I Admit It: I'm Lonely
What in the world is wrong with me?
I spot him as we both approach the coffee creamers at the back of the grocery store. Once I’m nearer to him, I glance at his hair, his eyes, and down to his left hand. There it is — a strong, manly, titanium wedding ring. Of course he’s married, I think; my silly fantasy is ruined just as quickly as it was born in my romantic mind. I had hoped he was, like me, uncoupled. Alone. Single. I looked at his ring finger more for a sense of comfort than anything else. I wanted to know that they (single men, who are about my age) are out there.
I wanted to know that although I don’t have a significant other, I am not alone. I immediately feel ashamed and embarrassed. Desperate even. I quickly grab the creamer, move my eyes to the floor, and then hurry away with my sugar-free, French vanilla creamer and that all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment.
I am not sure when this habit started, but I have noticed that this is something I do quite regularly. When I see a man who looks to be in his 40s or 50s (OK, sometimes I even do a visual relationship-status check on men in their 30s and 60s), I immediately look to see if he is married. I imagine it started when I saw an attractive man, but lately looks don’t even matter. I am now conditioned to immediately look at that left finger. I know it sounds (and looks) desperate. I often wonder when these men are going to notice the pace at which my eye moves from face to ring finger. They never seem to notice and that makes me giggle. It is as if they do not even know how desirable they are. Even if it is to a slightly desperate, middle-aged, single mom. Maybe they don’t notice because 99 percent of the men that I walk by in grocery stores (and other places) are indeed, married — probably happily married, too. They are at the store to pick up actual groceries, not lovers.
I can’t break this habit, either, which leaves me wondering: What in the world is wrong with me?
But here is the thing: Even if an attractive, friendly man walked by me and flaunted his ringless finger in my face, I would do the same thing I do when there is a ring on it — I would keep walking with my coffee creamer in hand. I just wouldn’t feel disappointed. I am not hoping to leave the grocery store with a phone number and a hot date for Friday night. I just want to know that I am not the only one who is 40-something and single. I want to know that finding my true love is within reach. Just knowing there are single men out there eases my loneliness, just a bit, as if to say, don’t worry — there are plenty of fish in the sea. But really, are there?
This little game I play has offered me more despair than hope, because — again, as I see it — most men in Suburbia, Conn., are married.
Am I lonely? Yes. Yes, I am. I hesitate to say that out loud. I feel embarrassed by it. But, yes, I am lonely. It must be my fault that I am lonely, after all, and so who am I to complain or daydream about a life less lonely? I could date online or join a bowling league or make some new really great, fantastic friends who would be better than a man, but I don’t do those things. While I have many valid reasons, there is something that still points to me as the sole reason for my loneliness. It is my fault. Strong women aren’t lonely. Good mothers aren’t lonely. Happy people are definitely not lonely. I don’t want to be lonely. So, I pretend I am not.
I hide my loneliness. I don’t talk about it. I want to appear OK. I have so many amazing things in my life, and I should be happy, fulfilled and content. I am far from alone. I have three beautiful, active, energetic children who brighten my life and keep me busier than I ever imagined possible. Being a mom fulfills me. I love it and I love who I am as a mother. I have an ex-husband who is my constant partner in parenting. We conquer parenting together, even though we are no longer a couple. And I do have a few great, unconditional-love-type girlfriends who lift me up when I am down. These women laugh with me and cry with me, and most importantly, they call me on my bulls***. They tell me when I am stuck in self-pity or when I am a taking all of the blessings in my life for granted. They share my sense of humor, and — like me — they are spiritually minded women who strive to live every day better than the last. And I’m pretty sure they will be around for just about forever. I am surely not alone, and I am blessed to have a village. How is it then that I am lonely? What is it that I am looking for?
I don’t know, but something is missing and I want to find it, and maybe that is OK. Maybe it is no one’s fault. Maybe I can just say, hey, world, I am lonely. I am wanting for things like a romantic dinner out or a dozen roses or someone to mow the damn lawn. Maybe I am not the only person who hates online dating, and maybe I am not the only mother in the entire world who is so freaking scared of dating that she avoids it altogether. And maybe, just maybe, I am not the only woman in the world who hides her loneliness — out of fear, shame or a feeling of responsibility to change it.
And so, I glance at men of all ages, sizes and shapes, and check to see if they are wearing a ring. It is just something I do. I have been doing it for a while and I don’t know how it started or how it will end. I think it is one of the many symptoms of being a middle-aged, single woman who hopes that one day in the near future, she will be going to the grocery store simply to pick up a few groceries and nothing else.