My house. Bring bubbles.
On a soggy Saturday this past September, I settled under the covered patio of Lost Dog Café with my longtime friend and former roommate. A quiet, steady rain fell around us, bathing the sandy streets of Folly Beach and cooling the coastal Atlantic air. We perched at a wrought-iron table while water dribbled over the awning and palmetto fronds flapped in the breeze.
Our lives have wandered everywhere it seems since the day Emily and I watched movers stuff our belongings into a semi for our big move from Annapolis, MD to Charleston, SC. Four years later, we no longer share that very first Lowcountry home on Dills Bluff Road, but we still reside as neighbors on the same beloved island just south of downtown Charleston. We’ve grown toward each other and grown elsewhere but no matter our direction, eventually we always end up back at the table– sharing meals or drinks and catching up on months and travels, found love and lost love, heartspace and headspace.
On this particular fall day, we sipped refill after refill of black coffee and filled in the gap of the last few months over eggs benedict and fat, buttery biscuits. We found ourselves abruptly in the middle of singleness again, each navigating lost relationships and a season of growth and uncertainty. For me, I was five months out from a wedding date that never happened, and six months from the day my ex-fiancé called off our three year relationship and our engagement. My engagement ring furrowed between folded blankets on the shelf of my walk-in, and my unused wedding dress took up space in the closet of Emily’s guest bedroom. I hadn’t laid eyes on either in months.
Over brunch, we cupped our coffee and stirred our forks and chewed over the recent lives of our friends and family – new marriages, pregnancy announcements, new babies. Emily mentioned she was flying to D.C. the following week for our friend’s baby shower. “You know,” she said, “I have no problem celebrating our friends and their milestones, but sometimes I want to throw a big party at my house. I want my friends to travel to see me, to celebrate with me. Just to celebrate. Because what do you celebrate when you are single…?”
Her question stuck to my guts long after brunch ended. What DO you celebrate when you are single?
I think the things worthy of celebration in my single life most often burrow and vanish under the cultural lie that my identity and significance reside within another human being. Other than birthdays, it seems like most festivities revolve around twosomes. Engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries, gender-reveal parties, baby showers, baby sprinkles, baby’s-first-poop blowouts.
So maybe the latter isn’t a thing. I hope not. I won’t be there.
I’m happy to celebrate these joyful seasons with my friends. But what if you’re single? What if marriage hasn’t happened yet? What if babies haven’t happened? What if marriage and babies never happen?
I know loads of really beautiful singles who contribute greatly to their communities, churches, workplaces and relationships. An English professor who mentors and encourages her students through college and beyond, into lives and callings and careers they love. A yoga enthusiast born with Achondroplasia, who endured four years of limb lengthening surgeries starting at the age of twelve, who now stands thirteen inches taller and encourages others to live and love fully despite discrimination. A veterinarian who owns her own practice, who fosters and tends to the sick and neglected and abandoned. An equity research analyst who puts in 15-hour days on Wall Street, travels the world for business meetings, and still makes time to visit with her friends, support them in their endeavors, and dance her butt off at concerts with her little sister.
So what does celebration look like for the unmarried and unattached?
In all honesty, I’m still pioneering the look of celebration in the midst of a hard, awkward season of healing. February 14th this year looked like a flat tire, a full day at work, and a cupcake and bottle of champagne for one at the end of the day. I struggle to keep myself afloat amidst tight paychecks and rent payments. Sometimes lunch or dinner looks like rice and chickpeas, or pretzels and salsa, or a can of spaghettios and meatballs from Walgreens. And the “maintenance required” light on my dashboard has been on for so long that I try to ignore what may be happening under my Toyota's hood.
But in the last year, I also started a new job, nested into a new community, and made my third mission to Uganda. I marched headlong into a writing career after a decade of running from it. I stood on top of the Continental Divide for the first time and overlooked the Great Rift Valley for the third. I dug out of my shame hole and started going to church again. I threw myself into workshops, blogged and edited content for nonprofits, and submitted my first essay for publication consideration.
And I did it all scared and grieving and laboring to hold my head above the waters.
Sometimes celebration looks like new houses or new jobs. Paying off a car or paying off student loans. The completion of a chapter or the first lines of another. The mustered strength through a heaving heart and the slow, daily, baby-steps kind of healing that comes after. The life of a beloved pet who saw us through 15 years of our life.
Sometimes being here and being present and having the love of friends and family and pushing through another day, sometimes all of those things are enough reason to celebrate. Gather your people. Drink the bubbles.
Whatever celebration looks like at this age, in this season, in this relationship status – I have my eye on it.