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The Spinsterlicious Life
It’s been six fab months since I moved to Sydney, Australia from New York City. That old adage “time flies when you’re having fun” is apparently quite true because it seems, in some ways, that I just got here. So many things still feel shiny-and-new.
At the top of my to-do list while living here is to see as much of Australia as I can. In March, I managed to visit three of Australia’s more popular locales. First up was the Great Barrier Reef with a group of NYC friends.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and the world’s largest coral reef. It is the largest living thing on Earth, and is even visible from outer space. It’s made up of thousands of reefs and is said to be home to countless species of fish, turtles, dolphins and sharks (though I only saw fish).
It was breathtaking being so close to something so majestic. It was also rather anxiety-provoking because I’m a scaredy cat in the water so I vacillated between “this is so wonderful” and “suppose my helmut comes off and I drown down here.” I was pretty proud of myself that I didn’t let my fear of deep water stop me from this experience.
We also visited the Daintree Rainforest the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia. We were led by an Aboriginal guide, which was a real treat because in addition to telling us about the rainforest in general, he shared stories of the history of the indigenous people and their relationship to this land.
We stayed in Port Douglas, a beach resort north of Cairns. My best memories of Port Douglas was the food; I had lots of really good meals there.
Shortly after returning from Cairns, I spent a week in Melbourne (which the Aussies pronounce “Mel-bin”).
Melbourne is known for its architecture, vibrant art and music scene, and its hidden laneways, which I would describe as quirky little streets tucked away from the main drag and filled with eateries, shops, and more art. Melbourne and Sydney are the two largest cities in Australia and have a longstanding rivalry over who is the “best”. There’s probably no real answer to this though Sydney (where I live) is the leading tourism destination vs Melbourne for international tourists.
While in Melbourne I visited the National Gallery of Victoria which had an Andy Warhol/Ai Wei Wei exhibit. I had a sleepover at my friend, Ali’s house, during which her kids thought it would be fun to play “blind taste test” with me. I guessed everything correctly except the passionfruit. Ali’s husband, George Papadimas, is an artist and that’s some of his art on display at a local cafe. It’s my goal to soon have some of his art hanging in my living room.
And then there was Tasmania. I went there with my friend, Terri, for our four-day Easter weekend. I don’t think I knew Tasmania was a real place until I moved to Australia.
Tasmania is an island off the southern coast of the Australian mainland and is known for its vast parks and national reserves. It is also known for its Port Arthur penal colony which is where the British Empire sent some of its toughest convicts in the 18th century.
We stayed in Hobart and learned the hard way that Easter weekend is one of its busiest holidays. Most hotels were sold out. I graciously slept in a bunk bed in my hotel room. (Sigh)
I loved Tasmania: its award-winning internationally renowned whisky, Salamanca, the beautiful Tasman Peninsula, and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), from which I bought earrings by artist Linda Van Niekerk.
So, March helped me check off a few spots on my “Australian tour to-do list”. Next stops? West (Perth and its surroundings) and North (Uluru).
When I picked up and moved to Sydney, Australia last fall, I had very few concerns. I’d only heard great things about this place. I’d met a handful of co-workers and knew I liked them and that we worked well together. Plus, I love to travel and experience other cultures so this opportunity to live and work here for two years felt like a gift.
When I say I had very few concerns, I really mean I had only one: who was going to do my hair? I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to my hair. I wear my hair natural because I don’t like fussy hair that requires a lot of attention. I normally visit a hair salon 2- 3 times/year for color, a trim, and sometimes a keratin treatment to help with the frizzies in the humidity. Yet I was still concerned about my hair because, though I don’t want much done to it, I want it done well.
There are not a lot of black women in Sydney. (See chart).
So it would follow, of course, that there are not a lot of hair stylists who know how to do my hair; there’s just not enough women wearing naturally kinky hair for a hair stylist to be able to gain much experience. But I’m a researcher by trade, and so I set out to do research.
· I “interviewed” 8-10 hair stylists by phone or going into their shops. There were a few who admitted to never having done hair like mine and being unsure as to whether they could do it well. I appreciated them. There were a few others who gave some version of “of course I can do it; hair is hair”. I stayed away from them. I didn’t want someone who was cocky enough to assume they’d be good at something they’d never done. I wanted someone who was willing to admit what s/he didn’t know.
· There’s a section of Sydney called Newtown, which has a funky, hip vibe. I was happy to discover a few salons with African stylists. I thought “yes!”. But the few I spoke to wanted to do something way fancier than what I needed. They were doing weaves and relaxers and extensions and braids and beautifully intricate styles that were the opposite of what I wanted. So I said “maybe not.” I had this fear of going in for a trim and being talked into something else that I didn’t really want but allowed myself to be sold on.
· Of course, a recommendation based on experience is the best way to go. Whenever I see a black woman with kinky hair (which is not that often), I stop her and ask “who does your hair”? This often is the beginning of a much longer conversation. The majority said “I do it myself” as we lamented together our lack of options in this otherwise wonderful city. Most had more “don’t go here” responses than recommendations. I did find a woman who strongly recommended her hair stylist who she has used for years. He is American and very familiar with hair with my texture. Unfortunately, he had chosen to spend several months back at home in the US and wasn’t going to be back for awhile.
· So I settled on a hair salon that has quite a nice reputation and is 5 minutes from where I live. We chatted for 15-20 minutes about what I want and what they do. They have a stylist from London who has worked on hair like mine and could give me a trim. They also do keratin treatments. I liked that the stylist admitted she had no experience on kinky hair but would learn what she could through her relationship with Goldwell, a manufacturer of keratin treatment products. She and I spoke 2-3 times before my appointment, with her updating me on what she had learned. I felt confident that this should be a good (enough) hair experience.
It did not go well. Turns out the stylist kinda knew what she was doing, but not really. She used much too much heat, stripping the color and texture from my hair, leaving it a lot like straw. I was horrified…of course. So were the owner, manager, and other stylists at the salon. I must say they couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating in the way they handled it. They offered me unlimited visits at no cost for whatever I needed to make it better. I took them up on their offer for a few visits, but it was clear that nothing was really helping. They even brought in a rep from Goldwell who confirmed that there was no way to reverse what the stylist had done.
So…I went in looking something like this…
… and came out looking like this.
I looked like this for a few days while trying to figure out what to do:
Now I look like this:
I don’t hate the new cut, but I’m not happy about it. My hair will grow back. Slowly. My hair grows very slowly. And my search for someone in Sydney to do my hair continues.
I used to travel alone a lot when I was younger…then I stopped. Not sure why. It’s not easy but does have its upside. Maureen Paraventi guests posts on her thoughts about solo travel:
I have a writer’s “what if” mind. That can be a wonderfully rich, imaginative and entertaining thing. It can also be hell, especially for a single woman. I’ll explain.
One of the foundations of fiction is that a story begins when something goes wrong. Thus, many of the “what ifs” that my mind spits out are negative in nature, because I’m playing around with story ideas.
That’s useful for writing. It’s not so good when I’m traveling by myself. I’ve decided to stop waiting for Mr. Right to come along and be my traveling companion. I’m in my 50s. If I wait any longer, I won’t be going anywhere, so I’m venturing out on my own. The problem is, when I’m away from the familiar, comfortable patterns of my everyday life – those imaginary “what ifs” can rise up and create a free-floating anxiety that threatens to ruin any trip.
Part of the anxiety comes from my lack of confidence in being able to solve problems ALL BY MYSELF, which is kind of immature for someone in her 50s. Does anyone else feel this? And does it ever go away?
The bad “what ifs”
Here’s a sampling of the kinds of concerns that have reared their ugly heads on my current trip – a long weekend getaway to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.:
1) What if I get lost? (This one is not far-fetched; I am notorious for my poor sense of direction.)
2) What if I lose my ID and can’t catch my flight home?(TSA doesn’t mess around.)
3) What if I lose my credit card? (this after realizing that I only brought – gasp – ONE credit card)
4) What if someone steals my purse so that I don’t even have my cash and – gasp – cell phone? (That cell phone is my lifeline. Without it, I have no gps or Uber, which ties into Fear #1.)
5) What if I fall off this boat? (This while on a water taxi ride. I reminded myself that I can swim.)
6) What if I get injured in some way? (I reminded myself that there are hospitals in South Florida.)
7) What if I forgot to pack some essential item? (I forgot my hair dryer – gasp! — and yet somehow my hair managed to dry. It doesn’t even look that bad.
The last worry DID come true:
8) What if the weather is bad? I’ve spent money and allotted time for this getaway. My aim was to bake on a sun-drenched beach under warm temperatures while relaxing and reading a chick-lit novel. (Due to Winter Storm Jonah, it’s unseasonably cool in Ft. Lauderdale, so freezing on a beach is the only option.)
So…because it’s a little chilly here, the whole trip is a disaster, right? While my original concept has gone out the window, other adventures have sprung up to take its place.
What if I have a good time anyway?
I paid a visit to the city’s NSU Museum of Modern Art and saw a terrific exhibit about Lee Miller, who went from being a fashion model (discovered on a NYC street) to a fashion photographer to a war correspondent in World War II. Her grim photos of liberated concentration camps helped convince the doubters that the Holocaust atrocities did, indeed, happen. It was an amazing exhibit. I was surprised that I’d never heard of her, because she lived an extraordinary life.
I did a LOT of walking. (Helped warm me up!) I like to do this when visiting a new city for two reasons: it lets me see places and people in a more intimate way than I do when I’m riding in a cab, and I get some exercise when I’m away from my gym.
I may not go swimming in the ocean on this trip (sigh), but I did take a water taxi tour of the intercoastal, with the guide pointing out multi-million dollar homes owned by celebrities and business titans (“If you’ve ever shopped at Kohl’s, you probably helped buy that home”) and opulent yachts, like the $20 million beauty that Steven Spielberg is selling because it’s too small. It was cold and windy, and I eventually had to move from the top deck, with its better view, to the enclosed cabin below, but it was still a fun experience, and gave me some ideas about what kind of house I’ll buy when I win the Powerball. (That’s comes under the category of positive “what ifs” – What if I win the lottery?)
I’m also going to see a cousin I haven’t seen in years, which will be a real treat. I’d forgotten that he lived in this area. His sister saw my Facebook post about being here and texted me his phone number. I’ll get to meet his kids for the first time. If I was having the mindless, lying-on-a-beach visit that I’d envisioned, I might have missed out on this.
So…”what if” things don’t go as planned, but I have a great time anyway…traveling all by myself???
Now that I’ve moved to the other side of the world, I am often asked about my social life. The short answer is “it’s a work in progress”. As the old song goes, “make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold”. And I’m reminded of this song often, as I navigate my new life (3 months in), Down Under.
My first month was consumed with getting my bearings and settling in at work and home. Finding and furnishing my new place kept me pretty busy. I spent my weekends and most days after work looking for stuff, buying stuff, schlepping stuff. When I was done, I felt very accomplished and happy with the results. I also distinctly remember coming home from work one day, sitting on my new couch and thinking “now what”? I had lots of free time. Clearly a social life was what I needed.
My life in New York was full and I had what one of my friends described as a “robust” social life.
In Sydney, I mostly only knew the folks at work. Not a bad group to be among, for sure, but I also wanted to expand my social circle. I knew that would take new behaviour
on my part. I’m not really unfriendly, but I am an introvert and that looks the same as unfriendly. Can feel like it, too. Making friends on this end would require me to acquire some new skills…some ‘reaching out to people first’ skills. Yikes.
Somewhat reluctantly I joined a few groups, some dedicated to ex-pats, but not all. (InterNations, MeetUp, Urban Bushwalkers, Wild Women on Top, Tinder). This has actually worked out quite well. I’ve met a number of people while having fun……some activities I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy, like hiking and bushwalking. I have two new “friends” that I continue to hang out with outside the groups. Friends is in quotes having nothing to do with these women, but is an acknowledgement
that, while I like them I don’t know them very well and I believe real friendships take awhile to develop. We’re not in grade school where you become best friends with someone you just met.
The folks at work have been especially gracious, including me in various social activities and it’s been great getting to know them outside the office.
I’ve also been fortunate to connect with friends-of-friends, people with whom I have a mutual friend back in the States. That’s been especially nice, as it’s great to have someone who knows the place well, as well as knows this person well so I can ask what they’re like… if they might be crazy. 🙂
And I have added to my social roster two women I met while walking down the street! There are not a lot of black Americans in Sydney so when I see one it’s kind of exciting. In both cases, we saw each other, did a double-take, then stepped out of the way of traffic to chat (“what are you doing here, how long have you been here, who does your hair…”) and exchange phone numbers. Interestingly, both are from New York…and it took moving to the other side of the world for us to meet.
It’s funny; last week I was exhausted as I had (too) many events on my social calendar. That’s when I knew I was well on my way to building a new network of friends and acquaintances on this side of the world. I like it.
And it’s so important to me to make sure I keep my friendships back at home on solid ground. But it’s more complex than I thought it would be. I am delighted, surprised, and disappointed at the way various friends have managed my physical absence.
Pleased. There are a few friends I hear from every week or so. I love it. And I’ve fallen in love with FaceTime and Skype, both of which I used to despise. Nobody looks good on those cameras, especially if caught at the wrong angle. Doesn’t matter; not anymore. I love seeing their faces as we catch up. The distance doesn’t seem so vast when I can see them.
The cameras are also great to be able to show things –what we’ve bought, what we’re doing, what we’re wearing, a new hairdo…whatever.
Surprised. Pleasantly so. I’m in regular touch now with a few people that I spoke with less often when I was back home. I don’t know how or why that happened, but I don’t really care. It’s nice to hear from them.
Disappointed. There are a couple of friends with whom I’m disappointed…and a little hurt that I don’t hear from very often…people with whom I was in regular touch at home and who are near the top of the friend food chain. One person, in a rather uncomfortable conversation, admitted to being embarrassed to admit feeling both some resentment and envy at my move. Resentment because it feels like abandonment. And envy when I talk and post about what I’m up to in this new life phase. Not that their (sic) life is bad, but there’s not much new. I get it and appreciate the honesty. I don’t have insight as to why the others have fallen behind. Sometimes distance is a good excuse to reshape a relationship. Who knows. It’s a little awkward.
Anyway, a good friend from NYC is visiting me now and it’s fantastic having her here and sharing this new place with her. And another will be arriving tomorrow. And if I can get my **** together, I may even have a small gathering at my apartment where I invite my friends, old and new. Could be fun.
So, I gave up (temporarily) my New York City life for a new one in Sydney, Australia.
My arrival in Sydney was safe, but not uneventful. Sometime after take-off, the entire plane was awakened to learn that we would be spending the night in Vancouver, Canada…not part of the plan, at all. It had something to do with a sick pilot and a crew that would be working overtime even if we could find a replacement pilot somewhere. So we were all bused to a Marriott hotel in Vancouver at 3a. This added 36 hours to my already 36 hours of travel. I arrived in Sydney happy but wearing clothes I’d had on for three long days.
The upside of this change in plans is that I arrived at the Sydney airport at the same time my sister, Phyllis, did who was joining me to help kick off this new adventure, so we were able to travel together to my new temporary apartment. It was great having her with me as we learned to navigate this awesome city together.
I was lucky enough to find an apartment in Milson’s Point almost immediately and it seems perfect. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to my office and is surrounded by every kind of transportation I can ever imagine needing: the bus, train, ferry, a taxi stand, and GoGet (their version of ZipCar) are all steps away from my apartment. As is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It couldn’t be more perfect. And the view.
Sydney is just beautiful. I walk around this city in awe that this is now my life. It’s like I’m just bopping along and look up and am gobsmacked by yet another beautiful scene.
Now that I’m all settled, my next order of business is to get a social life. Much easier said than done, especially for someone like me. I’m an introvert, though most people don’t know that and they just think I’m unfriendly. So, on the recommendation of my good friend, Heather, I decided to join a few social groups. (Heather is my inspiration for taking on this Sydney adventure. Five years ago she upped and moved from New York to Dubai, by herself, and has made quite a nice life.)
I joined InterNations Wild Women on Top (hikers, not porn stars), and Meetup. I even joined Tinder. I’m not all that excited about any of them, though I’ve had nice outtings with all of them. My not being excited has nothing to do with the groups and everything to do with me and being surrounded by people I don’t know. I assume (hope) I’ll get over that at some point as I do more with them. What I do miss is hanging out with really solid friends and not just people I kinda know. Of course, building friendships takes time.
In the meantime, I had lots of fun last weekend joining a new friend (well, acquaintance, really) at Sculptures by the Sea, an international art show at Bondi Beach where sculptors from around the world display their work. Like everything else here, it was beautiful.
It’s funny. One of the people that I miss the most is this kid who lived down the hall from me. From the time she could walk, she would toddle down the hall by herself (sometimes at her parents’ urging, I’m sure), knock on my door and hang out for however long she felt like it. I think I miss her most because it’s the one relationship it’s hard to sustain. With all my other (grown-up) friends, we stay in touch via text, Facebook, email, FaceTime/Skype, and Words with Friends. That’s not quite possible with a four-year-old…though we try, using her mom as an intermediary. She’s really not all that interested in talking with me thru FaceTime, though.
Being in a new country and culture takes getting used to, of course. I’m enjoying noticing the small things that remind me I’m in a new place. A guy I met took me driving last weekend because I need to get comfortable driving on the “wrong” side of the street. Unlike most of the world, Sydney drivers (and the Brits) sit on the right side in the car and drive on the left side of the street. I did pretty well, only once driving up on a curb when I turned!
A few other little US vs AUS things I’ve noted:
- Renters have to bring their own appliances. Having to buy my own refrigerator and washing machine makes no sense to me. I keep thinking about what I’m supposed to do with them when I return to the US in two years. (Selling them feels like it’ll be a real PIA).
- We pay for condiments. Even though ketchup naturally goes with fries and ginger with sushi, many restaurants charge for this.
- There are really nice public bathrooms…everywhere. You can even go into a restaurant or store and use their bathroom without buying anything. Just try that in NYC (except maybe at Starbucks and McDonald’s who are friendlier in this regard).
- They greet each other with “how ya going” (not “how ya doing”). It took me a minute to realize that the proper response is “I’m fine” and not “…walking to the store”.
- Australians can’t be bothered with saying the whole word, so they shorten them. Breakfast is brekkie, McDonald’s is Maccas, afternoon is arvo (I don’t understand that one), air conditioner is air con, football is footy, chewing gum is chewie…and so on. Every word seems to have a diminutive version.
- And this. Getting these confused could result in a really interesting conversation.
I am excitedly looking forward to the next couple of weeks, which will have me celebrating my birthday, some version of Thanksgiving (not a holiday here), Christmas at the beach, and Sydney’s world-renowned New Year’s Eve fireworks..all Aussie style.
So now that my move to Australia is definitely happening and I have a signed contract and a (tentative) start date, it’s sinking in what this really means: I have 1000 things I need to make happen before I leave. “It’s only slightly overwhelming” I say both confidently and sarcastically.
For the last two years, I have been talking about getting rid of so much of the stuff that I’ve accumulated throughout the many years I’ve been alive, but it never really happened. I regularly pull out stuff to get rid and then come up with a reason why I should hang onto it awhile longer.
It’s funny, though. Once I did the math of how much it costs to store or ship this stuff, making the decision to let it go became much easier. In one day, I dropped off 9 bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories at the Salvation Army. And, with the help of my dear friend, Benilde, I sent 6 large boxes of books, housewares, and electronics to a Veteran’s organization. And I’m just getting started!
I’m enjoying fantasizing about my new residence in Sydney. Something minimalist and open…which is a curious twist because there’s nothing minimalist about the way I live now. So, I had a fun lunch with some Aussie co-workers who helped me narrow down neighborhoods I might like to live in.
The hope is to find something sufficiently close to my job in North Sydney AND robust enough to keep me happy after hours and on weekends..meaning restaurants, shopping, and stuff to do, indoors and outdoors.
I went to a great party a few weeks ago.
While enjoying the festivities, I noticed a pretty good-looking guy looking my way. When we made eye contact, he smiled, nodded, and lifted his champagne glass to me. Under normal circumstances, I would have responded in kind and maybe even gone over to him. This time, I froze for a second and then looked away. “Oh no”, I’m thinking, “this is no time to fall in love”. Dramatically, I took it all the way to love, when it could have ended after a conversation. But I’m taking no chances. The reason I was able to so easily take advantage of this opportunity is because I have no husband or children to get in the way. I’m certainly not going to start complicating things now with this handsome stranger.
One of the great things about going to Australia, as opposed to, say France, is that I don’t have to learn a new language. Yet, in a way, I do. Technically, it’s all English, but half the time I have no idea what the Aussies in my office are talking about. In fact, I have a chart at my desk to help me decipher the language of a particular Australian who sat next to me
I’m not happy about having to learn the metric system…and how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit.
But I’m really looking forward to:
– The food. I hear it’s great.
-And that work:life balance isn’t even a concept there –like it is in America. It’s just naturally the way they live!
and this! (Click on link, for a smile)
Saturday, June 20, 2015. 11:17a
Saturday morning. Sprawled on the couch. TV on in the background, reading the NYTimes the old-fashioned way (that is, not on my iPad). My apartment is a bit of a mess as I start-and-stop cleaning up, vacillating between putting stuff back in the closet and putting it in bags and boxes. Because I might be moving.
I am excitedly anticipating the Sunday night phone call I have scheduled with HR and the CEO of my possible/probable new job in Sydney, AUSTRALIA!!!
It’s pretty much a done deal, though we haven’t put anything on paper and signed it yet. Even though I’ve been talking about it for a month, it doesn’t become really real until it’s in writing. And I can’t wait.
I’m on the verge of a wildly exciting new chapter in my life. “Wildly” exciting because I’ve never even been to Australia, and yet I am solidly sure that moving to this place I’ve never visited will, nevertheless, be good. I know that some people think it’s a little crazy…but I don’t think it’s crazy at all. For me, it’s an adventure. It’s only for two years and I think I can handle anything for two years.
I’ve always wanted to live and work abroad, and yet, I’ve passed on the few opportunities I’ve had because the timing just didn’t feel right. I don’t even remember now why I passed on the offer to move to Toronto 25 or so years ago. Probably something to do with some guy I was dating…who I don’t even remember now. Or maybe it was for a more substantial reason. I dunno. Another time, I didn’t want to move so far away from my dad who was almost 90. And last year when the prospect of Australia was raised, I didn’t want to leave my dog. Dear Danny was 15 years old and in uneven health. I couldn’t take him with me because Australia requires a six-month quarantine of any dog entering the country. I didn’t think Danny (or I) would easily survive that. But Danny died in May and “Operation Danny” –as my soon-to-be boss called it– began in earnest. Operation Danny because I was now free to go.
It feels really right. I’m 60 ( just about). I don’t know how many more fantastic opportunities like this will just fall into my lap. My new boss is my old boss. I worked with her two years ago when I joined TNS. I like her a lot and we work well together. And I climbed a mountain with the Australia office’s CEO last year. Neither of us had any idea when we met on that mountain that we might be spending lots more time together. I’m a city girl and Sydney is a thriving metropolis that looks just like the kind of place I can fall in love with. They speak English there. I don’t have to learn a new language…though I know the metric system will give me an ongoing headache. But I’m ready. I love an adventure.
Hurry up Sunday night. Let’s get this thing started.
Monday, June 22, 2015 9:48p
It’s ON! Australia, here I come. In our Sunday night phone call we worked out all (well most) of the details. It’s actually going to happen. We’re thinking late September/early October…which feels like it’s right around the corner.
Now, there’s sooo much to do…purging stuff, storing other stuff, banking and tax
annoyances, and most worrisome: renting out my NYC co-op and my Long Island vacation home. (Anybody interested?)
This is really big. Australia is so far. (The NYC –> Sydney flight is 22 hours). Being that far away from my family is going to feel weird. But life is to be lived and I love an adventure. I’m happy, excited…and a little overwhelmed. Carpe diem. YOLO. Stay tuned!
Below is a guest post from a very loyal reader of The Spinsterlicious Life. I think Dee is amazing: she’s mart, funny, and adventurous. She’s also tired of people who try to make her feel bad about being single. I’m happy to run her guest post:
Not long before the holidays last fall I went to get a manicure. Salon manicures are not something I usually do, but someone had given me a gift card for my birthday, so I made an appointment.
At first I sat in the chair across from my nail tech in awkward silence. Just when I thought she wasn’t going to try and make conversation with me, she started asking me questions — first about my curly hair and then about my life.
Are you married?
(I knew where this was headed.)
How old are you?
That’s when her eyebrows raised with concern. She didn’t look up at me, but her expression said it all.
“Maybe you’re too picky,” she said shaking her head.
I just brushed it off and hoped for a subject change and that she’d get the second coat of my red polish on quickly. Some birthday present that turned out to be!
I read somewhere recently that people can’t make you feel bad about something you don’t already feel bad about. So if someone calls you crazy, it means nothing unless you buy into it yourself. Put another way, no one can make you feel bad without your permission. I was giving this stranger (and society at large) permission to make me feel bad. I felt bad because (and I hate to admit it) I have bought into the belief that it’s shameful or embarrassing not to be partnered up. I don’t so much care about the kid thing, but the relationship part can trigger single shame in me big time.
Single women are constantly bombarded with messages about finding/keeping a man. On TV sitcoms, romantic comedies, magazine and online articles, online dating commercials, family, friends, coworkers. It can be extremely hard to tune all of that chatter out and actually stop and listen to your own voice, your own inner wisdom that knows what’s best for YOU. The radio static can get even fuzzier when close friends are fretting over their own single/childless state. They are fretting and anxious, so it can make you anxious and before you know it, you’re stressed and life is passing you by.
I’ve decided I’m done. I’m done stressing. I’m done being anxious. I’m done waiting. I’m done fretting. I’m done analyzing and trying to figure it out. Most importantly, I’m done caring what society/family/friends/the media has to say about what I “should” do with my life. The more I thought about the woman in the nail salon, the angrier I became. Why was I letting complete strangers make me feel bad about my life?
I realized as I thought about it (and got angrier about it) that if I completely turn off the outside world, I really don’t care if I get married and “settle down.” It’s just not a top priority in my life. When I stopped and asked myself if I actually want a relationship or if I just want to ease the social pressure, my truth is that more than anything I want to silence the social pressure, judgment and shame. I even reflected on whether I want kids (even though I’ve always been pretty sure that I don’t) just to see how it feels in my body to sit with my decision – without the commentary playing in the background. And, nope, still don’t want kids.
I’ve always known my own truth. I can just get sidetracked and thrown off of my Spinsterlicious game when the barrage of messages becomes too loud. When that happens I get in a panic. (Side note: I even briefly looked into adopting a child when a friend of mine was agonizing over her biological clock. That idea lasted five minutes.) I’m working on staying centered in my truth and not getting knocked down so easily. My aha moment came when I realized that I have the power to stop internalizing the messages.
So here I am ready to continue living my Spinsterlicious life. Only now I’m done with the anxiety. Because I know the anxiety is not about my own true desires, it’s about peer pressure and a human need to fit in and be “normal.”
Here’s my plan: Go “deep single” (love that phrase) and live my life on my terms endeavoring to fully savor my freedom. Seek out new adventures. Continue to travel. Continue to decorate my apartment and make it my sanctuary. Continue to enjoy my work, hobbies and friends. If I meet a great guy along the way, great. But I’m no longer holding out hope that some guy needs to be “the one” so that I can quiet the anxiety. That’s way too much pressure. I’ll just nix the anxiety now, so that if he doesn’t show up, I can live in peace.
I’ve been living a Spinsterlicious life all along. I just needed to get back in touch with me and remind myself that I got it going on!
How about you? Do you ever get sidetracked and question your own truth? What are your strategies for regaining your footing and getting centered?