by Jane Ysadora
November 2003: I am barely 23, married, and a newly christened mommy to a nursing, doesn’t sleep much, what some would call high needs, six-month-old baby. I have spent the past half-year mostly alone (aside from the man I am married to) because all my young friends are busy drinking wine coolers and generally doing things that do not involve the constant holding of a very small person. I am oh so in love with my baby and my husband, but also pretty depressed with my frumpy, no-fun self. So when I find out Modest Mouse, my favorite band ever up to that point, is coming to town, I grab a ticket and head to the mall so I can own one outfit in my post-baby size that looks non-mom yet also holds my now-enormous boobs. I have the typical first-time-mom reluctance to leave my baby for one second ever, but know the alternative is clawing the skin off my own face if I don’t do something to feel like a person again. I give Baby Daddy a spiel of instructions and copious thanks and bolt out the door.
At the concert I sneak up closer to the stage and end up sitting next to a very cute boy who instantly strikes up a conversation. So embedded in the diaper/breastmilk/no sleep/spitup haze am I that I don’t realize the cute boy is flirting with me until I mention my husband, and he immediately turns to the girl on the other side of him. Then I realize: flirting! I was flirted with. I float home on a cloud of “Cowboy Dan” and Still Got It.
May 2007: Myself, hubby, son who’s now four and daughter who’s almost two are on vacation in Portland, Oregon. The city is gorgeous and full of good weather and perfect activities for a young family. My son loves every minute. My daughter refuses to sleep in a new place but quite enjoys the Japanese Gardens. My relationship is desperately unhappy, but neither of us will admit it. I sneak out one night intending to go see a band called The Shaky Hands that I read about in the local paper. Instead I ride the bus around town, have conversations with strangers about God knows what, buy an Air CD in a big indie record store, shop at Powell’s, and realize I am starving for self discovery. I pick up a big thing of gelato, take it back to the hotel, and have the first of the conversations that will eventually end my marriage.
June 2008: Post divorce. Post finding-out-he-was-cheating-on-me-for-a-year apocalypse. My two lovely offspring are now spending weekends with Daddy, so I have a lot more free time. I go on so many dates that summer that I label it “Summer of Lust” because that sounds better than “Summer of Being a Complete and Total Wreck.” None of the dates are with myself. I later make note of that. Go on dates with yourself.
March 2009: After the Summer of Lust runs its course, I spend seven months with a very sweet, very wrong for me man who gives me shelter from the obliteration that is my life. I am healing and becoming restless. On a Friday night, I announce my plans to go out alone. I get dressed and head to the Art Walk. I drink craft beer and see a funky world music band. Crammed in a swarm of people sweating and drinking and swaying to an entirely unfamiliar beat, I become aware that there are universes of myself that I don’t yet know. I break up with my boyfriend a week later.
May 2009: Having decided to take a break from dating, and having not yet built up a network of single girlfriends, I take myself on a date more from necessity than desire. An acquaintance’s band is playing at a local bar, and there’s where I see her, out on the dance floor all by herself. I join her. We spend the rest of time being best friends.
April 2010: A friend is playing violin at a pricey, catered beer fest at the botanical gardens. She sneaks me in. I casually jump in the line for my tasting mug and coupons. I spend the evening getting buzzed on fine beer and walking the beautiful gardens alongside the hundreds of couples that have come out. I eat the best baked good I have ever eaten. It’s German and flaky and filled with cream. I will kick myself forever for forgetting its name. Maybe it’s the beer or the pastry or the walkways lined with succulents, but that night I feel that I am not only on a date with myself, I am head over heels in love with me.
May 2011: The very handsome but not-great-at-being-a-grown-up musician I’m seeing leaves my house on Sunday morning, then gets a much earlier than expected call about a job. I get an email on Sunday evening letting me know that he has moved to NYC. Since the relationship was fairly new and consisted mostly of gin connoisseur-ing and a ridiculous amount of sex, I am less heartbroken than disappointed, but still, I liked him. I feel a road trip is in order, so the following weekend the kids go to Dad’s, and I throw a bag in the car and make the long drive from Phoenix to San Francisco.
I couch surf for the first time. The apartment is way more beautiful than I could ever actually afford. Major score. My host invites me to a Meklit Hadero concert, and I accept. At the show he leaves for a moment and comes back with a flower. When the waitress asks us if we’re on a date, I say “No,” at the exact same time he says, “Yes.” In this moment I realize that he is not gay, and that couchsurfing.com could also be called easyhookup.com. We go back to his place, do not have sex, and he disappears for the next two days. I gorge myself on Thai food, sushi, SF coffee, and books. I buy a Yoga Tree pass and do yoga twice a day. In the middle of Anusara I unexpectedly forgive everyone for everything.
June 2012: I spend the day teaching yoga at behavioral health centers, a.k.a. the places where you’re committed for severe mental health disorders. Some of the women are so drugged that they can barely move on their mat. Some of them spend the whole class lying on the floor talking to someone I can’t see. Some look at me with fierce eyes and ask for core work and hip openers. One of them pops randomly into full wheel. One twitches the entire time. I go home and cry for two hours because of their immense bravery. Because the possibility of being so lost, so at the mercy of pills and chemical surges, terrifies me. Because I know each of them walks through fire every day.
I put on sunglasses and take myself to see Hunger Games at the cheap theater. It makes me feel better to think that at least my children aren’t at risk of being taken by the state and forced to fight for their lives. There may be heartbreak, divorce, or mental health struggles a simple roll of the genetic dice away, a long and winding maze of finding their own hearts, their purpose in the world, but at least they won’t face a reaping. At least there’s that. I eat popcorn and Jr. Mints for dinner. I am incredibly grateful.
Jane Ysadora is still single, if you know anyone. (Kidding!) She lives in Phoenix, writes a lot, and has foam light saber battles whenever her small people ask her to. She’s currently working on a fictional Midrash collection.