Women—and men too!—you tell me.
I have been thinking lately about what it means to be “un-partnered”—which isn’t the same thing as being celibate. Women writing to Auntie Sue must have the same subject on their minds, because they want to know: Why doesn’t he call after we spent a great night together? Why am I the hook-up/one-night-stand? Why did he marry someone else six months after the break-up of our long relationship when he wouldn’t marry me? (Susan McNabb, Jerry Seinfeld’s ex-lover of eight years duration, is writing a book on being the one not chosen. Wince.)
Some women still tell one another: He’s just scared of the intense feelings he has for you. (Oh, ha.) More and more women are acknowledging, however, that they are un-partnered—and not only asking why but examining what that means for the long term. Lovers, we have. Flowers and designer chocolates, we get. If you see us dining out with a man, you probably note that he is more attentive than the average man to his woman. But the man is not ours.
A few weeks ago I heard the talented and beautiful Arie Thompson sing at Freia Gallery in Harlem. She has a rich sexy voice and a way with tunes from Billie Holiday’s moody “Left Alone” to a better up-tempo version of “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover” than Paul Simon sang. The theme of her show and the title of the new CD “Passionate Solitude” grew out of her realization that she was the only one of her friends who was and always had been “un-partnered” whether she was with a man or not.
She talked the talk of the young and bravely romantic:
“When you are not with one man, you get to be with many.”
“You can appreciate intimacy on so many levels.”
She told a poignant story of a hook-up that was a “soul connection”. (He didn’t call. She called him. “I’m in a relationship,” he said, “but you’re right—we really connected.”)
And she asked, “Do we lack such imagination that longevity is the only measure of success in a relationship?”
She’s not thirty yet. How will she feel if, ten, twenty years later, she remains un-partnered, doing everything that needs to be done on her own? An acquaintance in her fifties told me about the responses of married friends to her financial plight: “Every one of them is comfortable because she is married. Yet they all gave me judgmental ‘advice’ that, in varying degrees of subtlety, placed the blame on me for the loss of my job.”
The new book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gotlieb –the one causing such an uproar—speaks to her. Now she wishes she had married Mr. Not Quite Right. In her twenties and thirties and even into her forties, she romanticized the life of the urban single woman. She proudly would not “settle.” Ironically, I hear from unmarried men in their forties expressing regret at letting the “perfect girl” go in their twenties because they weren’t ready “to settle down” and also resentment at the women in their thirties now who won’t “settle” for them.
I wonder how "settling" has worked out for the women who did.
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