The world is not oriented to the individual although the phrases ‘personal choice,’ ‘personal needs,’ and ‘personal privacy’ are always on the sale rack with the other ready to wear garments which come in and out of vogue regardless if someone is there to buy them at the right price. After all, price is the conduit of human behavior not personal taste, morals or ethics as previously reported over the past three thousand years.
I’ve arrived at the Lincoln Park Grill which is just a few blocks from my house and my regimen is usually to be here every Friday at exactly 4:30 for my Tanqueray martini followed by a dozen Blue Point oysters. The hostesses – beautiful teenagers who do a great job but are just a few phases distant from stuffed animals and Saturday morning cartoons – greeted me with, “Good afternoon, Max. Would you like a table?”
“Yes, thank you.”
The tall teen then asks, “Will there be a lady tonight?”
“No, a table for one will be fine.”
She smiles and takes me, or puts me, in my place.
So, I’m sitting here enjoying the ‘me’ time and writing this piece in my head while nodding and acknowledging other familiar faces as they transit the bar, aisles, and facilities a little more wobbly at each pass. That will get worse as the evening progresses so I will enjoy this moment with a magnificent martini which was just delivered with the oysters exactly twenty minutes behind when the kitchen opens at 5:00 p. m. I enjoy other peoples’ punctuality.
My table is for two and I’m alone which bothers a lot of folks. My being alone, socially and personally, seems to provoke two basic responses from other people; 1.) the observation that I am unhappy about being alone, and, 2.) I pose a clear and present threat to any escorted or unescorted lady and, therefore, I should be ‘fixed up’ immediately. Neither are correct because when Noah finished his manifest of two of every kind, he would have called my name and said, “Your table awaits you but, please, keep away from the livestock.”
Captain Noah was navy and I’m army so that probably would not have worked out. The myth is safe from further blasphemy.
Many single people have told me how difficult is to cook for one at home. Also, many have observed they have a lot of unused space left over from a past relationship. While a lot of this can be attributed to a transition from 2 to 1 it is still a sobering reminder being a solo act is better than being in a really bad partnership.
The socio-economic pressures really don’t care about people though because it’s Things that bring happiness and create jobs so we can afford the happiness. Most things are based on double occupancy; resorts, cruise ships, tables, and home loans which favor – though illegal – a marriage as a sign of stability regardless of its reality. It has been a long time since a street legal automobile was built having only a driver’s seat. There is also a reason why popsicles can be divided into two romantic portions. I wish I could have come up with that idea before someone else did.
The oysters arrive.
I do feel a special connection with all singles living sans ‘live-in’ partners. Despite outside influences we do not rely on some financial-emotional co-dependency to have meaning in our lives; we made that choice and have raised the bar for our personal expectations if that choice needs amending. Of course this is no guarantee the moment of ‘meaning’ arrives like a bolt of enlightenment along the superhighway exit ramp to satori.
Two of my friends who are, interestingly, single but political strategists on opposing sides of the minefield, are very concerned about the upcoming midterm elections. Both have voiced their concern that single people are not even being considered as a voting ‘block’ by either party. Their data, which according to them, is being ignored shows unattached single males and females will be a major factor especially in the under 35-year old age group. But, the older people in their traditional marriage value-added illusion are the money people and it will be interesting if either party gains from their solicitation to the rich minority. Only people who are miserable vote anyway.
The oysters are great and the place is filling up with couples.
I am trying not to adopt a cynical position. I am not a cynical person or thinker. There’s a difference between being a cynic, like Chomsky, and being a positive observer, like McLuhan was. Being nothing and saying nothing is being a politician or a cleric.
Like most singles I receive unsolicited advice from ‘happy’ people. According to them, I should cut my hair, stop wearing extremely short shorts if anything at all, I should also stop being so open to people, socially or privately, and, stop hanging out with trashy blondes (this one I took to heart and will never do again but it took Jamaica to carry me over on that one). I really haven’t met that many happy people although they do tend to gravitate to the Nietzsche herd for safety and the idea of happiness because, well, everyone seems to be happy.
If given a choice, I’d prefer to listen to people who deem themselves as unhappy or even disgruntled which is the opposite of gruntled (when asked how you are feeling by those who could really care less, just say, I’m gruntled and thanks for asking.”). They have real stuff to say with no expectation of it being fixed by me or anyone else. The irony is most unhappy people I know are either married or living with someone. I’ll leave the correlation between happiness and relationships to the bartender who got my nod for another martini.
He knows I watching his vermouth pour – not the cheap stuff – and I am simultaneously thinking about my dear friend Sandy – who is single – who keeps telling me I am ‘different’ and while I want to take that in a positive way I’m still not sure that is her intent. I’m thinking about Sandy because her situation is similar to George’s who stops by my solitude to say hello and to ask, “Max, is it true you actually gave a lady a ring?”
George is anomaly as far as divorcee’s go. He won sole custody of his two kids who are attending Auburn and, yes, was awarded alimony from his ex-wife. So, George’s question was more in disbelief that I would consider doing something he would not do. Well, I jumped out of airplanes for a while too.
There are a lot of single women who are receiving alimony which prevents them from doing what they might otherwise do if the monthly check wasn’t there. I’m not sure what the intent and result is because of the family court/lawyer ethic being after the gavel hits the wood it is presumed justice has been served. The difference, I suppose, is one’s perspective on the difference between compensation and control.
But, George is a reminder that a truly single, free person is beyond the control of things which would, potentially, make them otherwise. Yes, I would postulate it is far more difficult being single than being married. And, yes, a lady received a ring from me and I’ve not seen her since which, again, is another toothpick in my cumulative case argument or theory about singles.
Ah, the second martini - my last - arrives as well as the trio of platinum platitudes who I have avoided over the past eight years because they reek of Este’ and wear too much jewelry, and, well, they are just disgusting in a fashionable sort of over 40ish sort of way.
I have to start thinking about getting out of this place before someone sits down to start a serious conversation not knowing I’m already having one with myself. I haven’t a lot to say to other people anymore anyway. But, I am free to make that choice.
Too late, interruption #2; Cynthia sits down. She’s meeting someone later and she’s dressed for it. She’s also three drinks ahead of me and heading for a designated driver for the evening which I’ve done but don’t do again. Cynthia has never been married, in her early 40’s and, though I have no first hand knowledge of this, has a bio clock strapped to an IED of micro size beneath what passes for a skirt. She’s intruded in my space but she’s beautiful and I’m forgiving as I chew on the second olive.
Before Cynthia’s smile appeared across the table I thought I had a little thing already written for my website and was working on the ending. Then, she said, “Max, we were watching you from the bar and George said you look so sad when you are alone.”
I don’t immediately respond and she continues her reconnaissance with, “So, what are you thinking?”
This is a question women always ask in the same way men wonder what color and cut the lady’s intimate apparel embodies. It’s always a trick question because I have to think what I was thinking about and I’m not sure which choice is the correct answer. She probably isn’t interested in my preoccupation with the eventual invasion of my street by Visigoth hoards raping and pillaging and my uncertainty of having proper Visigoth attire. One cannot be overly prepared.
Immediately, I think what a professor once told me about the most absurd thesis abstract can be defended in the meat of the thesis as long as the attributions are made. Academia is vested in appeals to authority when there’s no cognitive thought present So, I can either scrap what I’ve already processed in my mind or amend previously stated viewpoints. The Visigoths probably won’t mind.
I don’t answer Cynthia because of what I thinking. Now, she asks, “Is what George said true?”
Singles who are getting ready for a date are just as evangelical about other singles’ happiness as those who have a 24/7 connection with another. I stand corrected between theory and postulate.
I don’t say much to Cynthia and she leaves saying, “Well, Max, you are different because you are a hopeless romantic and you have my number if you want to talk.”
She’s right. I do have her number.
A waiter brings over another martini sent by someone ‘over there’ who I don’t dare look at since I have some thoughts to complete here and, then, go home to whatever is there.
I suddenly realize that most of what I have ever learned has come from single people. I think that is the paradox about those who really influence others; they sacrifice the queen sized bed for their personal commitment to others whether they be soldiers, students or children. That comes with a lot of bad personal choices by singles in an effort to reconcile the paradox which is an exercise in futility. That’s why I am now smiling and it isn’t because of the martinis. I’ll walk away from the free one untouched. Some things should remain untouched.
I’m still learning that and when someone has to say they are free, it has never been true. I suppose the table for one is marginally better than Dotty Parker’s Algonquin table long ago in NYC when the trash and bash scene was in fashion amongst the erudite and tragic. That’s a little too bit mean-spirited for my taste.
This just happens to be where I sit and no one else is invited. That is not a challenge to anyone, it’s just a fact.
I am single, have a table for one, and haven’t a clue about the ‘free’ thing.