“Know Who You Really Are, Not Who You Wish You Were”
Think about your own marital and parental status – say, single with no kids – and imagine writing 20 life lessons for people who share your status. Make your lessons raw, honest, funny, and brief. That’s what Eleanore Wells did in her new book, The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree.
I am also single and have no kids, yet many of my own 20 life lessons would be different from Eleanore Wells’s. (Not that I’ve actually managed to spell mine out.) That’s the joy of these kinds of imaginative exercises – there are so many ways of being single with no kids (or married with kids, or any other combination).
Eleanore Wells has always been single and she is absolutely not “looking.” Apparently, she never has been. I got a kick out of this reaction of hers that she described, because it is so unexpected (by conventional standards) but I could also totally relate to it:
“It’s always remarkable to me when I come across a grown woman who brightly declares, ‘I’ve known since I was a kid exactly what kind of wedding I wanted.’ I’m thinking to myself, ‘what is wrong with her?’”
Unlike me, Eleanore Wells is an unabashed participant in the dating scene, so her list of life lessons includes, for example, “If your ex was a jackass the first time around, he probably still is” and “you can’t force chemistry.” The author knows what she wants out of life, but she does not pretend that her own life choices do not entail some sacrifices. An example is this life lesson: “Pregnancy has its benefits. You’ll miss out on them, though.”
The book is a lot of fun, but it is not just one of those trite novelty books. As you are paging your way through the wry and telling tales, some real wisdom sneaks up on you. My favorite example is the lesson I used as the title of this post, “Know who you really are, not who you wish you were.”
The chapter about that life lesson begins like this:
“Even though I didn’t want kids, I used to pretend that I would be actively involved with other people’s kids. I was slow to realize that the reason I didn’t want my own is probably the same reason I’m not all that interested in anybody else’s.”
Wells then continues to recount some hilarious experiences of trying to play the role of the fun auntie and reliable sitter. I think the process she describes is, for her and the rest of us, not limited to the domain of children.
Often we try out the roles we think we are supposed to play, especially when we are young. Maybe we even try to experience the emotions that are supposed to go with those roles. If the roles really are a good fit, there’s no need to try – it is all effortless. When the roles really don’t fit, then what? Do we keep trying to make them fit, or do we acknowledge to ourselves, as Eleanore Wells has done – you know, this isn’t really for me. This is not who I am.
[About Eleanore Wells: I have never met her, but I hope that will change some day. If her name sounds familiar, maybe you remember her witty contribution to the Singlism book, an essay that ends with the observation, “My truth is that when married women ask me why I’m not married, I often wonder if they’re quietly pondering why they are.”
DePaulo, B. (2012). “Know Who You Really Are, Not Who You Wish You Were”. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2012/04/%e2%80%9cknow-who-you-really-are-not-who-you-wish-you-were%e2%80%9d/