When making plans for the holidays, I was down in the dumps. I was still mending after my break up and knew I needed to get out of cold NYC and have something to look forward to. Last year, I celebrated my first Christmas at my ex cub’s home in the South. It was my first taste of what Christmas feels like, which having been raised in a Jewish household, I had never experienced before. Looking back, it planted that seed of yearning for cozy family and companionship that I had always imagined this time of year sowed. But now I knew for sure.
There was no way I was going to stay in the city, single and roaming. Two years ago, I took the week off for precious book writing time, and cherished it. But this year, my book is finished – at least for now - so that wasn’t a focus either. No one likes to feel unmoored, especially when the New Year beckons.
So I decided to go to South Beach for some sun and solo time. Traveling alone has become a salve for my soul since my divorce, and has always managed to stoke my writing fire, be it chapters, essays, or ideas for a different novel. At least that was my plan.
So I booked myself four nights at an affordable boutique hotel, figuring that was all I needed. It didn’t have a bar, or a pool, but a trusted friend recommended it for some peace and quiet, and it sounded perfect to me.
And then I told my parents.
My father turned to me and said, “How cheap is this hotel you’re staying at?”
“What does it matter, Dad? It’s what I can afford.”
“What if money was no object? Would you stay at a nice place, a real hotel? Where you could find a husband?”
His question can be interpreted several different ways. You could say my parents really really want me to settle down, at all costs, even if I’m not even sure myself. And that it only adds to the pressure.
But you could also say that they want me to be happy. And that they were also taking cues from me – when I was depressed and stuck, having lost a guy I had been (mistakenly) building a future with.
My mother jumped into action. My sisters always said she would make a great travel agent. For someone unversed in the ways of Google, somehow my mother was able to forward me hotel deals from five different discounted travel sites. In the end, she called her travel agent, a “very with it gay man” (her words), who got me a deal at a swank hotel on South Beach. A Hanukah present. Probably my first real one (when I was little, it was socks, shirts at The Gap, and once, really awesome roller-skates).
That was four weeks ago. When I told my friends this story, they laughed and thought it was so sweet. I do have wonderful parents. The caveat being, I said (half joking), is that I better come back from Florida with a potential husband.
Or I’ll have to make one up.
Since then, I managed to emerge from my post break up haze. The holiday parties helped; social opportunities, new contacts, and some friends work parties too, where I met a guy.
I’m not going to talk about said guy here, for lots of reasons, but mostly because he is not my boyfriend, and I have no idea if he will be. But unexpectedly, at a party I almost didn’t go to, I connected with someone with whom thus far, our dynamic has been effortless. You know that feeling, when you’re getting to know someone, but in the process you don’t even realize that you are? After just a few dates, you feel like you’ve always known them?
So I got to South Beach today. A few of my friends are in town too, all in their twenties. They go out at 11pm and stay out til dawn. They told me I better get with it and join. They’re singing “The Cougel needs some fun The Cougel needs to hook up with boys” song. I was singing it too – when I booked my trip. So when I hesitated, and said to my friend, “Well, I don’t know. I mean, its not that I wouldn’t be open, but I don’t feel eager to. Suddenly, I don’t really care.”
Because I realized, as soon as I left this morning, that here I am, receiving texts (and phone calls! Imagine that?) from the nice guy - from the moment he left to visit his family - and headily sending texts back. I don’t wait an hour to respond, I don’t even think about waiting. Is it getting in the way of my plan? Of my parents' plan? Of course, it shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It supports my theory that we can never plan for how we are going to feel a month in advance, or even a few days. We just have to adapt to the changes.
But my friends say, “Cougel, you’re single. You can do whatever you want. You should have fun. Keep your options open.”
It's true. Technically, I am undoubtedly still single. But how does feeling, and behavior factor in? What does being single really mean? Am I the kind of person that can act single, when I’m thinking about, or possibly on the verge of being with someone else? And if I do act single, and hook up with "whoever," will that get in the way?
What does “being single” actually look like?
I’m discovering that after all my running around post divorce - where dating or one night stands seemed second nature – that it’s possible, that now that I’m more settled and know what I want, that hooking up with guys that I don’t want to hang out in the future with, seems more than just pointless. It’s really not that much fun.
It made me wonder, is being single really just a state of mind?