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Old and Single By Choice, Or Not

Posted Mar 01 2013 8:30am

Remember a month ago when I was thinking out loud that maybe my comfort with living alone most of my life isn't so comfortable anymore? While looking for something to fill this space while I'm on hiatus this week, I ran across a post from 2005, that tells a different story.

Reading it now, seven-and-a-half years later, the reasoning at first seemed superficial but on second thought, maybe not. Depending on the day of the week, I could go with last month's post or this old one with one or two updates.


Recently, a past lover contacted me with a thought toward renewing discussion of an idea we once lightly entertained: living together in our old age.

Even though that was only a decade ago, old age still seemed a long way off to me and now that it has arrived, I have come to see that living as half a couple was never my strongest inclination.

Let me tell you a story:

In the middle of the night, many years ago, my husband and I received a call from his mother. His father was not expected to live - a brain tumor, she said, and we must come to San Francisco immediately.

After the funeral, my husband returned to his job in Houston while I stayed behind for six weeks to help his mother take care of details and adjust to her new life. Keep that number of weeks – six – in mind.

On my return home, the first thing I noticed in the kitchen was an oozing, greenish-black blob with gray fur. It was not as though you could miss it; it was spread over most of the counter on one side of the sink.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

With a few careful pokes at the distance of an extra-long knife, I deduced that it was a rotted avocado undoubtedly placed on the counter to ripen a month-and-a-half earlier and forgotten in our haste to get to San Francisco.

“Why didn’t you clean it up?” I asked.

“Because it was icky,” said he. “I didn’t want to touch it.”

Cut to some years later. Different man. Same theme:

ME: The dentist called and said you didn’t show up for your appointment today.

HE: Was it today?

ME: That’s what she said.

HE: Well, why didn’t you remind me?

Why IS it that a man becomes helpless when there is a woman in his life?

Is it all women or just me? With the exception of one (whom I lacked the wit to grab while I could), the men I’ve had a daily working knowledge of are incapable of basic domesticity.

No amount of noxious odor emanating from the kitchen garbage bin can induce them to take out the trash without being asked. Change the bed on their own? The sheets would rot first. Do the laundry? “I don’t know how,” they whine.

Don’t get me wrong: I like men. They are warm and fuzzy and endearing in many ways and I count a number of them among my friends. But after dinner or a movie these days, they go home – to their homes where, apparently, they clean up their own dead avocados or pay a cleaning service to do it.

There was little time in my adult life when I was without a man of significance to one degree or another, and men were pretty much the major topic of conversation among my women friends. Most of them – the men and the women – married long ago now, but the right time or the right man never came along for me.

Nowadays, I have come to see that whatever my generation’s cultural indoctrination toward marriage in our era's youth (it was powerful) and humankind’s natural inclination to pair, some of us are ambivalent.

Certainly that's true for me, having recently entered my eighth decade: one day I'm fine with aged singlehood, the next I'm not and after that, I reverse myself again.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Tragedy

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