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.