For some, Valentine’s Day is painful. While the lucky ones are receiving flowers, candy, and jewelry, others are left alone wondering if Cupid has lost their address and if they’ll ever find love. They see friends dating, getting engaged, married, and having babies, while they sit on the sidelines…alone.
I remember those times vividly.
Of course, when you’re single it seems like everyone has advice. If you’ll just do this or that, you’ll find “the one.” Advice is SO easy to give out and so hard to turn into reality.
Life as a spinster
Looking back now, I realize that I was younger than I thought I was. I was only 24, but I felt like an old maid straight out of Victorian times without a potential beau in sight. That was when I finally gave up. I’d accepted the fact that I’d be single for the rest of my life and decided that I might as well make my peace with it and carve out the best life I could on my own. Can’t you just hear the violins in the background? What is it about youth that makes everything so dramatic?
But I figured if I was going to live alone I should at least make the best of it. If I was fated to live the life of a spinster, I’d at least do it in a home that I decorated to my tastes. After all, no sense in being a spinster AND living in ugly surroundings.
So I ventured out to make my first purchases. The first thing I bought was a pair of end tables and a coffee table. Next came a pair of crystal lamps that I loved. And one weekend I found a curio cabinet that I fell in love with. I even had my eye on a couch that was going to be my next purchase once I’d saved the money.
Even a spinster needs a plan
I also went back to graduate school. After my first year of teaching, I moved back into the dorm I’d inhabited as an undergraduate and started working on my Master’s degree. I was still lonely, but at least I had a plan – and goals.
Summer came and went and I enrolled in the fall semester taking night classes. I lived 120 miles away from the college so those were some long days. But I had a particular class that I was enjoying. You see, there was this guy….
A spinster gets a suitor
Now I’m not a girl who is used to guys giving me attention…obviously (thus the perpetual single status!). But this particular guy walked in the first night of class and walked over to where I sat and asked if the seat next to me was taken. The room was mostly empty at this point because I’m a compulsive early bird and he had plenty of seats to choose from.
He introduced himself and asked if I had taken a particular statistics class during the summer (I had) because he thought he recognized me. He looked familiar and it wasn’t like I really needed all those empty desks around me anyway, so smiled and asked him to sit down.
Now let me interrupt this little scene here to state for the record that I am not one of those girls who is good at any kind of small talk. Even today I’d rather have my fingernails ripped out than have to make small talk about the weather with someone I don’t know well. Now if you want to discuss politics or something else of substance, count me in. But struggling to find something pleasant to say after that initial – and awkward – “hello, how are you?” is just not something I enjoy.
But something about this particular guy was different. Of course we immediately had in common the course we were about to take this particular fall semester. We could look over the syllabus and schedule and talk about what might be expected of us – sometimes it really does help to have a printed piece of paper to give you an agenda to discuss. And there was that statistics class that I’d struggled with (math isn’t my thing). I learned that he breezed right through that class while I’d resorted to hiring a tutor to help me.
Now with anyone else, I would have said everything I needed to say about those two topics in about five minutes and then I’d have been staring at the floor wondering what to say next. But like I said, something about this guy was different.
It didn’t hurt that I liked the way he resembled a lumberjack in his plaid flannel shirt. He had broad shoulders, dark hair and a beard and I thought he was pretty cute. And he smelled wonderful! To this day the scent of Old Spice still does something to me.
Of course, it wasn’t long before other students and then the professor walked in. It just so happened that it was the same professor we’d had for the statistics class so we quietened down. Halfway through the three-hour class we were given a short break to go to the restroom and get a drink from the vending machine down the hall. We strolled down the hall together and learned that we both preferred Coca Cola over the other choices. Imagine that! Now we have something else in common.
When class was over I had to make the 1 ½ hour drive home so we said our goodbyes and said we’d see each other next week. I can honestly say that I don’t remember much about the trip home, but I do remember counting the days till the next class session rolled around.
Wednesdays are WONDERFUL!
Wednesdays became my favorite day of the week. And with every week that went by, we were finding that we had more and more in common. We were also hanging around longer and longer after class was over at 9pm which meant that I was getting home later every week.
But I didn’t mind.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “My Fair Lady” and heard the song “I Could Have Danced All Night” then you understand that I wasn’t the least bit sleepy even thought the hour was growing late.
The spinster gets a proposal
However, it is hard to really get to know each other in such short bursts, so in mid-November, he asked me out on an official date. I guess that anyone would consider it a successful date because he asked me to marry him on that date.
I, of course, said yes. There wasn’t going to be any of that asking for my hand nonsense as far as I was concerned (although he did later ask my father if he could marry me). I was a big girl and I knew a good thing when I saw it.
So after what anyone would consider a whirlwind courtship, we were married six weeks after he proposed. I suspect there was probably some speculation as to whether or not I was pregnant (I wasn’t) to explain the rush. But my mother took the news like the trouper she was and we pulled together the loveliest little home wedding you can imagine. I’d always wanted to get married at my grandmother’s house, so we did.
It was beautiful. I had the long white dress. We had a pretty wedding cake that was chocolate on the inside because I hate white cake (and after all, it was MY wedding!), we had flowers and my grandmother pulled out all her lovely silver and crystal to set a beautiful serving table.
Some things I heard about love and marriage all my life
- “I’ve never believed in divorce. There were times, however, that I did believe in murder.” -Aunt Finnie
- “Don’t ever date some old boy you wouldn’t want to be married to. Because one thing is a certainty, you’ll marry someone you dated.” -Nana
- “I took one look at him and said to myself, “You’re in trouble now.” -Aunt Peggy
- “He happened to mention casually that he would never marry a woman who smoked. I went home that night and threw my cigarettes away.” -Aunt Linda
- “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one.” -my mother used to say that she’d always heard this but that it didn’t work for her.
The moral of the story
There has been other advice through the years. But the piece of advice that I remember most vividly is best illustrated by this true story.
After my summer school session was over and right before that fall semester was due to start, my parents and I made a weekend trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico. I remember sitting in the backseat, probably lamenting my single status. Very likely I made some comment about how lame it was that a 24-year old had no one to vacation with besides her parents. and that I seemed to be the sole member of the local Spinster Club. Whine, whine, whine.
And then my mother said to me, “You know, you never know what’s right around the corner. You could meet someone next week, fall in love, and be married by this time next year.”
I probably scoffed and I’m positive that I rolled my eyes. But she was right. That wedding took place 32 years ago and Valentine’s Day hasn’t been lonely since. No matter what your age or previous romantic status, my mom’s advice was accurate – you truly never know when the one you’ve been looking for might be waiting for you right around the corner.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking for love?