On October 16, 2010, I got married. If life proceeded like a romantic comedy (or an eHarmony commercial), it would mean that I went from a desperately meager existence full of emptiness and longing to a sparkly gumdrop candy land where my husband and I danced around gazebos, gazing into each other’s eyes while The Turtles’ “So Happy Together” played in the background.
Or something like that.
It sounds silly, and vaguely sad, to “celebrate” single life, but this being National Unmarried & Single Americans Week, it bears repeating that being married or partnered isn’t better than being single. It’s just different. My husband and I didn’t ride off into a glorious sunset to eternal bliss; we returned to our home, legally bound to each other and having exchanged our single-self problems for a whole host of new married-person ones. And even though I don’t regret for a second my decision to abandon the single life, there are facets of singledom that I sincerely wish I could get back.
I miss doing what I want, when I want to do it.
Yes, being married means giving up complete and total autonomy. (Duh.) But most people only think about the big things you lose—the ability to date other people, or the ability to never have to spend a holiday away from your own parents. I don’t miss those things. What I miss is the ability to act on small, everyday whims. My husband counts on us eating together, so I can’t always join co-workers for spontaneous happy hours. I can’t rearrange the living room just because I feel like it. My schedule and life have to mesh with someone else’s now. No more last-minute changes.
I miss looking stupid in my own house.
If there’s one thing I can count on, it’s that whenever I put on a face mask, color my hair, use a wrinkle laser, or wear a bathing suit and Crocs to scrub the bathtub, my husband will make a smart-ass comment, then try to take a picture of me and post it to Facebook. Sometimes a girl just wants to waddle around while her self-tanner dries without enduring taunts. Is that so much to ask?
I miss my relationships with male friends.
When I got married, my relationships with male friends noticeably cooled. Is it weird for a single guy and married girl to hang out at a bar together? I didn’t think so, but apparently they do. It’s funny how often my male friends bring my husband up in conversation, as if to show me that they are respecting some sort of new boundary. And once you get married, you can forget about making new male friends. I met a pleasant guy at a networking event and we decided to meet up for cocktails, but when he found out I was married, he backed out because it was “too weird.”
I miss being allowed to dislike anyone I damn well want to.
As a human being, there are some people who just annoy me. As a wife, when these people are friends/co-workers/relatives/clients of my husband, I am contractually obligated to be friendly to them. I am contractually obligated to host them in our house, make them dinner, and laugh at their stupid, stupid jokes. It’s hard sometimes. I’m lucky that my in-laws and the vast majority of people in my husband’s life are lovely, but back when I was single, I could tell anyone who pissed me off exactly where they could stick it, and boy do I miss that.
I miss dictating the terms of my own career.
If I was a single woman, I could pursue my dream of traveling to Africa to write a book about child brides. Hell, I could just get any old job in any old city, and go there. But I’m married, and I have to think about things like what my husband would do if I had to live in Cameroon for a year. My husband’s job limits us to just a few major metropolitan areas, and since he makes more money than I do, the reality is that I have very little choice about where I live. Being the “trailing spouse” can be hard.
I don’t miss dating. I don’t miss the agony of breakups or finding a plus-one for weddings. And for the record, my husband doesn’t change his schedule at the last minute either, and he tolerates my weird friends just like I tolerate his. But there are definitely days, when I’m doing housework and picking up dirty socks off the floor that are definitely not mine, that I yearn for the days when I could wear sweatpants and paint my toenails and watch Top Model marathons in peace. My single life wasn’t perfect, but it was all mine.