BY PATTY FROESE
S AN ADVENTIST SINGLE, THERE IS nothing I dread more than "the
update." You know what I'm talking about, don't you? Where you run into
a person you haven't seen in a few years, and in 20 words or less you have to
report your life. Getting the update is much easier: Ms. X got married last
fall. Mr. Y is getting married in the spring. Ms. Z is expecting a baby in March.
Lives can be summed up in a sentence, that is, unless you're single. When you're
single, you have to explain.
I feel a sense of obligation during an update. I feel the need
to mollify the person by throwing in some jokes. I laugh to fill the awkward
space after they ask if I've got a "special guy" in the works. I assure
them that I'm surviving just fine on my own and do not need to buy a pit bull
for safety's sake. I smooth it over. I've realized that the update isn't actually
about me; it's about them. They need to be relieved, and I want them to be at
ease. They avoid that feeling of panic that prays "God, don't let that
be me!" I represent the fear of being alone.
It makes me wonder . . . As an Adventist single, what am
I? Am I a problem? Do I need to be fixed up, hooked up, knot tied, and safely
deposited into a couple? Do I belong to a whole section of ministry because
I have a little secret? Am I a statistical issue to be solved?
The idea of being single is meshed together with the quest to
"find someone." Singles are introduced to each other so that they
can become a couple, get married, and no longer be considered solo. Being single
is a transitory state, or at least we hope it will be. Being single is the rented
apartment before you buy your first condo. It is the hand-me-down furniture
before you buy a "real" couch. Even singles don't think about remaining
this way indefinitely. Even the most stubborn of us has a secret dream of finding
love and security.
So why is the update so difficult? Why do I feel slightly embarrassed
when I talk to my newly married friend? Why do I feel that if I don't have a
husband to present to the scene, I should at least have a boyfriend? Why do
I feel the uncontrollable urge to soften my single status? Why do I feel that
I'm worth just a little bit less if I'm not married?
Seeing someone living alone, without the prospect of marriage
in the immediate future, is uncomfortable for a lot of people. However, I'm
equally uncomfortable. I want to smooth over the awkward moment. I don't want
the other person to see when I'm lonely. I don't want to show weakness.
But is being a part of a couple a sign of strength? There certainly
is safety in numbers. But it isn't strength that I'm trying to present. It's
value. I want to show that I'm worth something. And without a buyer, where is
the proof of my worth?
I am an Adventist single. I cook for one. I shop in single portions.
I have no one to apologize to if I come home late. I don't need to take anyone
else into consideration when I make decisions. I don't belong to a "we."
When I evaluate myself, I do not have the buffer of another person. I don't
have the look of love in another person's eyes to tell me that I have worth.
I simply look at the bare honest self that stares back from
the mirror. I see me, and I must decide if I like what I see. Other people cannot
see a couple either. They cannot see the implications of "happiness"
in me: She must be happy because she is married. He must be fulfilled with
a wife like that. Instead, there is simply me. Are you happy? Are you
It's OK that I'm single. I'm happy with my family, with my friends,
with the people who make up my support network. I'm fulfilled moving toward
my ambitions. I love to go for a walk on a Sunday morning and buy six eggs and
a carton of frozen berries for my weekend French toast breakfast. I look forward
to curling up in my big red chair with my laptop computer and a big pot of tea
on the floor. I like to walk in the evening. I have time away from my phone
and television--time to walk and pray and feel connected with God after a busy
day. I like who I am and who I'm becoming. I'm single now, and perhaps I'll
be single for a while down the road, but that's OK.
You don't have to worry about me. I'm single, but I'm never
alone. God has big plans for me in His own time.
I'm unmarried. I shop for single portions. I'm not part of a
united front, and "we" don't have plans for the holidays. Without
a buyer, where is the proof of my worth?
I don't need one.
Patty Froese writes from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.