By Leesa Fenderson
I am rather optimistic. So as I flipped through my favorite weekly, I stopped to take a closer look at a sketch entitled The Optimism of Breakfast by Maira Kalman. The image included breakfast for one with the requisite coffee, jelly donut, and table setting. The caption read: “In the optimism of the morning, it is wise to get going, to be confident, expansive, exuberant. If you find yourself at the cup and saucer coffee shop – or any coffee shop – with a jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee, staring out the window at the parade of passerby, you could do worse. A whole lot worse.”
I found myself agreeing completely and imagining myself older, retired self happily visiting my favorite coffee shop in the city, a Cheers of sorts where everyone would know my name, and the server would know that I prefer the simplicity of a plain glazed to a jelly donut. I let my imagination complete this ideal life, daring to imagine retirement. While, relishing in the idea of retiring at thirty-five and the beauty of this idyllic life, I realized that nowhere in my fantasy did I have a love to share the breakfast of my life. I wish I could say I realized this painfully, or mournfully or regrettably, however, the realization elicited something equal to the nonchalance of a mental shrug. I was perfectly fine with the idea of singularly enjoying my glazed donut. Where was my desire for a life companion? When did my optimistic mind decide that I would be single? More importantly, when did future Leesa become okay with it?
The honest answer is that my faith in monogamy had been waning. This, my new lack of faith, wasn’t due to a new-found respect for polygamy or open relationships. Further, I wasn’t corrupted by infidelity. I simply could not hold in my mind the idea of two people deeply in love and in a healthy monogamous relationship for a life time. I thought perhaps this disillusionment was a phenomenon among Black women. I have entirely too many single girlfriends who are incredible, successful in life, not just in their careers, but where it matters the most in their personal growth. These black women are unattached and like myself not bitter just accepting that our longing for a life companion may never come to fruition. Surprisingly, however, unlike rhythm and natural tans, we could not own this disillusionment as our own. I have come to find out that my single white female friends and colleagues, who are equally successful, are equally disillusioned. A colleague shrugged with acceptance during such a conversation, “I just don’t see it happening,” she said and smiled, “but I will enjoy being perpetually single.”
As her smile brightened, mine fell. I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with that possibility. Was I to look forward to a life of hauling groceries on my own, rolling over into the cold spot in my bed, raising adopted kids by myself? Who would be my partner in crime? With whom would I commiserate over life goals? Certainly I could borrow my best friend’s husband for a pep talk, but I am sure she would want him back by dinner. I would be left to singularly enjoy take-out because home cooked meals are not meant for one. I could not resign myself to that life.
So I was encouraged when the Times in an article entitled, Despite Two New Studies on Motives for Monogamy, the Debate Continues by Carl Zimmer, reported that the evolutionary study of monogamy has made new findings, “The scientists found that mammals shifted from solitary living to monogamy 61 times over their evolution.” As for an evolutionary strategy it didn’t make sense to scientists, male mammals should spend time looking for additional females to mate. However, the drive to spread the male seed is not what has evolved. It seems that evolution, the shift in inherited characteristics over generations in order to sustain a species, has chosen monogamy as strategy. For example, “The golden lion tamarin, a one-pound primate that lives in Brazil, is a stunningly monogamous creature. A male will typically pair with a female and they will stay close for the rest of their lives, mating only with each other and then working together to care for their young.” Perhaps if primates and other mammals can choose to live and love monogamously and raise a family there is a chance for the rest of us. Now instead of imagining the simplicity of a singular glazed donut, I am choosing to re-imagine my retirement with two place settings, each plate with a serving of an optimistic breakfast.
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)