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Am I a Penelope?

Last night I saw The Penelopiad at the Citadel. I’m not sure about the play, but I loved the idea; what was it like for Penelope those 20 years Odysseus was away? And why DID he kill her servants? What was the point?

After what happened the last few days, writing anything pertaining to ME seems trite. This, however, could be about half the human population of the planet. And, like most of my ideas, it’s been gestating in my head for ages and seeing Penelope deal with her life the only way she could have has caused this idea to burst out. It will, to some, sound catty, or old, or like I’m man-bashing. Not at all; I know lots of wonderful guys…all of whom are married or gay.

I am 38. I was hoping, nay expecting, to be married and have two if not three kids, a house, a minivan, a dog, and a cat WELL before now. I did a solo show earlier this year speculating in part on why it might be that I am still single, when I am apparently still nice-looking, smart, fun, and interesting.

I’ve quit beating myself about it, though. For years I listened to the voices saying I wasn’t pretty, thin, or fun compared to other women around me. Being made to feel that you’re constantly competing with the women around you is wearing. One Christmas my sister – my SISTER, who loves me – gave me a copy of the book He’s Just Not That Into You. A book whose message is essentially “Hold out for the guy you deserve. He WILL show up.”

More than once, I have held out. I have been put on a string of women by a guy, so he could pick and choose when he felt like it. And I put up with it because – despite his behaviour being obviously disgusting—I liked him. And…I wasn’t getting any other offers. I’ve also held out for truly amazing guys who kept saying they wanted someone like me—and then waited patiently for them to go through every Helen-of-Troy-like dough-head who wasn’t me, sure that eventually, one of these guys would clue in and pick me. None ever did.

So I vacillated between two thoughts last night while watching Penelope: 1) “Did that. Did that. Learned that a long time ago,” and 2) Being really angry at her for putting the disposable slaves she did care about in harm’s way, so they’d get used instead of her.

Recently I ran across two bits of information which have finally convinced me it’s NOT my fault I am still single—I KNEW this, but to see someone else state it was like being doused with ice water. First, there’s this, from The New York Observer. (WARNING: Don’t read at work!) In summary: there are many handsome, successful men who would rather hire escorts than establish relationships with women. Then there was this, from The Atlantic, which explains that one reason so many obviously desirable women are still single, is that too many men have been rendered “unmarriageable” – there are LOTS of bright, beautiful women who can support themselves, but the number of such men has dropped like a rock. And yet we desirable single women put up with these deadbeats, or guys from article one, who can’t do the smallest thing for themselves. We want families…and if this is all we have to choose from as mates, we accept it.

Now. The thing that really hit me about the article #2 was the assertion that a number of men from, say, article #1, upon deciding they DO want a relationship, start champing at the bit for one. BUT, they don’t decide this until they’re at the age when WE WOMEN, who WANTED kids, can no longer. It seems that for too many of us, too many guys decide they want us when it’s too late for us to get all we want.

I’ve given up actively looking. I refuse to compete with any other woman anymore. I’ve decided that if I’ve been made to wait this long, any guy who wants me had better make it worth my while. I am nobody’s Penelope.