We walked along the gravel trail through the Wissahickon park in Philly. Her baby carriage, which housed her sleeping one-year old, noisily trudges through the rocks and dirt, making it almost impossible to hear her. I asked her to repeat herself.
“I said what happened to Ghana?,” she said.
My walking partner seemed sincere enough in her query, but I still couldn’t help signing heavily to myself. I couldn’t help it: that question always puts me on the defensive. Ghana had been the most recent escape of the dreary boredom, also known as the US. The plan was to sell my house, take the proceeds and spend at least a year (more if I liked it) living like a real Ghanian – well more like the somewhat affluent ones, who live in Accra. A girl gotta have her KFC and whats the point in moving somewhere just to be broke? At any rate, after I had my little West African adventure, I would move to Brooklyn and ruminate all day with the rest of the struggling writers. I had it all vision boarded out and I was certain my scheme was going to be freakin’ fantastic.
But no one wanted to buy my house – or if they did, they wanted way less than what I owed on it. And then stuff around the house, which I couldn’t sell, started mysteriously breaking; like the heater. And then some of the pipes. And then Philadelphia Parking Authority showed up with some overdue tickets for that ass and so did a few other enforcement agencies. Likewise my professional life has also idle after a year of transitioning from losing my job. In short, money isn’t coming in as much as I would like. And all the money I had put aside for an actual plane ticket, housing, transportation, food and other incidentals, which come from picking up and moving nearly five thousand miles away, is slowly being ciphered away.
This is what I told her.
But as she pushed her son along in his stroller, a hint of skepticism began to spread across her face. After a few moments of awkward of silence, she finally blurted out: “Mayne, if I was single I probably be traveling the world right now…”
The dread “if I was single…” conversation. It had been a popular sentiment expressed as of late, mostly told by young mothers and married women, who feel like they have wasted their lives. Or feel like I am wasting my life. Or perhaps a combination of the two. At any rate, the consensus is that I’m not living up to the fullest of my single potential. Never mind the fact that my passport has touched ground on three continents and eight countries thus far outside of the United States. And that I maintain a house, a brand new car (at least it was brand new back in 2012 when I purchased it off the lot) and a gang of other middle class trappings. And although I am unmarried and childless, I have had my share of romance and uninterested attachments as well. The point in telling folks all of this is that when it comes to life, no one can really accuse me of failing to take the bull by the horns and living it.
It’s just that sometimes, things just don’t work out. And right now, it seems like lots of my personal aims (which I have actively put in work for) and objectives – including ones outside of running off to Ghana for some Eat. Love. Pray – have not been working out. In short, it was just not the right time for me now. Truth be told, I have no idea what time this moment is right for.
“I hear that, but I’m just saying. If I was single, I wouldn’t be worried about all that stuff. I would be in Paris somewhere, jumping from one dude to the next,” she said with an extra tinge of dreaminess in her eyes.
I rolled my own unaffected eyes. “Bish, if you were single and jumping from dude to dude, you would likely end up right where you are right now. And that’s pushing this raggedy stroller up a gravel path. And why don’t you get one of those jogger strollers anyway?”
Sometimes, you just got to let these hoes know…
We shared a chuckled and continued on with our walk, instead choosing to keep our topics far removed from our personal failures. However I still couldn’t shake the annoyance, which began to fester inside of me. I know, she was just trying to be supportive. And as one of the long-term single folks, I should totally be used to the questions now about my solvency – enough to know how to properly brush off all the subtle implications without hurting feelings (mine and hers). But I would be lying if I didn’t say that at times, I do wonder why women feel the need to try to neutralize another woman’s personal distress and pain, simply because it is not our own? And call me crazy but the “if I was single…” conversation always just seemed like a stand-in for telling a single woman to ‘shut up and stop complaining because it could be worse.’
It’s true that I’m not hunkered down with the responsibilities of tending to a herd of my own (i.e. a family), which might limit lots of personal choices and time I have in my life to do my own thing. But in the words of Langston Hughes, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair…”
In fact life for a single person can be pretty taxing. NO I actually mean got-damn taxes. According to this article in the Atlantic entitled, The High Price of Being Single in America, a single woman earning a measly $40k annually will pay an upwards of $39,000 more in income taxes over the span of 40 years than her married counterpart. And as noted by this article in the Daily Beast entitled, Singled Out: Are Unmarried People Discriminated Against?:
“They pay more for health and car insurance than married people do. They don’t get the same kind of tax breaks. Co-op boards, mortgage brokers, and landlords often pass them over. So do the employers with the power to promote them. “Singleism—stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against people who are single—is largely unrecognized and unchallenged,” says activist Bella DePaulo, the author of Singled Out.”
And there are other concerns too. Like workplace discrimination. And housing discrimination. And food discrimination too (because why can’t they make single packs of fresh chicken in addition to family packs? I don’t need all that damn chicken). And then there is always the very real fear of dying alone in your place, only to have your half-eaten body discovered three years later when your crackhead slumlord finally comes to collect the rent.
Generally speaking, our culture has put in place lots of incentives to reward women and men for the simple act of being married. And while single moms get dragged through the mud by this same society, there still exists a large consortium of folks (including yours truly), who will go to bat for, pitch in and even offer an empathic ear to our solo parents. But who cares about the single aunties of the world? The general consensus for single people is that we are alright. That we can manage. And that is simply not true.
Sometimes we need an ear to bend and a shoulder to lean on without the fear that our problems and issues are too small and inconsequential to consider for serious girlfriend duties. Or to be reminded about our alleged mistakes and failures in living our lives to the fullest. We need folks to understand that being single is not the whirlwind adventure we see on television and in films. Carrie Bradshaw is a lie. Just like everybody else, life for a single person can too become pretty mundane – with jobs, bills, old reruns on Netflix and an after-work happy hour or two thrown in just to keep you alert.