My friend, Colleen, tagged me on her facebook page as her “partner” in a domestic partnership. I wasn’t entirely sure how to approve this tag, but she assured me it was there awaiting my approval. I have never had a “relationship” on my facebook page – ever. I have never up-dated thus: “in a relationship” to “single” to the inevitable purgatory, “its complicated” back to “in a relationship” and finally, lastly, “SINGLE”. I have dated and also been single and never changed the little caption on facebook.
It’s just not that important.
So when someone put me in a relationship with them I wasn’t sure how to approve it. But Colleen and I have been in a relationship since about 1997. She and I do not go to movies and hold hands. She and I do not live together and we do not kiss on the mouth except for that one time on Halloween.
We are not dating.
We date other people.
We are, in fact, in a “domestic partnership”. Every time we get off the phone we say “I love you”. That time when the toilette overflowed and my friend came over with the shop vac, that was Colleen. That time the baby cat came to live with me because a friend swiped the kitten out of the woods and thought she would be perfect for me; that was also Colleen.
This relationship up-date has given me some food for thought. So let me tell you something…
The women in my life have always been a better spouse than any man I have ever encountered.
My friend Delaine made, with her very own hands, a plush heart to help me get through a hard and dark time in my life. When I go to her house, she lets me eat peanut-butter out of the jar with fresh coffee she made because she knows these are two of my favorite things. Delaine knows my yoga practice better than I do sometimes. She understands that I still get sad about my dead cat and that if she calls before noon I might not be very lucid.
Tammy has helped me understand the nuances of yoga teaching as a business. She counsels me with a compassionate understanding of both the profession and my tender heart. She gave me a bottle of an essential oil I found myself in need of. When we make plans for lunch, she asks if one thirty is too early, because she understands my weird sleep schedule.
Suzy Q and I have been through break-ups and break-downs. Wherever I am mentally, she follows me there and we back-track together, if necessary. She knows my family as well as I do even though she hasn’t met anyone but my niece. She and I can have an entire conversation with our eyes.
To go into the bonds and understanding I have with my mother and sisters might be too much, possibly alienating male readers with my feminist stance on relationships. Maybe it’s enough to say I enjoy my mother’s flowers and garden more than I could possibly appreciate a store-bought bouquet. Perhaps all I should say about my sisters is that we are the same and we are different, making our relationships bumpy and wonderful.
I was visiting my youngest sister, Sage, the other night. I don’t think she understands why I decided to wear a band on the ring finger of my left hand. For me it is an assertion of independence and a guardian ring warding off intruders. It means I don’t have to present reasons to myself for being happy and, God help me, for being content.
Sage said, “When you’re in a relationship, it’s an opportunity to have someone else witness your life.”
I stand aghast in her kitchen while wheat penne pasta comes to a roiling boil. This might be one of the most profound things she has ever said. I immediately go to my defense with, “I’m a writer. I am a natural witness. I witness my life as well as others.” When all else fails, use the “writer” defense.
She looks at me like I’m missing the point.
The next day I’m drinking my coffee while Daisy rolls around in the dirt. She must, as she is clean and can’t abide the snow-white luster of her coat. While watching her, witnessing my dog’s natural glee, it occurs to me that I am not without a witness in spite of the fact that I am currently single and not on the prowl.
My sisters are my witness, and my mother was there when I arrived Earth side. Colleen has witnessed my life from the beginning of adulthood when I was sixteen until now. Ms. Suzy has seen me evolve from unhappy hairdresser to yoga teacher and writer. Tammy has witnessed the evolution of my yoga practice, as she has been my teacher. Delaine and I witnessed the transformative power of teacher training and how it empowered the other.
These are not peripheral relationships. I am not talking about a superficial best friend who’ll trade me in when I disagree with the color of lipstick she chose. These are all partnerships and they are sacred. I believe romantic partnerships can be sacred, too, I am not on an anti-man kick here. But the key word there is “partnership”, without it the word is just “romance” and it is flat syrup like a soda someone forgot to put the top back on.
Maybe one day I’ll have this type of understanding with a man. Maybe I’ll meet someone who understands that I’m gonna keep that band I put on my finger to help me keep my priorities right. Maybe I’ll keep this band on my finger and I’ll grow up to be a Swami or a priest or a spinster. I feel that to take these sacred relationships for granted and lament my single life is a slap in the face to the partners I am lucky to have, as though they’re great and all, but I’d really like a man…
Which leads me to that relationship up-date, which wasn’t really an up-date at all. By my estimation, Colleen and I have been going strong for fifteen plus years. It’s about time we made it public. It’s about time we made honest women out of each other.
* All photos are courtesy of Mom’s garden.