelievable to imagine a woman happily choosing to be single? If I said I was a fan of mud wrestling, was addicted to heroin, or lived out my days in an ashram doing raw foods and meditation, people would calmly nod and say, “Oh yes, Channel 13 had a documentary on that. Very interesting.” Today almost anything goes—except choosing to be single.
I believe it is demeaning to all women to determine a woman’s ultimate worth in terms of her connection to another. Because at the end—just like many men—I want to matter for myself. And speaking of the end, when that time comes, what do I want inscribed on my tombstone? Not “she met someone,” not “too bad she never met someone.” And as for “beloved anybody’s anything,” frankly I could live without it. In my fantasies the final inscription on my tombstone reads “Gladys Foxe: psychoanalyst, scholar, published.”