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Saturday, November 27, 2010

the single mother ghetto

Today, the word 'ghetto' conjures up images of inner city gangs, unemployment and dilapidated neighborhoods. Before it entered the American lexicon 'ghetto' conjured up images of orthodox Jewish men in Eastern European cities being kicked by goyish brutes in front of shop windows announcing their ware in Yiddish. But the word 'ghetto' can also be associated with something a little more abstract, not as tangible as unkempt real estate or exotic attire, but as a state of being. And that is the state of the single mother.

I've been a single mother for a little over eight years now. And every year, when the American holiday season threatens to swallow life as we know it, I see the invisible walls of the single mother ghetto closing in on me.

My daughter, you see, spends the holidays with 'the family' which is what we call her father's side. And a large family it is. Grandparents (post widowhood marriage), uncles and great uncles, aunts, first and second cousins, babies, dogs, boyfriends, girlfriends, gossip, good food and loud television. I, on the other hand, am only 'Ima'; the Hebrew equivalent of mother. And since I have no family in this country I have to figure it out - somehow.

So every year it is the same thing. How far am I willing to go to avoid staying in my single mother ghetto when everyone else is stuffing their face silly in the company of other married (or unmarried) couples and those who are yet to be paired up?

In the past I used to go as far as possible. Fly to Los Angeles, drive to San Francisco. Spend the day with people I barely know. Anything but staying in the single mother ghetto. But I no longer have the energy and the stamina to run away from it. So I stay put and deal with it.

And this is what comes up as I sit and meditate inside my invisible ghetto:

Married people don't like to mingle with the single mom type. She breaks the unspoken symmetry of one man per one woman (and vice versa); she challenges the social equilibrium. Maybe she looks desperate and needy, maybe she reminds people of something they prefer to forget, maybe she gives people ideas they don't want to toy with, maybe some people are threatened by her seemingly blessed independence. I cannot crack the silent code that separates married people from single moms. But I did notice that nearly all my women friends are either single, on the verge of divorce or separation, or in some kind of alternative relationships. In short, your typical run-of-the-mill comfortably married woman keeps the single mother type at arms' length. And her man... well, he'd better have a really good excuse.

And as I sit pondering the meaning of my ghetto life, I come across the article Single Mothers Are Yummy... If You're the Right Kind of Man and I leap to my feet in joy before I realize that the title is a trap.

Here's the point made in the article: By "Yummy" the writer implies in no subtle terms that this delicious treat which is the single mom may clog your arteries, make you gain weight, raise your blood sugar level, give you indigestion, and slow down your metabolism. In short, this writer, who is a dating expert, is warning you not to get near people like me, unless your male intestines are made of steel and you don't give a damn about your health or what other people might think about you.

So this season, out of consideration for my fellow human beings, I decided not to impose my deliciousness on anyone and chose to stay home by myself. But at the last moment I chickened out and called one of my 'person of accent' girlfriends who had recently walked out on her marriage and was spending the day by herself. We watched some movies, stuffed ourselves with spicy food that had no trace of turkey in it, and talked about life.

The next day, when the cashier at the coffee place I frequent asked me if I had a nice thanksgiving dinner I said that this year I decided to rebel. I didn't feel like going through the ordeal of cooking and overeating and going to bed stuffed to the brim, I told her, so I spent it with a friend.

What I didn't say to her was something Antonio Banderas said to Liam Neeson at the end of the very mediocre movie I happened to watch that evening:

"Losers are brilliant at making things pretty."


  1. Hi there I am one of many single moms and I find your site very interesting. I hope I have much time each day to drop by and check your site for recent post. By the way thank you for sharing this.

  2. Welcome to (and also) single fathe's ghetto.