A Valentine’s Day Dispatch from a “Just One.”
First, I want to go on record that yes — I would L-O-V-E to be in a long-term, committed, romantic relationship with the right person — heck yes — perhaps I’d even consider getting married again, unlikely, but possible. Having said that, I must admit that being single, or “just one,” is not the loneliest number, despite the lyrics of the song One (click to hear Harry Nilsson perform the song) made famous by Three Dog Night, which was written by Harry Nilsson, who is one of my favorite songwriters, (I know I’m dating myself here). H-m-m-m — “dating myself” — it’s kind of a metaphor for being single on Valentine’s Day.
One is not the loneliest number and not everyone who is single on Valentine’s Day is sad, but many of us are reminded by others that we are S.A.D. (Single Awareness Day). It’s somewhat difficult not to be, with all the commercialization of what some would describe as a Hallmark, candy, jeweler, and florist marketers’ dream holiday. I must admit however, I’m a romantic at heart, and when I’m in a relationship, I enjoy the planning, gift-giving, the romantic dinners, and the anticipation of the candlelit payoff at the end of the evening.
The reality is some of my loneliest times and Valentine’s Day holidays occurred when I was in a relationship. There’s nothing lonelier than being with the person you love and feeling like you are essentially alone, unappreciated, or your needs are neglected or denied. Sometimes it’s simply a mismatch of expectations or lack of communication between partners, as in a typical match-up of opposites attract, a giver and taker, or worse yet, a taker with a taker. I happen to know a couple who I would describe as a giver and a giver. I’m going to guess that they’re going to have a pretty fabulous Valentine’s Day.
For many of us who are single, the one-two punch of New Year’s Eve followed by Valentine’s Day just six weeks later, reinforces the fact that on the two occasions when most of us would like to have a date, perhaps dress up, and go out for a special dinner, it’s made more difficult to do, since many of our friends, at least the ones who are partnered, already have plans. More often than not, single friends are apt to order a pizza, and enjoy a pint of ice cream (or a stiff drink, or two) in their PJ’s in the comfort and privacy of their own home.
One year, two of my single gal pals and I went out on Valentine’s Day together all decked out and ready to celebrate our friendship. The supper club we chose only served “Sweetheart Specials for Two” that evening. We became dinner theater as the three comedy and acting-inclined lesbians tried to place our orders with our gay waiter who played along with us like a member of an improv troupe.
You might be asking by this point, “So, what’s so great about being single?” You’ll get the best answer by asking someone who’s in a relationship. Often, when many of us are in a relationship, we’re daydreaming about how our lives would be different —and better —if we were single!
Those of us who are not in a relationship frequently think about how our lives would improve if we were partnered. Gratefully, that’s happening less and less for me. The longer I’ve been single, living my solitaire life as a just one, I’m happy and content most days. The thought has crossed my mind that I may be too busy for a relationship, since my life seems so full of me.
When having breakfast with a friend recently who’s been in a relationship for over 20 years, she asked, “Are you dating anyone?” I responded, “No, not right now,” I added that I was enjoying my single life, doing whatever I wanted to, when I wanted to, without having to compromise or negotiate with a partner, being able to be spontaneous or change my mind without push back, or cause someone I cared about disappointment. I mused about how much I like my time alone. She paused for awhile and wistfully replied, “Sometimes I wish I was single.” Yes, the adage that “the grass is always greener on the other side” rings true for being coupled or single. As I learned in recovery circles, we often compare our insides with other people’s outsides.
Full disclosure: Though I live a “just one” life, I’m grateful for the time I spend with friends and family and the abundance of love and affection generously shared with me. I’m busy socially, attending group activities: Potlucks, Meetup events, book clubs, game nights, the theater, bingo fundraisers, the occasional poker game, road trips, and of course, go on dates with a posse of my gal pals. I schedule frequent one-on-one coffees, brunches, or movie dates, and hang out with my coupled friends who are not threatened by a “third wheel.” My family of origin regularly gathers for holidays and special occasions, so my datebook fills up quickly and being a just one and having time alone is sometimes a respite from the busyness of everyday life.
At the same time, I’ve been grateful for every intimate relationship I’ve had. I’ve learned a lot about loving others and more importantly, in the end, how to love myself. The good news is, I’m no longer looking to have someone “complete me” or become my “better half.”
I’ve stopped having Conversations with My Next Girlfriend, but I still reread my series as a reminder of where I’ve been and how I got here today. Since I’m a memoir-writer there will be more stories such as The Ex Files and My Butch Girlfriends and I’ll write more love poetry like my chapbooks, Crush(ed) or The Valentine Poems, and I’ll continue to chronicle my dating experiences as I did in, It’s Never Too Late (to Learn How to Date). I still need to bring Kleenex to the movie theater when I watch romantic comedies, and I never pass up an opportunity to talk with friends and family (okay, gossip) about who is dating who, and commenting on what seems like the incestuous and diminishing dating pool and musical chairs of our lesbian community here in Madison.
I offer the following reading list about love and living from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My! but first a poem by Nikki Giovanni which I discovered in the early 1970s. The poem captured the best elements of my married life to my husband Frank. For me, the most successful relationships can be diagrammed as follows: You, me, and we.
Nikki Giovanni is coming to Madison the day after Valentine’s Day on February 15th for An Evening with Nikki Giovanni. She is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator whose work emerged during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, is a WUD Distinguished Lecturer and the 2017 Black History Month Keynote. In light of this month’s theme, Black Joy, she will be lecturing on the topic of how “Black love is still Black wealth.”
A Certain Peace
it was very pleasant
not having you around
not that i don’t love you
and want you and need you
and love loving and wanting and needing you
but there was a certain peace
when you walked out the door
and i knew you would do something
you wanted to do
and i could run
a tub full of water
and not worry about answering the phone
for your call
and soak in bubbles
and not worry whether you would want something
special for dinner
and rub lotion all over me
for as long as i wanted
and not worry if you had a good idea
or wanted to use the bathroom
and there was a certain excitement
when after midnight you came home
and we had coffee
and i had a day of mine
that made me as happy
as yours did you
Happy Valentine’s Day, whether you are a “just one,” a two, three, or more!
Related Reading from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!
Highlights from: Conversations w/My Next Girlfriend