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Shelly Oria
SHELLY ORIA is the author of New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), which earned nominations for a Lambda Literary Award and the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, among other honors. Recently she coauthored the digital novella CLEAN, commissioned by WeTransfer and McSweeney’s, which received two Lovie Awards from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Oria lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she codirects the Writer’s Forum at the Pratt Institute and has a private practice as a life and creativity coach.

How to Be Single

Illustration by Katie Kosma

Shelly Oria | Longreads | July 2018 | 11 minutes (2,799 words)

 

Some skirts are more promise than fabric, a whisper to yourself that one day you will have sex again. You know you own one, and you know it’s red. Dig in your closet. Dig some more. Don’t lose hope now: It’s waiting for you under a pile of jeans that need to be donated. Wear the red skirt at least once a week until otherwise stated.

Do not have sex; when the heart is in pain, the body can get you in trouble. Count the months. Feel a tremble in your stomach, in your chest, in your fingertips. It’s what happens when a woman embodies the full strength of her will: The force of it makes her shake.

If you’d like, you can brag to your friends. Do this in moderation. Sip your wine slowly before you speak. Hold the liquid in your mouth until all you feel is alcohol; close your eyes on the swallow. Say, three months, four months, five months. Say, Sex no longer holds power over me.

You will occasionally wonder if you are too old to wear the red skirt. Wear it anyway. Finger the seams. Stretch the fabric, then release. When times are rough, it’s important to wear clothes that remind your heart it’s a muscle.

Work 16-hour days. You’ll be teaching creative writing at a school infamous for underpaying instructors, so the only way to get by will be to take on way too many classes. At a party, you’ll meet a writer who will tell you he screamed at the dean of that school when he offered him a job and told him the pay. That doesn’t get me across the street, he told the dean. You’ll want to tell that writer that you’re in no position to be picky, because you’re on your own for the first time in your life. You’ll want to explain to him that you left a man who loved you with all his heart — and had a heart more pure than most — but who seemed to know you less every year, every month, every morning. You’ll want to tell him about the woman you spent the past year loving, about how the loss of your marriage hurts so much worse now that she’s gone too. Instead, you’ll nod. “Let me know if you hear of any good opportunities?” you’ll say.

There’s no point having sex with this writer. You will eventually learn that you need bed partners to be less language, more body. If you make the mistake of sleeping with him, tell no one; certain events can be undone by silence.

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