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You Choose: Best New Relationship Signifier of the 21st Century! December 17, 2012

Posted by Onely in Dating, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought.
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2 comments

DSC01397.edit-thumbMany single people date. They date in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s. In a previous post we declared that the words boyfriend and girlfriend sound stupid when applied to people over the age of oh, say, ten. For example, stick a little gender neutrality in there and look what we’ve got:

Thanks so much for inviting me to your cocktail party, Jane, but I’ll have to pass because I’ll be in Aruba with my childfriend.

Cheers to reader Terry T for pointing out that icky yet accurate rhetorical twist. Onely’s boyfriend/girlfriend post also got other great responses (thanks to Lola for companion, my favorite because it works for people *and* cats) from people who felt passionate about this troubling gap in the English language–and, in fact, in languages around the world (thanks to Beth ODonnell for beau and paramour). So now we here at Onely are asking our Copious Readers to choose The Best New Relationship Signifier of the 21st Century!

What term should we use to describe that person (or persons) with whom we have a unique, committed combined emotional, sexual, and (perhaps) financial relationship outside of marriage? Because of the complicated, multi-adjectival nature of these relationships, you might be tempted to use an acronym (mine above turns out to be UCCESPFROOM). But instead please consider words that are easily translated. This will allow for maximum scalability around the globe (hey, we here at Onely like to aim high!)

And please remember, we are looking for relationship signifiers versus terms of endearment. = )

Thanks everyone!

–Christina

Photo credit: Rude Cactus (here or here)

The Wife Date December 9, 2012

Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Dating, Heteronormativity.
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9 comments

As our Copious Readers know (but as we often have to clarify to our not-so-Copious Readers and Friends), Christina and I are not against coupling per se. We’re against the privileges associated with coupling, especially when they are unequal to the privileges provided for singles.

Why am I giving you this caveat? Because I went on a date recently. And I didn’t want anyone to think that, by going on a date, I was not being Onely. We believe it’s possible to be Onely and have a love life too.

That being said, I have something to say about the date, which I am heretofore nicknaming The Wife Date. Perhaps by the nickname you can guess how I felt about it. But in case you can’t, let me explain:

Have you ever gone on a date where the conversation consisted of a series of generic questions, rather than from finding mutual experiences or interests in common? (more…)

U.S. adults have “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”–Do other cultures also infantilize the unmarried? November 28, 2012

Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought, single and happy, Your Responses Requested!.
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29 comments

The U.S.’ widespread use of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” is a decades-old cultural relic, from a time when we married barely out of boyhood or girlhood. But now more and more adults are waiting until their late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, or beyond to marry (if at all). So what does it say about our society that we call the people we’re dating “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”?

It SAYS that our society views unmarried people as younger/less evolved/more childish than married ones.

To be sure, our habit of using boyfriend/girlfriend in perpetuity did not arise from a concerted or conspiratorial cultural effort to infantilize unmarrieds. But the passive persistence of the terms does represent how singles are viewed. (For all that alliteration, you may thank this glass of wine.)

A thirty-eight-year-old hetero female has a boyfriend? Come on.

Progressive thinkers (usually as an extension of Queer rhetoric) have played with new terms: Significant Other; Partner; Life Partner. . .  These terms allow people of all ages to achieve the rare art of sounding both stodgy and mysterious at the same time.

Copious Readers, Onely requests your responses: (more…)

The Sticky Film of Seekingness August 19, 2012

Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought.
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8 comments

Rotating Profiles Dinner: If you are interested in people and people’s stories, this is the best event ever! If you want to make more friends, this is the best event ever! If you want to stretch your paradigms and get ideas for the characters in your next novel, this is the best event ever! I read about it in an email from one of my DC events list serves, and I got very excited.

By now you’ve guessed that there’s a “But. . .” coming.

First, here’s what happens at the Rotating Profiles Dinner:

You fill out a questionnaire about your life ahead of time. Then the night of the event, the organizers you sit you at a table with a bunch of people whose interests match yours, and you all eat Mongolian Barbeque for dinner. (That alone puts the gathering in the running for Best Event Ever.)

THEN for dessert you sit at another table, with people whose questionnaires indicated they would be completely different from you.  Such as, I imagine, because I like tabby kittens I would be seated at a table with a few Rottweiler owners. How fascinating! I have never met a Rottweiler owner. I need to meet a Rottweiler owner to dismantle my prejudiced view of them (which involves, for complicated reasons, bug-eyes and empty pizza boxes).  I would love to talk to a Rottweiler owner.

BUT I am not particularly interested in dating a Rottweiler owner. Or the owner of anything (except maybe a beach house in Hawaii). Yet the expectation is that in order to attend the Rotating Profiles event I have to be single “and seeking”. I have to want to find a date, or a boyfriend. And that stinks.

It’s no fun–or at least a lot less fun–for me to talk with interesting people when all across the gathering there’s a sticky film of datable/not-datable? coating everyone’s eyes and bodies and voices, like spiderwebs. (more…)

What Every Woman Wants? July 22, 2012

Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought, Heteronormativity, single and happy.
Tags: , , , , , ,
6 comments

Copious Readers,

The following is a story about the perils of couple-mania. The victim is me. The moral: Always trust your gut – you are a smart and intuitive person. Don’t let couple-mania get the better of you.

ImageA couple of weeks ago, I was invited to help a friend – let’s call her Reem – celebrate her birthday at a beautiful beach in southern Lebanon with her boyfriend (let’s call him Ramzi), and another friend of theirs (we’ll call her Rose). The beach was lovely – sunny, hot, relaxing.

A few hours into the afternoon, a few of Ramzi’s acquaintances from his football league showed up. We mingled. One of the guys started talking to me. We’ll call him Beach Dude.

Beach Dude seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. He’d grown up in the States but was of Lebanese descent. Talking with him, I felt comfortable, relaxed. He even asked me the topic of my dissertation; no one ever does that. We watched the sunset and chatted until I had to leave for Reem’s birthday dinner. I thought nothing of it.

But apparently, Reem, Ramzi, and Rose had thought about it plenty. They started teasing me.

Them: “Wow, Lisa, Beach Dude really likes you!”

Me: “What are you talking about?”

Them: “He stayed to talk to you when all the guys left to play football!”

Me: “Well, that’s true… but…”  My gut just felt they were wrong.

Them: “Lisa, he’s totally into you.”

Me: “I think he was just being friendly.”

Them: “You guys have got to hook up!”

After all their badgering I began to wonder if maybe they were right, and I had in fact entirely misinterpreted Beach Dude’s manner and motivations. Maybe he was totally turned on by the sexy concepts of historiography and disciplinarity (the subject of my dissertation). Still, I squirmed and blushed as they kept insisting that they had seen something I hadn’t.

I already hate couple-mania enough when it’s “out there” – in magazines or on television – but I truly despise it when it’s targeted at me. (more…)

Onely Gets Stood Up, Resorts to Machinery June 18, 2012

Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Dating.
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5 comments

My mom set us up, so I should have known the date wouldn’t turn out well. To be fair to my mom, I did ask her to find me someone. And when she described Robin over the phone, Robin sounded amazing and I couldn’t wait to meet her. The whole week my stomach filled with happy butterflies I looked forward to Saturday at 2 pm.

Saturday arrives. At 1:50 I move my car so Robin can pull up right in front of house when she arrives. At 1:55 I start to pace by the window. At 2:00 I make sure the ringer on my phone is on in case she tries to call to say she’s running late. By 2:15 I’m pacing faster, in ever more erratic circles. By 2:30 I begin to worry: Do I really want a relationship with this woman if she can’t even call to say she’s running late? Is she a chronic late person? Because I could never be with a chronic late person. My butterflies settle into the pit of my stomach, a soggy cocoon of disappointment.

At 2:45 I call her.  “Oh I’m so sorry,” she says. She doesn’t sound sorry. She sounds distracted. “I’m in Silver Spring.” This is a forty minute drive from me. She says, “I got caught up and didn’t realize the time.”

I’m opening my mouth to tell her not to bother coming now, when she says, “My longtime client had a fire in her nursing home and I’m trying to clean that up. Smoke damage. Can we reschedule our consultation?”

“Oh,” I say. “That’s too bad. Of course we can.” But I’m really thinking, Oh, the old fire-in-the-nursing-home-excuse. What about *my* estimate for a vacuuming job? What about the tumblefurs flying across my hardwood floors, clinging to the feet of my chairs, and sticking to my newly-moisturized face?

Robin lives in my neighborhood, so she says, “I’ll be home around six. Call me tonight and I’ll come over and give you an estimate for your vaccuuming.” She seems unfazed about having missed our 2pm date, and I wonder whether she would have even called me if I hadn’t called her first. That’s how it always is for me in relationships–I give, give, give and the other person takes, takes, takes. I curl up for a nap and rock myself to sleep through the tears.

At 7pm I wake up and call Robin. When her machine picks up I try to sound breezy, as if I don’t need her (more…)

This Is Not a Valentine’s Post February 10, 2012

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Dating, Food for Thought, sex, single and happy.
Tags: , , , ,
7 comments

It’s been almost 6 months since I crossed continents and landed in Beirut. I’ve got to say, living here has added strength to my already strong Onely sense of self – and it’s not just because I made it here on my own. Certainly, simply making this journey made me stronger. But now that I’ve settled a bit and feel less like a stranger, I have come to realize that, for the first time in my adult life, the work I’m doing is absolutely satisfying.

That’s not to say that the work I’ve done in the past wasn’t satisfying – I’ve always loved teaching, and I loved getting my Ph.D. It’s just that my work never made me feel like this. I never imagined it could. And recently, the way I feel about my work has been thrown into high relief when I’ve been forced to compare it to the way I feel about the three men who have recently expressed interest in me. (more…)

Single? Don’t Be! (Or, Christina becomes a Onely Hero) May 1, 2011

Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought, single and happy, Singled Out, STFU.
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5 comments

Since starting Onely, I’ve become attuned to the subtle singlisms of society. But what I call “attuned,” some people might call “bitter.” Singlists (people who regard singles as less worthy than couples) commonly use “bitter” to describe those of us who question our culture’s unconditionally pro-coupling status quo–whether our tones are calm, vehement, or vituperative.

So I tried very, very hard to keep my voice friendly and upbeat when I called the Heart-to-Heart dating service to tell them that one of their advertisements was singlist. I think I was successful in my efforts to stay nice, but I certainly had no success convincing the representative that the ad was problematic.

Here’s what happened:

While sitting at a stoplight on a busy road, I noticed outside my driver’s side window one of those signs with the little metal sticks for legs, as you might see advertising politicians before an election. But this sign was for a dating service. It said, in big red letters with a heart where the “O” would be (awwww),

“Single? Don’t Be!

Heart-to-Heart (###-###-####)”

If you’re reading this book, you probably already see the problem.

Don’t be single! In common usage, “Don’t” precedes an action/situation that makes your life or others’ lives unsavory. (Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t eat the yellow snow.)

Don’t be single! There are better ways to be!

I don’t hate dating services. They can connect people who want to find life partners or  people (like me) who just hope to go out and have fun. But I’d prefer that the services advertise themselves without denigrating any particular group. It would be so easy:

“Single and looking?

Heart to Heart! (###-###-####)”

Easy! So, I called them. To tell them how, by changing two words, they could make the world a little less singlist. The call Did Not Go Well.

As I’ve said, I was so very nice. I greeted the rep and said I wasn’t actually calling for  a date, but rather with an idea for their advertising. I said, more or less, that I felt their ad made some uncomfortable assumptions about single people and that there were other ways to communicate their message without assuming that being single is an inherently bad thing. I suggested, “Single and looking to find a partner?” (which isn’t pithy, but that’s why I’m not in advertising).

At first, she didn’t understand. I tried to explain my point several times, in several ways, all of which were perky and positive (I thought). At some point I said something about them “trashing singlehood,” and that resonated with her. She said, “Ohhhh, I see what you’re saying!”

Success! No, wait, not so much. What follows is a loose transcript of the conversation, in which she dug in her heels and defended Heart-to-Heart’s advertisement as if it were her dissertation. I typed as she spoke. (Please note that I couldn’t type fast enough to record all her words, but I got the gist.)

In her first breath, she said: “[The text on the sign] is what we want to say. . . Single is a problem. . . If you’re single and not happy, we can partner you up. . .  In today’s economy two incomes are better than one.”

Wow. I had to decide which of these ignorant statements to address. I chose “if you’re single and not happy, we can partner you up.”

Patiently, I tried to explain that the whole problem was that they didn’t specify “single and unhappy,” or “single and looking for someone,” but instead, they just said “single.”

She replied, “If you’re not looking to find anyone, then don’t call us.”

That’s absolutely fine, I said, still optimistic. But they didn’t say “call us if you’re single and looking to find someone.” They said, “don’t be single.” In choosing these words, I explained, they were trashing all single people, even those who didn’t consider their status a problem.

The rest of her words speak for themselves:

“The reason that we trashed [singlehood] is we don’t want people to be single. We want people to think about being single to think about being alone. . .  so we are trying to trash it. . . And we are getting tons of calls and people walking through our door – so it’s working for us.”

I took a deep breath, maintaining my cool. I didn’t want to give her a chance to call me bitter. So I said, in the sweetest tone I could muster (while making white-knuckled throttling motions with my hands), “Well, it’s something to think about!”

And she said, “Well, thanks for your input. I’ll pass it on to our management.”

HAHA! Just kidding. No she didn’t. She actually said: “Ok, but it’s working for us so I don’t think we’ll even give it a thought.” (The emphasis this time is mine.)

But it’s too late. My phone call made her think about it. And even though she’ll try to dismiss it (perhaps she’ll complain about “that bitter single woman” to her colleagues and friends), my complaint was voiced. That’s progress, and that’s why I’m not bitter.

Please Don’t Ask Me Out. June 24, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Dating, Food for Thought, Just Saying..
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19 comments

No really, I mean it. It’s not only because I don’t find you attractive, or because you’re 15 years (or more?) older than me, or because starting a relationship is nowhere on my to-do list.

It’s because, when I signed up to be a member of this public hiking group, I did so specifically because it was not geared toward singles, nor did it seem to be grounded on the premise that “meeting people” really meant “finding someone to date.” I signed up because the group already had 800+ members on its roster, so I thought I would enjoy relative anonymity and wouldn’t stand out as “fresh meat.” I looked forward to meeting new and interesting people at each hike (one of whom turned out to be you), but I also liked knowing that I wouldn’t feel pressure to attend every event or make friends unless I wanted to. More than anything, all I really wanted was to enjoy the Great Outdoors with like-minded people.

I definitely wasn’t looking for a date. (more…)

Why My Friend Thought I Was Gay April 30, 2010

Posted by Onely in Dating, Everyday Happenings.
Tags: , ,
9 comments

My friend at work told me the other day that he used to wonder if I was gay (I’m not). Why did he start to think that? Because he heard me tell a story where I said, “My friend and I were driving around the other day and happened to find this great Thai restaurant.”

Um. Sounds pretty gay, right? Yeah.

My coworker is a very intelligent, funny, kind person who just happens to get wierd ideas in his head sometimes. In this case, his thought process went like this:

Hm. Christina and ‘her friend’ were ‘driving around’. You don’t usually ‘drive around’ with someone unless you have enough time to spend together to do something totally innocuous and timewasting like ‘driving around’, and that would only happen if you were in a romantic relationship with them. And if she were in a romantic relationship with a man, she would have said ‘my boyfriend’, but because she just said ‘my friend’, her partner must be a woman.

I was interested in his assumption that someone wouldn’t just “drive around” with a platonic friend. Since when did driving around become an exclusive habit for couples?

I don’t actually remember where or with whom I was driving on the fateful day of the Thai restaurant. My mystery friend and I might have not actually been driving around aimlessly at all–I may have just misspoken when telling the story to my colleague. Or perhaps we were driving aimlessly. All carbon footprint discussion aside, I do have some friends with whom I could imagine myself ending up “driving around”. Probably it would have to be a pretty good friend, to be with in such a spontaneous and undirected environment.

Do people tend to think that friendships are not strong enough for such “driving around”, but romantic relationships are? My coworker seemed to feel that way. What other activities do people think are fine for couples, but unusual for friends to do together?

I’ll answer my own question: getting tickets together. Apparently this same coworker became further convinced I might be gay because I sent out an email to some friends inviting them to the D.C. Improv, and I told everyone to get their own tickets, because “Susan and I already have our tickets”.  This was because Susan and I regularly go to the Improv–it’s Our Thing. We get our tickets, and then ask other people if they want to come. But somehow the way I worded the email made my coworker–who really is a lovely person and I feel bad blogging about him behind his back–think that Susan and I were a couple.

My theory is that so many couples overuse the “we” construction that they have effectively co-opted it exclusively for couples’ use, and therefore we single people can’t even use “we” without being presumed to be part of a couple (gay or otherwise).

Christina

Photo credit: Philippe Leroyer

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