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My friend and I when we were 23. I'd just won First Place at the Austin Spam-a-Rama with my "Spam Wellington & Madera Sauce," original recipe borrowed from Julia Child. I served it on a silver platter & was dressed in a short, French maid's outfit with black fishnets and high heels. We're eating Spamoni Ice Cream, which won Second Place. Photo by my first husband.

The other day I had lunch with a dear friend I’ve known since college. He and my first husband and I travelled together on some of our Indiana Jones expeditions, digging for minerals and Mayan artifacts. He also knew—and disapproved of the boyfriend from Hell—but loved and respected my second husband. When I told my friend this was the first time—since I was 18—I don’t have a man in my life, he was surprised.

I think what surprised him most was that I wasn’t looking.

Even though I’ve always been a serial monogamist, I’ve never had long lulls between relationships. I’ve also never set out to meet anyone. It just happened. With each of my three, major relationships, we’d known one another before we started sleeping together… I almost said “dating,” but when you’ve known someone for awhile, you have a tendency to skip the “so where did you grow up” part.

From my friend’s perspective, I understand his surprise that I’m not in a relationship. The question he should have asked is “Why?” I’m not sure I even know the answer to that one.

I sometimes think I’ve had abandonment issues. My father, who died when I was 12, was emotionally unavailable. Perhaps I’ve been looking for a man who didn’t abandon me in some way. I’ve succeeded and failed—sometimes with the same man—but that no longer matters to me.

Maybe I’m content being alone because I don’t have the sexual urge that comes with estrogen. I had this conversation with my doctor, who suggested vaginal estrogen might give me the impetus to seek a relationship. Truth be told, I’m not sure I want a relationship. Besides, my breast cancer 12 years ago was estrogen positive, so I’m not willing to bet my life–on just any man–that estrogen won’t feed a random, stray cancer cell.

My first husband once told me when women reach a certain age, “they start cramming for their finals.” They latch on to anyone within arm’s reach. That’s been confirmed by many women I’ve known. Most, including my mother, married men they shouldn’t have married. Perhaps the idea of growing old without a mate—or financial security—made them say, “I do,” when they should have said, “This isn’t a smart decision.” I’d like to think our generation is not as financially dependent on a man, but I do understand wanting someone with whom you can share your life. It’s also been my experience that men of a certain age are also looking for a mate, but I think men are looking for someone to take care of them in their twilight years.

I’d also like to think I’m not looking for a man because I value myself more than I did when I was younger, plus I no longer have abandonment issues. That’s not to say if a smart, healthy, funny, adventurous, interesting-looking, nonsmoker, who’s not a bullshitter, or a player, comes along, I wouldn’t at least think about it.

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20 thoughts on “I’M WITHOUT A MAN IN MY LIFE”

  1. Cramming for finals is a funny concept and I totally saw it in my friends as they found themselves suddenly single. I can’t say for sure what I would do at 59, if I was single, but I am pretty confident I would not be looking for a man.

    • It’s a funny comment until you begin to realize the strong, smart women you’ve always admired are making bad, almost rushed, decisions to marry some guy… any guy, after not knowing him for long. When the women I knew started doing this, it was apparent “love” wasn’t a part of their conversations.

  2. Bravo, beautiful Brenda. It’s a place all women need to arrive at. What’s the old saying? Icing on the cake?

    • Yes, well tell that to my young friend who thinks I need to be out there, meeting men and signing up for a dating service!

  3. I can’t say what I would do, since I haven’t walked in your shoes…either with cancer or widowhood. But while I don’t think I’m defined by my relationship with my husband of 34 years, anymore than I’m defined by being a mom to 3 daughters, or my job…I am SHAPED by those things. Great post, Brenda!

    • Great point, Val. Makes me think of the term “nurture or nature.” Which contributes more to who we are? The people in our life play the starring role in who we are.

  4. Great photo! And lots of food for thought. After my boyfriend from Hell, I swore off men for good. I happened to meet my fiancé when I wasn’t looking, which seems like the only good way. I’m very happy partnered but if something happens to this one, I’m becoming a nun. xo

    • LOL! If “one” is prone to meet people when they’re not looking, then statistically, there should have been a whole herd of men on my path, but I haven’t even seen a stray calf.

  5. After 46 years with one man, if that changed for any reason, I would not look any further. Not because the one I have is all that, but because I don’t have enough energy to work at a relationship with anyone else.

    • That’s perhaps the most accurate statement about having a man in our lives at this age I’ve heard. I have a young friend who wants me to have a social life and meet someone. When I talk to him, like you and I are talking to one another, he thinks I’m jaded and set in my ways. Could be, but he’d never understand your comment…. I do!

  6. I think when you’ve been with a really good man it makes finding another one so much harder. I can’t imagine going through all the upheaval of internet dating etc if my husband is gone one day. I think I’ll settle into myself and live a calm and peaceful life – it has a strange appeal!

  7. One thing that skirting cancer taught me is how central joy is to our lives. If you meet someone that brings great joy, that is beautiful. There is also great joy in being self reliant and a free bird. The beauty of our age now is that we don’t need to be associated with a relationship to be happy. Focus on the joy and the rest will fall in place as it may. Xoxox

    • I learned the same thing when I had breast cancer! “Focus on the joy and the rest will fall in place as it may.” That needs to be needled pointed on a pillow! xoxox,

  8. You know, it’s a strange thing. I almost never have looked and they seem to always have found me. At the same time, this is it for me. I really doubt that I would be interested in doing it again if I survive M. I’d love to live in a woman-centric community (I’d choose the women, of course!) and enjoy my time alone. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Right now. 😉

    • I remember the first time I heard a friend say the same thing about a woman-centric community. It was 20 years ago, and I’d never thought about it, but it has a certain appeal.

  9. Congratulations – sounds to me like you’re in the best place you could be. Happy being alone and by yourself, yet open to someone if they decide to join you for the ride. And…..somehow……knowing you and how beautiful you are, I have a sneaky suspicion someone’s going to come along soon. xo

    • LOL! Thank you, Claudia, but unless I get my butt out the door, he’ll never find me! xoxox

  10. I have to think it’s not a bad thing to not be in a relationship. I think the important thing is to make yourself whole and happy before you can even think to be with someone else! But, the adage is usually true—it happens when you’re not looking!!

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