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Recommended Reading: The Last Conception September 13, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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Gabriel Constans. The Last Conception. Melange Books, LLC. White Bear Lake, Minnesota. 2014.

***

51OayA6JBeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_To my mother. To my wife. To my husband. Authors commonly dedicate their books this way. Nice, but boooring. (To everyone, that is, except the mother, wife, or husband.)

Gabriel Constans dedicates his book The Last Conception

To Love, in all its manifestations.

We here at Onely are interested in all aspects of the single experience and particularly like to learn about single people from different backgrounds than ourselves (Lisa and I self-identify as white, upper-middle-class, agnostic, heterosexual women). The beginning of Constans’ novel allows us into the world of single scientist and first-generation Indian-American lesbian Savarna, whose parents–still unaware of her sexuality–have been pressuring her for years to marry and give them a grandchild. Any unmarried, child-free reader whose parents have pressured them in this way will wince along with Savarna as her parents become increasingly fervent in their matchmaking–all while Savarna is trying to figure out her relationships with two different women. (I refer to her as “single” because initially she is not part of an “official” couple.)

Appropriately, as an embryologist Savarna spends her working hours manipulating eggs and sperm to help women conceive. She herself, however, doesn’t feel the tick-tock of her biological clock. If she did, this book wouldn’t exist. (Or it would be very boring.)

The Last Conception teaches that Indian culture places even more importance on marriage and childbearing than U.S. culture. So we have several layers of tension going on throughout the story:

–Savarna the happily childfree woman vs. her grandchild-wanting parents

–Savarna the American vs. her Indian parents

–Savarna is not religious, but her parents who travel to India once a year for some ceremonious gathering that Savarna has never attended and vaguely considers cultish

–Then there is lesbian Savarna vs. the heterosexual world her parents inhabit (though from habit as opposed to bigotry)

–Even Savarna and her closest girlfriend have differing opinions on commitment and children

–Savarna is torn between loyalty to herself and to her parents–whose constant nagging about reproduction, we soon discover, stems not from desires to pinch bubble cheeks or see if their grandchild has their eyes, but something far more weighty.

Through the course of the book these subtle battles wage, peak, resolve and eventually weave together into an ending so satisfying I really wish I could share it here. I’m afraid to say much more because I don’t want to put out any Spoilers. Let’s just say that ultra right-wing conservatives would hate this book, especially the conclusion. (All the more reason to read it!) One of our favorite words here at Onely is amatonormative, which means the normalizing of a few specific kinds of love relationships while marginalizing all others. The Last Conception kicks amatonormativity in the a$$.

Which is why it gets one thumb up from our blog. The other thumb is busy turning the pages for a second read-through.

–Christina

Book Release: A Voice For Singles With Chronic Illness August 27, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews, Single with chronic illness, We like. . ..
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indexA while ago we here at Onely.org gave our dear Copious Readers a heads-up and review about Nika C. Beamon’s book MISDIAGNOSED: THE SEARCH FOR DR. HOUSE.

Now we wanted to announce that it’s available on Amazon.com as a paperback and Kindle book.  It’s also available on Smashwords and as a Nook Book.  Look for the paperback version on Barnes and Noble.com. Congratulations, Nika!

She also wrote a guest post on Psychology Today that ties into the book and talks about how to deal with being sick and single.

Copious Readers, I hope you’re not sick and that no one you love has a serious illness. But even if you are so lucky, check out Nika’s book anyway, just for educational value. You might find a whole new world of weirdness as you enter the seamy, stupid underbelly of the U.S. healthcare system.

–Christina

 

The Humor Code: A Book Review April 9, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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Copious Readers, welcome to the second installment in our new series Things That Don’t Have Much To Do With Being Single. Marketing managers at Simon and Schuster kindly provided us with a review copy of The Humor Code–A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny and asked that we write about it on Onely. At first glance, we thought, “Hey, this has nothing to do with singles’ rights!” But we really, really wanted a free book. So we said sure, we’d review it. Plus, we rationalized, single people like to laugh, right?

McGraw, Peter and Joel Warner. The Humor Code–A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. Simon and Schuster. New York. 2014.

Two guys. 19 experiments. Five continents. 91,000 miles. And a book that will forever change the way you think about humor.

That’s the publisher’s summary. Here’s mine:

An intrepid sweater-vest-wearing university professor (Pete) looking for the grand unified theory of humor and a jaded journalist looking for a fluff story (Joel) quickly find themselves, if not over their heads, at least frighteningly up to their nostrils in a flood of humor, as they try to observe what makes people in different cultures laugh and why. A lot of the laughter they encounter is fun, some is dirty, some is mean, some is unintelligible, some is even dangerous.  They make some assessments based on science, such as when they look at various gender bias studies (verdict: no, Adam Corrolla, men are not funnier than women). The authors also form theories based on interpersonal interaction, such as when they compare penis sizes with Japanese actors-slash-game show participants.

The Humor Code has not one, but two, storylines. First, there’s the travelogue, intertwined with expository prose analyzing the results of their adventures. Second, there’s Pete’s struggle to become a standup comic–or at least to develop a standup routine that, based on what he’s learned about humor, cannot fail to entertain.  He appears on stage several times, each instance in a sweater vest. I won’t give away the end result, except to say that he gets better with practice.

The Humor Code is, appropriately and necessarily, funny. But the whole time I was reading I kept thinking, A book about what makes me laugh is making me laugh. A book about what makes me laugh is making me laugh. It was a very fractal feeling–not unpleasant, but rather like little meta fingers massaging my brain.

Our heroes go in search of Tanzanians who remember the contagious laughter outbreak, omuneepo. They examine headlines in the satirical newspaper The Onion published right after 9/11 to learn how laughter offsets tragedy (for example, “September 11 Hijackers Surprised to Find Themselves in Hell”). They meet with some of the Danish cartoonists who drew the famous and infamous cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that caused so much uproar around the world.

Speaking of which, here’s one for your next cocktail party: many of the cartoons didn’t even feature the prophet Muhammad; the vast majority of people protesting or defending them hadn’t even seen the drawings; and–this tidbit should be brought out after the canapes when people are well into their martinis and mojitos–the one cartoonist who did draw an actual prophet Muhammad with an actually offensive bomb in his turban was later in his home with a five-year-old daughter of a friend, when presumably a non-fan of his cartoon beat down the door with an ax and chased the cartoonist into his panic room–leaving the ax man alone with the little girl. She may or may not have drawn cartoons of Muhammad at some point in her Crayon career, but fortunately, the ax man hadn’t seen any and left her alone.

This book is full of cocktail party fodder, but it dives deeper than that too. Essentially, when it comes to humor, we humans are more united than divided.

–Christina

 

 

Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Part 1 of the David Bedrick Interview July 27, 2013

Posted by Onely in book review, Interviews.
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A love-based psychology promotes social justice, whereas mainstream psychology treats the difficulties of individuals in a vacuum –David Bedrick, J.D.

Copious Readers, Onely has been unhappy with Dr. Phil for a very long time, because he has counseled single people to embrace themselves and their hobbies and be happy, so that they can find a partner. Instead of just being happy, period.

So we were glad to have the opportunity to interview David Bedrick, author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology. (Belly Song Press, 2013). He proposes a “love-based psychology” that goes beyond the normative (restrictive) ideals that our society (as evidenced by Dr. Phil) puts upon people.

Bedrick’s approach parallels Onely’s efforts to dismantle normative prejudices against unmarried people. We disagree with the idea that couples (whether socially coupled or married) are “better” than single people, or more deserving of government protection.

We came up with some questions for Bedrick that we hope will flesh out the similarities in our missions. In a series of posts, we will tackle one or two questions at a time.

Today’s Topic:

Are people trying to “Normalize” your way of living to their (more common) way of living?

Don’t React to their behavior–Act Out their behaviour!

Onely: Dr. Bedrick, you say in your introduction to Talking Back to Dr. Phil (xvii):

The norms inherent in mainstream psychology’s diagnoses essentially reflect the majority’s beliefs, values, and viewpoints regarding psychological health. As such, it is a psychology often in service of normalizing people, seeking to help them act more reasonably and get along better with others even when the accomodation is contrary to their natures and life paths.

Do you agree that the normalization performed by mainstream psychology parallels the normalization of romantic relationships that occurs in our culture on a daily basis? If so, how do you think this impacts people who are “single at heart” and have no desire to seek a committed-romantic partner (which would be a life path contrary to the norm)?


Bedrick: Absolutely! Most blatantly in the way mainstream psychology promotes stereotypic gender roles that not only marginalize GLBT relationships but all relationships.

Mainstream culture encourages, celebrates, and bestows privileges on people who partner, especially those who partner in a traditional marriage. People who use their energy to focus on their own creativity, ambitions, healing, happiness, or non-traditional paths are looked at as if something is wrong with them. The internalization of this experience, a kind of shame, can leave people feeling depressed, angry, or both. This shaming can pressure people to look for a partner even if that is not truly their way.

Onely: How would you apply a love-based-psychology to someone who fears being single because of family pressure, or (Western) cultural pressure? (more…)

Book Review: “Unbridled” — Like “Eat, Pray, Love,” But Not Annoying May 21, 2013

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews, solo travel.
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McNally, Barbara. Unbridled. A Memoir. Balboa Press, 2013.

I totally want to go to Ireland. I totally want to make sandwiches for underprivileged girls. I totally do not want to take burlesque dancing lessons. I totally want to re-read Unbridled.

What it’s about:

Essentially, the book is about a woman, our narrator, who tries in self-destructive ways to get out of her suburban marriage-with-kids life. No offense to the suburbs, or marriage, or kids, but she feels that somewhere in the whole combo, she lost herself. So she rips herself free into singledom (I won’t tell you how), leaving behind a tangled mess of family and feelings that she regrets but cannot repair, at least not at that time. She embarks on a journey of self-seeking to Ireland and Jamaica which (spoiler alert?) ultimately allows her to return home and reconnect with her daughters.  Then she gets semi-naked and dances at a hospital.

Why It’s Less Annoying than Eat, Pray, Love:

Does story of a quest for personal fulfillment via travel sound familiar? Unless you’ve been living under a literary rock for the past few years, you’ll recognize this book as possibly capitalizing on the whole Eat Pray Love phenomenon.  Now, I happen to hate very much on Eat Pray Love, so I was worried that I would be equally annoyed with this book.  But no. I read it in three sittings (or lie-ings, if you count the bathtub).

First, McNally isn’t spoiled. She doesn’t have a zillion-dollar book contract to fund her journey. She pays and budgets like one does on a real trip. Second, she isn’t vain. Not once do we hear a man gushing about how beautiful she is (although don’t think that means we don’t see a good deal of carefully wrought sex in the book). Third, she acknowledges that she is leaving behind some serious responsibilities, especially her daughters, and this weighs on her. Her love affair–with a falconer on the grounds of an Irish castle nonetheless–isn’t claustrophobic and the culmination of her journey, as if single is ok as long as in the end you couple up. Rather, McNally leaves her lovely falconer after one day and moves on, not without regrets but also happy to be continuing her journey as a free, single woman. All this is totally opposite of EPL. So we can thank the EPL phenomenon for opening up the market to books that are actually–in my opinion–better in many ways than EPL.

“I held the meat gingerly and stretched my arm out like a branch. A very nervous branch.” (88, on feeding a falcon)

Caution:

(more…)

Saving Gracie: Book Review March 24, 2013

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 Claude_Dejoux_-_"L'Amour_et_L'Amitie"_(Love_and_Friendship)_-_Walters_27504

Jill Teitelman. Saving Gracie. Freestyle Press, Boston MA. 2012.

Marty was married for 17 years seventeen years, so he’s used to thinking in terms of us. When I say I instead of me, he notices. (173)

This is Onely’s first review of a novel. It’s about singleness–the good, the bad, the self-absorbed ex-husbands. How was the book? Well, it got me through two sick insomniac nights.

Ruth was single for a long time and loved it–she traveled the world, met fascinating people (lots of them men, and lots of those she slept with) and overall relished her freedom. She worked on her writing; she thought, Who would want to be married if they could get published instead? (44)

Then suddenly she reached her early forties and her biological clock kicked in. Late. Too late? Not quite, but its ticking was loud enough to impair her judgment when choosing Jake as her husband.

We here at Onely say that people can (and maybe even should) be happy in their single state–which makes us sound a lot like subatomic particles so let’s call it single-at-heart (“it’s how they live their most authentic life,” says Dr. Bella DePaulo).

I was worried that Ruth would become one of those people who feels desperate and worthless if single. And yeah, she does have some of that, but it’s because she has a son–and single mothers don’t always have the option of living single-at-heart, even if that’s what they really are. If she can’t pick up her son at school, is there someone else who can? (Jake doesn’t count–he only does things with his son when he feels like it.) Or does she have to race across town in a panic?

She dates a bit, hoping for that extra support, if not exactly love. And what she is lucky enough to find is not what she expects, but it’s what we need more of in this world–a support system of close-knit neighbors who can share resources and childcare and food and rides to the hospital. Something to penetrate the walls of the apartments and condos and single-family homes. She meets Grace.

Now, their friendship doesn’t magically create one of these idyllic eco-and-alternative-family communities, but it is tiny, shimmering example of what could be. Grace has two sons and a husband and a relentlessly positive attitude. In many ways she functions as a husband for Ruth, providing platonic emotional support–that continues even during Ruth’s short marriage to another man, Marty. They make a tiny community.

When Grace falls ill, her friends and neighbors–remembering how she had always had a smile for them–rally around her, bringing food and running errands. The community grows bigger. Ruth and Marty split up because Ruth doesn’t love him and has less fear of raising her son alone. But Grace, the pebble that started the pearl, is still sick. Her most intimate care falls on Ruth.

The most fascinating part of the novel for me was hearing Ruth’s thoughts as she tries to figure out what to say to her best friend, her sick friend, who was always so upbeat and remains upbeat despite feeling uncomfortable. Ruth is more of, well, let’s just say she’s more like me, a cautious optimist and realistic pessimist. She analyses every interaction with Grace during her sickness–should she tell her friend a joke? When her friend falls into a rare moment of depression, should Ruth try to pump her up, or should she agree that the situation is frustrating and let the moment of despair sit for a minute, because maybe Grace is sick of optimism? (more…)

Going Solo–With the Rest of Society (a book review) February 28, 2012

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Eric Klinenberg. Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. The Penguin Press, 2012.

I began my exploration of the world’s first singleton societies with an eye for their most dangerous and disturbing features, including selfishness, loneliness, reclusiveness, and the horrors of getting sick or dying alone.

A singlist statement like this one would normally make us here at Onely ululate and tear at our hair. However, it’s hard to fault Eric Klinenberg for his honesty or his preconceived notion of solo living. After all, in 2002 he had just written Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, a book about the hundreds of people who died in 1995 when the heat index hovered for days in the low 100s. Most of the victims lived alone. Their tragedies informed the CDC’s list of  risk factors for heat wave victims:

Living alone, not leaving home daily, lacking access to transportation, being sick or bedridden, not having social contacts nearby, and of course not having an air conditioner.

But in Klinenberg’s new book, he discovered that

. . . singletons have helped revitalize the public life of cities, because they are more likely than those who live with others to spend time with friends and neighbors, to frequent bars, cafes, and restaurants, and to participate in informal social activities as well as civic groups. (230)

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone examines and celebrates this relatively new social trend. Klinenberg uses the term “singletons” to mean people who live alone, as opposed to “singles”, who may or may not be socially single (eg. unmarried/unpartnered) and who may or may not live alone. We at Onely like this distinction and will be using “singleton” in the same way henceforth on this blog.

In his engaging text sprinkled with statistics, Klinenberg touts the benefits of living alone, tramples stereotypes about the selfish, rotting singleton, and profiles some of the heavy-hitters in the field of singles’ rights, such as the Alternatives to Marriage Project. Yet despite all the praise of this lifestyle, the book never loses sight of the fact that right now, in our current society, living alone is generally only an option for the very privileged–or the very woebetrodden.

The most important parts of this book (but make no mistake, the entire book is important) are those which acknowledge the latter: the poor, frail, ill, and/or isolated folks who die in heat waves (for example). The goal is not to deride them, or the practice of living alone. In fact, by asking How can we prevent underprivileged singletons from succumbing to the dangers of living alone?, Klinenberg is actually saying, Living alone is such a valuable experience, how can we allow more people to have it safely? Or in his own words: (more…)

Single Women: Tell Your Stories to the Camera July 22, 2011

Posted by Onely in book review, Great Onely Activities.
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Are you a compelling single woman between ages 25 and 60? Want to honor Women’s History Month by sharing some of your life stories and lessons learned?

You may be able to take part in the upcoming documentary series Independent Spirit:  Successful Women in America Speak Out on the Joys and Pains of Modern Day Single Life.

The docuseries is tentatively in the works now, inspired by Nika Beamon’s book  I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful Single Black Women Speak Out.

The producers hope to hear from single women of *all* enthicities: Black, Asian, Latina, White, whatever! If you want to tell them what it’s like being a single woman [legally single or socially single], please contact Nika Beamon at denali17@optonline.net, and please include a .jpg photo and a bio, which are needed for the treatment package going to the executive producer.

–Christina

Photo Credit: 997 Ourem

Hard Core Onelers: Hired Hermits March 11, 2011

Posted by Onely in book review, Food for Thought, Great Onelies in History, Reviews.
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Welcome to the latest installment in our series Hard Core Onelers, where we feature people who take independence to new or interesting extremes. Today’s subject: Hired Hermits.

Copious Readers, what would it take for you to become a hermit?

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Doubleday, 2010. (Onely recommends: Read this book. It’s amazing.)

For a time [at estates in Victorian England] it was highly fashionable to build a hermitage and install in it a live-in hermit. At Painshill in Surrey, one man signed a contract to live seven years in picturesque seclusion, observing a monastic silence, for 100 pounds a year, but was fired after just three weeks when he was spotted drinking in the local pub.

An estate owner in Lancashire promised 50 pounds a year for life to anyone who would pass seven years in an underground dwelling without cutting his hair or toenails or talking to another person. Someone took up the offer and actually lasted four years before deciding he could take no more; whether he was at least given a partial pension for his efforts is sadly unknown.

Queen Caroline had the architect William Kent build for her a hermitage at Richmond into which she installed a poet named Stephen Duck, but that was not quite a success either, for Duck decided he didn’t like the silence or being looked at by strangers, so he quit.

Copious Readers, would you be a hired hermit? For how long? Under what sort of parameters? Before I’d make my decision, I’d need the answers to a few simple questions:

Do people have to journey through the woods and up a mountain to see me? Am I confined to the cave/cottage or can I frolic in the nearby fields too? Does the public come to watch me do my hermitting? Do I get food delivered or must I rely on my gardening and snare-making skills? Am I allowed to trim my nails and nose hairs?

I thought long and hard and decided I could last at least five years under some combination of these conditions. Time to nap! Time to write! Time to do backbends and tree pose! I would only need just a few meager possessions:

–toilet

–tub

–skylight

–warm babbling brook running through the cave floor

–some bags of cashews

–journals

–memory foam mattress

–ceiling fan

–heated floors

–my MacBook

–wifi

–my cats

–$20,000 year stipend (good cat food is expensive)

–make that $60,000 (good cat food is really expensive)

–access to medical care (assuming the doctor makes cave calls)

–visits from my family and friends (depending on the conditions set by the estate owner, these might have to be clandestine, involving parachutes and balaclavas)

Rich estate-owning readers, want to add a touch of whimsy and mystique to your premises? By following the few simple guidelines above,  you can have your very own Onely hermit, with crisply groomed nose hairs.

–Christina

Photo credit: aug.edu

Book Review: Seeking Happily Ever After October 4, 2010

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
4 comments

Michelle Cove. Seeking Happily Ever After–Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind (and Finding Lasting Love Along the Way). Penguin, New York. 2010.

General assessment: A fun bathtub read. Cove writes well, in an accessible style with vivid examples. Singles of different stripes will relate to many of the book’s insights, such as this example of Europe’s progressive singles optic:

“In America, the government taxes the household, whereas in Europe the government taxes the individual. That means many people in the United States who marry get certain benefits and provisions that make marriage a better economic choice” (261).

That said, this book, like all books, has some parts that could be improved. Mostly, the title. (Which is better than saying, “Mostly, the content.”)

Detailed assessment:

I have read most of this book, but not all of it yet. I didn’t have to! I could skip right to the chapter most relevant to me and my personal outlook on romantic relationships, thanks to the fun structure of the book. Cove’s premise is that single women often fall into one of four very broad categories:

screeeeeeeeeeech

I should probably stop here and say that this book is largely written from a hetero female perspective using hetero females as real-life case studies. I would have liked for the title to indicate as much.  Our Not-So-Copious single male readers can still find relevant insights in the book–such as when interviewee Cindy says, “We want our partner to be everything. And that’s just impossible! Nobody can be everything!”–but as it is now the title gives the impression that singlehood is such an inherently female obsession that the book’s female slant doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

That issue aside, back to the four categories, which I feel are as accurate as any categories can be and which give a pretty good idea of the span of the book:

–Looking (Eagerly) for Mr. Right

–Experiencing Conflicting Feelings About Being Single

–Changing Love-Life Goals

–Navigating a Marriage-Obsessed Culture (Subtitle: Time-out, people. Who decided this was a race, and what’s the *&*ing rush?)

Each major grouping contains several sub-categories. For example, I fit into the last category, which contains three chapters: The Someday Mom; The Slow and Steady; The Trailblazer. Each starts with a handy Pop Quiz that tells you whether or not the contents is suited for you. Really, they’re mini-questionnaires.

And I adore questionnaires. I love being asked for my opinion. I love the safe, cozy feeling of seeing my answers added up, categorized, and in the end telling me a little bit about me, if only a small corner of myself and if only for an instant. I found out I was a Trailblazer (yay!), by answering the following quiz: (more…)

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