It occurred to me yesterday that I have now lived alone for more years consecutively than I have ever lived with a spouse or partner. A sobering thought in the midst of my current state of singleness.
With that realization comes the knowledge that, while I do want a relationship that blossoms into a life lived together (we all have to have dreams, right?) I also have reached a mature self-awareness of what that looks like for me with regards to who I am - and what this for now fictional person will need to be okay with. Because, you see, dear reader, the amount of *ucks that I have to give about trying to make myself into someone that another person likes has astronomically decreased in the last few years as I have lived alone. This may be solitude, or age related. Not sure and it’ doesn’t really matter why, it just is.
Many years ago, I watched a movie and it had a scene in it where the main character spent a morning making herself eggs to try to ascertain how she really liked her eggs cooked. This was after having had an epiphany that she ate her eggs cooked in whatever manner the person she was in a relationship with ate theirs. However the other person preferred their eggs, that was her favourite way too. The scene culminated with her realizing that she didn’t like eggs - no matter how they were cooked. Yet, for years, and countless relationships, she ate eggs and professed to like them exactly the same way that her partner did. I remember watching that scene and thinking how crazy she was. Why didn’t she just say she didn’t like eggs and have toast or oatmeal or pancakes while her partner had their eggs? Silly woman, I thought.
That scene came to me yesterday as I thought about how I, and I’m sure many of us (regardless of gender), have done some version of the same scenario in a relationship. For myself, it was never a direct, obvious choice to force myself to eat or do something that I disliked - or give up something that I liked, it was more of a subtle nuance of not wanting to make the other person change their preferences because, after all, it’s better to make myself comfortable than someone else (that one took a lot of therapy … but that’s for another blog). In the end, the result was the same for me as it was for egg lady.
I’m not necessarily talking about the big things. It’s the little things. The small bits of day to day life that we shift ever so slightly when we accommodate our lives to enmesh someone else into it. Which is, in itself, not a bad thing. That is, overall, what being in a close relationship is all about. You take the other person into consideration because that’s what you do when you love and care for someone, and that’s healthy and mature and honestly, a basic human thing (or it should be).
I’m also not talking about the often maligned experience of taking on your significant other's activities or hobbies. I’ve never understood when someone says “well, you never did that before and now you do” when talking about a new-to-me activity that was brought into my life by a partner. One of the amazing perks of meeting new people is being exposed to new things. Things that you may not have had the opportunity to encounter before. My life is richer and more varied because of the things I’ve been introduced to by other people, whether they be romantic partners or friends. After all, someone had to teach all of us how to read, for example. Before that, we didn’t know how to do it (or even that it was a “thing”) but it sure does expand a life to know how to.
What I’m getting at is the simple fact that I’ve learned that there is a distinct difference between expanding your life to include new things versus changing yourself to exclude parts of who you are or your likes.
So, in no particular order of importance, here is a list of things that I have grown to understand about who I am and how I will no longer lose myself in a relationship by losing them:
1. I have a preferred side of the bed to have my body occupy when I sleep. In too many relationships I have pretended that I don’t and I’m not going to do that anymore. This is the people pleasing part of me that has done this in the past. Pretending that I don’t have a preference when it’s sleepover time at my place. Part of me is astounded that the person who asks this either a) so self-absorbed that they don’t notice that ALL of my personal items are on one side table (book, lamp, phone charger etc.), or b) they notice, but that is THEIR preferred side and they don’t know how to deal with that so they passive aggressively ask - with the hope/expectation that I will say that it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not sure which is more annoying. If my preferred side is yours, let’s chat like adults and figure it out. At the end of the day, for me, it’s a preference, not a deal breaker for a good nights sleep. If it is for them, I’ll gladly give up my side but let’s have a discussion.
2. My body hair is mine and how I choose to maintain it is also solely my decision. I don’t shave my underarms and rarely shave my legs; you need to be okay with that because that is non-negotiable. It’s my body and I have to live in it and that is what works for me and makes me feel good. You are visiting it, be respectful of that. I won’t be making myself uncomfortable because you think it’s “gross” for women to have body hair in certain places - places that we ALL naturally grow hair. If you de-hair your entire self to the texture of a dolphin, that’s your choice and I’ll relish in it because that’s how you feel amazing. All I ask is the same level of acceptance from you.
3. I have food likes and dislikes. I will not spend however many years that I have left in this spinning orb of chaos not having feta in my omelette because you don’t like feta. I am more than happy to make you a feta free dish but rest assured, mine will have feta.
4. I pee with the door open. I promise to respect the “if the door is closed, do not open it” and if my open pee door icks you out, I will try to remember to close it out of consideration but this is a long ingrained habit, you may see something you don’t want to. Sorry, not sorry.
5. My body, like every human body, emits trapped air from time to time. I do try to be discreet but it is going to happen. I refuse to deny this or pretend that women don’t fart or burp. Get over it. To be brutally honest, I am actually quite proud of the burps that I can bring forth. Trust me, it’s impressive.
6. Family members of the fur variety do, and will, sleep on the bed. Also non-negotiable *note for awake time in bed of the naked and intimate variety. No animal viewers on the bed then.* If you are not willing to deal with odd sleeping leg positions to accommodate small furry creatures, then this is not going to work out.
7. I am not willing to be with someone who is closed to new experiences or to growing and changing. I am more than open to being exposed to new and previously unexplored experiences that a partner can bring into my life and it’s important to me that my person is as well. In fact, this is one of the grand perks, in my humble opinion, of having a partner. My years of enjoying new things have shown me that I don’t know what I don’t know and I am always better off for knowing new things. Those years have also shown me that it’s important to me that my partner has that same attitude and is open to me showing them previously unknown to them experiences. They don’t have to love the experiences - just as I don’t and may not - but they have to be open.
This is, I’m sure, not an exhaustive list of the wonders that are me but, like life, it’s a living document and as I age and grow (and get slightly more aware of who I am); I reserve the right to add or detract from it.
Thank you for indulging my little personal musing, now off you go to enjoy your eggs this morning - or not - it’s up to you ;).