Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

I Choose My Choice

So this morning I was surfing the net when I came across this article in the New York Observer that kind of stopped me in my tracks.   Sure, these aren’t new issues, but the piece struck a chord with me.

I’m sure there are already a lot of women writing about this (I found the article through a link from Jezebel) and what it says about our society and a woman’s place in it.  I’m not going to hop on that bandwagon.

No, I’m going to tell a somewhat relevant story.

Many years ago I decided that it was time for me to move out of my crappy studio apartment.  Now mind you, just a few years earlier I was flirting with the repulsive real estate agent who showed me the place in the hopes of landing that very same crappy studio.  I spent my late 20s the way many New Yorkers do – sharing an apartment with someone I grew to loathe (it was all that I could afford at the time).  But then I got a promotion at work and I found myself a crappy little studio and moved in.  I furnished it with a combination of things from Ikea and hand me downs and it actually looked pretty OK.  Nicer than a college place but still not “grown up”.

Then my next big bump in salary came along and I decided it was time to be a real grown up.  I wanted an apartment with rooms and a building that wasn’t crawling with roaches.  I couldn’t afford to buy, but I knew that if I looked hard enough I could find a one bedroom apartment to call my own.  And I did.  I found a rent stabilized one bedroom in the neighborhood I wanted to live in (I’m not bragging, just telling a story).

And then it hit me.  I wanted it to look nice.  Really nice.  It was my first “grown up” apartment, the first place I was going to be really proud of.  I wanted to fill it with nice things.  I wanted to buy furniture.  But, and here’s the punchline, I didn’t know any single women who had ever bought their own furniture.  A bed, sure.  Lots of futons and bookcases.  But living room furniture, never.  That was something that people did once they coupled up, moved in together, got married.  And sure enough, when I mentioned it to a friend her response was, “make sure to pick something a man would like”.  The assumption being that if I met someone and we got together my new furniture would go to waste if it wasn’t to the guy’s taste.

I actually agonized about it for a month.  I drove every furniture salesperson in the city crazy.  Every weekend I made the rounds, going from store to store.  I sat on every sofa.  Felt every fabric.  Asked a thousand questions.

And eventually I bought something that no man would want in his living room.  Chick furniture.  It’s a pale fabric and it’s kind of petite (like me) and completely impractical.   Which is ridiculous because I’m usually a very practical person.  But I just got so sick of being told to get a leather sofa, or to get something in black or in the brown family because I’ll have it forever and I needed to think of the potential future changes in my life (assumption being that I wouldn’t be single forever).  It’s stupid, I know, but I felt like my chick furniture was an act of defiance.  A very expensive act of defiance.

I don’t really care if I ever get married.  I don’t really want to.  I’d like to be in a relationship, to have a partner.  If I met a guy and we had a great relationship and he wanted to get married, I’d be game.  But I don’t need the ring or the ceremony or the piece of paper.  I do care that so many of the small decisions in my life seem to have this weird “single woman” significance attached to them.  I wasn’t just shopping for furniture, I was a single woman shopping for furniture.  When I plan vacations, I’m a “single woman” planning a vacation.  When I spend too much on a dress because it’s pretty and I want it…

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10 to “I Choose My Choice”

  1. starangel82 says:

    I bought living room furniture as a single woman. Fun times. Anyway, I rent. I rent because I want to. Because I’m not ready to buy a home. I’m starting to lean toward that direction, but it’s still a year or two off (I need a raise!). You know what my grandmother said? Why do you want to buy a house when you aren’t married? Because I want a house… a place to call home. And I don’t need a man in it to make it a home. And I’m not going to live my life in ‘what if HE comes along mode’.

    My whole point is I feel ya. Sometimes there is that ‘single woman’ stigma attached to things. And in the South, sometimes I think it is worse considering most of my (older, more traditional) family thinks I am an old maid at 26.

  2. colere says:

    I really, really enjoyed your posting. It occurred to me that I think the same thing about living room furniture. All of mine is has been handed down to me from random family members. Now that I am actually IN a serious relationship, I feel sad that I never had a cute apartment that was not littered with random things my BF brings home that should really just be throw away upon arrival. Also, that SATC episode is my FAVE. I am 30 years old and I am in my first “real”relationship and forever I was shoe shamed. People I saw on a daily basis constantly nagged me about my love of shoes and rolled their eyes about it, they still do. Even now while I am in a relationship (we will see how long that lasts!) life has its ups and downs and I am sure not going to deal with them while wearing ugly shoes.

  3. queenie_nyc says:

    Amen, sister. I have had similar experiences, and I’m not even out of my 20’s yet. I really don’t understand why I’m supposed to wait until marriage to have nice things or a nice place to live. I think it’s just one of those weird stereotypes that is – little by very little – being eaten away over time.

    One surprising bonus of being the only single woman in my family: when my grandparents moved out of their house, they gave me the 12 place settings of sterling, since I was the only one who hadn’t had a chance to register for that stuff. And since I’m the only one who actually has dinner parties, I use it all the time.

    I thought it was great that they recognized that a single person deserves nice stuff – and will actually use it, too. Sad that such recognition was notable, though. 😉

  4. bobbyjensen says:

    Just learned something new here. I didn’t know that single woman were supposed to buy furniture based from a future male partner, interesting.

  5. SINgleGIRL says:

    Yeah, geography makes a big difference. But not always in the ways people assume. Women in NYC have some more time before we’re written off as old maids, but not much more. 30 is pretty much the limit in my family. A lot of us here in the city come from very traditional families. Anyway, I think it’s awesome you’re considering buying a house. I’d kill to be able to buy an apt but I don’t have that kind of money (even with the real estate slump Manhattan prices are just nuts).
    I’m glad you could relate. And, even though you’re in a relationship now, you should go out and get some furniture you like. You deserve it.
    I have sterling envy. I didn’t get anything nice handed down to me. Just a bunch of junk. Of course, all of my married relatives got the perks of registering, etc, but I’m not even going to go there. Hey, can I come to one of your dinner partied?
    Well, it’s not a universal truth. And probably it’s more true for women over 35 than under. But if you ask your women friends there will be someone who can relate.

  6. Tokyo Cowgirl says:

    Bravo! I thoroughly enjoyed this post and I completely agree.

    Why can’t women just buy dresses because we like them? The Amy character could have been empowered by her decision to buy the expensive dress, instead she chose to justify her actions with a pathetic excuse that made her look insecure. This is not Sex In The City, this is the real world, if someone wants a f’ing dress and they can afford it then buy the f’ing dress. It doesn’t need to be a “poor me” moment, it needs to be a “look at me I can buy whatever the hell I want” moment.

    And, while I found the Observer article to be relevant I thought that the writer inadvertently contributed to the all too common assumption that all women want to be married and, if they don’t, there is something wrong with them. There is something definitely wrong when it’s completely acceptable to be 40 and divorced but it’s not acceptable to be 40 and never married.


  7. LuckyChica says:

    I’ve been in a relationship and I’ve been single. It’s fun to do domestic stuff on your own and it’s fun to do domestic things with a partner. It’s just different. One is not better than the other. I say, if you have the money (especially if you have no children!) buy whatever the hell you want.
    It’s your life – and it always will be – regardless of who comes into it.
    When I moved in with boyfriend, I kept my girly stuff. And I was glad I did when we broke up.

  8. derek7272 says:

    Oh my goodness, Tokyo Cowgirl… YES, why can’t women buy dresses when they want to. I didn’t realize there was like a dress police that would come get you if you did!

  9. SeanD says:

    Ha-ha… now there’s irony. When I was furnishing my apartment a few years ago I was given exactly the same advice, except with a little twist… something along the lines of “don’t worry too much about it because when your girlfriend moves in she’ll only want to change it to her liking anyway.”

    I was single then, and seeing that I’m still single I haven’t had a chance to validate that hypothesis.

  10. SINgleGIRL says:

    -Tokyo Cowgirl
    Thanks honey. You and I are on the same page here. It’s not really about the furniture or about the dress (not REALLY). It’s about the way we look at the decisions and the way people look at us as we make them. She was a person buying a dress for a special occasion. Or she was a single person, who was a woman, who also happened to be 40 and never married who was buying a dress. And suddenly the context shifts. Ugh.
    I certainly don’t think one is better than the other. That’s never a claim you’ll hear me making. But the decisions (large and small) are affected by the choices we make and are planning on making in the future.
    My goodness, you certainly are a literal young man. LOL.
    Wow, there is that other edge of the sword, isn’t there? Male or female, a lot of us are expected to (because of where we come from and the people we know, etc) live out our lives in a pretty predetermined way.