Saturday, February 15, 2014

Deliberately Single

For the better part of three years I have not dated, partly on purpose. Sometimes, when people ask, I tell them “I’m training for the convent.” It’s one of the few lies I can deliver with a straight face, so maybe a new career direction is in order. In any event, it is possibly more believable than the truth. Who abandons dating?

The first year of not dating happened by accident. After a relationship ended I got wonderfully busy and the habit stuck. There were satisfyingly exhausting projects at work, art openings to attend, belly dance classes and troupe performances, and I skated with a roller derby team and handled the team’s marketing and PR. One day I realized I hadn’t been on a date or even thought about dating for nine months. I made a decision to extend it to a year in an experiment to see if extended celibacy would cause me to lose my mind with loneliness.

After the first year, most of it without my noticing, the second year of chasteness was premeditated and officially began in October 2011 when I broke my leg during a roller derby bout. Life came to a screeching tomahawk stop. Walking required brain cramping effort. There were months of physical therapy. The injury highlighted how much I missed my family 1,200 miles away. Nerve damage in my leg and foot (which still lingers) resulted in my decision to leave roller derby. The effort of something as basic as walking without dragging my numb foot made me too self-conscious and depressed to do very much beyond going to work.

A few months after what I still refer to as “the leg incident,” I listed my house with a realtor, told my bosses what was happening, planted Saint Joseph in the yard, and waited for a sale. Because timing was an unknown variable at the whim of the local real estate market, I chose to continue not dating after listing the house. I’d already gone long enough that it was nothing new, and there was no point starting something that would have to end or become complicated. There were work projects to wrap up, a house to pack, and goodbyes with the people already in my life. With uncertain timing and so much to do, I grasped whatever nuggets of control were available. Resolutely not dating meant one less stressful thing to deal with.

In the year since selling the house and moving from Tennessee back to New England, I’ve been staying with my mother and focused on looking for a job. In my delusional fantasy world, I thought this process would take one to two months, after which I’d be headed to an office daily and returning to my own dog-friendly apartment or home. Reality obviously has another timeline in play and 12 months later I am still without a full-time job, still staying with mom and still paying for my household stuff to sit in storage.

In the fall, I went apple picking and had dinner with a man in what are technically “dates” as there was planning involved and my fretting over things like “Are we going to kiss?” and “I should be at home working on my resume.” It was unnecessarily stressful. And I’m hypersensitive about the potential of a guy thinking I’m looking for someone to “take care of me.” The dating arena of life can remain on ice for the time being until I get the major priorities like a job and housing settled. The experiment continues.

Overall, my non-dating, chaste, anti-romantic relationship status is quite satisfactory. I haven’t yet begun writing adolescent, angst-ridden poetry or expired from loneliness, and there are benefits. I never have to check with someone else when making plans. My two dogs are always ready and willing to cuddle. I don’t have to feel guilty for “ignoring” a partner in my occasional periods of sullenness. I don’t have to share my chocolate or my beer. Or myself.

An ex-boyfriend once said that I’m “too independent” and “don’t need anyone.” I can’t remember what I did to warrant his analysis, but he may have been right.

There was one point recently when being deliberately alone felt slightly less glorious than usual. Working a part-time retail job during the Christmas season and fondling men’s sweaters in an action cleverly disguised as folding, I felt a teensy pang of regret at the lack of a romantic someone for whom to buy gifts of menswear. Fortunately, the desire to makeover a man into the likeness of Mark Anthony or a Chaps model passed. When the pangs dissipated, I congratulated myself for being free of worry about whose family to visit for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner. It’s just me and I can pretty much go where I want, including nowhere!

Hot on the heels of Christmas is Valentine’s Day. On this day and the month-and-a-half month leading to it, the retail spotlight shines white hot on love, romance and the trappings deemed essential by marketers paid to create hype and increase sales of dinners, jewelry, cards, cologne, flowers, lingerie, and chocolate. The pressure! I am thrilled to sit out this particular level of hell, free of gifting and card selection and worry that it’s too much or too little. I rejoice in the knowledge there is no chance my feelings might be misinterpreted like the time I casually signed an email to a long-distance beau with “love ya” and he dropped out of contact for a week then reemerged to break it off, having panicked under the assumption I meant “I love you” when I didn’t.

I have a swell plan for my singleness and intend to dedicate a small Valentine’s budget to some quality chocolate for myself. The procurement probably won’t happen until the candy is on sale because it hurts my feelings more to pay full retail than to hold out for a few more days and get twice as much for the money. Is this a sign I have finally lost my mind from not dating?  Nope. Like my “experiment,” I prefer to think it’s a sign that I am very practical.

Originally published February 14, 2014 on

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