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Still Single? Youthful Marriage Is Not for Everybody

Finding your ‘forever person’ CAN happen after 60.

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illustration of woman running on track field jumping over wedding ring
Rozalina Burkova
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In 2005, I read an article in which a single woman spoke with relief about her new, long-awaited relationship, with this line: “I was beginning to feel like the last single woman in New York City.” That would make a great title for a book, I thought but then proceeded to write two other novels that had nothing to do with that subject.

As 2019 was on its way out, it was finally time to take the quote that was always in the back of my mind and bring it to the forefront. Despite words like “single” and “New York City,” I did not set out to write the next Sex and the City, about finding a Mr. Big (or Big wannabe) in a place famous for men who don’t want to commit.

Instead, I focused on what I observed happening around me: women of all ages, who seemed lost and looking for guidance, making gurus out of Real Housewives, celebrities, or someone who went through a trauma and recovered by going off the grid for a year.

I then thought about if my own life had taken a different turn. My husband and I have been together for over 40 years — six years dating, one year engaged, 34 married. But what if right before the wedding took place, he had a change of heart? What a vulnerable position I would have been in. I probably would have distracted myself by throwing myself into my career, all the while trying to figure out where I went wrong and, like the aforementioned women, looking for answers from someone who made an art out of appearing to know more than everyone else. And born suddenly was Samantha “Sam” Dennehy, the jilted entrepreneur who falls prey to the anti-marriage guru Hannah Randolph in The Last Single Woman in New York City.

Although the book has many comic elements, the crux of it is about the serious nature of knowing one’s own mind lest someone with stronger thoughts and opinions can (and will) swoop in and lead you down their agenda-laden path. This is important in general, but about marriage in particular, so you don’t get into a “till death do we part” situation simply to satisfy Aunt Betty in Boca, or because it’s what “all the other women” are doing.

I spent four years of college doubting intermittently my choice of higher education, because every time I saw certain relatives, they’d tell me how sorry they felt for me because I wasn’t married like my cousin who was my age. (FYI: By the time I got married at 29, she was a divorced mother of three.)

One would think that a long-married person such as myself would be first in line to advocate for wedded bliss. Yet, I never ask unmarried people — especially my 20-something children — “Why aren’t you married?” “Don’t you want to get married?” Nor do I utter the coup de grace of presumptuous remarks: “I feel so bad you’re alone.”

In the last third of my 64 years, I learned that not everyone finds their forever person at 23 as I did and not everyone is meant to be married. I know way too many people for whom their second marriage is the one that qualifies for #couplegoals.

My childhood babysitter remained single well into her 50s, and of her husband, she said: “I was so glad I was available when I met him.” I think of Gloria Steinem’s famous line: “I need a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Then she got married for the first time at 66. I also have a few close women friends who have had neither marriage nor baby fever, and one has been in a committed relationship that has lasted longer than some legally binding ones.

Instead of accepting that marriage is part of life’s natural progression, people might benefit more if it’s presented as just another option they might want to consider on their journey. I’ve seen firsthand how relationships can go sideways because one or both parties never really sat down and considered, “Is this really for me?”

For those like my 24-year-old daughter, Meg, for whom the answer is “yes,” it’s equally imperative to hold on to one’s independence and self-assuredness. This, because the minute that desperation to be part of a couple sets in, one opens oneself up to a Tinder Swindler-type operator.

In my novel, rather than go in search of a new man to marry, as did her BFF, sister and mother, Sam figures out on her own — with insights from anti-marriage guru Hannah — what she actually does and doesn’t want. She realizes that she can embrace her independent life and “never say never” at the same time. This, while enjoying a Sunday in the park, where she encounters a serene 60-something stranger, a nod to my babysitter who never embarked on a mission to find “the one” and instead let love find her when she was ready.

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