One night several years ago, on my way home from meeting up with a friend, I passed out on the subway. I probably hadn’t had enough to eat and not enough water to drink. The subway car was stuffy and hot. I felt myself getting faint and thought, even with my cute dress on, it might be best to sit on the floor of the car just in case. But no sooner had I thought that, than I woke up on the floor. In my first seconds awake, I thought I was having some strange dream where a subway car of New Yorkers gawked at me. But no, not a dream. All those New Yorkers really were gawking at me.
Someone stood up and gave me their seat. Someone else called the train operator for the train to be stopped. People told me I should go to the hospital and I didn’t realize it then, but I’d hit my head on a pole on the way down to the floor. It was just a couple of weeks after the death of Natasha Richardson, unaware that hitting her head while skiing would prove to be a fatal injury.
And then, one woman asked me if I was pregnant.
“No,” I told her. “I’m definitely not pregnant.”
The train came to a stop and MTA workers helped me off the car. I made my way out of the station and onto the streets of downtown Brooklyn. I hailed a cab. Once I got in and directed him to the hospital, I began to cry.
My sister (and roommate) had moved to Brazil a couple of months before and I was living fully alone. I was not pregnant because I wasn’t even dating then and certainly wasn’t in a relationship.
I had initially waved off the other passengers directing me to go to the hospital. I went because if Natasha Richardson, a wife and mother, could go home injured and die, what would happen to a single woman?
I imagined going home with a head injury I didn’t realize and dying in my apartment alone. No one would have found me right away, I reasoned. My sister and I talked a few times a week. Same for my mother. They would wonder if they called and I didn’t get back to them in a day or so, but alarm bells probably wouldn’t sound until at least two days.
The friend I saw that night wouldn’t have checked on me. I probably wouldn’t see her again for a couple of months.
I called my mother from the hospital, my words barely discernible over the crying.
“Call one of your girlfriends,” she said.
I did and when two of them pulled back the hospital curtain after I’d seen the doctor, I wanted to cry again. I wasn’t alone.
I was reminded of this night last month when I had to go to an urgent care facility. My boyfriend offered to change his plans to take me, but I told him it was fine, that I could manage it on my own. But when the treatment was almost as painful as the sickness and I was crying on the gurney, I wished I had taken him up on his offer.
I like to tell myself that as happy as I am in my relationship, if it all ended, I’d be okay. I would figure it out just like I always have when I wasn’t in a relationship. I told my boyfriend when he asked exactly how it worked to be in a relationship with a spinster, that this site is in part for a future version of myself, for the one who never marries and doesn’t have kids. It’s a reassurance for her that happy includes lots of different endings.
Some single women adore their singleness. And some don’t. When we were first launching this site, a couple of close girlfriends told me they supported us and the project, but they were not interested in taking on the word spinster because they hoped sooner rather than later to find a partner.
I said to them, No, owning the word is better. Owning it can transform the meaning of it, take the sting out of it, help make singleness a happy state of being rather than a social disease.
But, there will always be nights like the one I had in New York.
Is being single hard? Yes.
And you can love hard things and you can say, well everything is hard in some way! And besides, I know lots of people in relationships who are miserable! And marriage is a patriarchal, financial arrangement! And some of the people who did that Facebook couple challenge are full of crap because I know he’s actually having an affair!
That may all be true (especially that last one), but when girlfriends who aren’t in relationships do not feel like doing the feather dance in celebration of their singleness. Or a friend is holding on to a romantic prospect she should really let go of because at least she has someone to watch Netflix with sometimes. Or if I one day find myself in a cab by myself on the way to hospital, alone and not pregnant, there is no shame in sitting with that sadness. In thinking, this is hard.