Like many people growing up in the 70’s I was indoctrinated from an early age. Once you stopped climbing trees and got interested in the opposite sex, then the path was pretty clear. School, college (maybe), a job (not a career), then the person of your dreams arrived, you got married, bought a house, had kids, etc etc. Happily ever after in a romantic script ‘The End’.
You knew there were such things as single people (“crazy Uncle Peter” or ‘scary lady who lives alone with a lot of cats’) and you knew that not everyone had kids (‘lovely couple (hushed tone) ‘but they can’t have kids’), but you didn’t ever expect that you’d be one of them. Those people were ‘different’.
Fast forward through twenty years of rom-coms and I’ve learned that single people are obsessed with their careers (and tend to wear killer suits while living in Manhattan, LA or SF), suffered the death of a spouse (for whom they pine, but get over with the assistance of the heroine), or are just plain losers (drunks, debauched, socially isolated or overweight are some of my favorites). Those without kids are selfish, career obsessed, health challenged or just haven’t gotten to minute 85 of the movie yet.
I know its just fantasy, but its a pretty drab future, especially if you’re not morning a dead spouse, you’re not a habitual drunk and your career doesn’t involve rushing around in cabs and wearing killer heels. The visible role model for a single women in her late 30s/early 40s who’s NOT solely motivated by her career, who’s not morning the death of anyone and who’s not living in her parents basement.. well .. they just don’t exist on screen.
In reality they’re also harder to spot. They’re not advertising their single status (no, ‘I’m single’ ring, or red heart flag parade), and they’re largely just going about their lives, working, socializing, exploring and occasionally loving in complete anonymity. They’re the spare at the Thanksgiving table, the extra seat at the dinner party or increasingly the 5 women meeting for happy hour, a meet up group or a writing seminar. Because it seems that single people, while they seem to be invisible, also seem to be highly engaged in life. Largely because they have to be (if they don’t want to be found dead, eaten by their cats at 80).But according to the smug marrieds and every TV/ movie, we don’t actually exist. And there doesn’t seem to be a plan laid out of us. What is our plan if it doesn’t involved a highly evolved career, a drinking problem or an accidental pregnancy (which amazingly takes us immediately into safe movie territory)?
I guess we’re making it up as we go along. Forming communities with shared interests, pursuing passions we discover at random regardless of age, indulging, supporting, contributing and sometimes just not acting our age. We might be invisible but we’re doing it -life- anyway. The plan gets made every single day.