While attending a Christmas party where I was invited by a nice couple, I could not help but notice the number of married or to be married couples in the party. I don’t think anyone except two of us were single, and for the other person I am assuming to be single, I just don’t have enough information about his relationship status. A great deal of the party was spent with the women sitting in a group and exchanging stories about the nightmarish India trips, nightmarish because of the unfair distribution of time spent with the in-laws versus the parents. It seemed everyone had a personal story about how they felt treated unfairly because they did not get to spend as much time with their parents as they did with their in-laws. I nodded. I empathized. I also realized that I felt very out of place in that conversation mostly for two reasons. First, I don’t have a set of in-laws to worry spending time with. Second, I hardly visit India. The only time I was in India since 2006, I was there for 3.5 months, and all my time was spent with my family.
As I drove back from the party, I looked at the whiteness of everything in the night light. The snow from the last few days had not melted and in the darkness, it reflected a ghostly shade of white. Those 12 odd miles of drive, I noticed houses in the middle of nowhere decorated with Christmas lights. The whiteness, the darkness, and the Christmas lights gave it a surreal beauty. Not for the first time that evening, I felt very lonely. The houses with little Christmas lights blinking were not just houses, they were homes with families. My party hosts had decorated a beautiful Christmas tree and the 3 year old was thrilled to bits about that. When the 3 year old spotted a camera in my hand, he spent much of his time posing around the Christmas tree and waiting for me to take his pictures. He wasn’t very explicit for a child his age, but I knew he wanted me to take his pictures with the Christmas tree.
No matter how nice people are around me, I have started to feel a little out of place in gatherings. There was a time when friends discussed problems I instantly associated with and felt a part of- exam results, career uncertainties, getting into a good school, boy friend related problems, issues about the latest Farhan Akhtar movie not living up to its expectations, and not getting along with parents. Now, my friends have suddenly shifted gears (or maybe I have) and I no longer identify with their problems- issues with choosing the right baby food or day care, issues with spending time with in-laws during the annual visits to India, issues about pending green card and citizenship applications, issues about your spouse not always agreeing with you, and so on. My friends discuss shops that I have never had the need to go to- Crazy 8, Gymboree, and Baby Gap. I understand where they come from, but I no longer associate with them, just because I haven’t had those issues till now. Life as a single person is neither great, nor bad, but very different from the life of married people. I neither have to worry about how to get along with in-laws, nor do I have to worry about how to balance time between a personal life and a professional life. I could spend all my time in the lab working and still not be answerable to anyone. On the other hand, being single means I cannot bank on anyone in case a visa-related meteor hits my world, I will always need to worry about how I will spend my vacation if all my friends are busy, and will have to be content knowing that I might have to spend most of my time with myself without expecting to be invited to parties hosted by married families for married families. I found it both sadly funny and funnily sad that someone was discussing choreographing a couples dance performance for some upcoming event, and although I am a part of the dance group, people discussed it as if I did not exist. It makes sense, since I don’t have a real life partner to dance with.
I went to the Laundromat after 3 weeks today, and even after 21 days, I had just one basket of clothes needing laundry. As I looked around me, I saw most women struggling to carry 4 times the quantity of clothes that I did, 5 sets of towels, multiple dozen socks, couple of bedspreads, and so on. I looked at piles of clothes in confusion until I realized that these must come from people who had families- husbands, children, and pets that causing 5 sets of towels and 4 times my laundry load. Again, nothing is good or bad, but very different. When you start observing the world around you and find most people doing things the different way (like a senior student telling me the other day that he is taking off for 10 days this holiday season not because he wants to, but because he intends to remain married), you realize how drastically your life has taken a different path from that of the people surrounding you. I neither have to think of buying and decorating a Christmas tree (unless I want to), not do I have to think of planning my days far ahead of time so that I get to maximize the time I spend with my family. I see that as an advantage most of the time, unless there are days when I feel very lonely, or the holiday season is near when I am unable to plan a trip with anyone because everyone has someone they have planned their vacation with.