Need Versus Want
At a fundraiser this week I saw an old friend, I kissed her on the cheek hello and made small talk until the dreaded, “Are you seeing anyone?” spoiled the moment. Her answer was yes, but he is away vacationing in Italy for the summer. My wine loosened lips started dribbling and recounting my most fabulous recent dates in an attempt to provide humor and prevent further prying into my singledom. I told the story of the guy in the cat tee shirt who admitted it wasn’t ironic after I insulted him and the story of my first and last Tinder date in which I was catfished by one of my college professors. She was laughing so I jumped too quickly into my own affinity for ghosting and why I am a terrible dater. When she asked what ghosting was, my monologue lost its moment so I returned the question, “How about you?”
“I am! He is wonderful but unfortunately not here tonight. He vacations in Italy for the summer.”
Whether it was a lie or not, it was damn good but no fun and I excused myself to get another glass of wine.
My boss, who has my sense of humor but is more refined and aged to about 62, loves my stories but wants me to find someone. I have repeated to her, “You shouldn’t need to be with somebody to be happy” again and again and she nods in agreement. I preach, attempting to wipe out any remnants of my mother’s brainwashing that if I don’t get serious about this I will end up Edie Beale sans her mother because my Big Edie is engaged to be married next year. She has always encouraged me to settle down at earliest convenience so she “no longer has to worry about me.”
In the car on the way to a seminar in Baltimore my boss told me the story of her husband. They were engaged after 3 months of knowing each other and 30 some years and 3 children later, she still loves him above all else. She picked him because he was the most interesting man she had ever met. She told me, “I don’t need him, even financially we are keep our lives separated. I let him go out and hike all weekend with whoever he wants so I can watch my stories(she means the Real Housewives) but I want him in my life and he wants to be in my mine. It is a conscious choice to be together.”
Over the past few months, in a feverish effort to figure out the answers to all of life’s questions before stepping knee deep in my mid 20s, I had been rampantly questioning not only the institution of marriage, but society’s fixation with coupling and battling a cynicism of love. Despite all the progress and strides that we had made as a society (Donald Trump may be upstaging how monumental this moment is for women but don’t forget about Hilary), we were still continuously told that we had to find somebody, had get married, had to unite in a duo in order to avoid being alone. I work in a world full of women decked out in their newest Birkin bag and plastic surgery so perhaps I receive this pressure more than most. I sell high end art and am the only unmarried woman among my coworkers and clients. Women do not purchase art in my gallery unless they are married- Trust me. My sarcastic tally chart still has yet to get a hash mark in the single woman side. Why are we still stuck on this cowardly, outdated concept that implies that the majority of us couldn’t be happy as single units? Why does being single have to equate to loneliness? And the main question, why were we still listening? Why was there a lingering piece of of myself I had hidden away who has a dream ring in mind and cried when watching Grey Gardens out of fear my mother was right and this costume wearing, cat infested life was my future?
For years I loudly declared that I never wanted to get married, reiterating this decision to everybody in my near vicinity, friends, family and dates included. I never wanted children but could make that happen on my own terms if necessary. I jokingly referred to my future husband as “my first husband” to allude to the apathethy I felt in regards to the whole silly notion of marriage. But when my boss shared with me her life choice to be with her husband, I felt the annoying front of rebelliousness against societal standards fall away.
She was right. I don’t need a partner, but guess what, I still want one. I am extremely independent, and its repeated to me often by my friends as a compliment, but this is not a heroic life stance as much as it is was a necessity. And should that mean I deny myself the opportunity of one day having a partner in life?
My boss was right. A good union should be a partnership of two independent people who are together for no other reason than they both want to be, who commit to something and build a life together through equal work and equal contribution. Sure, you don’t need somebody to carry the weight of the world for you, but there is no fault in wanting to find somebody to carry it with you, occasionally making it a little lighter, and a little more fun.
Maybe one day I will meet the most interesting man I have ever met. Maybe in 30 some years and 3 kids later I will still be with him because I want to be, not because I need him. And until that happens, what makes for a better story than a good catfish rouse and an oversized man in a cat tee shirt? Certainly not an Italian villa. Cheers!