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October 4-10, 2006

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, about five years ago, after 25 years in 12-step programs, I found the "God of My Understanding" through astrology and numerology. It surprised me how these two pop-culture theologies became the linchpin for my spiritual beliefs. Nonetheless, here I am. So the thing is, my astrological chart says I should be with someone much younger than me, but the most intriguing and comfortable (not an easy combination for me to find) person I have met in the past two years is 17 years my senior. I'm at the doorstep of middle age and have a small child. I wonder if there could ever be any hope of integrating this friendship into our mutual worlds? Am I pausing to think for any good reason, or is this a real concern?--AstroGirl

Dear AG: I have two words for you: Nancy Reagan. Remember when it came out in the papers that Nancy was telling Ronnie how to run the country based on the words of her astrologer? Recall the collective horror? Just say no; don't let this happen to you. Let your heart be your guide, not the numbers and the stars. This is not to say that there is no place for pop-culture theologies, only that it's best not to get too specific. If the planets say that you will find a great love, then believe it, baby. But if they say you will find a great love who is balding, has green eyes and a mustache, then take it with a grain of salt.

As for the 17-years-your-senior thing, well, you can't really help that. It seems that younger women have been hooking up with much older men since the beginning of time. It may be bothersome in the movies (must we see yet another picture-perfect twenty-something actress paired with yet another sixty-something actor who looks like he just climbed out of a garbage chute?), but in real life, you love who you love. And finally, as for Small Child, the thing that Small Child will benefit from the most is your happiness. Small Child won't realize you're going out with an old guy for years, and by then, probably won't even care. And congratulations on the 25 plus five years. Now that's really something.

Dear Sydney, I am taking a breather in relationships (with the drawbacks and benefits both recognized), but continue to wonder: Are there some of us who simply are less prone to having a partner? I have been without a partner longer than I've been with one, and I do get weary of the emphasis on being with somebody, as if I am somehow not fully whole, or, conversely, as if those who have partners actually are. Clearly, none of us is so well put together. I think, though, that the pull of companionship is also profound, and I miss that even as I wonder if some of us may be better suited to living on our own.--Hanging with My Cats

Dear Hanging: There are drawbacks to being in a relationship, and there are drawbacks to being single. You seem to know this already, so I won't bother making a list for you here. Are some people more prone to falling into and maintaining relationships than others? Absolutely. Why else do some people spend most of their lives single while others experienced solitude for about a month or two back when they were 14? Call it luck, call it personality, call it insecurity, fear of being alone, fate--there is no single answer. To try and explain the nature of love in one paragraph would be like trying to break down the human psyche in 10 words or less. It can't be done.

It seems you know this already but are resenting the fact that society makes you feel as if by being single you have somehow failed. So the question is not so much should you or should you not be single, but why must you feel like a failure because you are? My answer: don't. Relationships are an upward swim against the currents of compromise. Revel in your freedom! Find solace in your solitude, your cats, your friends, your ability to follow your own whims without question. There is no rule that says you have to be in a relationship to be complete or to be happy. People in committed relationships are often more depressed, miserable and alone than people who are single. If only happiness could be found so easily, then life would be a real cake-walk. But it's not. Love does not provide eternal happiness.

You need to give some deep thought to what it is you really want right now. If you are content being alone, then enjoy it. After all, people don't just judge you for being single, they will also judge your partner choice! On the other hand, if your deep thought reveals to you that you are actually longing for love, then open yourself up to the possibility. Maybe even pursue it a little. After all, the chances of falling in love are awfully small if you only hang out in your own living room. But whatever you do, try to remain flexible. Just because you want love, doesn't mean that it will arrive. And just because you want to be single, doesn't mean that love won't fall from the sky, knock you on your ass and give you a concussion. Just remember, whatever you want, the only way to get it is to try.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.