There I was, wheeling my shopping cart around the crowded store: an obstacle course of families and their squealing children playing hide-and-seek. Foot traffic pushed me into the literature section, and I found myself confronted by pink and turquoise books all hailing the life of the single woman.
The aisle was crammed with titles that boasted "Single and Loving It: Living Life to the Fullest," and "Better Single Than Sorry: A No-Regrets Guide to Loving Yourself and Never Settling." But as I wandered down the aisle, I noted the books began to take a defeated turn, with titles such as "The Surrendered Single: A Practical Guide to Attracting and Marrying the Man Who's Right for You," and "Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice."
I've noticed that as there is a steady trend of women stepping into more powerful career roles, there also seems to be a spike in the number of single women. From personal experience, I would imagine that the abundance of unattached women most likely stems from their new status as powerful members of society: liberated from their previous role as a docile mate in patriarchal household, they have a means for supporting themselves and consequently the option to be more selective about their mates.
Women no longer have to depend on the income of a man to keep food on their table and shelter over their heads. Of course, there is also the theory that powerful women intimidate most men, but I'd rather give men the benefit of the doubt here.
I, for one, always dreamed of being an assertive career woman. As a child, I would often set up my bedroom as an office and pretend I was the boss of some obscure company. I made imaginary phone calls to my subordinate employees, often yelling at them for not getting the job done right. As a little girl I was shy and non-confrontational, but I knew that one day I would grow up to be a powerful woman, and people would listen to me and dammit, obey me!
Well that day has come, and as these books seem to predict, so has a long spell of single-hood. Work has become my love, my obsession and my first priority. Who has time for a boyfriend? Who has time to date when I work late almost every day and check my email first thing in the early morning hours? I briefly dated a young man who had no job, and his persistent desire to spend more time with me interfered with my busy schedule. He didn't last long, needless to say.
Not only have I been single for about 80 percent of my life, I have also lived alone for most of my adulthood. In the absence of a "man about the house," I have learned how to fix toilets, replace the large bottle in the water cooler, and repair broken sprinklers (OK maybe that last one is a lie, but I'm sure I could if I actually tried). I sleep with a large hunting knife beside my bed, and in those moments of paranoia when I think there is an intruder in my house, I pick up a baseball bat and check every room and every closet by myself.
But the absence of a man in my life was sorely felt when I discovered I had rats. I hate killing animals, but I didn't see any way out of this except to exterminate the rodents before they grew into a happy family and threw parties in my walls late at night. I bought the standard spring traps, and went about setting them where evidence showed the pests had been. The trap kept going off as I tried to put it in its place, and I was petrified at the possibility of losing my fingers. After several close calls and high-pitched girly shrieks, the peanut butter from the bait pedal had been sprayed all over my face and in my hair. When I looked in the mirror as I washed my hands, I noticed one long string of peanut butter hanging off my nose. It waved back and forth like a white flag, announcing my surrender: I give up — I really do need a boyfriend to do this kind of dirty work for me.
A close friend of mine has also had her issues with men, though as a successful model, she's a default man magnet. She runs a website that is highly lucrative, she's smart, she's kind and she's a fantastic cook. What is the point of all this success, she laments, if at the end of the day she ends up alone and facing her 30s with no prospect of the husband and children that she so desperately desires? I share in her sentiment, and I know many of other women who do as well. Money, fame, success … what does any of it really mean if you can't share your good fortune with someone?
In my head I have this image of myself, many years from now, sitting on top of a pile of gold — alone. I think at some point material things become just that: things. Things don't snuggle with you on the couch, things don't buy you roses and things don't tell you that they love you.
So is it possible to have it all? Is it possible to make the kind of money that buys you nice things, and be someone lucky enough to find real and everlasting love? I certainly hope so, because if not, I'm just going to buy a lot more things. And one of them will probably be a vibrator. Do you think Target sells those?