Still Single and (Nearly) Sixty

Cicadas I’m approaching sixty years old and I’m still single. I spent my young adult years pining for true love, dreaming of getting married, and burning. Yes, burning. (Remember that verse, “It is better to marry than to burn”?) I had a one-track mind. I was looking for a husband. No, I was hunting for a husband. I devoured brides magazines, selected my dress, buried a cache of clippings of floral arrangements, jewelry, and reception decor in hopes of scavenging from them later, and planned the music. I walked down the aisle again and again, usually in a bridesmaid’s dress, or worked behind the scenes as personal attendant. I knew how to get married better than anyone. I was young, attractive, idealistic and ferociously romantic.

Over the years, life happened to me, all kinds of life, but my single-minded focus remained finding my true love. I traveled the world, lived in trailers and mansions, rode in pickup trucks and limousines, met famous people, and hobnobbed with rich and poor alike. Everywhere I went, I was looking at men, sizing them up. Is he the one? How about him? He’s cute. I ran after men. Then I heard that was the one thing that turned men off. If you run after them, they run away. They’re hunters at heart and need to pursue you, not the other way around. So I waited for someone to pursue me. Cobwebs grew under my shoes.

Someone said “Men like it when you flirt and act sexy.” I tried being flirty. It was pathetic. I didn’t know how to flirt. I didn’t know how to flutter my eyelashes and cloak myself in an air of mystery. I was WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). If he could make me laugh, he loved music, he was smart, and had nice hair and eyes, I was interested. If he could dance, even better! I’d jump in. But something always impeded. I’d get past the first date and by the 3rd, I decided he wasn’t it, and then it was over. Or he decided I wasn’t it and of course, I was baffled and heartbroken.

I lacked boundaries. This was the result of a stressful childhood with an overbearing, controlling mother and a kind, but absentee, father. As the second youngest of nine, I was bossed around, couldn’t find my place, didn’t know my strengths, and wanted love so desperately that I threw myself at guys and threw away my morals. This led to a string of heartbreaking and thoroughly wrong relationships but I didn’t care, I had someone to “love” and give myself to.

Later on, after I wised up, returned to my faith and stopped acting unbecomingly, I acquired wonderful friends and ran in interesting circles. Went to Bible School. Got my degree in Theology and Missions. Learned graphic design. Smuggled Bibles into China. Still the most often heard comments were “I don’t understand why you aren’t married yet.” “I can’t believe someone hasn’t snatched you up.” “If I were still single….” I even had prophetic words spoken over me: “I see you married, and it’s going to be soon.” “You’ll get married, but it will be late in life.” Or the best one, “God showed me you were supposed to marry ME.” Only the Magic 8 Ball could be less prophetic.

That was what was said out loud. The whispers were, “She must be gay. I only see her with girlfriends.” “She sure has a hard time forming long-term relationships.” What? Having several close girlfriends for more than 30 years doesn’t qualify as  a successful long-term relationship? My own mother would have sold me to the highest bidder, she was so desperate for me to get married. “The man who was out here pumping the septic tank today is single! I gave him your number!” I was ready to marry Mr. Wrong just to shut them up. To explain the mystery of why I wasn’t finding Mr. Right, I was convinced that God had deliberately posted two angels on either side of me, holding up blankets so men couldn’t see me. They accompanied me wherever I went. It seemed plausible enough.

Now I don’t know about any of you single gals out there, but it appears that if you are not married, you’re somehow less validated or esteemed as an adult. You’re fair game for everyone, including your family, to freely tell you what to do, how to do it, and intrusively speak into your life like you don’t know anything. I got bossed around a lot. Still do. Maybe it’s me? Being number eight might have turned me into a helpless dodo by order of birth. I don’t know.

After several years of no-one-interesting-in-particular, I gave up on the dating scene. I read somewhere (most certainly from an authoritative source) that if I’d just be content with God alone, THEN He’d bring along Mr. Right, so I busied myself trying to be content. Twelve years of my discontent later, I was in a very lonely and emotionally weak place. I distinctly remember telling God, “If you’re not going to bring me someone to love, I’ll find someone myself,” and ended up in a REALLY wrong relationship which again crossed all boundaries.

There is no point throwing temper tantrums with God. He’ll let you fume and flail all you want. I found myself a single mother to a child who was born with disabilities. It wasn’t planned, but this little child turned out to be a wonderful blessing. I had someone to love and he belonged to me! To ME!! If I ever thought I had known love before, I really hadn’t. This was a whole new level of love.

The next 22 years I was too busy to date. It’s exhausting being a single parent. Life becomes an obsession—finding work, paying bills, attending parent/teacher meetings, learning things about your child’s disabilities, and just trying to get enough sleep. Worry and fear became constant companions. Even after my son had grown and left home, I was still caregiving; for aging parents, relatives and neighbors. I didn’t know who Sheryl was anymore. I had no more hopes ands dreams… except to get a good night’s sleep, and maybe get back into a size 12. Good sleep sounded like the better deal.

Over the years, I’ve worked for others, I’ve had my own business. I’ve made money and lost it. Lately, I’ve been donating plasma for gas money. I’m no longer young with firm flesh (although the plasma collecting nurse said the skin on my inside forearms was very hard). There are extra wrinkles and extra pounds, stiff joints and things that jiggle right on top of them. I am decidedly zaftig, to use a Yiddish term—pleasantly plump. When the hormones went away, a lot of other things did too, like insecurity and irrational behavior.

So I’m pushing sixty and still single. At this point, I’m willing to forego the “finding a lover” part and just make a deal with someone. You help me. I’ll help you. Sign right here, please. Hopefully, this man has a little money because financially, it is difficult to make ends meet as a single working woman who has no interest in climbing the corporate ladder. I’m a graphic designer. This means feast or famine economically. And I enjoy living in my own little world, designing pieces that look bold or beautiful, wildly colorful or serenely pastel, listening to any kind of music that fits my mood, being impulsive or scheduled. I always thought I’d make a great wife for a military man or a pilot because they’re gone for weeks/months at a time. Every time he’d come home there’d be a joyous reunion and fun things to do. Then he’d take off I could be in my own little world again.

If Mr. Right is reading this and you want to form a working partnership, I promise to provide you with the following: companionship, partnership, wild stories from my youth, a solid work ethic, and commitment to keep my eyes and ears open to new things.

I’ll leave you alone when you need it. You can have your world and I can have mine, and if our worlds merge for a bit, I do enjoy traveling and taking in new sights, sounds and souls. I can cook, clean, fix leaky faucets, and make good conversation. I’m a good listener and a good passenger. I’ll ride along happily.

I’d prefer it if you are smarter than me because I enjoy learning. I’m a nerd like that. Galaxies and creatures of the deepest oceans fascinate me. Did you know there are rare antelope in Mongolia that have snouts like elephants? And did you know cicadas live underground in a larvae state for 17 years before finally emerging as adults, climbing to the top of the trees, buzzing loudly and mating for only a few weeks before they die? I still have a few weeks to buzz loudly and mate before I die.

Speaking of buzzing, we could each download the SnoreLab app on our phones and compare our snoring levels for fun. Whoever hits “Epic” first during the night wins a prize the next day. We could sit in our cabin glider chairs and watch the neighbors. We could have family stay over when they’re in town. We could go fishing (I can hook any life vest within 20 yards). I just like being out on the water.

I promise to regale you with all sorts of interesting trivia until you die. If you have a few wild stories from your youth, I’d love to hear them. I will stay with you as long as we have our “deal.” You won’t have to be alone. And neither will I. If you go first, on your gravestone I will write “He Kept His Part of the Deal.” And on mine, you can write “She Beat Me to ‘Epic.’”


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