The summer before my junior year of college, I worked at a family-owned business that sold paint, spas, and above ground pools. Strange combination, I know. The owner of the store and I got along well: he was a good boss, he and his wife paid well, and sometimes he shared a beer or two in the back with his employees after closing. It was a great summer job. But it, like my then-single situation, wasn’t to last. My boss, for one, was determined to change the latter. He told me once that I was “too great a person to be alone.” He then advocated that, if I wasn’t finding men to date in my classes at school, I should look elsewhere. I pointed out that the bar scene was not really my thing. He asked “don’t you buy food? There are men at the grocery store. Don’t you do laundry? There are men at laundrymats!” I noted, always the pragmatist, that with laundry machines in my garage, I wasn’t about to sacrifice my quarters just to find a boyfriend. I would rather save them for a soda machine. Quarters, that is, not a boyfriend.
But his comments made me think. Yes, I was single. Yes, admittedly, I was lonely. But why did being a great person mean I ought to be half of a couple? Couldn’t I be just as great being just me? And why is it “just” me?
Why not – me – ?
That fall, I met the man who became my husband. And I have to admit, I can’t imagine being alone again. I love our partnership. I would feel lost without him. But that’s because we’ve grown together and learned to rely on each other in a way that makes both of us more, not collapses us into co-dependent halves. I accept, but do not love, when people ask me where my “other half” is. I love living with, spending time with, and traveling with this man, but that doesn’t mean I have to be with him constantly, and his is not the only relationship I feel desirous of cultivating. As society would see me, I’m ridiculously heteronormative. And that makes me fit in perfectly. Because society demands perfectly paired coupledom. And though I recognize that this is not the only state of being in which individual human beings can be content, it is the most accepted, the most belabored, and the most advertised. And I think this is a problematic, stagnant way of thought that stigmatizes and discriminates. It’s a too-expected, too-relied upon binary we need to break. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite being in a happy relationship saying coupledom is a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just not the only thing.