Set in My Ways

At the risk of appearing cranky, I’d like to propose another suggestion for us to adopt, culturally speaking.

I was reading this very fine article about the “single habit,” and started thinking about my least favorite thing that we say about people who’ve been single for a long time.

“Oh, you know, s/he’s set in [his/her] ways.”

Now, I think the article writer gets at some of the legitimate issues related to this. People can be independent in ways that makes it at least an adjustment, to be interdependent. For example, I ended up with a flat tire on the way to the theater with my mom this weekend. My first call was to AAA, which didn’t help. Then, I thought through whether we could cab/Uber it or light-rail it to our plans (neither was cost-effective or practical.) Then, I started changing the tire myself (which has, to the great credit of the people in my city, never failed to get me help from a stranger. It didn’t fail this time, either. The jack was hardly in place before a nice man stopped and finished the job for me.) What I didn’t think about until after the fact was that I had at least two friends in the neighborhood, either one of whom would have been happy to help mom and I, if I had thought to ask them and they had been available.

But let’s unpack the “set in your ways” thing, a little— a lot of time, it’s code for “selfish” or “hard to get along with.” I have particular gripes with that one. I’m a busy girl with a challenging schedule, but if you drill deeper, here are some of the ways that I’m busy:

  • I make dinner for my mom once a week and we spend the evening together.
  • I take my mom to the grocery store once a week (usually combined with choir practice or the class I teach).
  • I sing in my church choir.
  • I teach a class at my church.
  • I take my mom to church once a week.
  • I work out with friends.
  • I volunteer at my church.
  • I help a friend with her garden.
  • I frequently pet sit for others.
  • Laundry/cleaning/pet care/regular household responsibilities.
  • I have friends over for crafting/canning/games etc.

Would my life look different if I were currently in a serious relationship? Probably. But so many of my non-work hours are spent nurturing people and relationships in my community, it’s not like I lack the ability to give of myself in a loving relationship. And I’ve opened my home over and over again to people— my brother lived with me for nine months during a separation. My mom lived with me while she looked for a place locally. My nephew lived with me for an extended period, recently. And I’m only one example of a single person. Do I have a set preference for which way the toilet paper unspools or the way the dishwasher gets loaded? Yes, I do. Admit it: you do, too. And it has precisely nothing to do with our ability to negotiate these things in loving relationships.

As Katharine Hepburn (as Tracy Lord) puts it in my favorite movie (“The Philadelphia Story”): “The time to make up your mind about people is never.”

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One thought on “Set in My Ways

  1. Pingback: Kvetch | Adventures of Auntie M

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