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Here Are The All Single Men! September 16, 2009

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought.
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Ok, well *one* single man, anyway. Onely received the following thoughts from Matt when we called for input from single men. I am reposting Matt’s comments here because they segue nicely with our preceding QuirkyAlone post.

Single, 29-year-old man from Ohio here. I appreciate the consideration in asking for our input. Like many here, I’ve long found being single the most natural state for me, despite social pressures otherwise. I think part of it is that I’m very independent, and I find it hard to really be my own person in a committed, monogamous relationship. Trying to squeeze myself into the mold of 1/2-of-a-couple has always made me feel quite claustrophobic and contorted. Not that I don’t respect those who enjoy it… in fact I’ve spent most of my life trying to force myself to want that coupled state which society considers ‘healthy,’ despite the fact that it’s never felt right. Rather than initiating relationships and then dealing with drama, I generally just remain single.

Single, 35-year-old woman here. I identify with every single sentence, which speaks to the fact that the “satisfied single” experience is not necessarily all that different between men and women, even though men are underrepresented in public dialogs on the subject. I too find it hard to be my own person in a relationship–not necessarily because the relationship constricts me, but because I constrict myself. I am a giving person by nature, and I tend to give too much and not even realize I’m doing that, until I’ve bled out some key parts of myself and made some compromises I should not have made. Your standard committed romantic relationship brings out this tendency in me if I’m not careful. And usually, I am not careful.

I get mixed reactions. I face a lot of pressure from my family, as I am the youngest of 5 children, and all of the rest are married. No matter how clear I try to make it that I’m happy as I am, they seem to see it as simply a matter of time (and by now, I’m very tardy!) My good guy-friends, though relationship-cravers themselves, seem to be fairly accepting. For the most part I don’t really know what others think, because I generally don’t bring it up!

Christina again: Copious Readers, have you noticed any tendency among your friends for one gender to be more or less accepting of your uncoupled or unmarried status? All my friends are pretty open.

I’ve consulted most of the sources as the rest… Quirkyalone, this site, Singled Out… while they may be written somewhat to a female perspective, I still have found them valuable, as I think many of the issues are the same. Some things which can also be helpful are ’spiritual’ resources such as Buddhist readings, the Bhagavad-Gita, or whatever floats your boat… while they may not directly deal with singledom, the lessons they teach about happiness independent from external circumstances, trusting you inner self, etc., have a certain relevance. After all, if you can find a peaceful mindset and be content with yourself and your life, your relationship status and how others view it isn’t something you’re going to be preoccupied with. Easier said than done, of course =)

In terms of difficulties, I think that many of them are the same as those facing women. I agree with Laurence that there are various stereotypes that people make about single men. Are you a serial killer? Gay? Just extremely selfish? Perhaps that’s one difference… while people may see a single woman as unlucky, just not having found the one, they may be more likely to see a single guy as selfish and even predatory for wanting to take part in society without making the sacrifice of committing himself to a woman, 2.5 children, a dog and a minivan.

I think that single women are also seen as selfish sometimes. Copious Readers, have you heard of single women being called selfish? Actually maybe I’m thinking about childfree women more than single women. (Lisa indirectly got called selfish for not wanting children.)  However, I agree that single women are definitely not portrayed as predators to the extent single men are. Thinking about this, I’m not sure whether to be relieved or insulted. What, are we not strong enough to be predators? Are we not forceful enough?  Hey, we can be intimidating and scheming too!

Another issue is one that I suppose women also have to deal with, which is that for most people there is, well… a sexual imperative. And in men this is actually a physical necessity. Regardless of how you handle this, obviously there is somewhat of an internal conflict, as most heterosexual men can’t simply ignore their attraction to females, regardless of whether or not they actually want to permanently couple… reconciling this and how to deal with it is part of the confusion of being a (happily) single man.

Interesting. . . I’m going to say that hetero women definitely can also have trouble ignoring their attraction to men. It may or may not be generally harder for men; I don’t know. But then for both sexes we get into the corollary issue of (as you said) how to reconcile the sex drive with our society’s tendency to only sanction sex in the context of coupledom (or impending coupledom).

Here’s an interesting scientific observation — Married men tend to have significantly lower testosterone levels than unmarried men: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/09.19/01-testosterone.html

Anyhow, thanks for remembering us Onely guys and asking for our input.

Thanks so much for inputting, Matt! We really appreciate your taking time to comment so thoughtfully.

Christina (and Lisa)

Comments»

1. Singletude - September 17, 2009

Yay! I’m so happy that a guy wrote in! :D

I’m with Matt and Christina–relationships force me, either because my partner compels me or because something in me compels me–to change myself in unacceptable ways. And even the best ones have roller coaster moments that I don’t need to be part of. I’m too fond of my equilibrium, thank you!

I can’t believe Matt’s family is pushing him to settle down at the “ripe old” age of 29, especially when their four other married children should assure them plenty of grandkids! Sheesh! I’m lucky enough to have a family that doesn’t pressure me. My friends usually don’t, either, although there are occasional singlist comments, mostly because, I think, they were raised traditionally and don’t know any better. I try to educate them in a nice way when I can. :) Reactions to my single status seem highly individual and not generalizable by gender. I know people of both sexes who are different degrees of supportive, understanding, dubious, confused, condescending, and everything in between.

I’ve definitely heard of single women getting stuck with the “selfish” label, especially childless single women. Although I don’t think it’s ever been applied to me, when I’ve expressed an intention to stay single and perhaps child-free, some women have told me that I would be missing out or that I’d probably change my mind. On the contrary, I think remaining single when you know you don’t have it in you to be a spouse or parent is one of the most selfless things you can do. You’re sparing a hypothetical partner and kids much needless pain.

I’m also going to agree that many women are just as interested in sex as many men (and some men and some women are not that interested in sex at all), although I’m going to disagree that partnered sex is ever a “necessity” for anyone. (My definition of “necessity” is something you couldn’t survive without like food, water, air, and shelter.) I think it’s impossible to quantify or generalize how much either gender longs for sex and am puzzled as to why it’s become such an us-against-them kind of debate.

I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t help repeating it: I think single men and women have more commonalities than differences, and I wish we’d all put aside the tendency to argue over who has it worse and just work together toward more social acceptance and legal rights for all singles. ;)

Onely - September 19, 2009

Definitely we should realize that the sexes have more uniting them than dividing them (at least in regard to singles’ advocacy issues). But also I think it helps to discuss peoples’ notions of which-sex-does-what in order to deconstruct those notions if they are based on faulty premises (and support those that aren’t). It will really help to get more men weighing in. The problem is that the marriage-coupling paradigm is so historically mired in the mistreatment (or “propertyization”) of women, that the issue of singles’ rights tends to raise the hackles of females more than men (I think). That’s not to say that nowadays single men don’t feel the impact or stigmatization in a coupled world.
CC

2. Alan - September 17, 2009

I’ve always found the “missing out” argument to be pointless, as you can apply it to virtually anything. Heck, I could tell everyone they should become a nurse, because if they don’t they’ll be “missing out” on something I find wonderful.

But I know most people aren’t like me and don’t share my values or interests, so I don’t make the mistake of urging them to become like me.

Onely - September 18, 2009

AGREED–no matter what, we’re all going to end up missing something.
CC

3. Laurence - September 19, 2009

Personally, I’ve found that because Quirkyalone men are such a minority, society doesn’t understand them at all. If a woman is holding out for her soulmate and passing up opportunities for sex and romance, she simply is being picky and selective — “typical” female behaviours, supposedly. But any time a guy passes up opportunities for sex and romance with women, he is seen as timid, not a “real man,” or gay. This is one of the most bothersome things to have to live with. To most people, a romantic guy patiently waiting for The One and having little to no interest in anything less than that is virtually unheard of. At least female Quirkyalones are somewhat familiar to popular culture (eg. Ally McBeal). But where bachelors in pop culture are concerned, we think mostly of the Bruce Wayne/George Clooney/James Bond playboy types. These men choose to stay single so they can have as many shallow flings as possible — the complete opposite of Quirkyalone. Yet they tend to be regarded more favourably than a sensitive guy who simply has no interest in casual relationships or anonymous sex.

(As for women needing and wanting sex as much as men… as much as I want to believe that is true, I have a feeling that if it were, the world would look very different from how it is now.)

Anyway, this is an interesting discussion. Thanks for everything you are doing to raise the profile of Onely and Quirkyalone guys!

Onely - September 19, 2009

Thanks Laurence–I had never thought about the fact that QA men are so underrepresented in pop culture, but you’re right. Men are given a difficult “macho/playboy” ideal to live up to that not only can damage and objectify women, but also damages the men as well. I don’t usually think about the effect of those stereotypes on men (I am perhaps rather selfishly concerned with how media portrays women), so I’m glad you reminded me of this. For instance, I have long hated James Bond’s interactions with women, but I never thought how he was creating an uncomfortable ideal for men as well. DOWN WITH JAMES BOND. (Though I have to say the new Bond is rather peachy.)

CC

Singletude - September 23, 2009

I, for one, just want to say that I would prefer a Quirkyalone guy to a James Bond any day. I know a few women who think similarly, too. But I see that pressure on guys that you’re talking about, and it makes me very sad. My dream is that one day we’ll evolve to the point that this culture of “masculinity” will give way to a culture of humanity, one that recognizes that emotions aren’t masculine or feminine but human, that we all experience them and should be free to express them without ridicule.

(In the interest of deconstructing like Christina suggested, isn’t it possible that many women want sex as much as many men but don’t feel as free to pursue it for lots of different reasons?)

4. Steve - September 24, 2009

Hi, I found this post through Quirkyalone (which I hadn’t visited in a long time) and thought I’d weigh in. I’m not entirely sure how my singleness is generally perceived, so I’m going to address why I’ve chosen to remain single thus far.

I’m 34, grew up in Michigan, and live in Los Angeles. I’ve never had a relationship last longer than eight months, and I tend to go years in between. That’s partly because I’ve always been fairly solitary and independent, and I don’t care to date just for the sake of dating (or sex). But also, the women I’ve dated have always managed to find a dealbreaker — whether it’s that I’m too introverted for one, or too nerdy for another, or a little too kinky for another. Too much of a dude for one, not nearly traditionally masculine enough for another. I’m mostly happy being single, but I’d love to be in the kind of relationship where I’m seen and accepted for who I actually am. And it seems to me that our cultural conception of “romance” is almost the antithesis of getting truly intimate with a real, live, imperfect, irrational, warts-and-all human being.

With most of the few women I’ve dated, I’ve wound up with a distinct sense that I was being cast as the sort of one-dimensional archetype you’d find in a romantic comedy. I can pass for “The Shy One,” or “The Smart One,” or “The Funny One.” But if I started showing signs of individual complexity beyond the prefab identity they’d pegged me with, I’d eventually sense that she’d begun to feel like I wasn’t the person she’d signed up for.

It’s sad, but I think the most realistically adult relationship I ever had was in high school — I was 18, she was 15, and since we didn’t think we knew what we were doing, we just talked to each other. We were open and honest (and as accurate as we knew how to be about what we were feeling). When we had a problem, we would bring it out in the open and talk about it, and usually find we had noticed the same problem, and we always felt relieved afterwards. In short, we could communicate. And it was about the reality of what we were feeling, not some idealized romantic fantasy of what was happening.

Contrast that with my later relationships: Invariably, when I tried to bring up an issue or problem openly and honestly (in just the same way I did before), it was perceived as a threat. To her ego, to her self-image, to the relationship, whatever it was, it seemed like a crime to even hint that things weren’t perfect, because it destroyed the romantic illusion. Some of the problems I brought up seemed obvious to me, but hadn’t even entered my partner’s consciousness. It was like we were talking about completely different realities, and so communication always broke down. If you don’t have communication, you don’t have a relationship, and that’s the point where things have always ended.

I come from a loving, stable family of five kids, and I’d love to have my own someday. But if I’m going to commit to a relationship, I need to know that I’m perceived realistically, that there is genuine intimacy there, and that we’ll be able to work things out when times are bad as well as good. I’m not going to commit to anything less, because there’s too much potential for the whole thing to fail and for other people’s lives to get torn apart in the process.

What I take away from all of this is that as much as men are reputed to fear intimacy, women are just as freaked out by it, deep down. Romantic ideals seem to me to function as a shield, a way to convince yourself that you’ve already got everything pegged, and avoid getting to know somebody as they are, and all the messy complications of reality. Because (in my experience) the deeper you dig into a human being — any human being — the weirder and more irrational and illogical and incomprehensible things get, and the less you can maintain the notion that the person you’re with is “normal.” Let’s face it, “normalcy” can be a paramount concern for folks of both genders. Though personally, I’ve never understood why that quality is so prized…

One last note: I’m finding that being single at 34 is entirely different than being single in your 20s. A big chunk of the large group of friends that used to function as my second family has now coupled up, settled down, and started making REAL families of their own, before those biological clocks run out. I’ve still got some friends who are consistently socially available, and I know that the old crowd would be there for me in a pinch if I ever truly needed something, but I feel pressure to find a relationship that I’ve never felt before — not from other people, but from no longer having what I’d consider a primary support structure.

Onely - September 25, 2009

Thanks Steve, for taking time to provide so many thoughtful and salient comments. (But then, we Michiganders are pretty much known for our intelligence and insight, aren’t we?? As well as our excellent tans?) A couple of your points particularly resonated with me:

“And it seems to me that our cultural conception of “romance” is almost the antithesis of getting truly intimate with a real, live, imperfect, irrational, warts-and-all human being.”

Well said well said. I would like to add cellulite and a habit of popping one’s knuckles to that list.

“Contrast that with my later relationships: Invariably, when I tried to bring up an issue or problem openly and honestly (in just the same way I did before (Onely’s note: in his very young, honest high school relationship) ), it was perceived as a threat. To her ego, to her self-image, to the relationship, whatever it was, it seemed like a crime to even hint that things weren’t perfect”

This is very interesting–perhaps as we age we subconsciously absorb more of the cultural myth that coupling stems from and induces a perfect state of eternal bliss (this sounds exaggerated, but really it’s not, if you deconstruct our current pop culture and literature critically). When your girlfriend was 15 maybe she just didn’t “know” enough to demand “perfection”. That is refreshing. Not to say you should go hooking up with 15 year old girls nowadays, but an interesting experiment would be to see whether your old girlfriend still maintains her old communications techniques, or whether she too has been (ostensibly) co-opted by the movies (kiss and fade to black with stirring violin music!!).

“but I feel pressure to find a relationship that I’ve never felt before — not from other people, but from no longer having what I’d consider a primary support structure.” I know the feeling–my primary support structure is disintegrating too as people become locked into their pairings, and I’ve been meaning to write a long, semi-panicked post musing about how I don’t understand how I can have a zillion friends and yet still be at a loss for someone to call if I should break both my legs.

= )

Christina


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