Yesterday was Gloria Steinem's 75th birthday. I read about it in the Daily News. Ms. Steinem said, I'm becoming the man I originally wanted to marry. That really stopped me in my tracks. I have become that man, too. That strong, compassionate, intelligent, accomplished, creative, spiritual person I had wanted to be my life partner. I've created him in myself. Apparently I am a woman of extremes. From 17 to 38 I had three serious long term relationships. Twenty one years of partnerships with three good men. No time off for good behavior. Before I broke up with Marc, I met Jon. Before I broke up with Jon, I met Peter
Now, I've been single for 14 years. And maybe, just maybe the reason this doesn't really bother me is that I am complete. I am he and she. All of the masculine qualities we women seek in our opposites I've internalized. What choice did I have? I dated men galore, had affairs galore, but honestly at the end of the day, wanted my own space back. I was happy to see Richard, David, Jack and Sal et cetera show up at my door. And I was equally happy to see them out the next day. I've been dodging the relationship bullet for 14 years. I really wanted to know how it would feel to be an emotionally autonomous woman. Wholly responsible for her own happiness.
When my husband and I first moved to NYC in 1989, we'd stroll down Lexington Avenue, hand in hand with our coffee and blueberry muffins. I would peer into the windows and secretly think: My God. Imagine how it would feel to live alone in this fucking city. This thought filled me with fear, awe and longing. Would I ever really have the balls to do this? Live on my own in this monstrous magical profane and blessed city. Yes. I would have the balls. Yes, I do have the balls. I've been doing it for almost 15 years.
The thought does strike me from time to time that having a partner would be nice. But he would have to be so perfect, so in tune with me, that he would never rain on my parade. He would never try to stop me from growing, from having nervous breakdowns, triumphs, depression, fits of dancing, maniacal laughter, pitiful crying jags, days of isolation, 10 hours a day in front of the computer, no bullshit about why the kitchen floor isn't clean or why the laundry has piled up or God forbid any other stereotypes regarding a women's place in this world.
If that man exists, I would welcome him. But to have a man for the sake of having a man is just never going to happen. I think Gloria Steinman said it perfectly. I've stepped outside of the box that society has created for women and thumbed my nose at cultural expectations. And of course one pays a high price for this. I'm sure many women would attest to this. Bad Date (earlier post) is just one example. Simply, no thank you. When I went out on a date last month with a man from the past--- I realized that I had downplayed my own success as a writer to off-set his relative non-success as a writer. I realized on this recent date that I would never do that again. Ever.
It's a conundrum. No man is an island. And no woman is an island either. I get lonely. I do. My aunt told me my grandmother got lonely after my grandfather died. It surprised me to hear this. She seemed so self-sufficient. There was a kind of joy to her days as she bustled about her tidy little home in the Mid West. Caring only for herself after more than half a century caring for others. I admired her singularity. Her steadfastness. Her sense of autonomy; of knowing how to do everything that needed to get done. I see her in myself, too. In the end, every lifestyle choice has its own compromises, its own risks, its own potential for heartache as well as happiness. In the political climate of the new millennium, well into the the 3rd wave of feminism, I have become my own husband.
Honey, would you pour me a drink?