Last night, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I made a list of all the men in my life, going all the way back to my first boyfriend at age 15, the Catholic one up the street who set me on fire. That fire was promptly extinguished when my fanatical Pentecostal father told his Catholic father in no uncertain terms that I could not date a Catholic. My old dad confessed his part in this out of the blue a few years ago, adding remorsefully, “I should have let you go out with that young man. He was much better than the ones that came afterwards.”
It’s a long list—almost 50 years’ worth of relationships, including my first marriage at age 18 followed by two more . . . all the living-together arrangements—an endless stream of boyfriends, one after the other, with no real alone space in between. It’s total poetic justice that, after all that obsessing, the shocks, the crying, the heartbreak, the horrible suffering, after all the years of marriage counseling, couple retreats, untold books on relationship as a spiritual path, after all that incredible agony and awesome ecstasy, that I should now find myself not applying the wisdom I’ve gained to a relationship but to finally standing psychologically solid on my own two feet.
I sit here in my kitchen, sunlight streaming through the sliding glass door, ignoring yesterday’s dirty dishes, reveling in being alone. The writer in me remembers the thrill of hearing a delivery boy knock on the door to hand me a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a glass vase or pretty wicker basket, always with a festive ribbon and a little white envelope with a sweet message inside. Then later getting picked up in a red convertible and driving off full of hope and anticipation with a handsome-devil boyfriend, going off for the weekend to a romantic bed and breakfast . . .
I feel no need to burn the journals where I scribbled furiously in my efforts to make sense of it all. Once in a while I look at the love letters, photo albums, and romantic cards I’ve saved through the years . . . all these material reminders of past Valentine’s Days. If I had not had all these experiences, would I be this content alone? Everything that ever happened was a hard-won lesson on the road to peaceful singledom.