yesterday, i was at brunch with my friend lisa, filling her in on the status of the apartment, complaining about all the red tape surrounding renovation, when she asked me a seemingly simple question.
“what made you decide to do this now?”
the implied subtext of the above, of course (whether she meant this or not), being “why do this now, when it’s just you, alone?” why not wait until i was married, or at least, in a serious relationship? that’s when most people make big real estate purchases, right?
there are a myriad of reasons why i bought the grand apartment now: i came into a small inheritance. my parents were willing to help me with a down payment. i finally admitted to myself that i wasn’t leaving new york anytime soon. i am lucky enough to have a good job where i make good money. i was sick of throwing thousands of dollars a year in rent down the drain. i wanted to own a piece of manhattan. i wanted an investment.
but the number one reason? in my heart of hearts, it’s very much connected to the “just you” subtext of lisa’s question.
see, i turned 30 about six months ago, and suffice it to say that relationship-wise, i’m not where i thought i’d be at this point in my life. all around me, people are getting engaged, getting married, settling down with the loves of their lives, even starting to pop out little humans. and then there’s me. still alone, still single, still unwed.
all throughout this process, i’ve had a certain sex and the city episode in the back of my mind. in it, miranda decides to set out on her own and buy a place. touring an apartment with a middle aged broker, miranda marvels at the pre-war charm.
“just you?” the broker asks her.
“just me,” miranda replies.
the broker proceeds to try and set miranda up with her (also single) son.
later on in the episode, when miranda applies for her mortgage, the broker asks her again, “just you?” he wrongly assumes the down payment is coming from her father (it’s not). begrudgingly, he tells her to check the “single woman” box.
now, this is television, not real life. i don’t recall checking any boxes marked “single woman” over the past few months, and i have completed mounds upon mounds of paperwork. but i’d be lying if i haven’t wondered, ever since i started this, if the men guiding me through this process have been biting their tongues, secretly asking themselves, “what’s wrong with her? why is she doing this alone?”
it’s like every time i take a step forward in this process, cartoon versions of the question pop up around me, clouding my vision. just you? just you? JUST YOU? really, it’s just you?
towards the end of the sex and the city episode i’m referencing, we see miranda, all moved in to her new apartment, surrounded by mounds of boxes. she feeds the cat, turns on some shitty television, and pops a bite of chinese takeout into her mouth. almost immediately, miranda starts choking on the food, and runs around the apartment, grasping her throat while the cat looks on.
her cat can’t help her. there’s no one there to help her. she is alone in the new apartment that she bought, just her. eventually, she runs into a cardboard box stomach first, performing her very own heimlich. the offending piece of food pops out, and miranda calls carrie, panicking. what if she dies alone? what if she dies alone, and when the paramedics come to find her, she’s been eating shitty chinese food, and the only one there is her cat?
i can’t lie. i’ve never choked on my chinese food, but i’ve spent many a night on my couch consuming it while watching endless episodes of law and order: svu with my cat by my side. and i’ve had that very same thought: what if i die here, alone, and there’s no one to find me but my cat, who, despite her undying love for me, will eventually be so overcome by hunger than she decides to eat the human who has loved and cared for her for the past 10 years.
i’m being overly dramatic, of course, but you catch my drift: it is a scary thing to be “just you” in the world. all around me, i see happiness, i see partnership, i see marriage, and babies, and people “moving on” with their lives and becoming real grownups. and then there’s me, moving on in so many ways but still so stagnant in this one department.
that’s why i bought this apartment. because no one can have it all, but i can have this – this one thing, this one place, this one corner of the universe that is mine, and mine alone – just me.
when i was home for july 4th, my parents told me they’d recently spoken with a financial planner. that planner had set aside a decent chunk of money for both my sister’s wedding, and my own. i can’t speak for my sister, but speaking for myself, the news crushed me. a tiny little bit of my heart snapped off and disappated into thin air. my parents, ever the optimists, planning for a wedding that may never come to fruition. my parents, seeing the good in me, believing that someday, someone else will see it too. my parents, planning for a future that could never come.
it hurt. because as much as i want marriage and kids and the white picket fence for myself, i really, really want it for them. i want them to live long enough to walk me down the aisle, two moms flanking their daughter. i want them to bounce baby grandchildren on either side of their hips, to hear them sing lullabies to my babies, to hear my mom say, just like my grandma did, “aw aw bay-by, aw aw bay-by” over and over until their tiny little eyes close and their breathing slows.
i want that so bad it hurts. some days, i wake up and i think, holy shit, i’m thirty fucking years old and i have nothing to show for it. and i just see myself as a ticking time bomb, like before i know it i’ll wake up and be 50 and my parents will be dead and gone and they’ll never have gotten the chance to see me twirl around in a white dress or waddle around as an enormous pregnant lady.
but those are the bad days. on the good days, i am able to remind myself of a few things:
first, just because i am alone now does not mean i will be alone forever.
second, there is no timeline. there are wants, there are wishes, but i am on no one’s track but my own.
third, alone does not have to mean lonely. because 99% of the time, i am NOT lonely. sure, i want someone to stand behind me while i flip pancakes on a sunday morning, but i do not lack for much in my life. i have incredible friends. i have an amazing family. i have a job i quite like, coworkers i adore. i have a city that is so alive it literally vibrates with energy at all hours of the day. i have oh so much to be thankful for.
at the top of that list? this little home i bought. the little home i am going to make my own. and on my good days, i’m not just not upset that it’s just me. i am really fucking PROUD that it’s just me. that i have this opportunity, that i took this opportunity, that i am doing this, really doing it, on my own.
I know this post is old (and so I hope you get notifications) but I’ve been reading back through your blog (which I hope you do continue to update – you have a great writing voice!) and I just want to give you a big, giant, high 5! I tread lightly with my advice but I have so many girlfriends who put their lives (and their happiness!) on hold for fear of being a “just me”. Although I’m married I always say – being single is not THE worst thing to be and this mad world doesn’t stop turning so just LIVE. Do the things you want to do and just LIVE – what will be, will be.
So – high 5. I loooove what you’ve done to your apartment, even if it’s just you 😉
C, i do indeed get notifications, and this was an especially nice one to have pop up in my inbox! thank you, for both your kind words and your inspired advice. it means more to me than you will know. sending you hugs from across the interwebs!