This comes as no surprise, naturally, to friends and family - the people who know me and (to my everlasting gratitude and surprise) love me. Even my neighbours could offer a pretty accurate picture of my living circumstances should the police or the tabloids, or a biographer knock upon their door.
I, it seems, am the only person living in a state of semi-permanent shock that life has turned out this way. Or more accurately, hasn't turned out another.
There was a time when I was engaged (translation: 3 times) which probably more than anything contributed to my mistaking singlehood as a temporary state; just one more diamond ring away from settling down with the hoard. As it turned out, I was just that one diamond ring (emerald cut, set in platinum) wrong. So reading recently of a potential bride who ran screaming from a televised, surprise ballpark proposal (scoreboard lights, hopeful groom dressed as a chicken or some other such mascot - trailing only sticking the ring in a restaurant dessert as the way to suggest living together forever in holy matrimony) made me realise the error of my ways. ('She said NO!' screamed the scoreboard as the chicken stood alone in wilted dismay.)
Now that I'm officially 'The New 35' (translation: early 40's) I'm beginning to take my spinster status seriously - with the result that I live in shrinking horror of my uncertain, seemingly exiled to Lonely-town future. And if she's not careful , the runaway chicken-shirker might be in danger of moving in next door.
So shoot me for being dramatic. Fact is, I'm finally coming smack dab up against reality - the reality that I'm living wrong; I took an accidental turn at some point, on some twisty, barely-trod path that led inexhorably to this place - a place that neither marketeers, nor demographics experts view with anything other than headshaking pity. Lonelytown (unadjacent to Funkytown, trust me): that crazy, whacked-out locale, somewhere between Yikes!burg and Nowheresville.
Like characters in a Stephen King novel (or roaches in a trap) citizens check in, but after the age of 'The New 35', rarely check out.
Certainly there are other men and women living alone, but they're the fortunate - those with a ruined marriage, or the devastating loss of a partner in their past. Lucky bastards. Folks that fit neatly and nicely into easily recognizable, appropriately identifiable categories. Having had a wife or a husband gives you street cred; an address in Lonelytown denotes your secret shame.
(And now that gays are getting married, shutters are going up on neighbouring windows once nattily curtained and swagged, and For Sale signs are hammered into lawns with more bravado than hope that anyone will choose to buy in.)
They're not making movies about us (even The Runaway Bride got hitched) nor designing cars for our special needs (in some provinces there's a bylaw against selling us minivans) nor are they creating delicious meals for one. (Those individual TV Dinners are for divorced men - and don't let anyone try to tell you different.) We're off the map, out of the survey, exiled to a box ticked 'other'.
I know - you're thinking of exceptions, but you'd be wrong: Club Med (strictly for the young and/or divorced, and/or adultrous) Stouffer's Lean Cuisine (secretly destined for families too busy to cook, and too unpleasingly plump to risk the Colonel) and double beds (too small for a couple, true - just the right size, however, for an old maid and two cats.)
Here's what is on offer to we of little hope:
Yorkshire Terriers: compact, apartment-sized creatures, nearly human, horribly judgemental - just what we deserve.
I have one.
Large one-bedroom apartments: once you've named your disease, the relief in just accepting your fate and needing no more than one parking space ever, is comforting.
I live in one.
Reality-based television programming (see below): for those without a life, an entire TV schedule of pseudo-living.
I watch it.
Large package tour cruise ships: depressing, distressing, and all you can eat.
I have nightmares about it.
My fate is sealed.
But for those of you who fit into the age group designated as The New 20's (translation: your 30's) I advise you to run, run as fast as you can to altar, town hall or drive-thru chapel of love. If you see a giant chicken gaining on you, unglove your left hand and flex the third finger.
Learn from my example, or sure as your 50's are The New 40's, I'll see you in the buffet line on a Carnival Cruise.