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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
JAN
15

Dinner for One

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There’s a scene in Judy Greer’s memoir where’s she’s describing her solo trip to Spain. Her cab driver, who is trying to learn English, makes her repeat the word “alone” over and over again when she answers that she’s not meeting anyone for dinner. He’d never heard the word, see, and in his zeal for knowledge, he doesn’t realize that such an emphasis on her lack of companionship (“You are alone.” “You have no one.”) might be a tad depressing.

This scene had me laughing out loud, because what long-time single girl hasn’t had a similar exchange? Indeed, it seems like we’re asked to confirm our aloneness fairly regularly, and while being forced to state it out loud—to other people—is the worst, even an act as simple and private as checking the SINGLE box on an insurance form can feel at least somewhat deflating. “You are alone.” “You have no one.”

I belong to a church congregation that keeps very good records of its members, and while asked to verify my information recently, I couldn’t help but notice that right next to my name, in letters that were the same size and just as prominently placed, were the words SPOUSE: NONE. Nice. Nice that we’re all so clear on that. Just below this line came the gentle reminder, CHILDREN: NONE. Excellent. Glad we got that out there. Followed by a final statement of RESIDING WITH: NONE. I freaking get it, OK? I am alone. I have no one. Even when RSVPing to a gemology dinner and lecture the other night at the National Arts Club, I was asked over the phone to confirm the number in my party, even though I’d only ordered one ticket. “There won’t be anyone with you?” Is that so unheard of? So unfortunate? So worth verifying over and over again?

Not that I mean to suggest that my life is defined (or somehow lessened) by my singleness. When at dinner last night with a family friend, an Italian widow in her seventies, she asked how I did with it…with being single. I told her that I wished I weren’t, but that if this is my life, I’m determined to make the best of it regardless. It’s why I live here. It’s why I write books and study gemology and do the things I want to do. My Italian friend agreed with me about the inherent freedom that comes from only having to be accountable to yourself (“I eat cookies in bed!!,” she said, although I hadn’t realized that a person, married or not, would ever *not* eat cookies in bed.), but summed this freedom up best when she said: “But it’s not worth the steep price you pay.” Aye, the price of being alone. Of having no one.

It’s Judy in Spain, it’s the Italian widow eating dessert in bed, it’s me sitting solo at a lecture on the rubies of Myanmar…although something tells me even if my SPOUSE: NONE line ever changes, that’s one thing I’ll still be doing alone.