I spent 10 Thanksgivings volunteering in a Harlem soup kitchen because—hell, I'll just say it—I'm one of the few women of my generation who look really good in a hairnet. Also, I love to cook. I love turning nothing into something. I love the smell of garlic and lemon and ginger and onion. I love how blissed out a table full of people get over a crumbly cornbread stuffing or a perfectly dressed salad or a sweet potato-bourbon pie made from scratch. Oh, and there's one more reason I went out of my way to spend every holiday surrounded by a group of strangers: I couldn't bear to be with my family.

It's not that I don't love them—I do. They are a decent, God-fearing lot who would walk a mile out of their way to help if they thought you were in trouble. They recycle, they vote, they pay taxes, they e-mail the warning signs of a stroke. They are pillars of their communities, credits to their race, sugar and spice and everything nice, the cat's pajamas, the monkey's espadrilles. They'll meet your plane, they'll walk your dog, they'll remember your birthday, they'll save you a drumstick. But here's where my family and I parted company: They were all married with children, and for the first 42 years of my life, I was neither.

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong, goes the lyric to my favorite Sesame Street tune. Who'd have guessed that Big Bird would end up killing me softly with his song, but it's true—while I hardly qualify as the family's black sheep, in the race for odd duck I've broken away from the pack and am currently maintaining a significant lead.

Now, if you've read my column before, you know I have a boyfriend (that would be Johannes) and we have a 3-year-old daughter (the lovely and amazing Julia Claire). But I would remind you that the boyfriend lives in Europe and, as I just mentioned, the daughter wasn't born till I was in my 40s. I've looked at life from both sides now, but with Johannes off raising his son in Zurich eight months of the year, I continue to live with one foot planted firmly in the land of the single woman. And I'm here to tell you that it's hard out here for me and a whole lot of other bachelor girls in their 30s and 40s.

I'm not entirely sure why I never married. I've been accused of being too picky, too career oriented, too selfish, too difficult. If too picky means that I happen to be partial to men who chew with their mouths closed, then by all means, color me picky. As for the rest, frankly I've always found myself to be utterly delightful (or at least no more ambitious, selfish, difficult than any of my married friends). Still, in the interest of fairness, I invite those with opposing viewpoints to go ahead and vent away in their columns.


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