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NOV
12

Cat Lady

There's something very socially damning about being a single woman with a cat. I'm not sure why this is. Other than the stereotypical Cat Lady image that has proliferated from the one woman we all know whose house is overrun with them, stinky, hairy, and with a shocking lack of separation between human spaces, dishes, and food and cat spaces, dishes, and food. This lady will inevitably be single, (because who would really want to get with that?) and so there you have it. The Single Woman with a Cat Stereotype Inevitability.

For me, the threshold has always been multiple cats. Sticking to one, I maintain, is just normal pet ownership. Now, I do own cat "things." There's a cat quilt on the back of my chair at work. There's a cat clock on my desk. I have a few cat tank tops I wear to the gym. I hardly think that's Cat Lady territory, but it does show that I like my cat enough to admit that I like having a cat. When I got to work on Halloween, the girl who had dressed up as a Cat Lady (grey curled wig, stuffed cats sewn onto a ratty bathrobe) shouted over to me excitedly, "For you!" I guess because...I'm a Cat Lady?

And perhaps I am. I did admit to her that I liked the pants she was wearing, a rather psychedelic pattern of colorful cat heads, and half-joked that she could give the pants to me after Halloween if she was looking to get rid of them. I had forgotten about this until last week when the pants showed up in an intraoffice envelope on my desk at work. I became immediately embarrassed that I had asked for them (like, to wear for real), but, as you can see from the above picture, really, what's not to love about cats on cats?

Maybe don't answer that.

SEP
13

In Defense of Podcasts...and Marriage

I was in Oregon over the weekend to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Which might not seem like much—they were a regular small-town couple who raised regular small-town children and had regular small-town problems (including cars that almost never worked)—except think about that for a minute. Think about people you know who have been married for 60 years. Do you know any? My grandparents are both now in their eighties, and lots of people don’t even live that long. And of the ones who do, a large contingent don’t stay married, or at least to the same person. It really is remarkable. Of course, reaching any kind of marriage milestone (even, like, one year) seems miraculous to the eternal singleton that is me. Indeed, I’m convinced that every single committed, loving relationship is nothing short of a miracle. But 60 years? That’s a whole different level.

Book clubs have (surprisingly) never been my thing. I don’t enjoy reading books that I mostly wouldn’t have chosen to read myself. And so I certainly don’t then enjoy discussing books that I mostly wouldn’t have chosen to read myself. But a friend of mine recently recruited me for a Podcast club, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. For starters, it’s less of a time commitment, and podcasts can be listened to while accomplishing any number of tasks. And another great thing about podcasts is they so often leave you smack dab in the middle of some kind of philosophical or moral debate. Animal hunting, the treatment of rape victims and perpetrators, the appropriateness of hope in the parents of autistic children, the vast differences in the frames of reference of American children and their much less fortunate foreign parents, the inescapable depression of the 2016 political situation, etc. I mean, these are hot issues. They are issues that will most definitely make you think—no, emote—at a level that most books do not. And what I find so fascinating is that most podcasts have the ability to make me waffle from one side to the other as the various points and perspectives are discussed. And any medium that can cause so many facets of your own conscience to come to the surface within such a short amount of time is clearly onto something.

To bring this back to 60 years of marriage, one of the podcasts I listened to this week centered on this idea of reruns; or, in the case of the married couples interviewed for the podcast, the issue of stories you hear your spouse tell over and over again, to the point of driving you absolutely crazy. I’d never really thought about this dilemma before. Again, as a singleton, I always have a new audience (a different date, a different squeeze, a different boyfriend), and I’ve never really run into this issue. But think of how this could come into play for people like my darling grandparents. “Honey, I’ve literally heard that story a hundred times.” It’s rather amusing to think about, especially after listening to the podcast, in which the annoyed spouses (the ones sick of the other person’s stories) were surprisingly unable to successfully tell the stories themselves, even after supposedly having heard them ad nauseam. On the other end of the spectrum, some of these people had gotten so used to their spouse’s stories that they believed they themselves had actually been there when they, in fact, had not. That one’s almost equally amusing—and not all that unlike my own discovery some years ago that my favorite childhood memory apparently never happened. I’d imagined it so often, every detail easy to recollect, that I had convinced myself (and if I’m being honest still sort of believe) it was real.

In any case, I guess one of the hallmarks of a red-letter marriage is that even after 60 years, you still enjoy hearing him/her tell the same stories. And you can’t wait to create more, together. Happy anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa. I’m pretty sure you two are going to make it.

 

MAR
04

To Procreate or not to Procreate?

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I read a book recently that had been written as a series of essays by writers who had each, for one reason or another, decided not to have children. Each author spent his or her essay largely explaining this decision. I find books on particular lifestyle choices interesting (a la Spinster), particularly if they are choices that I have made as well. Not that my reasons are the same as any of this book’s contributing authors. I am choosing not to have children because I don’t want to be a single parent, not because I don’t want children. Were my circumstances different (ie. if I could find the right man), I would welcome the opportunity. But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.

What struck me while reading these essays was how many of the authors mention an unwillingness to give up their career as a contributing factor—many times a significant one—in their decision not to have children. It might seem an odd thing, since, especially in this day and age, having both a career and a family is very do-able. But keep in mind the authors of these essays are all writers—full-time writers—and that kind of career is an entirely different animal. You’re at home all day, for starters, and that in and of itself—that at home is where you need to be your most productive—can make the idea of children very off-putting. These writers told of how even just the thought of a child pulling at their arm while they sat typing or journaling was enough to 1) make them realize it would simply never be possible to do both, and 2) fill them with acute hypothetical guilt over neglecting this hypothetical child. Point 1 makes me think of something I read in Joni Mitchell’s biography. When she was still quite young, Joni had a baby girl and gave her up for adoption. The decision tore her up, but she said some decades later that had she not made that decision, her career in the music industry would have never happened. It simply wouldn’t have been possible. So I get it. I do. And I am personally quite glad for her decision, as “I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet” is one of my favorite lyrics ever penned.

Point 2 makes me think of what happens every evening and weekend when I sit down to write and my cat jumps up and tries to fight my computer for the spot on my lap. She’ll try and try, me batting her away until she finally realizes the mission is futile. Of course, when I do this, she curls up on the couch and sleeps for the next five hours and is really no worse for wear. So I realize this temporary neglect doesn’t trigger the same type of guilt I would feel if I resented my child and her frequent—no, constant—tendency to impede my writing. (She, my cat, does the same thing when I’m reading a book, constantly walking across and sitting on the pages…it’s equal parts infuriating and adorable.)

I’m not a judgey person. Or maybe I am. But surprisingly not about this topic. Because I think it’s a legitimate choice. And I reject the notion that choosing a childless life is selfish. I do think having children is certainly more selfless by comparison. It’s one of the reasons why, again, were my circumstances different, I’d have a child. Because I see this selfless quality in so many of the people I know who have children, and sacrifice and suffering in the name of love is something I could probably benefit from incorporating more of. But people know themselves. And their limits. Particularly writers, who from my own observations are more likely to 1) have the time to wax pensive over tradeoffs and preferences, 2) have TAKEN the time to wax pensive over tradeoffs and preferences, 3) to seek peace and solitude, and 4) to have experienced some sort of trauma or neglect from their own parents, consequently turning them off of the notion of procreating. Whatever their reasons, let’s respect them. Having said that, I’m going to turn off my computer now. My cat has been patiently waiting for her turn on my lap.

SEP
09

Spinster

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I know I've been overwhelming you with books posts lately, but wouldn't you know it that just after posting my top ten books (Top Ten Books that I Love), I've read a new one that just might bump something else out. And at the risk of subjecting you to a book reviewy post (isn't that what Goodreads is for?), I simply have to say that if you are a single girl--or anyone who thinks reading about significant female writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who bucked tradition by staying (or at least preferring to be) single--you simply must read this book.

Let me be clear. I'm not one of those women who loves to hate on marriage or shout about how I don't need a man. It's true, I don't need a man and have most of the time found being single preferable to being in a relationship (the exception being the one time I was in love), but I am still a person who wants to be married. In that if I could choose for this, my life, to go any way, I would choose to someday have the opportunity to be married. So in that regard I don't relate as much to the author and her "awakeners'" single-or-bust mentality.

That said, our society could use a crash course on the single woman, and this book was consequently a fascinating and refreshing read. Because spinster didn't used to have such a negative connotation. Interesting then that it--spinsterhood--has over the course of time transformed into the one thing every girl hopes will never happen to her. And why exactly is that? How is it that we've come to believe that ending up alone is the worst possible thing that can ever happen to you? A question made even more blatantly ridiculous after reading about these remarkable, interesting, and fascinating women who not only achieved success and acclaim without a man by their sides, but also didn't spend decades of their lives drowning in the sea of societal pressure surrounding marriage. (Sister ain't got time for that, and, quite frankly, neither do you.) And that's what our society--or, at the very least, the minds of female singletons--could use less of; this constant drone of marriage and when it will happen and where it will happen and with whom it will happen and if it will happen and how many eggs I'll have left when it happens and what if there are no eggs left at all when it happens and maybe I should freeze some just in case it happens and on and on for the rest of the days of your bag lady, multi-cat owning unfortunateness. If you ask me, that is what sister ain't got time for. So get on with it. Life. Yours.

JUL
14

Disneyland Annual Pass: Yay or Nay?

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It's like this. I live pretty close to Disneyland. As in, I could drive there, like, every weekend if I wanted to. An annual pass seems like a no-brainer, as it should be for EVERYONE who lives in SoCal, but as I've asked around since being here, I've yet to find anyone who actually has one. Worse, the one person I found who used to have one said she didn't use it enough to make it worth it. For clarification purposes, depending on the level of pass you buy, you have to go between 2 and 5 times in order to actually make it a savings. And from where I'm sitting (less than an hour from the Magic Kingdom), I have a hard time believing that ANYONE could find themselves not using the pass enough to make it worth it. Still, though, it's a chunk of change, not to mention that I don't have a plus one. A solo Disney trip is fine once, twice if need be, but every time you go?? Is that depressing? Maybe. Less fun? Probably. But is it worse than not going at all? Doubtful.

There's just such a stigma around "aloneness" and I know I should be doing what I can to push back. I hate that I feel, for lack of a better term, "lame" when at dinner or a movie by myself. Partly because it sucks to be reminded that pretty much everyone else in the world apparently has a date that night, and partly because I picture all the couples and families thinking pitiful, tragic thoughts about the Alone Girl in the corner. I know no one actually thinks about you even half as much as you think they do, but my natural instinct is to avoid doing social things alone. Which means that sometimes I miss out on something I really want to do/see. And isn't that a lot more pitiful and tragic than doing something alone? Yes. Yes, it is. I think I just made up my mind about the annual pass.

FEB
15

Post V-Day Post

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Ah, the day of love. I don’t know why it’s any tougher for singletons to get through than any other day of the year. We are, after all, always alone. And not having a love on this one day seems far less gutting than not having a love for, you know, the entire year. And yet. V-day always seems tougher. Especially here in the city where there are so many more people, and, by extension, couples. Today I’ve seen countless men walking through the streets with flowers in their arms. On their way to the hands of some adored companion. On the subways, it’s the same thing. Even the long line of people at the drugstore today opting for cards and cheap chocolates seemed worlds more fortunate than I—the girl buying Kleenex, cough drops, and Nyquil to battle the epic sickness that seems to overcome me every Valentine’s Day.

But as any single girl has to, at some point today must be recognized not as the day of lovers, but rather as the day of love. And I’ve certainly got plenty of that. My family is as wonderful as they come, my friends plentiful and sincere, and last night while gazing up at the Empire State Building and its glorious, festive display of red, I was reminded not just of how loved I am, but of how many people in this world mean so very much to me. Today and always.

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.

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