Why I'm Single By Choice — and Perfectly Happy, Too

I’ve been spouting off about the joys of single living for a long time to anyone who cares to listen — and was obviously thrilled to be included in Boston magazine’s January cover story “Single By Choice.” In fact, it inspired an essay that I will present at the much-lauded Literary Firsts reading series at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 23, at the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, a small piece of which I’m pleased to share here. Having spent so many years in the Boston area (just shy of 20), it’s a real honor to return to Boston to celebrate the issue, the reading, and the single life in general.

There are plenty of assumptions made about single people, the biggest perhaps being that we are by definition lonely or sad, simply because we are not married or because we do not currently have a significant other at the moment (in fact, we may have several). A few others: That we need to be fixed up, like a home in disrepair; that we are single because we are neurotic or too picky or have too much baggage (some people may be — but just as many of them are married as un); or that we’re stuck, marooned on the lost island of infinite adolescence, and foolishly keep waving away offers of help from sea or sky.

You won’t hear me complaining about how hard it is to be single. Because I don’t think the pressure that comes from outside is nearly as debilitating as the pressure we put on ourselves. And that is a choice we make. What other people think when it comes to your choices can’t matter as much as what you think about them — and if you let that happen, then you’re not living your own life; you’re living someone else’s.

When I was in writing workshops in college and grad school, I learned pretty quickly that there were people in that class whose advice and insight I’d be interested in hearing, and many whose feedback I’d have to politely endure until the semester’s end. And I knew that not just by their comments on your work, but by the work they created. That was a good lesson: You don’t accept or take on criticism from people whose work you don’t care for or admire.

Look at the people whose lives you love, whose choices are thoughtful, whose energy is invigorating, not depleting. Nothing speaks to who a person is than their life’s work — and how they feel about the decisions they’ve made.