I usually refrain from writing about personal things here. I save those for my personal blog. However, as any good Women's Studies student will tell you, sometimes the personal is political. So, on that note:
I have never really been single in my adult life. Since I was in high school I had a string of boyfriends that were pretty much one directly after the next. I spent the past five years in very serious relationships. (One for about two years, the other for about three years.) Anyway, I am single now... really, really single.... pretty much for the first time in my adult life. And I really don't like it.
Sparing you all the details of the heart-wrenchingly miserable break-up of a nearly three year partnership, I'll say that I am sure it has altered my perspective more than a little. But even granting that, I am facing a real ideological crisis here. The crisis of knowing that I should be okay enough with myself to be single while simultaneously dealing with a tremendous heartbreak.
Being raised in a nuclear family surrounded by nuclear families in the suburbs and being indoctrinated by the Catholic Church and American mass media has had plenty of influence on my idea of what adult life should be. But I always thought that my feminism could outweigh all of that. So why am I so uncomfortable and unhappy being single?
I have amazing, supportive friends and family, I live in a fabulous city full of opportunities, I have a job that I love, I am in a graduate program that suits me perfectly, I am passionate about school and my career, basically everything in my life is right on track. But since he left I have felt like I have nothing. I allowed a relationship to really define who I am and that is something that I swore would never happen to me. In fact, I have chastised friends for doing that very thing and have written about how relationships are socially constructed.
Still it happens so easily. Even though I know I don't want to have children and probably will not get married (at least not as long as it is a heterosexist, misogynistic institution designed to maintain women's subordinate social position), in many ways I bought right in to the ideal heteronormative, repressive relationship that I have been so quick to challenge. I feel like a bad feminist for buying in to those ideologies and yet I know that it is nearly impossible to not to be part of that system, at least to some degree.
Normally I wouldn't do this in a blog either, but I feel that Susan Bordo (whom I adore) says it so well in Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body.
"Feminist cultural criticism is not a blueprint for the conduct of personal life (or political action, for that matter) and does not empower (or require) individuals to 'rise above' their culture or to become martyrs to feminist ideals. It does not tell us what to do... whether to lose weight or not, wear makeup or not, lift weights or not. Its goal is edification and understanding, enhanced consciousness of the power, complexity, and systematic nature of culture, the interconnected webs of its functioning. It is up to the reader to decide how, when, and where (or whether) to put that understanding to further use, in the particular, complicated, and ever-changing context that is his or her life and no one else's" (30).
Susan Bordo alleviates some of the guilt. I know that feminism and romance are not inherently at odds but I also know that I bought too much into the ideal and am now suffering the consequences. Do people actually enjoy being single? Do I sound too much like Carrie Bradshaw?
And on that note I'll say, I am sure I am not the only one at home alone on this -20 degree night in Chicago but it sure feels like it.
Not totally unrelated: while I was writing this I was looking up some stuff on feminist relationships and though I didn't find much that related to what I am feeling right now, I discovered this fabulous blog and really felt the need to share. I have high hopes.