I wish you would do it earlier for mom's sake
Who is she gonna get now?
Some old dude?
— Netflix series Greenleaf
THESE were the words of a teenager as her parents sat her down to tell her they were getting a divorce. She worked it out that her father would soon find a replacement for her mother, 'young and beautiful' too. He, who had defiled the marriage with so many young, beautiful women before. She felt pity for her mother, stuck in a loveless marriage for all these years, probably because of her and her brother, and now, over forty, without a man.
This scene stayed with me, as only two days before a friend and I were discussing our mothers who at sixty-plus have eased into life single, unafraid and content. They enjoy their friends, grandchildren and hobbies they developed over the years. I want to ask my mother how she feels growing old without a life partner, but I already know her answer — she would simply respond “me quite alright”.
I wish I were my mother in situations when relatives, friends and even people I barely know ask me questions like, “Are you ever getting married again? When are you going to find someone and settle down with, it will make your life easier”, or the kind ones who say, “You should go to Europe or the Continent to find your king.”
I smile most of the time but I really want to tell them to leave me alone because I am quite happy just as I am. The truth is, there are couples who are happy and healthy, and some who are miserable in their situation but afraid to give it up because of fear of being alone, and there are single men and women living happy and healthy lives and some who are hungry to find their life partners.
The stories we read or were fed growing up, the same stories we continue to pass on to the next generation — suggest that the ideal life is to be married with children and live happily ever after. We believe this story so much, some of us stay in unhappy relationships and convince ourselves that this is our best life. Of course, there are some great marriages and partnerships, but why do we continue to insist that this is the only way to be fulfilled?
The good news is that increasingly, more people are becoming bold enough to step out of the proverbial box of the 'ideal life'. They are choosing to stay single, committing to a long-term relationship but living apart, getting married and choosing not to have children, and women are choosing to have children without a romantic partner, and the list goes on. What was once unconventional is slowly becoming normal, and the result is that people are happier.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with my sixty-plus friend and mentor, who enjoys an existence of singledom with very little to vex her. She enjoys living alone and welcomes company in her space when she feels like it. She is one of the happiest individuals I know and so I decided to ask her if she missed having a partner. Her response was a big laugh from her gut and, “No Missis, me love living by meself, not a soul fi stress me. Me enjoy company when I choose and him go back a fi him yard and me stay a mine.”
She is happy. She does not want to be defined as single. She is just a woman living her life exactly how she wants to live it.
As a good student, I left her house and decided to drop the “single” badge which is sometimes projected by society as a badge of shame — a badge of lonely and miserable. The single story is not just a story of loss, loneliness and misery, it is also a story of choice, fulfilment, connections and a life full of 'the ones' instead of 'the one'.
Coleen Antoinette is an Arts educator and lover of culture and people. She is currently the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. You may share your thoughts or own experiences with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.