Yesterday I was talking with a co-worker and she asked me how things were going with the Boy. When I said that we were still seeing each other she got really excited and said to me "Maybe you will have a ring by Christmas!"
It is always kind of awkward for me to have 'the marriage conversation' with people I don't know very well. Especially at work. I try to divulge some basic details of my personal life, because if you don't share those things it can be really hard to relate to people. And that is magnified when everyone lives in different cities and you spend a lot of time on conference calls trying to build a rapport with someone you have never met in person.
Anyway, this particular co-worker is probably in her late 50's and has been married for over 30 years with a daughter that is close to my age and a brand new baby grandson. She is a very sweet woman and we have bonded over the past year. But it is obvious that she lives a more traditional lifestyle and has different expectations than I do. She has asked me about getting married before, and I have managed to avoid the topic or change the subject. This time when she brought up the question, I finally decided to clue her in.
I explained to her that I don't really want to get married, which is always hard to do without sounding like you are judging people who did choose to get married. There was silence on the other end of the phone. "But what about kids?" she asked. Well, that is another story. I don't actually plan on having kids either. After a few more minutes of polite questions and answers she said to me "Well, whatever you think is best for you, dear. I just want to see you happy." And I could tell that she really meant it.
The conversation with my co-worker is certainly not an isolated incident. It seems like as soon as I started heading north of age 30, people have been asking me why I am not married.
The simple answer is that I have never met a man that I loved more than my freedom. It might sound crazy, but on a very basic level it is true. I have always had a fear of being trapped. Whether it is in a job, a relationship or in line at the grocery store, I am always looking for an exit strategy. And even in the happiest relationship, there are times when you just need to be by yourself. Marriage, or even living with someone, just doesn't give me the space I need.
It's not only about having enough time to yourself, it's the whole concept of merging stuff into one household, combining finances and two people making decisions as if they were one person. No matter how compatible two people are, there are inevitably going to be differences in values that lead to friction when big decisions need to be made.
And, in the event that you ever need to leave the relationship, there is way too much paperwork. When you have a boyfriend, breaking up involves a phone call or maybe an uncomfortable face to face conversation. Then you grab your toothbrush, some clothes and maybe a few CD's and you're out of there. With marriage, there is a whole legal process involved. Which may involve giving up your home, your identity and half of your 401K. Plus attorney's fees.
There are people who need to be around other people. For example, the Boy is 34 years old and still living with a room mate. He has been moving from house to house and renting a room from various friends since college. And it really does not bother him to have someone around night and day. Now, of course he is a guy so personal space is not as big of an issue. Nor is the shared bathroom. But still, the Boy seems at peace with the idea of sharing his life and his space with someone else.
I have always found a sense of serenity in being alone. Sometimes when you are out in the world it can feel like a constant assault on your senses. Phone calls, e-mails and meetings at work, crazy drivers on the freeway and screaming kids in the aisle at Target. When I walk into my little house and close the door all of that noise goes away. I can watch TV, read a book, work on the computer, paint my toes. Whatever makes me happy. And if I need some company, it is just a phone call away. I am alone, but not lonely.
And for as much as I hate my job, I am very fortunate to have enough money to afford my little sanctuary. The best part is that I don't have to ask any one's permission to buy a new washer and dryer or argue about the color of the paint on the living room walls. I have to admit that I feel a great sense of pleasure and pride when I learn to do something around the house all by myself.
When I was with my Mr. Big, he used to change the water filter in the unit under my sink. It is something you only need to do once a year and it just became a habit for him to help me. After we broke up, I had to do it for the first time by myself. I read the instructions, shut off the water valve, took the unit apart, changed the filter and put it all back together again. And it really wasn't all that hard.
I remember calling my sister to share my triumph, but at the same time telling her that I felt remotely disappointed because I had essentially proven that I didn't need a man around the house for anything. Except for the obvious. And there are tools for that too.
Last year I bought myself a necklace for my birthday. It is a single diamond set in the center of two white gold columns. To me, it looks like a modern interpretation of the Eiffel tower. The diamond in the center is me, and that necklace is a reminder that I can only rely on myself.
I am lucky to have a great network of family and friends. And usually there is a boy in the mix somewhere to keep me company. But at the end of the day, its just me. My life, my choices, my successes and my heartbreaks. And that's the power of me.