My house is pleasantly, uncomfortably, hysterically silent right now because my husband took our little crumb-dropper to the land of Nonni and Papa, the home of happy cows and homemade custard. I dropped the two of them at the airport, said my good-byes and my I'll-miss-yous and then tried not to squeal the tires on the asphalt as I drove off. My child had asked if I was going to cry, and I might have told her, “Yes, sweetheart, I'm going to cry a lot.” I might have genuinely thought I would cry at least a little. Or not.
Truth is, I have been looking forward to my five days as a bachelorette since the minute I convinced my husband that my presence on this trip was not a necessity.
“I vant to be alone,” I told him, in my best Greta Garbo impersonation. So here I sit, all alone, just the air conditioner and me. And my cocktail. And a large bag of Kettle Salt & Vinegar chips. And a Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkin for dessert.
Unlike the solitary Garbo—who never married or had kids, God love her—I have never been alone. Literally. Of all the things I've done in my life—the good, the bad, the ugly—of all the choices that have brought me to where I am right now, contemplating a McDonald's No. 3 Extra Value Meal with an orange soda, the only regret I have is this: I have never lived by myself.
It's difficult to write that because it's so jaw-droppingly wrong. It was a dreadful oversight on my part, a missed rite of passage. I get queasy when I think about it, which is how I know it's a Real Regret and not just a fleeting Dang It Why Didn't I Just Kiss Him regret. It's the kind of experiential omission that, when mentioned in conversation, causes people to gasp, their faces momentarily a horrified twist before they recover a nonjudgmental but stiff poker face. It's much the same reaction I had upon hearing of Michelle Duggar's 19th pregnancy. I mean, what are we? Living in 1890?
It happened without me realizing it. After high school, I moved in with my grandparents to save money and lived with them until my disregard for authority landed all my belongings and me on the front porch of their home, lock changed, lights out. Scrambling to keep my grades up in school, I crashed with a friend and her boyfriend at his mother's place. It was there that I understood, when the interference from my friend's boyfriend's mother's plug-in vibrator rendered the television unwatchable—again—why a woman needs to live alone at some point in her life. Or get battery-operated equipment.
Still. I was a coward. A braver girl would have taken that lesson and gotten her own place. But I didn't know that alone was OK. Free to Be You and Me was the soundtrack to my childhood and yet, I wasn't empowered enough to think I could make it on my own.
Instead, I opted for the safety of co-dependence. I moved in with my boyfriend and his ferret, a situation doomed the second I began to use a free perfume sample in the creature's cage to mask the gamey odor. To this day I cannot stomach Elizabeth Arden's Red Door or ferrets (though I'd take a ferret over a cat if forced to choose).
After The Big Ferret Fight of 1989, I lived with a string of more disgusting, mold-on-the-bathroom-tiles, this-is-my-food-this-is-yours roommates, my mother (a set-back, not a regret), another string of roommates and eventually the boyfriend who became my husband—the one who said, “That's cool, baby, be alone. But you gotta remember to feed the dog.”
At that, I sped out of Terminal 2 so excited to be free—free—that I ended up circling through a second time before finding my way home. I stripped off my clothes as I walked through the door and left them where they fell—along with the guilt that always dogs me—for an entire day. I poured a root beer over ice in a wine glass and slurped the foam. I settled in with a book. I looked at porn on the Internet from my perch on the couch. I took a nap in the middle of the day. I slept in, drank coffee and read The New York Times without 73 interruptions.
I went shopping for a new dress and didn't have to tell anyone where I was going or when I'd be back. I went out for a cocktail, alone, to a place of my choosing without debate or discussion, and I didn't need to arrange a sitter. Glory be.
Of course, mixed in with the hedonism, there was the required general maintenance of life. I washed dishes, took out the trash, swept all the floors, wiped down the counter tops, threw a load of laundry in the washing machine, fed the fish and, oh yeah, the dog! I walked and fed the dog. The bathroom needed scrubbing, so I got to that as well. Then I took a bath and read my New Yorker in silence.
I know now I could make it by myself if I had to, but I don't have to. Do I wish I would've lived alone for a period of time in my life? As my kid says to me: “Yessiree, Mama.” The regret remains. But this housekeeping business? It's exhausting when doing it solo. Having a team is key.
The downside to living alone made itself clear when I had not eaten a home-cooked meal in five days because I'm too damned lazy to cook for myself. Hungry for health food, in the silence of my tidy house, I missed the chaos.
OK, that's a lie. On Day 5, I was still reveling in my aloneness. But that's probably because I knew my peeps were coming home. And very late on that final night of freedom, I may have ordered Snuggies for the whole family to celebrate their return.
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