Singles and Spare Time: Defying the Laws of Physics August 3, 2011Posted by Onely in Everyday Happenings.
Tags: richard simmons, singles spare time; memoirs
I’m single; my friend John has been married for about eight years. One day we were browsing a bookstore’s memoir shelves. I read a lot of memoirs, so I was excitedly pointing to a few books that I had either enjoyed or read about: “Ooh look, The Glass Castle! Ooh, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly! Ooh, Autobiography of a Face! Ooh, Half a Life! Ooh, Still Hungry After All These Years: Richard Simmon’s autobiography!” (I said I read a lot; I didn’t say I read highbrow.)
“Wow, you read a lot,” said John. “I wish I had time to read as much as you. But then, you’re single.”
As our Copious Readers are surely aware, a common stereotype of singles is that we have oodles more free time than coupled people. This implies that coupling sucks more time and energy than any other life obligations. This is obviously not true, although it can seem true, given how “intensive coupling” (where your partner is everything to you all the time) is portrayed by media and social institutions as the only acceptable kind of romantic relationship.
At first I didn’t mind John’s comment, for two reasons: One, he is about the sweetest person in the universe and I know he would never want to hurt my feelings for the world. Two, he said it with a tone that sounded as if he were jealous of, or had admiration for, my single state. I think he meant it as a kind of two-pronged compliment: first of my reading prowess, and second as praise for my singleness. (Praise built on faulty assumptions about singles, but still.)
Then later I realized something that made the comment bother me more, so I had to vent about it here on Onely:
I, the ostensibly free-to-read single person, work thirty-five hours a week, often more. John, the ostensibly too-busy-to-read coupled person, is unemployed due to the recession and is relying on his wife’s income. Yet because I’m single, I must have more spare time to read than he does. Somehow, I have managed to defy the laws of physics, time, and space. (Yay me?)
His comment, while not ill-intentioned, devalued all my hard efforts to fit reading into my life. I read good books during those hard hours after work, when my brain is mush from spreadsheets and meetings. Health issues require me to lie flat for long periods, so I read good books in bed, though sometimes when discomfort forces me to read the same Chekov paragraph three times I wonder if I should switch to Dilbert. Reading doesn’t just fall into my empty outstretched apron like cherry blossoms in a breeze. I have to climb that tree and shake it.
The most interesting (and disturbing) facet of all is the insidiousness of singlism: John was always one of those friends who seemed to totally get the concept of Oneliness, yet even he slipped into a moment of singlism without even realizing he’d offended. Because he is normally so supportive, I decided not to call him out, but to remember times when even I have said thoughtless things (shocker!). I will ultimately just let it go (um, right after I publish this post).
Copious Readers, has anyone ever insinuated that because you’re single, you have lots of spare time that you don’t have? How did you respond?
P.S. Richard Simmon’s autobiography is quite entertaining. Like.
Photo credit: Briar Press