On Being Single, Southern, and Female
Until recently, I was unattached and belonged to what many consider that sad category—single at 50. We’re easy to find—single people. We lurk in the frozen food section of the grocery, purchasing pre-made meals from the deli and from the national chains. We go to movies, plays, and even concerts by ourselves; everyone assumes we’re lonely. Some people are, I’m sure, but many aren’t. We belong to groups, societies, and many associations. We also sometimes party like rock stars.
My life has changed in the last year. I’m in a relationship with a great guy, and we definitely party like rock stars. However, I’m still an individual who has her own interests, and I never felt like a lonely spinster. Even though I’m having a good time, I don’t “need” a man, but there are some people who act as if my only achievement in life is meeting someone. When was the last time I “needed” someone? I’ve always supported myself. At times, I supported my mother—especially when she was sick.
Still, some people in my life think my existence has been sad and lonely, and in the South, being unmarried at 50 is akin to some curse or death sentence. Southerners in particular love the idea of women being subject to men. At times, various men I’ve known have felt free to tell me what to do. Please understand that these are not individuals who provide me with anything, but if a woman is single, men, especially some Southern men, feel it is their right before God to tell a woman what to do. For example, some men I’ve encountered have lectured—yes, LECTURED—me on what to do with my mother’s property and even on where I should live. By the way, they have no legal claim on the property.
Some Southern men still want to control women—even years after the Feminist Revolution. (I apologize to those blokes from the South who are more liberal in their thinking. I know not all Southern men are not so backward.) This also has ticked me off because I’m very into minding my own business. I don’t tell my friends, family or associates what they should do—nor do I expect them to intrude on my life. Don’t get me wrong! I love to socialize with people, but I believe every person should make decisions for him or herself. At one point this “Budinskyyness” made me murderously angry. My mother was a true Southerner, and in many ways that’s good. (We say “sir” and ‘ma’am” and offer chairs to the old folks.) My mother was sweet and into keeping the peace. Maybe I should be more like her, but my tongue is sharp. I’m not by nature aggressive and was bullied as a kid, and I’m sick of taking crap from those people who have nor more education or advantage than I have.
I’m happy with my guy. He doesn’t subscribe to many of the bourgeois ideals linked to suburban America. Together, we laugh at the folly of suburbanites, and I no longer feel the urge to fight as much. I also understand my mother’s philosophy much better, and when I’m with certain people, I simply discuss the weather.