Like to keep your options open while enjoying the many benefits of marriage? You probably like being single a lot more than you think.
I got a parrot about 15 years ago. The parrot, a Moluccan cockatoo, has a life expectancy of about 80 years. One of the reasons I got her — despite so many warnings that it would be something I would later regret — is that I didn’t want to ever have to say goodbye to another cat or dog.
Some people get parrots and then find a way to get rid of them, once they see how difficult and time-consuming they can be. But for those who take their commitments seriously, like I do, once you’re in, you’re in. Unless the parrot becomes downright dangerous, you do your best to enjoy the good times and deal with the bad. Oh wait, it sounds just like marriage!
Damn, another relationship metaphor! Single people are the dog and cat types, while married people are the parrot types! If there was some kind of quiz to determine your ability to tolerate marriage, those who end up with the result “parrot” would be the ones who should get married, while those who prefer to keep things more open-ended would get “dog or cat.” (And in my case, that means I’m a single person having a married person experience. Blimey!)
That’s because when you have a parrot (like a spouse), you’re in it for the long haul. With the more traditional pet, while you can love it intensely, you also know that eventually, you’ll have other options — like being able to move into that luxury no-pet condo or spending six months biking through Southeast Asia — things that can’t be done with a pet in tow. When you have a parrot, options for personal adventures get a lot smaller, not just for the current decade but for a lifetime.
It’s the same for those who are married versus those who are not. Once you’ve taken that final step to be officially partnered, there is a finality you don’t have when you’re just “living together.” Same for when you’re “in a relationship.” Things are a bit more flexible: a cat now, maybe a dog later? A dog now, but maybe a parrot one day? When you’re legally single, there is always the sense of having more options, of not being locked in forever.
People often argue with me about my definition of being single. They say there’s no difference between being married and being in a relationship (aside from some paperwork). And they also say that if you’ve dated the same person more than a few times, you’re not single either. They define being single as meaning one thing: you’re alone (metaphor-wise: no pet at all, maybe you’re not even qualified to have a plant).
Well, I’ve been married and I can tell you it is different. And just like when I got the parrot, I took that commitment seriously. I really believed that my ex-husband was going to be my lifelong partner. For better or for worse, I was in. In fact, I was so “in” that I was willing to sign that legal contract, say vows before family and friends, and basically put my ass on the legal line to be “as one” with my husband. I was risking a lot because I was committing a lot — and I ended up paying a lot for that risk.
I didn’t stretch or risk myself that much when I decided to move in with boyfriends — and certainly not that much when I dated someone exclusively. In those situations, I was as singular as ever; the only real difference was that I didn’t have the bandwidth to date anyone else. Other than that, I was still living my life very much as a “sole proprietor” — not as a life partner.
That’s not to say that people won’t dump their parrot the first time it chews a hole through the kitchen cabinet or the first time their husband or wife bounces a check in their joint account. And it’s not to say that people who have dogs or cats don’t love them with complete dedication. But with one, there’s a lifelong intention and with the other, you know it won’t last forever, know you have more options, know there’s more flexibility and that if things go bad, you can bail out with limited damages.
So the next time someone decides to argue with me about the definition of what it means to be single vs. not single, I’m going to suggest they get a parrot so they can see for themselves what it’s like to take on a really long-term, committed relationship, or marry their boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s not the same as knowing that a few years from now, you’ll be able to consider other options. Take my parrot home for a few decades (please!) and you’ll see…
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2014 Singular Communications, LLC.
Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.