I have always been single.
My birth certificate says “Single”, which I think is on a lot of people’s birth certificates, and is intended to indicate that I wasn’t part of a birth with multiple babies. For me, as a baby, I was truly single. I was taken from my mother at birth and given up for adoption about a month later. I was single in the world.
I have never been married, nor have I ever been asked. In my case, the old adage about getting the milk for free probably holds true. Nobody thought it was worth it to buy this cow. Let there be no mistake: the cow was absolutely for sale (emphasis on “was”, said cow is now off the market).
I file my taxes singly and have always done so. My driver’s license says I’m single. The forms I filled out when I started my job asked me if I was single, and I told the forms that I was because they didn’t ask me to elaborate.
Today I’m signing forms related to the sale of our house. The pre-closing information form not only asks if I am single, but if I was single when I acquired the property and have remained single. I am branded thrice single in a single sentence. The Title Commitment form says: “Title to the estate or interest in the Land is at the Commitment Date vested in: Christina, a single woman, and M., a single man”.
I’d like to know what the fuck difference that makes, since it doesn’t even begin to scrape the tip of the iceberg.
When I tangled with my father on the phone the other day, he went out of his way to minimize my 24-year-long relationship with M by saying “We had no idea what your relationship to M was this whole time. We thought you were just friends.” This statement is not only patently untrue, I have no doubt that it was intended to be hurtful, to trivialize my feelings and what I’m going through with the split. It was intended to absolve him of any obligation to be sensitive to my pain.
But he’s not the only one. Upon finding out about my separation from M, some of my friends and acquaintances have said things like: “Well, you guys weren’t married, so that makes it easier”, and “It would have been so much more difficult if you were married and had kids.” The kid part I get, because they’re the ones who truly suffer in a divorce, but the rest of it? Why does a piece of paper make one whit of difference? Why is my relationship worth less than one that has the piece of paper? Why do people think it’s any easier to split from someone you’ve been with for half your life if you’re not married to them?
I know why I wanted to be married. I wanted someone to be willing to take the deliberate, OUTWARD step of committing to me in front of the world. I also know why I stayed in a relationship for 24 years where that didn’t happen: the commitment was already there on the INSIDE. As much as I wanted the piece of paper, I already had what I actually needed, which was someone whose loyalty was unfailing.
I wonder if what people are really conveying to me is that my uncoupling from M is easier for THEM if we’re not married. Maybe in their heads, marriage is the only way that depth of feeling can be achieved. To take that a step further for the people who thought it was lucky I didn’t have kids, maybe in their minds children produced through a marriage are the ultimate expression of that depth of feeling. All of this means they don’t have to feel too badly for me or go out of their way to be empathetic.
I know people whose children have caused their relationship with their spouse to drift apart. I know at least one person who regrets having children at all. There are people who go into debt to have a wedding. I would argue that without the distraction of children or the approval of the outside world, my feelings for M were more or less as intense as feelings can be for any one person, to the point where I sometimes didn’t understand where I ended and he began, and what parts of me were truly my own.
The loss of this relationship is a terrible thing. I don’t really expect people to understand. Some days it threatens to swallow me and I feel like I’m thrashing and fighting my way up for air. Back up at the surface, though, there’s not a ripple on the water. I’m still single, and most people seem to prefer it that way.