The theme of the upcoming Fourth of July Communications League for Unmarried Equality (CLUE) blogfest is independence and interdependence. I’d like to take a circuitous route on those topics, starting with ballet class.
I never intended to take ballet for twelve years. I’m not a natural talent, but I’ve gotten pretty good over time. I started it only because I wanted to get better at partner dancing. When the partner dancing scene played out for me in my mid-thirties, and I felt like I was sitting on the bench a little too much as people partnered off permanently, I became more involved with ballet. I never imagined I’d be taking advanced classes with well-known teachers in my forties.
Much of my life has played out along these same lines. I admit the independent route has not always been my first choice, but my life has certainly been rich from taking it. For example, during my first year in the workforce, nothing on the romantic front panned out for me, so I reconnected with an old dream of volunteering abroad and spent a year in Africa. A decade later, in my mid-thirties, when it felt like I was losing my social circle to marriage and children, I moved to Los Angeles, where I knew virtually no one, and started over again.
Thankfully, I had the spirit to substitute other dreams when the more conventional ones didn’t pan out. And in each new situation, I made connections outside of the nuclear family paradigm.
When I decided to leave Los Angeles this spring, my ballet teacher threw a goodbye dinner with some of the women from his earliest classes. Several of us were long-term singles, as was the teacher. We had taken his classes for years, back when they were small, and followed him from one studio to the next. We helped keep him going until he finally started his own studio, with great success.
Single people are often described as self-centered, but we don’t have to be Mother Teresa to prove that untrue. We simply need to leave the house and participate. By participating in artistic and cultural endeavors, I like to think that, in my own small way, I contribute to their existence. You can’t have a show without an audience, or a class without students, or a sporting activity without players. Simply by showing up, single and childless adults help keep the adult social world alive.
Why did I decide to leave L.A.? For most of my life, including my early years in L.A., I would argue with the premise that a person can’t survive as an island. I managed fine for two decades with the help of AAA, Chinese restaurants that deliver hot soup, and paid handymen of various stripes. Then I was struck with an autoimmune condition, and I had to reconsider that stance. For a few months there, I had trouble carrying out basic tasks. It got a girl to thinking.
I had friends in L.A., but they were spread as far as Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Manhattan Beach, Silver Lake, and Santa Monica. They weren’t exactly available in a pinch or for a cup of tea. They also tended to move away from L.A.
I started envisioning where I’d want to live as I grew older and decided to move back to my former city, where I had friends who were rooted and would be within a thirty-minute drive, at most. I also had family in the area, including a parent who was approaching eighty and might one day need help.
I’ve been in touch with a lot of former acquaintances since I’ve been back. A few single moms, a separated dad, a lifelong bachelor, a couple of ever-single women, and a married woman who may not be able to have children. Not so much the married with kids, but they are off my radar as much as I am off theirs.
I moved in a friend as a roommate, which may or may not work out, but it’s an experiment I wanted to try, as I may want to move into a communal house at some point when I get older.
I won’t lie; it can be a continual struggle to stay connected when you’re older and single. You have to be creative and resourceful and flexible and brave.
But then nobody said marriage was a walk in the park either.