Personal Essay: A Letter to My Newly Single Self
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Dear Newly Single Self,
The living alone will be the hardest part. It’s the quiet that bothers you. So much quiet all the time. No one else flushing the toilet, doing the dishes, opening the fridge. Each and every sound that occurs is directly related to one of your own actions. Which is why each unexpected sound you hear that you did not create sends your mind into the downward spiral of a murder mystery.
You find yourself talking out loud to no one. Things like, “Now where did I put the peanut butter? Oh, there it is, behind the pasta. Glad I didn’t buy a new one!” Or, “Well, I guess it’s time to vacuum.” You wonder if all people who live alone do this but everyone is just too self-conscious to admit it. Every now and again someone mentions that talking out loud to yourself is a positive thing. Your best friend says it’s “auditory rehearsal.” You wonder what you are rehearsing for—a one-woman show wandering around your house in mismatched pajamas, talking about the peanut butter?
There are the logistics as well. For example, your pilot light needs to be lit for the winter months. You wish you had paid attention years ago when some male in your life was trying to teach you this, but instead, you half paid attention, saying, “Okay . . . yup,” assuming you would never, ever have to contort yourself into weird angles and potentially set your eyebrows on fire.
But here you are in your quiet apartment with the maintenance man, Armando, who is lying in a pile of your dust bunnies, igniting your pilot light. You are embarrassed by the dust bunnies and also afraid that the pilot light will malfunction in the middle of night and seep out dangerous gases that will suffocate you while you sleep. You casually mention this to Armando. “Um, so, just so you know . . . if this thing kills me, no one will know for a while—I live alone.” He laughs nervously and assures you that will not happen. What does he care? He probably has a house full of family and relatives! He would not be left alone for days.
After months of single living, not making the bed, and letting dishes pile up because you can, you decide to keep things clean on principle. You feel like you have reached a new level of maturity or some important psychological milestone. You start to gain a certain sense of satisfaction that you are investing in yourself. Yes, you will be the only one to see the bed made, but aren’t you worth it? And you will buy the flowers, thank you, just for yourself. Your fears start to dull, and you leave your front window open while on short errands around town. You adopt a dog and decide that she enjoys your auditory rehearsal. You read somewhere that animals like the sound of their owner’s voice.
However, there are still little shards of doubt and worry poking into your new life. What if you slip in the shower? If a child can drown in three inches of water, so can you. You decide to stop using an oil-based body scrub, just in case. And then there is choking. If you call 911, how will you talk? So you move away from bone-in meat and stick to filets.
There are the good things, too. You can read the whole Sunday paper uninterrupted. You sleep like a baby with no one to accidentally fling a foot or hand in your direction. You are never surprised by the toilet paper roll being empty. When the paper starts to get low, you judiciously and logically place another roll on the back of the toilet, a trait that none of your last partners seemed to harbor. The more time that goes by, the more good things you add to the list: no unexpected dishes camping out all over your house, none of your workout clothes have been accidentally run through the dryer—on high—and there are no dangerous food groups to tempt you late at night when you are at your weakest. In fact, you have lost 4.2 pounds; your kitchen has never been safer.
After you lay down to sleep, and the deep pervasive quiet surrounds you, remind yourself of all the good things. Add one or two items to the “good things list,” and allow yourself to sleep like a baby.
Love Always, Me
By Ginger Nocera
Ginger is a creative, free spirit who writes in her free time. She has performed some of her work at live storytelling events in Southern California. A Letter to My Newly Single Self is from her first self-published book: Seeking Lightness: Whimsical Conversations with Suitors, Sites, and Sentiments, available on Amazon. She lives in Thailand and enjoys traveling the world.
Illustration by Surabhi Singh
Surabhi is an Indian artist living in Bangkok. She finds her inspiration to draw and paint from life; people, animals and nature. She is passionate about highlighting the need to conserve all life's positive manifestations, in natural and cultural contexts. Besides being a passionate painter, she is an illustrator and graphic designer. You can follow her art on Instagram at @surabhi1