86: Old Maid?

86: Old Maid?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Old Maid?

No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change.

~Barbara de Angelis

By the time I turned twenty-eight, I had been teaching for seven years, held a master’s degree in education and was buying a home. I was surprised by my home-buying experience. As I signed my loan documents as an “unmarried woman,” I somehow felt I’d failed. I’d been so busy racking up accomplishments, I forgot to get married.

Handling this minor oversight in my usual direct manner, I fell in love with a suave engineer. We met in the fruit section of the supermarket — he in an expensive suit and me in my typical weekend attire: sweatpants and a T-shirt. I noticed the waves in his thick black hair and caught his twinkling eyes studying either me or the grapes I was holding up for closer inspection. Embarrassed by my sloppy appearance, I moved on, only to run into him in several other aisles. Finally, he vanished, and I checked out, glad that my Oreos had been concealed from the well-dressed man by the three rolls of paper towels I was buying.

Parked next to my box-shaped car was a sporty 280Z. Leaning comfortably against the passenger door was my now grinning Adonis, who introduced himself and asked if I’d like to meet for coffee sometime. “Meet” and “sometime” sounded non-threatening, so I agreed to meet him after school the following Tuesday.

Nick was absolutely charming for the next six months… until we got engaged. The heart-shaped diamond he placed on my finger served as a beacon for friends, co-workers and mere acquaintances to offer congratulations. My parents were ecstatic. It had been over a decade since the last of my three older sisters had wed, and they were eager to see me follow in their footsteps. A twinge of disappointment struck me at the thought of this event earning a ticker-tape parade while my hard-won master’s degree caused barely a ripple in the placid lake known as my family.

Nick’s charm faded as he began to voice new criticisms about the way I dressed and cleaned my house. I have to admit that his apartment was spotless, but I wondered why he spent so much time at my place if it wasn’t up to his high standards.

Our love boat really got rocky when he worked out a budget for me — a list of things I could cut out. Me, the one who could make a week’s worth of meals out of one chicken? Me, the one who bought a house on a teacher’s salary? Suddenly, I resented his sports car, Italian shoes and $100 cologne. Despite making more than twice what I did, he’d maxed out two major credit cards and was working on his third. I asked him what he planned to cut out, but was rebuked because he “needed” certain things to maintain his position. The only desire I felt at that moment was to cut and run. The control he was exerting felt like a net enveloping my life.

Children were a big topic between us. He wanted a soccer team of boys. Like my sisters before me, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Since the money issue had already reared its ugly head, I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear we’d need both of our incomes. His idea of the upside? As a teacher, Nick assured me I could deliver our babies during the summer without missing any work.

Normally cheerful, I was noticeably depressed. The same people who initially oohed and aahed over my flashing diamond ring now seemed determined to see this wedding through. When I expressed the doubts that were multiplying daily, I was assured that every bride has pre-wedding jitters and was advised to shake them off.

On the night before the wedding-dress shopping trip I’d planned with my mother, Nick dropped the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back. He announced that he was building a pen to keep my two dogs confined in the yard. This would open my large back yard for barbecues and entertaining. My jaw dropped. I’d chosen this small house with its big yard for Bunny and Fluffy to enjoy! All the controls Nick had been pushing at me paled as I realized I wasn’t the only one who would be hurt if we married.

I called my mom to cancel our wedding-dress adventure, and while I was at it, the wedding. I was delighted that she didn’t remind me of my “advanced” age or try to talk me out of making a hasty decision. It wasn’t really hasty anyway… it had been coming for months.

Had I failed at achieving my most recent goal? I like to think that this was my version of jumping off the tracks while a fast-moving train approaches. Because I made that leap, I was free to travel on life’s journey, seeking a better destination.

~Marsha Porter

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