I don't know how it happened. One day I was the last single person left among my friends. Looking around the table at a recent dinner I was the only non-couple in attendance.
"Are you saving that seat for your boyfriend?" a friend asked indicating the empty chair to my right.
"It's all yours, I'm solo tonight," I replied. She looked dejected.
"Is your boyfriend out of town?" she asked hopefully.
"I'm not seeing anyone at the moment." Her face fell further.
"But, what about the real estate guy you were seeing over the summer?"
"We split in the fall, I'm afraid," I explained. She looked so sad, her face was almost in the fish course on the plate in front of her, it had fallen so low.
"But, I mean, you helped him redecorate his townhouse! You seemed like you were finally getting serious about someone," she insisted. I resented the use of "finally" in her sentiment but shrugged it off. She meant well. They always mean well.
"Sometimes things just don't work out."
I found myself in the awkward position of consoling her over my lack of romantic entanglement. Then she gave me a smile: one of those supposed-to-be-encouraging-but-comes-off-as-condescending smiles that people who place an emphasis on being coupled give to singles.
"You'll find someone some day!" She went back to her fiancé and left me, an island in a sea of the partnered.
For the record, I've never had a problem "finding someone." It's happened multiple times, sometimes in the same night. Finding is not an issue: keeping permanently is the bridge I've yet to cross. I'll get there, but what's the rush? I'm in my mid-20s (but look weeks younger) and didn't realize that single at this age equals spinster. The reactions my singledom gets from some of my coupled friends says far more about them than me.
The friends that worry I'll die alone because "statistically if you don't find someone in your 20s the chances of marriage get slimmer with each passing year" – these statistics can be found in an episode of That Girl circa 1967 – are usually the ones who married their significant others from school and have no recollection of life uncoupled. I suspect they repress any memories of life pre-partner out of terror. It's nice that they don't want me to become a recluse whose corpse is eventually consumed by the ferrets I will keep after humans reject my company, but I think we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The friends that want me to regale them with my bed-hopping-bachelor-boy-in-the-city antics (usually straight guys for some reason, go figure) clearly miss their single days and want to live vicariously through me. I'm usually a disappointment in that area, too. Yes, I've enjoyed the fruits being young and gay in San Francisco can yield, but lately when I'm single it's more an issue of being between boyfriends and not a lifestyle choice that permits me to tramp around like a same-sex-inclined Casanova. I just can't make anyone happy.
"Try being a single woman – I've been getting the 'head tilt ahhh' since I was 25," my roommate said when I told her about the dinner.
The head tilt ahhh: when a well-meaning person asks if you're seeing someone, you say "no" and they slightly tilt their head to the side and make a sympathetic "ahhh" sound. I guess it's a sign of progress that my gay coupled friends are just as likely to ahhh as their straight counterparts. Lately, the gays are worse than the straights. They act like it's a betrayal to marriage equality when I'm not in a relationship: "Tony Bravo is personally holding back progress every day he's not partnered, and he better get on the ball before it affects the Supreme Court's position on the matter!"
"The worst is when they ask why I'm single," my roommate continued. "I've never asked why they're married, even though after enduring that line of questioning I'm tempted."
More than one friend has tried to cure me of my single condition by matchmaking. The results have varied. Occasionally, I've liked a guy and we've gone out after the initial fix-up but nine times out of ten I've been a little appalled by the kind of men my friends think I should be with. The feeling may have been mutual. One guy did nothing but talk incessantly about wanting to get married and becoming a parent before he turned 40 (he was 38 at the time, pressure!). I couldn't help but joke, "Well, if someone was willing to have kids with Michael Jackson I'm sure there has to be someone who will have them with you." That was the last time that friend tried to fix me up.
There's a subtle implication to some of these interactions with friends that my lack of a current long-term relationship is a sign of immaturity. Growing up means settling down, blah we blah us blah blah blah. I've never questioned the validity of people's relationships, at least not to their faces, so don't question the validity of my not being in a relationship. I'm sure "settling down" is in my future but settling… not so much. I've been happy in some great relationships and I've been equally as happy as a free agent in the periods in between. Right now is one of those periods; duration to be determined.
The next time I get the head tilt ahhh when asked where my boyfriend is I plan to invoke the musical Chicago. I'll just smile and politely say, "I'm no one's wife but I love my life."
Unless, you know, I happen to be seeing someone at the time.