One Single WeekA seven-day peek into the life of a singletonby Camerin CourtneyOctober 29, 2003
9:37am Church. I slide in a tad late, as usual. After joining in on the praise chorus for a few verses, I notice that from where I'm sitting, I can see four women sitting alone amongst the couples and families. And me—five. As if on cue, the man in front of me puts his arm around his wife.
9:39am Church. A single friend slides in next to me, flashes me a sheepish smile, and joins the rest of us in worship. I smile heavenward, and sing a little louder.
10:07am Church. I notice my current Church Crush across the sanctuary. The jury is still out on this one. I don't know much about him. Hmmm. He's yawning a lot. Does that mean he's not interested in what the pastor's saying? And therefore not very committed to his faith? Or was he up too late last night on a date? Now he's looking around at the rest of the crowd. Is it at all conceivable that he's looking to see if I'm here? Okay, sermon. Focus, focus. This is church, not a singles mixer.
12:15pm Corner Bakery. Several of us from church are munching sandwiches and salads, chatting about the Indian summer we're enjoying. Church Crush is here—and sitting next to me! We make small talk and he seems nice. He mentions he's a neat freak, and my mind flashes to my unmade bed at home, wondering if I'd be up to par for him. He remembers where I grew up from our last conversation. Big points for that.
3:00pm Karen's house. At a baby shower for a friend I met in a singles Bible study years ago, I sit and chat with the women on either side of me. The woman to my right has a single son she's not-so-subtly trying to sell me on, and the woman to my left is married too and just had a baby with a guy I dated years ago. All the women here are married, most of them are younger than me, and four of them are brand-new moms (note to self: don't drink the water). With each opened gift, someone extols the virtues of that latest gadget or gizmo, and how it revolutionized her momhood experience. When they begin discussing breast-feeding in graphic detail, I excuse myself to get some cake in the next room.
3:24pm Karen's house. I watch one of the babies sleeping and feel that pang I get on occasion. A novel I once read comes to mind, where the main character compares her eggs to gumballs in a machine, getting doled out one by one until they're gone. I've never had a huge maternal urge, but standing here amidst so much estrogen and so many little darlings, I suddenly feel like a desperate, penniless kid with my nose pressed against the side of that gumball machine, begging the few remaining treats within to hold out until I have the needed "currency."
8:00pm Margaret's apartment. I'm curled up on Margaret's couch for our usual Sunday night gathering of church women to watch Alias. I'm wearing my pj bottoms with a sweatshirt, loving our special time to hang with "the girls." We mock the unbelieveability of the show during the commercials, sigh at the romantic sub-plot, and eat way too many munchies throughout. A few stick around to watch Trading Spaces afterward, and I leave with a warm glow of connecting with others at the weekend's end.
7:10am My bathroom. I'm staring at my face in the mirror, a risky endeavor pre-coffee. I'm a sight to behold—puffy allergy-affected eyes, inexplicable acne that's recently taken over my face, grey hairs multiplying before my barely-open eyes. It's like my head can't decide if I'm 15 or 50. Would someone really be able to face this face every morning, for the rest of his life?
5:35pm My living room. While checking e-mail, I wonder if I should e-mail Mr. Church Crush to let him know it was nice chatting with him yesterday. Is that too forward? What if I wind up not liking him, would that then be falsely leading him on? I wish he'd e-mail me, or call me. Guys still do that, don't they?
9:50pm My apartment. Returning home after a vulnerable, affirming, and fun evening at Bible study with three single women I met at church, my place somehow seems extra empty and quiet.
7:00am Bed. Okay, if I don't shave my legs this morning, I can eke out ten more minutes of sleep. So glad no one will notice the extra "fuzz."
2:00pm My office. A 20something from another department stops by to say hello, and sits in my "guest" chair. We talk about the tumultuous ride that is the 20s. He's trying to decide whether to keep living at home or move out. I offer my best advice from a few steps further down life's road and wonder how I got to be on this side of the conversation. When I first started working here, I was the one in that chair asking the older, wiser 30somethings for help in navigating tricky life decisions. When did I graduate to this chair? I hear myself say a few wise tid-bits and feel a smile spread across my face when he leaves. The view from here is kind of nice.
5:50pm My living room. Checking e-mail, I wonder again if I should jot my Church Crush a quick, breezy e-mail. Is that too forward? Desperate? Ack. I feel 16, and not the good kind of 16. I give up and decide to see how next Sunday goes.
9:00pm My car. On the way home from the English as a Second Language class I volunteer with, I drop off Ester, a small black whisper of a human being from Liberia. She's soft-spoken but slyly funny. As we pass huge houses, she tells me about her grown children still in Liberia whom she desperately wants to bring to the U.S. Their life is difficult and slightly dangerous, and she misses them. But the move is costly and involves so much red tape. She asks me to pray for her, to get my Bible study to pray for her. I assure her I will. As I watch her walk up to the second-floor apartment she shares with her son and granddaughter, I suddenly want to give her all the money I have. Driving home, I thank God for my eight-year-old car and solo one-bedroom apartment.
12:30pm The stairwell of my apartment building. Carrying bags up the stairs to my third-floor apartment, I imagine a funny voice in my head: "That's right, ladies and gentleman, she's going for the World Record in the grocery bag sprint, the plastic division. She's got four on each arm, wait, no, I see another—five on her right arm! Can you believe it? Let's hope she holds up during the key fumble at the door."
12:36pm The stairwell of my apartment building. While carrying load number two up the stairs, my arms are literally quivering. Note to self: Stop drinking milk. It's just too heavy. My mind flashes back to grocery trips of yore, when my mom, whose bad back prevents her from lifting very much, was always on door duty while my dad carried the bags from their car to the kitchen. Why didn't my parents warn me life included so much schlepping?
7:40pm Skye and Amanda's house. It's an informal "reunion night" with some former church committee members. We all served on a team recently and had such a good time together, we can't stop gathering just to enjoy each other's company. It's two married couples and three single chicks, and the two married guys are smoking us in a heated game of Apples to Apples. Between rounds and laughter and occasional interruptions from one couple's sweet seven-year-old son, we catch up on each other's lives. One of the single girls is newly dating, and casually mentions a guy she went out with several times over the past summer before her current relationship blossomed. And the other guy who took her on a dream date in a plane. I'm so happy for her, but my inner killjoy is nagging me. It's one thing if none of us are dating, but how did she get directions to Datesville? And how come they won't let me visit?
10:14pm My car. Driving home I get into one of those spiraling Singleness Stinks funks. I remind God that my last date was a year ago and that the guy introduced me to his friends by the wrong name … twice. When I come up for air in my tirade, I have a lucid moment and remind myself that relationships don't equal worth, that God's still somehow in control, that these are petty feelings I'm whining about. So I heap guilt on top of my emotional pile-up. I finally have to laugh out loud when I hear myself say, "I couldn't get a guy to notice me if I cut off my right arm. I mean, eventually some relatively observant chap would say, 'Hey, where's all this blood coming from?' But by then I'd be dead. And it's so much harder to date when you're dead." I go home and read Psalm 30, one I turn to often in such moments of melodrama, to fill my head with needed truth and perspective before falling asleep.
8:25am My apartment. While dashing out the door to work, I take one glance over my shoulder and see that my hairdryer's lying in the middle of my hallway and the two outfits I vetoed before settling on my current ensemble are hanging from various doorknobs. Could I really take care of other people? I wonder, grabbing some instant oatmeal for breakfast and fumbling with my keys before making my graceless exit.
10:18pm My kitchen. I'm in mis-matched sweats at my kitchen sink. It was a productive day at work, and I came home and worked out, made dinner, paid bills, and did some freelance work at a nearby coffee shop. I feel independent and strong. Now, because I've run out of clean spoons, I'm washing dishes while listening to a Christian CD. "One Girl Revolution," a sort-of God-centered girl-power song, comes on and I can't help but groove along. Before I know it, I'm singing along in my scrubby-brush microphone. I am a one-girl revolution, up to my elbows in lemony suds and kooky confidence.
6:30am Bed. The electric blanket is mine, all minnnnn …
12:40pm My living room. I've run home to make and eat lunch while watching silly daytime television. A commercial comes on for the reality TV show du jour. They show clips from an upcoming episode, which includes four women in bikinis heading to the inevitable hot tub rendezvous. Right, because we all know that singleness is just one big romp in a hot tub. I roll my eyes and change the channel.
6:16pm My living room. The phone rings and it's my friend Kathryn. She's been downtown all day for a work conference and is wondering if I'm free to join her for dinner. "Take the train," she tells me, knowing rush hour traffic will take longer than our appetites will allow. The next one is at 6:27. I look at my watch, at my cargo-panted self, and at the train station a block and a half away, which I can barely spy through my living room window. It will take a miracle, I think, before sprinting to my closet for dressier duds. I'm a changing fiend, slipping into flirty heels and my sassy coat simultaneously before charging out the door and down two flights of stairs. I'm running down the sidewalk and trying to talk with Kathryn on my cell phone between gasps for air. I'm barely across the tracks when the dinging starts. I can hear the train and I'm a half block away. Strangers are laughing, I'm laughing, and clomp up to the platform as the train's doors slide open. I cooly glide down the aisle and take an empty seat, trying to hide my deep breathing. My feet are throbbing, but I'm smiling. I'm single. I'm spontaneous. Woo!
7:12pm Chicago. Kathryn pulls up to the curb in her sporty Jetta and we head to a chi-chi Italian restaurant on the north side. When we finally take our seats in the dimly-lit bistro, we notice a long table of high schoolers nearby. Homecoming! They're well-dressed and well-behaved. Half my age and on a date, I think in a moment of cynicism. Then Kathryn and I pick out our favorite of the girls' dresses until the waiter appears. When he does, we're speechless. He's HOT. After getting our drink orders, he glides away and I whisper, "The cute waiter gods are smiling on us tonight." We laugh and launch into the basket of bread. Oh yes, singleness has its perks.
8:00am Julie's house. A couple friends and I are carpooling to a mutual friend's wedding two hours away. There's another carload of friends we'll meet at the church. This is my first chance to meet Julie's new "man friend." When he arrives a few minutes after me, he shakes my hand and offers a quiet hello. He seems nice. We all pile into Julie's car and hit the road. I've brought the treats and Ruth, my backseat companion, has brought the tunes. After an appropriate amount of getting-to-know-you chit-chat, we finally pop in ABBA and sing along. We three women are in the middle of a dazzling rendition of "Dancing Queen" when I glance at the front seat and notice Julie's friend is stifling a chuckle. If he can survive two hours in the car with us, he's golden.
10:45am Church. We spy our friend Ray, the groom, greeting family and friends as they arrive. We each give him a big congratulatory hug. He's 38 and this is his first marriage. He's beaming. I love it—there is hope for later-in-life love. The ceremony is beautiful, thoughtful, sacred. Family members read Scripture; we all sing worship choruses. I blink back tears when they're finally pronounced husband and wife. Oh, I want this someday, Lord.
1:40pm Dos Amigos Restaurant. After a brief reception, our two car loads find a local restaurant for lunch. Sitting there with four single female friends I've hung out with, vacationed with, laughed and cried with over the past seven years, I smile. There are two additions to our crew. One husband, as of a month ago. And Julie's new beau. They blend in well. We talk and laugh as if they were always part of our crew. I watch Lisa's husband put his arm around the back of her chair, a move of familiarity and togetherness. I feel a momentary sadness, trying to remember the last time someone put his arm around me. But then laughter at the antics of one of Karen's junior high students snaps me back to the present merriment. I pause a moment to take in our crew and feel a swell of hope for the future, no matter what—or who—it brings into our lives. Soon after, we hop into our separate cars and head for home.