Women, alone

When you become a woman who is alone, you notice other women who are alone.

I became such a woman when I got divorced. But each woman alone has her own story, of course. Some women, like one of my sisters, just never marry. For some, it’s a conscious choice. For others, luck or fate or God–or whatever they believe in–just doesn’t deliver the life picture they envisioned.

I am a huge fan of the badasses among my women-who-are-alone brethren. Like my friend who just last night regaled with me tales of how she and her teen son tried to remove a stuck bathroom fixture with a propane blowtorch (don’t try this at home, kids). If you knew this woman, you’d know she is a very successful attorney. And if you sat across a conference table from her, you’d never guess she occasionally wields a blowtorch.

But this is what women alone do. We figure it out. I mean, who else is going to?

I remember, like it was yesterday, a scene in which my head was in my gas fireplace. It was the week of my divorce, and I was hellbent on figuring out why the fire wouldn’t light. Handywoman is not a role most of my friends would envision for me. Truth be told, I’m awful at it. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the details of life best me.

Many of us women alone write more checks than we’d like to, as I’m about to this month. The jobs husbands—or women who are actually handy—normally do, we hire out. It pains me to do so, but I know my limits. I can cook, clean, organize, make a living, mother, chauffeur, counsel—a host of things. But I rarely do it all well simultaneously, and if you add handywoman to my list of jobs it just about breaks me. That’s when you’ll see me want to throw up my hands and cry. So I bite my cheek and write the check, calculating how many hours I’ll have to work to pay this off. And then I look at my freshly painted garage trim or properly hung drapery rod and try to be thankful it’s done.

Last night, as my friend and I laughed about her newfound blowtorching skill, a woman sat on the other side of our restaurant window. Alone, she typed away on her laptop, a jaunty hat perched on her head, diamonds in her ears, a frothy martini at the ready. She smiled at me as I laughed with my friend, looking quite happy on her own on a Friday night. I’d bet a month’s salary she bought those diamonds for herself. You go, girlfriend.

In the movie theater, an older woman sat next to my friend. She ordered a meal and settled in contentedly. Another single female looking happy to be out on her own.

In our culture, men who are alone are considered contented bachelors, for the most part. People assume they’ve chosen this solitary life. Women alone are assumed to be the victims of a less-than-desirable personality or situation. We are asked, almost constantly, “Are you dating someone? Have you found the right man?” It’s assumed we are single not by choice but because we are not up to snuff somehow. Too feisty, too fat, too persnickety, too smart for our own good.

The stereotype reduces us to sad caricatures rather than women who are forging a new frontier—an independent life in which we raise children and treat ourselves to what other women rely on men to do (dinner, movies, clothes, cars).

Our world still doesn’t know what to do with women like me. In the “olden days” of my country, many were burned at the stake. A woman who owned her own power was considered a witch. Thank God I wasn’t born in the 1600s.

I am far from the woman-who-knows-all-things or does-all-things. But, being alone, I know a lot for sure. I also do a lot, and what I can’t do, I try to learn.

I’m going to have to trust that just putting one foot in front of the other—being the kind of independent woman that is still in short supply in our society—I am helping to change the zeitgeist. As is the woman brave enough to sit in a wine bar alone, treating herself to a Friday-night martini. And the elderly woman who sees a movie by herself rather than sitting home solo.

We may scare some less-than-evolved men. These are the ones who are “not so keen” on their wives hanging out with us, as if our independence is catching. Oh, if only it were so. Wouldn’t that leapfrog us ahead about 50 years?

Do you know someone like us? Do you have a woman like this in your circle? Maybe you make some time for her this week. But if you don’t, no worries. She’ll probably be out anyway, sipping a martini or taking in a show.

Because she realizes what she brings to the table. Even when others might not.

62 Comments Add yours

  1. krc says:

    my neighbors have said to me that i should have a man cut my grass

    they have at least 5 grown men in their home but their grass is worse than mine

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s funny, isn’t it? When I’m out shoveling my driveway b/c my boys are gone for some reason, it’s all husbands–and me:).

  2. Ellen Hawley says:

    It’s occasionally crossed my mind that all women should live alone for a while when they’re young. They’d learn a bit about what they’re capable of and it would serve them well–in relationships as well as out.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I so agree! Living alone in my 20s taught me so very much.

  3. We’re alone….until we’re not. I was single until 30, married at 35 and divorced by 37. Ooops! Single again for six years, some of which were grim. I had a bunch of men to help me cope — from the cute guy at out local lumberyard to my therapist to my massage therapist. They all kept me going. Women alone are FINE!

    1. candidkay says:

      You’re one of the strong women I love knowing is out there. Strength through the ether.❤️

      1. Thanks! For sure….

  4. Ah, before I became a small ”business” owner (a therapist who works solo) I used to get it at office outings all the time: ”Hey Wendy, don’t you have a boyfriend yet?” Eh, no? Why is it even okay to ask that? It’s so strange, I don’t ask colleagues if they are still married yet, so why is it okay to ask me why I’m not? To be a single woman at 30+, 40+, 50 is still a cultural no-no in some circles…
    I came from a dysfunctional family so I had dysfunctional relationships with men – until I was fed up and decided to just leave it and work on myself. It’s been a long road. I am still in happy expectancy of the guy who is the right ”fit” for me and vice versa – meanwhile, I am the single lady wielding her own hammer and screwdriver.
    The other day I ordered a small AC unit for my practice room because climate change is doing a number on the Netherlands right now and it’s impossible to work in 100 degrees. So a van pulled up, a Moroccan guy jumped out, Eastern pop music blaring, and schlepped a heavy box to my doorstep. ”Lady, you know this is a threshold order, don’t you?”
    ”Oh no,” I said, does this mean I have to carry it up all those stairs by myself?”
    ”Yeah, otherwise it will be 20 euro’s extra. I’d love to do it for you, but I would not be insured if I fell flat on my face.”
    Me: ”Alright, I’ll do it myself.”
    AC guy: ”You look like a brave woman.”
    Me: ”Thank you.”
    AC guy: ”Goodbye.”

    1. candidkay says:

      You sound like a brave woman too! And strong 💪 ! I think you should try that line out on your married colleagues to ask you about your status :-). Asking them if they’re still married might flip their lens. I really do think that most people Meanwell, but they need to realize how intrusive the question gets.

      1. Thanks! ☺ I think I might do that! I don’t mind stirring things a little – it’s good to make people think outside the box. And thanks for the inspiration – I think I will write a little personal blog post on the topic too!

      2. candidkay says:

        And I’m curious about how you find the culture in the Netherlands. The people I work with from there describe the roles of each sex as very egalitarian. More so than the U.S.

      3. Well, I’ve only been to the US once but from what I’ve seen, the Dutch may seem very egalitarian… but it does not always go all that much further than the surface. There is still a lot of gender inequality and sexism here – and much of it hidden. I had a talk with a client who immigrated to the Netherlands the other day and she expressed what I had been thinking for a long time: the Dutch can be quite hypocritical. A lot of talk but in practice… Still, on the whole I guess sexes are more equal here – but it’s still far from how it should be to my mind!

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    I guess that’s true Kristine, though I think it’s women themselves rather than men who generally ‘judge’ single women beyond a certain age.

    It’s also generally true that a married woman will generally defer to her husband if there’s a clash between his plans and hers e.g. if there’s a social run planned but he’s got a golf match – someone’s got to mind the kids eh?

    Also
    1. We tended to strangle our witches in Jersey (CI), which was kinder than burning, don’t you think?
    2. Checks/cheques are virtually obsolete in Europe now.
    3. It seems that the ‘head in the gas fire’ episode ended better than it might have.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ooh, such options. Strangulation, drowning, burning. Extra glad I wasn’t born back then. On the check front, I hear you. I write so few. But my handymen are old school. No PayPal for them:). And the fireplace bit—I’ve often thought that could have been an interesting story—just not in a great way. Beats the alternatives I mentioned at the beginning of this comment, though😉

  6. Until recently I didn’t that the phrase ‘ Jack of All trades, master of none’ was incomplete. Your line ‘I am far from the woman-who-knows-all-things or does-all-things’ reminded me of that one.

    And as far as the blowtorch friend goes, if any future BBQ takes place, they would be exciting now

    1. candidkay says:

      Good thinking! She’s got a standing invitation to all future grill fests😉.

  7. Women are great, aren’t we? I’ve just spent a weekend with dozens of women writers, most of whom turned up to the writing conference on their own, one of the most positive experiences I’ve had for a long time.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, that sounds great, Andrea! I love the feeling of a bunch of creatives in a room, sans competition. I’m glad you got to recharge your writing batteries.

  8. As long as the globe is filled with all sorts of strange people, being alone is and will be a choice ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Hmm. I know that’s meant to be clever and funny, but I can’t bite on this one. Gender stereotypes must go. I live and work in a world where I see just how much damage they do to women—economically and otherwise.

  9. Up till probably the very last generation (if that) women have never been encouraged to be independent. Never. We were taught to become part of a couple, that was the natural way. I think this notion has done damage to many women — a lack of confidence, timidity, closing oneself down for “what’s best.” Many lose sight of who they really are. Such an interesting subject and well worth exploring.

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes! We’re still—in what should be a modern world—very patriarchal. And women who challenge that are shamed or vilified. Time’s up!

  10. Lora says:

    I am one of those women… I have a good circle of friends who I do a lot with but I will take myself on trips, to restaurants, to movies, etc on my own, happily. Prince Charming might have been a no-show for me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to show up for my own life.

    1. candidkay says:

      That last sentence says it all. Bravo!

  11. mydangblog says:

    I found this out the hard way when I was living away from home during the week for work (it was for four years–thank goodness, I’m commuting now). I had to learn not only how to do things like fix a tap, but how to be OK with being alone. The other day I was out of town and went out for a nice dinner solo–the couple at the next table asked, “Oh are you all by yourself?” and I said , “Yes” and it was weird how they looked at me sympathetically!

    1. candidkay says:

      Isn’t it funny how people take their own ideas about being alone and superimpose them on you? It probably never occurred to that couple that you were content and happy, enjoying some time alone.

      1. mydangblog says:

        And enjoying a nice steak!

  12. Just the other day I took myself out to lunch. My niece was my server and we chatted about taking ourselves out to a movie or a meal, or whatever. I think because I’ve always enjoyed my own company, I’ve enjoyed taking myself out on solo dates. Did a lot of it back in my shipping days when I was single.

    1. candidkay says:

      I bet your experience as a merchant mariner made you super independent. Glad you still treat yourself!

  13. ‘Removing stuck bathroom fixture with a propane blowtorch’ 😮 #$@% me!

    Singledom ain’t so bad candidkay one of my favourite blog reads, less drama, do what you wish when you wish, but being completely honest I miss the sex.

    1. candidkay says:

      My reaction to the blowtorch story was similar. She doesn’t mess around when there is a job to be done! And I don’t think you’re alone in your sentiments on singledom.

  14. Karen Lang says:

    “Necessity is the mother of invention” or should I say the “woman alone” of all invention!! You rock girlfriend! Any man would be lucky to have you. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thank you❤️. Very kind of you!

  15. srbottch says:

    Very nice. Independence is a nice trait. And over the couple of years, or so, that I’ve followed you, I see you becoming stronger and stronger as an independent woman, alone. Do you feel the same about yourself? By the way, painting yourself instead of hiring someone, can be very therapeutic, slower but makes you feel good.

    1. candidkay says:

      I do feel I’ve become stronger, thank you. I was always strong in some ways, but not so much in others. Life is giving me the graduate-level course in independence, I guess:). Now, about that painting . . . therapeutic if I wasn’t historically terrible at it and swearing within minutes! But, perhaps with age comes patience. We’ll see . . .

      1. srbottch says:

        Today’s paint is very forgiving. Keep a steady hand with a good brush and you won’t have to bother taping/masking. Just let the brush gliiiiiiide!

  16. nimslake says:

    I’m single, but I’m dating someone like for 12years dating. But we don’t live together. I love him, he loves me.
    I go out and eat lunch on weekends, I go shopping alone. I’ve not done the movies by myself….mostly because I don’t have time. Netflix is my go-to right now.
    But yes I notice women alone, I sometimes am uncomfortable going places I’ve never been, as a slight anxiety disorder. But I persevere and try again next time. Sometimes I win that little battle.

    But I don’t feel slighted, I don’t feel weird now like I used to in my 30’s. I’ve never been married; wanted to but hey I keep working on being a Warrior Goddess…challenges right??

    I raise my glass to strong women who sit alone, ignore he hewy-balewy around them. The judgement, pitying looks or perplexed looks…”Woot!”. May I be that one day.
    Nims.

    1. candidkay says:

      Hey, Warrior Goddess, I’m applauding you. First, for putting spaces in your togetherness, as Kahlil Gibran said. And second, for persevering. And third . . . well, there are so many that could follow. Just give yourself a hug from me . . .

      1. nimslake says:

        Thank you for the hug! And I looked up

      2. nimslake says:

        Oops…looked up Kahlil Gibran, Very cool quote! Thank you.

      3. candidkay says:

        The Prophet has so many beautiful quotes. Another of my faves: “For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.”

      4. nimslake says:

        I shared this with a friend of mine and she shared it to her feed on FB. (Update: 2 days after I wrote on this, my SO broke off our relationship….I have no words…but thank for this post more than I can express.) Scares me how prophetic this now feels.
        ~Healing in bits and pieces
        Nims

      5. candidkay says:

        First off, I’m so sorry. That is never easy, is it? Wouldn’t it be great if it was? I’m sending you a huge hug and a virtual glass of red wine (that’s how my gal pals and I do breakups, for sure). Thank you so much also for sharing with your friend–and please thank her for the share. Means a lot, and I’m happy that these words might not only help soothe your hurt a bit, but someone else’s too. The timing is odd, for sure. You keep on being strong you. I can’t even begin to fathom how the Universe works, but if I don’t believe it’s with purpose, I’ll go nuts . . . XXOO

      6. nimslake says:

        Thanks for the virtual glass, I raise mine to salute you. 💜

  17. Dale says:

    Do I know a woman like you? Hell! I AM a woman like you! And the martini-drinking one, and the going-to-the-movies alone one… well, not so much the blow-torch one, but I did a mighty fine job with the hedge-trimmer. Now if I can only figure out how to change shower spout. No, I won’t. The man-child broke it, and by golly, he will fix it. Or HE can pay for the fixing…
    I was lamenting a while ago how much Mick’s death costs me. Financially. Not only was he Mr. Fix-It (Trust me, all the tools in my garage are testament) but if he couldn’t do it, he called in his troops or, if really necessary, had a professional do it – then charged it to the company as he had his own business. Sigh…
    And I do scare away the men who are not man enough for a woman like me…
    Sigh squared.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I bet you miss a man around the house who takes care of things and enjoys it. I have my handymen here this weekend and it’s lovely. They work on my house as if it’s their own and they’re great guys. But I hear you–it’s expensive. As for those men you scare away, pshaw. Then they aren’t even close to your equal:).

      1. Dale says:

        Especially with this new house… So many things are, um…needing TLC
        Yeah, I can only ask my cousin, my brothers-in-law so often… though they have offered to help out as well…
        Damn straight they are not. Where the hell are the ones who are?

      2. candidkay says:

        I have a friend, a former CEO, who tells me those men are a needle in a haystack in a needle in a haystack. Comforting, eh?

  18. This is absolutely wonderful. Too often I’ve known women who leave a marriage or relationship just to fall head first into another unfulfilling one. They never gave themselves time to figure out who they are or what they want. U truly love this. Great piece and much needed in today’s’ world.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I know too many women like that. Their hobby is dating. And while they claim to be strong, they cannot claim to really have spent much time alone outside of a marriage or relationship. I am not sure that equates.

      1. I honestly cannot see how. It takes a lot of courage and self awareness to go it alone.

      2. candidkay says:

        Right? But that’s why the lesson or opportunity presents itself. To teach courage and self-awareness. I am always amazed by women who wait to feel courageous. Perhaps because I have learned that courage is built by doing things when you are afraid. If you are not afraid, there is no need for courage.

      3. I guess it takes more courage than many can muster, or are allowing fear to control them. It’s sad.

  19. Power to the women – alone or in clusters.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’ll second that! We could use more balance in the world.

  20. We guys get kicked in the butt and told to get up Kay, not brought up. Hence that inlaid practical independence from ‘just doing it’ all our lives. But ask us to make an emotional connection and we are lost. And it is obviously the opposite for women. We’ve been cultured into our roles.
    But it is all changing, you guys are doing the martini, blowtorch and scratching your bits and no longer care who’s watching, and even the guys are a little more coiffured and dare to do the emotional stuff.
    But truly, what is it that we are truly missing. It’s not really about any of that. The truth is we don’t feel whole, missing something that we always look for ‘out there’. But the reality is its whats missing in our hearts, the ability to love and accept who we are inside.
    But that is life’s journey, to find ourselves among the mayhem.
    May your martini’s never run dry (or too dry anyway), your blowtorch never run out of gas and your ‘bits’ never need adjusting 😁

    1. candidkay says:

      I may have been far less cultured into my role because I come from a matriarchal family. But I hear you entirely. I’ll take the martinis. I may leave the blowtorch and the other bit:).

  21. Su Leslie says:

    Aloneness is a really powerful state. Whether chosen or acquired, the acceptance of sole responsibility for one’s life is hugely liberating and empowering. My mother had a couple of marriages and multiple boyfriends before she finally realised she could be alone and, at almost 83, does all sorts of stuff, and takes charge of things like a boss. I guess I’m a bit sad for her that she spent so many good years moulding herself around men, but she is certainly making up for lost time now.

    1. candidkay says:

      Liberating, empowering and sometimes scary:). But being alone or together should be Considered viable, healthy lifestyles regardless of gender. Your mother sounds amazing :-).

      1. Su Leslie says:

        Yes, scary is what keeps so many women in dysfunctional relationships. And without the change in perception, that will continue to happen 🙁

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