Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence

I don't think anyone knows what to do with single, childless adults. Even though there are, apparently, so many of us. We don't know what to do with ourselves sometimes, and we seem to defy convenient categorisation. Once, when I was 23, which was, er . . . a long time ago, I went to the wedding of an Indian friend of mine. Her young cousin who was 9 at the time (and now is probably the age of some of my colleagues) asked me, "Jennifer, are you married?"

"No," I said.

"Well, you'd better find someone fast," she admonished. "You're getting old."

You're telling me.

Lest you write this off as some sort of cultural tick, let me say that . . . it isn't. Really. How do you think about single adults in your deep dark head? This isn't so much an accusation as a question to ponder. I hypothesise that the older you get as a single adult--particularly a childless one, interestingly enough--the fewer people understand you, and the less they understand you, too. And let's face it. We are different. Single people don't generally act like married people--because we're not. For better or for worse (to borrow a phrase from . . . somewhere), we only have to be responsible for ourselves. (Stacey was talking about this recently.) And for some of us, that isn't enough motivation to be responsible. Either way, the single life is often difficult for other people to fathom. It's just that usually everyone is too tactful to admit it.

Today, after my opening shift at Starbucks, I spent a very nice afternoon at my friend Heather's. Heather and her husband have four children, ranging in age from four to nine. Just before dinner, I took the youngest (or maybe he took me) out of the kitchen to play. We were soon joined by his sister Hannah. At some point, I was told I was to big to play with a particular toy. Then Hannah looked at me quizzically.

"Are you a teenager?" she asked.

"No," I chuckled.

"Are you a grown-up?"

"Yes," I said.

"Are you a mommy?"

"No."

Hannah was looking more and more concerned. "Are you a grandma?" (Well, she is only five.)

"No!"

Both children were staring at me now. There was a moment of silence. "Are you a grown-up?" Hannah asked again, as if desperately hoping a beam of light would suddenly illuminate this situation.

"Yes," I responded simply.

"But what are you then?"

Hey. At least someone said it.

19 comments:

Cupppajojo said...

Ok, I have to admit something. When I read this, it was 10:30 pm, and I was winding down before I went to bed. When I finished: I couldn't stop laughing. I understood what you meant as you were expanding on your thought, but dear little Hannah...priceless.

Young Christian Woman said...

I am also a grownup and not a mommy, for what it's worth.

And sometimes it seems like there is precious little place for me, too. But then, if you go deep enough, everyone is probably unique in some way and doesn't quite fit into a box right.

The apostle Paul, of course, would have said that you are free to please God rather than a husband, and to focus all of your energy on glorifying Him.

Craver Vii said...

(laughing)
The things kids say!

This grownup who is also not a mommy has a deep desire to see the Body of Christ come together, functioning as a unit comprised of many members. I love to listen here and hope to see how to be a better brother.

Jenn said...

Jojo--have no fear of laughing. I thought it was hilarious myself.

YCW--you're absolutely right about the boxes. And Paul must be right about pleasing God . . . although I also think that you could make the same observation about parenting. Conversely, God instituted marriage and parenting, so one might posit that it is also possible to please Him (and be concerned about pleasing Him) in those states as well. It is, of course, not worth it for me to become bitter and angry about being single, but I don't think it's wrong for me to long to be married, either. Anyway, that isn't really what I was talking about. I was mostly just making a point about the part I as a person who happens to be single play (or don't play) in society. And Hannah's interrogation was too good not to write about.

Craver--oh right. You're not a mommy either. Anyway, I heartily endorse your hopes for the Body of Christ. Thanks for your openness, and willingness to listen.

Stacey said...

Yes, once again we exist on parrallel plains. Just today, my friend (who, incidently, was single for a long time herself and I've talked about men in her company - just as a pre-defense for her) said a silly thing in relation to my being single.

I was talking about my upcoming trip and how I shouldn't be spending the money to go. She said, "oh no, you have to, maybe there's a man there."

I laughed and said, "oh, shame on you, of course there's men there, but what does that have to do with me going on a trip?" (ok maybe I wasnt' that eloquent at the time, but...close).

It's funny how the assumption (even in my own head at times) is that the destination of any part of life should be a spouse.

I'm happy to say that my focus is not on finding a man at this moment. I'm finally learning that really life is and can be complete in any stage.

(so sorry for the enormously long comment - and thanks for the link).

Llama Momma said...

Ha! I love it!

One of my best friends in this world is a single woman, no kids, who just passed 50. At different times, she has expressed these same thoughts.

We say there is room for everyone in the Body of Christ, but do we mean it? Everyone? Single? Married w/o kids? Single parent? Divorced? Autistic? The list goes on.

We all need to make room for eachother at Christ's table.

And hey -- thanks for stopping by my blog and holding the door! I appreciate it. :-)

Scott said...

thanks for the blog on singleness and it resonates with me. kind of tough to fit in with the married crowd at church and to be around kids sometimes-even though I did "vacation" during evenings at VBS. How is that a vacation. more an oxymoron at best.

I expounded on the contrasts of singleness and marrieds hanging out over breakfast on my entry of JULY 16TH AT MY blog of www.scottrdavis.blogspot.com
check it out and let me know what you think. scott

A Musing Mom said...

I love how kids just put it out there. Funny story.

Glad you bring up the subject of singles in the Body. The small group I'm in has a good number of single women, one of whom is without kids and unattached romantically. And our group loves them (and vice versa). I guess that's what I enjoy about our group so much - the diversity. When we come together we're all Jesus lovers who happen to have different roles in life, but those roles are secondary.

I guess all that to say, I'm hopeful for singles in the Body. And I wish there were more in our local one because the ones we have are such a blessing!

Christianne said...

Loved your post, as usual. (And hey -- I love that I checked back here and got three new posts in a flash-bang-pow kind of way!)

The one I try on for size quite regularly is that of adult Christian married woman with no kids . . . and no plans to ever have one. That one brings that crickets to the conversation in a big way every time. People just don't know what to do with someone who is married and yet feels God has other plans in mind for her life than parenting. It's a strange category to be in, too.

Jenn said...

Stacey--are you sure you didn't mean "planes"? YOU are certainly in the Plains, but I, at least so far, still exist on the more rocky coast. ;) And yes. Good point about destinations. I tend to think like that myself . . . and resent anyone else who implies that I should.

LM--you're welcome! And thanks for making room.

Scott--I'll check out your post. I'm sure you do know what I'm talking about.

AMM--thanks for making room, too.

Christianne--yes, that's definitely true. I know plenty of couples without children (whether by choice or not) who would say the same thing. And I can certainly see it, though I can't, of course, speak to it by experience.

Stacey said...

Oops - how embarassing - you know I even thought that looked wrong at the time. How I would lock to see that rocky coast - mmmm, I can smell the salt in the air even now.

The Cubicle Reverend said...

A buddy of mine who has four kids and a wife said to me that I was lucky because I wasn't married and didn't have any kids. I could go and do whatever I want whenever I want and not have to answer to anyone. I don't have to deal with the drama or have to worr about raising kids.

True. I might not have to deal with those things, but there are a handful of things that as good as being single can be there are a few down sides as well:

Sure I have the ability to go and do whatever I want, but rarely have people to do it with since all my friends are married. So whenever something does come up I usually get, "Can't got to spend time with the wife and kids." Plus I miss out on the things like watching a child say his first word or taking his first steps. Plus I am afraid of being too old to enjoy having children. And it's hard to meet christian singles. either they are real young (18-21) or greatly older than I am (45-65) who were usually already married with kids at some point. I very rarely meet any christian singles.

Jenn said...

Stacey--any time! ;)

CubeRev--yeah, you know what I'm talkin' about. Not to mention, I think it's really sad when married people say single people are lucky for not having to answer to anyone. There is definitely something nice about that, but I don't know--marriage can be hard to come by, and I always feel bad for the spouse who's the implied "other half" in that comment.

Heather said...

It's rough, especially when everyone thinks that there is something wrong with the situation, and you don't know if the situation is wrong or right but it just is and you love it and hate it at the same time.

GreekGeek said...

amen, sister!

GreekGeek said...

oops, hit that "send" too soon. Meant to say "amen, sister!" and then add a comment that I tend to find people who say "you're lucky to still be single because you can still..." very patronising. There's a lot I love about my state, but would these people actually trade places with me? no. So don't give me that lucky business!
-content nonetheless in Scotland

Jenn said...

Heather--yes.

GreekGeek--EX-actly.

justme said...

Hi

I just love to read your blog and identify as a not so young single and childless against my will myself... I regularly get children to say things like that to me (both the 'hurry up" comment and the 'how could it be you are grown-up and not a mommy' one). Depending on my mood I feel like crying or laughing... I used to hate the patronizing comments people like to shower on 'us', like how lucky you are to be single and can do whatever you want. Who wants to do whatever he/she wants all the time? I for one am not even good in it, or let's say I don't have so many things I want. Everybody I know adds 'but I wouldn't want to do without my children' to the former statement, giving me the feeling the first part is completely disqualified by the second and actually they do pity rather than envy me. They just want me to feel better about my situation and see the good part of it. Which is why it is called patronizing. I have come to the conclusion everybody has to deal with his or her own pain and not try to 'educate' somebody else about their pain. Even if they think they are right. Pain is never arguable. And yes, I too think every trip could involve getting to know somebody (male and significant of course) but it usually doesn't. Which doesn't mean it never will or could:)
Thanks for writing what you think, I am blessed by it!

Jenn said...

Justme--you are so right about everyone having to work through their own pain, and, by implication, that no one can really know another's pain. On the other hand, I think there's something worthwhile about trying to "bear one another's burdens," however feebly we may end up doing it, and also in trying to express our pain as long as we're not destructive or endlessly whiny about it.

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