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What I Really Fear

Almost six months ago a casual acquaintance of mine disappeared.  Vanished into thin air.

For four days no one could find her.  The mutual friend we have in common had planned on hanging out with her and noted that she had not called a day or so before to confirm that they were getting together later in the week.  At first she rationalized that her friend of several years was just busy.  She had been in the final stages of defending her dissertation, for goodness sake. It stood to reason that she just could not find five free minutes to check in and see if they were still having drinks and a snack.  A little voice  in the back of her head grew louder, though.  Something is amiss, the voice demanded. Check on Paula.  

A few phone calls to friends and dozens of phone calls to Manhattan hospitals later, Paula was discovered.  Four days prior to the search for her, Paula had taken a nasty fall in the train station.  She cracked her head open and was rushed to the nearest hospital.  She couldn’t call her friends to reschedule appointments because she had been unconscious.

Paula is unmarried, unpartnered and several large bodies of water away from home and family.  

Paula is me.

Although I have worked vigorously to overcome it, I am a woman who is ruled by fear.  I am a self-proclaimed punk ass.  I cover my eyes at not only horror flicks, but action flicks with too many things blowing up at once.  I horde money in my savings account because of the vague possibility that I can end up unemployed and destitute at any given moment.  Upon seeing a mouse, I not only yell at the top of my lungs, but I also have been known to run into my bedroom, shut the door and call a friend who lives in Brooklyn, begging him to travel cross-borough and “rid my home of the rodent.”

Paula’s disappearance represents one of my greatest fears.  The fear that finds me lying on the floor of my apartment after having fallen from a ladder because I innocently wanted to change the light bulb in my bathroom.  No one comes to my house daily but me.  While I do have friends to whom I speak and with whom I socialize on a fairly regular basis, it is not unusual for me to go a week without hearing from those friends.  While we normally count those brief absences from each other’s lives as a case of “she’s busy,” what happens when that is not the case?

When Paula’s story was relayed at a group outing, I excused myself to go to the restroom. (I do this also when some movie decides to blow off some person’s head amid exploding cars or have a particularly brutal act committed on a child.)  I had a very visceral reaction to Paula’s accident and the fact that she could have lied in that hospital bed for another four days had our mutual friend not thought to listen to (and heed) the Universe’s whisper.

In the months that have passed, I have questioned why her story shook  me so.  Aside from the obvious concern that I could die if I had an accident and no one was around to come to my immediate aid, Paula’s story reiterated what smart single women, happy or otherwise, have always known.  A woman can definitely live this life without a man.  She can not live it alone, though.

For that was what unsettled me so when I heard Paula’s story.  She could have died because she was alone.  She, like so many of us, roamed Manhattan in this fog of “When something bad happens…” and that is where the statement ends.  Those who are partnered have a built in completion to that statement.  “….someone will call my husband/live-in boyfriend.”  The challenge presented to single gals is to find a completion to that statement so you are not a ghost for four days.  To do the extra work of connecting with people whom you love and who love you and making sure neither of you is attempting to walk the minefield that is modern-day life alone.

And that is what I fear the most.  Not never marrying.  But, living this life alone.  Before Paula’s story, I just thought it seemed terribly boring.  But, Paula has taught me that it is also incredibly dangerous.  If we kick ass, take over the world women are going to go forth solo, we need to create the systems that are automatic advantages of being married.  Someone who is responsible for you.  Someone who can be called within a moment’s notice for emergencies both large and small.  Someone who the many people on the periphery of your life knows is your “keeper.”  

I wonder if women who fret over STILL BEING SINGLE, really bemoan the lack of a husband mainly because husbands make stories like Paula’s less fearful.  More certain.  The laws of romantic love and legal matrimony by default give you a “keeper.”  Perhaps marriage creates less work in this sense.  I fall.  Crack my head.  Husband comes.  I do not die alone.

It has become clearer to me over the years that in fact, no woman is an island; nor should she be.  While there is no replacement for a mate in a woman’s life, she can arm herself with a companion, a person who is bound to her.  Such a bind needs to exist in a single gal’s life.

Why You Probably Shouldn’t Date Me

Dear Fine Ass Dude From Trina’s Barbecue the Other Weekend:

Yes, we had a nice flirtation going on for about 15 or 20 minutes. When I walked in, I saw you get that, “Hey, new pussy” look that men who look like you often get when a woman who does not normally run in their social circle cruises into a party that rarely has new people. Your determination to make sure I and every other person in Trina’s backyard knew who you were was not very sexy, but those biceps and bald head made up for the slightly obnoxious behavior you displayed throughout the barbecue.

Mid way through our back and forth flirtation, you mentioned another party you were thinking about going to later on. You asked if I might be there as well. I thought for a second about saying yes although I was pretty tuckered out from Trina’s barbecue and am at a point in my life where hopping from party to party so as not to go home “too early” does not appeal to me. In case you were wondering why I never got back to you with a definitive yes or no, I want to share a perfectly harmless moment I just happened to catch in the corner of my eye.

One of the women with whom you are sleeping and who thinks she is your girlfriend walked into Trina’s living room from the kitchen. She was munching on a slice of cake when she slipped in next to you on the sofa. You chuckled as you asked, “I thought you were on a diet?” She guffawed and slapped you across the head. Both of you laughed. You laughed heartily as you poked her in the belly and noted, “You’re getting a little soft there, huh?”

Now, I could write a long diatribe about what an assholey thing that was to say to a woman. Particularly a woman who has an amazing body that could take the hit of a little “softness.” But, that would be off topic. Your comment in of itself was not what brought me to the conclusion that I would not be attending the party later on or giving you my phone number.

Fine Ass Dude, I am not the woman whom you seek. I have met men like you once or twice. I have had very candid conversations with them. You, Fine Ass Dude, strike me as a man who prefers that his woman keep it “tight and right.” While you would not “require” her to have a flat stomach that looks good in a two-piece bathing suit and arms that give Michelle Obama a run for her money, you would be severely disappointed if she did not possess these attributes. You would expect your woman to put the maintaining of a shapely, toned physique at the top of her priority list.

Hence, I am not the woman you seek.

Let’s be clear here, this is not a letter bemoaning how difficult it is to keep a body “tight and right.” Nor, is it veiled remorse that I am not toned enough to date you. It is simply an acknowledgment that had I gone out with you and pursued any type of relationship with you, our time together would have been quite brief. Because the things that are important to you are… well…Fine Ass Dude, they are simply non-issues for me.

I am well aware that I sport a slight baby bump although I am not actually carrying a baby in my bump. I am not blind to the flapping of my arms as I wave to a friend from across the street. The thing is neither of these things bother me enough to obsess over or even think about on a regular basis. If we were to date, I get the impression that at some point you would wonder why I am doing nothing more at the gym than taking a spin class or playing around on the treadmill. You would wonder why I am not aspiring to wear that two piece to the beach when we go away for the weekend. And that’s the problem Fine Ass Dude…only YOU would be concerning yourself with such worries. See, I have already figured out how my relationship with free weights works: I train with them once or twice a summer before I get bored and annoyed that they add an extra 20 minutes to my workout and never pick them up again until the following summer. I don’t fret about looking good in a two-piece bathing suit because Macy’s has a diverse selection of really cute one piece suits in which I look quite appetizing. Perhaps if Macy’s stopped carrying attractive one pieces, I would find motivation to get into that two piece.

Okay, that was an out and out lie, Fine Ass Dude. I would probably just go to Filene’s Basement.

Please do not think that this letter is a judgment. (only God can judge you, Bruh. Judgment is above my pay grade.) While this entire paragraph can be loaded with righteous indignation and a call for women to love their bodies for what they are, the thing is…it really is not that deep when I think about it. You want what you want. And there are more than a few women in this great city who can give you exactly what you want. Therefore, you should date one of them; not me.

I am a woman who exerts a lot of energy worrying about a lot of stuff.  Much of the stuff I fret over I can not control, which causes me to fret even more, actually.  I have parents who continue to age even though I repeatedly ask them to stop doing that foolishness.  I have a lump on my head that may or may not be a tumor.  I itch in the middle of the night.  I need to remodel my bathroom on a teacher’s salary.  My little brother is wasting away his youth and refuses to use his best years to actually accomplish something.  In the grand scheme of things, I really can not afford to waste perfectly good anxiety on the pursuit of a body that is “tight and right.”

So, in short…it is best that we remain really distant acquaintances who sometimes run into each other at random social events.  Again, I want for you the exact same thing I want for me.  TO GET WHAT YOU  WANT.  A woman who is not me.

I wish you well in all your future endeavors.

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