One of the biggest “regrets” I had when I was in my previous relationship was that I might get married without ever experiencing what it was like to live on my own. I always thought that I would eventually have my own place without roommates, just me in a one bedroom fabulous loft downtown. Living that cosmopolitan life I cherish. Two years ago, I remember thinking that this dream would never materialize and it made me feel a little sad. I believe the reason for my regret was that I wanted to prove something to myself. Maybe that I could handle being entirely on my own for once, while being able to enjoy it.
When that relationship ended and I moved out of his place, I inadvertently got my wish. I became the proud owner of a sexy one bedroom loft downtown. That was the culmination of my independence. How amazing it felt to do this for myself. Many people wish they could have this opportunity, and I actually made it happen. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment and pride that comes when you realize how independent you truly are.
A few months later, I was surprised when one of my aunts asked me if I ever got lonely in my new home. “So you just cook for yourself and eat alone? Doesn’t that make you sad?” Her question might have annoyed me, but for the fact that I knew she was genuinely curious. Considering my parents both lived at home until they got married, the idea is definitely unique for most of my extended family. Even my ex was confused by my decision to buy a place on my own. “So when you said you were moving out I assumed you’d be moving in with your parents or renting a place, I didn’t think you were going to buy a place”, he said surprisingly disappointed. “Yes, I’m buying a place. Because I’m leaving you, and I ain’t coming back,” is what my angry self wanted to reply. That probably sounds harsh, but I couldn’t believe how he could make that kind of assumption after knowing me for so long! Though our breakup was very amicable, It was the last clue I needed to prove that he would never really get me. That we would never get each other.
A year and a half later, and still decorating, I’m overjoyed to be in my own place. The most satisfying part of all this is that I did it on my own. My money, my credit, no co-signer. I should say that I owe the fact that I was able to do this to my mother, who stayed on my ass for years until I learned how to save money. She made me sign a contract when I was in college, saying I would pay off my $500 limit credit card every month, which I’d opened against her wishes. The contract stated that she would take back my awesome new laptop, if I didn’t comply. It was a scary time…But I figured between my three part-time jobs I could make it work. Still, I was privileged enough not to have to worry about my tuition or my rent, so I had no excuses.
I know I’m not alone out here, there are plenty of single, financially independent people in their thirties. It’s a gift and a curse. Because we have learned to be so independent, we are now more difficult to tame. We are stubbornly set in our ways. We’re convinced we’re the only ones who know how to properly do laundry, load the dishwasher, recycle and save money on the light bill. So the question is, now that we’ve proven that we can make it on our own… How do we give up our independence?
Dating is one thing because we know it might be temporary, who knows how long we’ll date the guy who leaves his TV on when he leaves the house? Probably not long. Or the aspiring rapper? I’m all for aspiring to do great things, but may I suggest aspiring with a job? I digress. But what happens when we start a new relationship? Don’t tell me you’ve never wondered if your obsessive cleaning tendencies will mix with her tendency to leave her clothes on the floor? Or if your green lifestyle mixes with his confusion on what recycling means?
It’s tough to go from sole owner to partnership. Have you ever had these secret thoughts when…?
A) Your partner suggest you move in together:
That’s cool, but where will your clothes go???
Or: Four words: dual rain shower heads… 😉
B) Your partner says he/she can provide for you and you don’t have to work:
Say wha???? You mean I’ve been working this whole time for no reason and now you’re here to save me?
Or: Is this a trap?
C) Your partner asks if you would take his last name:
Sure, if you take mine.
Or: Get real, my last name’s way cooler than yours.
As independent single adults, we’ve arrived at a certain level of lifestyle that need not be disturbed by someone else’s idea of where our favorite picture should hang or how we should fold our clothes. But at the same time, how much is our independence worth? Is it worth being single forever? Maybe to some, but for me, it’s not. It’s about learning to re-balance my habits and letting go of some control. Does it ultimately matter how the bed is made, as long as it’s made? Or is it going to ruin my life if the cooking pans are stacked up instead of hanging?
The answer is No. But it’s difficult to remember this when our independence is disturbed. That’s the challenge, especially for women who are single in their thirties and forties. Often times, we can be even more protective of our independence because it’s come at a higher cost than for the average male. Some people see us as potential spinsters, others see us as non-comital, and no matter what everyone is always asking about our love life. Besides, our eggs are all drying up so who’s gonna love us anyway? So it’s no surprise that we want to hang tight to our sense of independence, it’s the only factor in our lives that comes with a cool anthem! Destiny’s Child never sang about sexy infertile spinsters.
Of course we want to hold on to our identity by keeping our last names. We want to be respected and rewarded in our careers the same way men are. And not have to chose whether or not to keep working after having a baby. It’s a struggle, every day to be a career-focused woman in this life. Let alone a career-focused woman with a child. I don’t care what anyone says, in the United States, it is: Still. A. Struggle. Our independence is tied to our identity and we’re always having to chose between the two. How can you ask a woman to chose between being a mother and being a CEO? How does that even work? If she choses CEO does she lose the “mom” title? Of course not! So why should she have to give up either? And why aren’t more men giving up their CEO role to be “full-time dads”? Perhaps it’s because we’re not asking enough. Maybe some of us don’t even think that would be a real possibility. Also, men still make more money than women, while holding the same positions, so there’s very little incentive for men to stay home.
All social and political issues aside, in the grand scheme of things, I think we have to ask ourselves what will bring us the most happiness. For some it’s building a strong family, for others it’s building a reputable career, and for others it’s the freedom to live by their own rules. Maybe we have to understand that being in a relationship doesn’t mean giving up our identity, it just means being a part of a very special team, that will make us better as individuals. Loving someone actually teaches us to be stronger, more generous, and less selfish. Eventually, our romantic relationships help appease our need for sole independence. So long as we can keep our last name of course. 😉