I was sent the above quote the other morning and it gave me the feels. I’ve been contemplating what single means to me over the past few weeks and I realize I have deeply embedded negative connotations of the word. I’m sure growing up in a culture obsessed with tying value to women’s worth by her ability (or lack thereof) to attract and keep men has something to do with it. There’s almost something sad about the word single – by itself, detached, alone. When I tell well-meaning people that I’m single, more often than not, their immediate reaction is to start going through a mental catalog of potential mates. It’s as if my being single is something that needs to be corrected immediately. If I doth protest too much, I usually get a pained look and a soothing lecture about optimism, true love, and patience.
In the past, I thought of myself in relation to how I coped with my father’s abuse. Or how successful I was in relation to my peers. Or how desirable I was in relation to other Pakistani Muslim girls (and why, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand most of them). Or how desirable I was in relation to what Pakistani Muslim guys thought (and why, for the life of me, they couldn’t understand me). Or what I thought of myself in relation to the relationship I was in. There was always some outside metric, some extraneous measurement I used to determine my value.
And then all of that was gone. My parents divorced, I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t in a relationship, and there were only a few friends whose opinions I trusted and courted. Through an obsessive need to self-reflect, long drives, and even longer conversations, I realized I’m happier than I have been in years. And in the past year, I’ve realized my worth, my real worth, my worth as a meaningful contributing being in this world without any relation to anyone or anything else. It took me awhile to realize this mostly because I didn’t know what it felt like to be happy with myself. Just myself. No abusive fathers, no peer pressure, societal demands, job frustrations, relationship woes. Just me. By myself. And I realized something else. It’s so easy to make yourself happy because, more often than not, it’s a choice. The time it’s taken me to realize this frustrates me the most. For 26 years, I tortured myself with the idea that maybe I’m just not meant to ever be content because I just don’t know how. Or more truthfully, that I don’t deserve it.
And so when I say that I’m not looking and that I want to be alone for a while, it’s not because I’m jaded or bitter or feel unlovable. It’s because I feel the exact opposite. I feel purposeful and limitless and hell’s-fucking-yes-I’m-lovable. And so I’ll take my time walking through the jungle and if I find a worthy partner, in his own right, we’ll tie our trunks together and stroll. If not, I’ll just be one happy, super-fine, single elephant hanging out.**
* This is more of a paraphrase than a quote.
**All this elephant talk reminds me this scene from Disney’s The Jungle Book – Colonel Hathi’s March