Born to Be Free

An unattached Atlantan defends her single status
I turned forty in July. And I’ve had several long-term relationships with men I’ve adored but for whatever reason didn’t work out. Four years is generally when I’ll break it off, when I begin to feel like this isn’t very satisfying for me. I get what I call the “girlfriend feeling”—when it becomes repetitious, and day in and day out and mundane. I end up feeling like, where’s that passionate person? That person who wants to go out and dance and just be free? And that’s why I have to look at myself and say, “Maybe I’m not built for this.”
I just have ideas of intimacy that have never been matched by a man. I wasn’t getting what I needed. But I think it depends on what you require as a woman. I require a good lover. I think that always dwindles in the end. How do you keep romance alive? I have that quality within myself to look at a person with new eyes regularly and keep my passion for them going. But I think for men, they get in a comfort zone. Being with somebody was never a goal, though; it was always for love. The goal was never marriage.
In my last relationship, I felt like this person was content to have a roommate and have somebody take care of him. And it’s not because he didn’t love me. It’s not like I’ve felt unloved in any of my relationships. But I don’t ever want to live with a man again, unless it’s like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: You have your side, I have my side, we have a little bridge we can cross over when we want to.
If I want to have a child, I will. I would love to have a father figure for a child. I was madly in love with my father, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. He brought so much to my life. But I know I can provide emotionally and spiritually and monetarily for a child, if that’s what I want to do. But I wouldn’t make that decision lightly.
I’ve been single now for the past year and a half—and I’m really adamant about staying so. I’ve had the opportunity to date, get asked for my number all the time, and I say, “Well, how do you feel about dating somebody who doesn’t really want to date and/or have sex?” That usually clears it up.
And I do better alone. I might be a unique person in that sense. I’m the youngest of five kids. [My older brothers and sisters] didn’t really want me around. So I just learned how to be by myself, and I really relish that. But I think that’s a detriment perhaps to my relationships; I crave being alone so much.
But I’m not lonely. I love to be out with my friends. I’ll go dance, and I’ll have five people asking me out, but it’s just not where I’m at right now. My mom always says, “Well, you just haven’t met your equal, Jess.” Then [my family] will laugh, “Oh, well, somebody will come along when you least expect it!” But I’m so happy, I feel so good, and I come from a place of knowing how it feels not to feel this way. When you’re in a relationship that’s not fulfilling, it chips away at your self-worth and your self-esteem.
Does that mean I never want to have sex again? Of course not! But do I want to have a serious relationship again? It would really have to knock me off my feet. I’m truly happy right now. I’m not concerned about changing a thing. —Jessica Carvalho, as told to Amanda Heckert
Photograph by Alex Martinez