Where do you get your ideas?

It’s come to my attention lately that people are concerned about me.

The concern isn’t health-related—my body is the best thing I’ve ever gotten for free. Occasionally, however, I do joke about my relationship status and I realize they are concerned because I’m single. I often regale listeners with tales of dates gone epically wrong. Like the time I had a glass of wine with a man my age who, when asked how the dating apps were going for him, he said,

“Not great. I’m surprised that I’m not dating a bunch of younger women.”

And there I sat, not a younger woman, also on a not great date.  I thought to myself. I can tell you why if you want to know—it’ll just take a second.

Or, after a perfectly fine first phone call with no flirtatious energy, a man said to me, “Let’s lighten things up. Why don’t you send me a few photos of you in lingerie?”

Lingerie, I thought, who has lingerie?

Instead I sent him five photos of my dog in various bow-ties and blocked his number.

I tell these stories for fun, sometimes because I can’t stand silence (a different essay, for sure), other times because I’m teaching and need a laugh. After the initial outrage and laughter from whoever I’m talking to, inevitably I’ll get pulled aside for a consultation. This kind person is worried I’m not living my best life. As though writing, travelling and basically living my dream is not enough. They want me to find my person.

Here are some of the sad-eyed, head-tilted-to-the-side things people have said to me, as though I have cancer and not a queen-sized bed to myself.

“Maybe your picker is broken. Next time run the person by me and I’ll say yes or no.”

“You’ll find your partner when you stop looking. Like when I go shopping without anything in mind I usually find the perfect thing.”

“Aren’t you good friends with your ex-husband? You two should try again.”

“Your soul mate is out there. I just know it.”

At least these tender-hearted people don’t ask me to send pictures of me in my not-lacy cotton underwear.

I never quite know how to respond without defending myself, betraying my choice to be single, or explaining that the occasional date is not always a desperate play to find someone to hold my hand in the nursing home.

While teaching at a writing conference in Iowa I was asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I said I find story fodder in life, and joked about dating. Later at lunch over egg salad sandwiches a lovely woman pulled me aside and said, “You’re so smart and funny, you’ll find your soul mate.”

I covered her hand with mine and with a mischievous smile I said, “I have several soul mates in my women friends and their husbands don’t seem to mind a bit.”

With a benevolent smile on her face she said, “Well, in this day and age. Love is love,” and off she wandered to help another single woman embrace her sexuality.

Apparently, my friends, I inadvertently came out at the Okojobe Writer’s conference while trying to answer the question, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I didn’t try and disabuse her of her notions. It doesn’t matter to me if people wonder about who I sleep with and who I don’t. I would like to say this though:

If you’re single, good for you. If you’re married, good for you. Now, can we talk about something a little easier, like global warming?

Xo Ann