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Unconventionally Contented

January 10, 2016

Up until recently, I’ve been a pretty contented single woman, gracefully accepting (at times embracing) my aloneness. Even coming to terms with, what seemed at the time, a strong possibility that I will not have children (see Gateway Women). Though I didn’t suffer a brooding phase, I felt a woman without children is a big deal, and possibly even a bigger deal in developing regions like the Middle East, where a girl only becomes a woman once she is a mother, and a boy a man when fatherhood beckons. Before children, Marriage in Islam, and other monotheistic religions (Marriage in Christianity and Judaism), views a mate as a kind of completion of the self. I am somehow incomplete without my spouse.

Often, I found those around me struggling to accept my state of being more than I was, as if my contentment was a threat to a societal norm: a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, and all that! Unless those around me were chosen friends who were incredibly inspiring older women I look up to, and who have come to a realisation that convention need not be for all.

Besides, women who are not biological mothers, I’ve found to more readily take the role of Mother to those around them. Rather than focus attention on what I’ve sprouted, I attend to those I love and care for. This goes against another assumption that those without children or/ and partners are more selfish. To me, those without are more inclusive to those around them, whereas those with immediate responsibilities (understandably) prioritise their own.

I write this as I notice my former aloneness invited limited moments of loneliness, as I did exactly what I wanted, whether to make myself an omelette at midnight or hop on my bicycle at 4:30am to dance at a morning rave. Today, as a recently wed woman, I feel more susceptible to bouts of loneliness. This is partly because my partner is working abroad and I’m unable to join him until next month, and also because a life intended for two can be a lonelier place than an independent life open to one and all.

Conventionally, marriage implies being more settled somehow, whereas admittedly my experience of marriage so far has been anything but settling (with travel and a planned home move ahead!). And yet, the inner peace and settlement, which for me comes and goes, remains unsteady in a newly forming relationship. This invites vulnerability, which I’ve always struggled with, and I imagine many others used to an independent life.

Alone, I was able to fend for myself, knowing what I want and who I am. Today, the reality of who I am is reforming, remoulding to fit alongside my partner’s reality, who (in his own way) is going through a similar process. Admittedly, we both found comfort in returning to our old/ pre-marital routines, whether to grab a burrito for breakfast or vegging in front of the TV. At the same time, because I’m now married and meant to be one of two, I feel lonely when alone. As a contented single woman in my thirties, I felt more a like a fighter of convention or a butterfly fluttering to where I please. Today, well, I’m not sure yet.

So, to the unconventionally contented single women out there- my former self included!- I salute and honour you. And to the less contented single ladies, and gents, looking for their ‘other half’, then I promise you, the journey and struggles do not end with a loving partnership; it just broadens to embrace more of the Unknown. Celebrate your independence, freedom and world-facing openness, before your attention is channelled towards one other.

And if that ‘one other’ calls, and you feel the pangs of love in your soul, then embrace the vulnerability and loneliness as vital ingredients on the journey of coupledom, and I hope, transformation into something altogether different.

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