When my parents were newlyweds, my father once made the mistake at a dinner party introducing my mother as “his wife.” While she was, and is, his partner – to my incredibly independent firecracker of a mom – this made her feel like she lost her identity.
Needless to say, she didn’t keep quiet about how she felt. On the ride home, as my dad tells the story: “She laid it out for me -I didn’t own her. If I was going to introduce her to anyone, I had to say her name first and then her wifely title. Or, I was just to say her name. Under no circumstances, was she ever to solely be my wife or was I ever to say ‘wife’ before her name.”
Now – I don’t know how I would respond in the same situation because I’m not married, but I will say I think my mother demanded nothing out of her rights. Nor do I think it’d sit well with me if my husband dropped my first name just because I took his last. And really, just like my mom, I’ll never just be a “wife” or a “mother” – I’ll always be me, and there are not enough titles to represent who I am.
I’ve carried a few of them the majority of my life: female, daughter, and well, writer. Those have grown as I have, from girl to teenager to woman; from daughter to kid to adult; from writer to editor to blogger. And of course, I’ve gone from crush to girlfriend to lover, from single to attached, from hopeless romantic to love addict, from committed to heartbroken.
But in relationships, title changes seem to carry so much more weight than the other ones. Somehow, we know that regardless of what happens we will still be people through any birthday, promotion, or change of friends, and we’ll still be able to call ourselves a woman, a person, a daughter – because those things can’t be revoked or erased.
So, maybe in terms of love it is less about title and more about entitlement.
As a lady who adores words (even when she isn’t the best grammar girl in the whole world) – when I edit articles and writers confuse “title” and “entitlement” – I always cringe at my desk. Much like I do about “they’re” and “their”, but I digress. You see, title is the name of something, say a book or a movie; and entitled means one is deserving of whatever they are getting.
By these definitions, when we approach relationships, though we think we’re seeking a title – aren’t we really seeking entitlement? To be told, to be reassured that we are in fact, worthy of being someone’s girlfriend? Or fiancée? Or wife?
Of all of the roles I’ve played and hats I’ve wore in my past, the one I wanted the very most was exclusiveness with a man. I wanted whatever dude who was stealing my attention, where it be Mr. Disappear, Mr. Fire, or even Mr. Unavailable – to view me as his dream girl. As this beautiful, irreplaceable creature who appeared from the dusty woodwork, and became as important, as vital, as necessary, as the air they breathed and the beer they drank. Maybe it was college, but I didn’t even know these men very long – probably just upwards of a few weeks – before I determined I had to do everything in my power to be that girl. That remarkable woman who caught them off guard and made them stumble in the game they seemed so good at playing. I had to be the different one, the woman who woke him up from whatever bachelor-daze he was stuck in and I had to persuade him to entitle me the title I wanted.
In pushing for a man to make me his, to be what he desired, and what I thought was attractive to him – I stopped focusing on if I actually wanted a relationship and became more intrigued by the challenge of roping in this character. Of being convincing enough by putting on a charade that I was calm, cool, collected, and aloof , when in all actuality, I’m anything but most of those things. In all of my dating experiences prior, as soon as I realized he made me nervous in the best of ways – I was ready to have the girlfriend title. In fact, it became much more important than any other title – friend, sister, daughter, student, editor, or employee – I may have had at the time.
But now, it seems the title I enjoy the most, that I feel fully entitled to – is single. Incredibly, proudly, surprisingly, happily solo.
Maybe the reason I feel a sense of entitlement to the single title is because I had to work for it. More so, because I really got to know what it meant to be single before I determined that yes, indeed, that’s what I wanted. I had to go through nights where I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fall asleep due to my heart that was pounding so hard, I was sure it would never stop hurting. I had to give someone every single bit of hope and trust inside of me, only to realize they weren’t deserving of it, nor did they really want it. I had to fall in and out of love, both with myself and with the parade of men who for a while, defined my life. I had to be willing to put myself through the very worse part of being in a relationship, take a chance on what felt like fate, and promise myself that no matter what happened, I’d still be able to stand again. I had to face some pretty harsh realities about myself, how I approach love, and the lessons I’ve learned from loving and losing, believing and grieving.
And most importantly, I had to get to a point where it didn’t matter whatsoever what title I had, as long as I stopped putting all of my energy toward becoming someone’s girlfriend. I had to turn away from searching for the love I thought would complete me, would make me a better person, would give me the confidence I wanted, and decide that that love is only possible from within.
Today, I know it isn’t about the man anymore. It’s about me. Instead of worrying about being entitled to a title, I instead try and determine if someone is up to my standards of being my partner, my man, my lover, my boyfriend, or even my man friend. They aren’t just entitled to a place in my life, my bedroom, or my heart – those are places that must be earned with something I’ve never given enough credit to…time.
So yes, I’m happy with my single title. And unlike other titles that must be given to you, this is one I decided for myself I was entitled to. But should you ever meet me, I won’t lead with “Hi, I’m single,” because though it is something that’s part of me, just like being a woman, a friend, and a writer – most importantly, I’m me. I’m Lindsay. And that’s a title that’ll never change.
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