I also wanted a father who wore a suit to the office and a mother who baked chocolate chip cookies from scratch. Just like the golden retriever, I never got these things and instead got a messier version of my ideal. I grew up the only child of a single mother and a “stepfather” who was not actually my stepfather at all, but my mother’s much older, nonconformist boyfriend who spent half the year on spiritual pilgrimages in India. When I was in junior high he was diagnosed with cancer and died at our house early on a Saturday morning. This, I thought in my fourteen-year-old logic, was extremely inconsiderate and typical of him. He would die on the weekend forcing me out of bed long before I was ready.
At age twenty-two, in an attempt to make amends with my messy childhood, I married my dependable, suit-wearing, golden retriever-loving college sweetheart. I was relieved. My life was finally evening out, cleaning up and taking shape to become much like the life of my dreams. I believed I would never again long for anything. I believed I would never again have a broken heart.
I learned, however, that marriage, just like the single life, is full of longing, and it is possible for a woman to have a broken heart even when she is sitting next to a man who loves her deeply and whom she loves just the same. When I was a wife I longed for the chance to be a single, for the opportunity to live alone, to date, to follow my own rhythm. I quickly understood what all those older women meant when they gasped upon seeing my engagement ring and declared, “You are too young to be married.” I understood what all those feminists of my mother’s generation meant by burning their bras and embracing birth control pills. In addition to fighting for equal opportunities and sexual liberation, they were fighting for a woman’s right to take a moment, free from the obligations of family, to find herself.
Two years after saying “I do,” I said “I don’t” and found myself standing alone in the center of an empty, basement studio, the only apartment I could afford with my starving artist salary. Excitement and fear overwhelmed me in equal parts. I was excited by the endless possibilities lying in front of me, but afraid of the vast uncertainty that seems a necessary companion of such infinite possibility.
Kiss Me, I’m Single: An Ode to the Solo Life grew from the stormy,excited-yet-fearful energy that has enveloped me in the years since my divorce. My goal with the book is simple: to help my readers, as well as myself, make sense of the constant, contradictory internal pulls that accompany human existence. I hope to be a voice of encouragement and support for those longing to build a life that defies category.
Amanda Ford is the author of the self -improvement/inspirational/memoir, Kiss Me, I’m Single: An Ode to the Solo Life. You can visit her website at www.oholive.com.