I am becoming a Single Girl Stereotype, like something out of Central Casting. If we’re being generous, maybe I am Mary Richards for the New Millennium.
I made the Mary joke once at a party, and someone said: Mary Richards, who’s that?
Another partygoer, trying to be kind and ignore the fact that I was either much older than I looked, or I was a bit of an old soul, jumped in: No, you’re more like Carrie Bradshaw!
I replied: For a Sex and the City reference to be apt, there is a condition precedent which is lacking. Let’s stick with a show where I’ve at least seen every episode.
(I understand that the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” was groundbreaking because Mary was neither a divorcee nor a widow. I am, in contrast, divorced. However, since I am a single woman, living alone, I’m going to ignore the question of my marital status, and go with yesterday’s two out of three ain’t bad theory and carry on with this analogy.)
There was a New York Times article not long ago about the number of New Yorkers who live alone. The piece discussed how solo-dwellers become a bit odd, and, before you know it, you’re standing in the kitchen, buck naked, eating creamed corn straight from the can at 2:30am while talking to the flatware, simply because you can.
Is that going to be me? If you could see the things I wear (or don’t wear) at home, and if you could hear the conversations I have with the dog, you might start to wonder.
Living alone can be a rough go.
It is no secret that I’ve had a rough go of it lately — for reasons about which I’ve written, and some which I have not. But taking all of this into consideration — the things said and unsaid — I made a last-minute appointment with my rheumatologist yesterday to address these (among other) concerns.
I sat in his office.
I just don’t feel good. I can’t control my heart rate; I’m lightheaded; I’ve fainted a few times. I think I have cancer and kidney failure and my liver’s starting to go….
He pulled up my electronic chart. I’ve been his patient since I was 24 years old. He is the only man with whom I’ve ever been completely honest. He listened to me as I talked; as I sped through my ordinary and extraordinary concerns.
Is it possible, he asked, that you’re scared?
I mulled that for a moment.
I’m not saying that what happened in March and April wasn’t real — because it was. But is it possible that you’re frightened since this is the first time you’ve really felt less than perfect since you’ve been alone?
And is it also possible, he asked more pointedly, that you forgot to eat once or twice and that made you lightheaded and now you’re scared of that too?
Ah. He was delicately calling the relapse question.
And yes. It was possible.
I had emailed Tink a week or two ago on that point. I’d implied that it was as if the pressure built all year, and by Memorial Day, when I could take no more, everyone else in New York got relief by going Out East. Instead, I spent my summers in the City, “regaining control” by losing it; hanging out with my eating disorder.
She’d replied that she believed in me; that getting through the summer with out a relapse — which would be a first — should be my goal. Her message was so firm; so fair; so consistent.
My doctor and I looked at each other with an unspoken acknowledgment before he turned back to his computer. At that point, I realised he was googling something.
Are you googling something? I asked incredulously.
We both knew that there was still some of the springtime toxic medication circulating in my system. The only way to remove it was a special drug. In the event that I was still having some side effects, he wanted to take the offensive product out, but he was searching the dosage.
I could keep a bunch of dusty textbooks in my office, or I could search the product information and get the most up-to-date dosage. Which would you prefer?
We both laughed.
If I thought this was just in your head, I’d put my arm around your shoulders then send you on your way, the doc said as he went back to his googling, Still, don’t discount the power of a hug.
A friend had said just that the night before, as my frayed seams were coming undone and I’d sent out distress signals. Post sunny Sunday drinks on the deck of the Boathouse, I’d capsized in an eddy of self-doubt.
The captain of a shipwreck.
Did crashing, and questioning, and sickness, and relapse, and need, and want, and all of that make a woman less powerful; less attractive? Was that why, in wedding vows, they made you swear to all of that “richer/poorer/sickness/health” stuff?
I did not know.
The doc sent me on my way with a prescription and a squeeze on the shoulder; left me with just as many questions as he’d given me answers.
So I suppose it comes down to this: maybe Mary had it right — being alone is okay, though sometimes scary. Maybe I was missing the point of the show. And the doc reminded me that there will be bad moments. There will be creamed-corn-nights.
Still, I frequently must be reminded that I’m gonna make it after all.