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Recommended Reading: The Last Conception September 13, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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3 comments

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

Do You Have a Best Friend at Work? March 11, 2013

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

Matt_George_and_Best_Friend_Rob_HepplerEveryone in my office had to fill out some HR office morale assessment questionnaire. I know, I feel your fear of the letters “HR”. But in this case our HR department was working to (ostensibly)  improve morale and alleviate any antagonism. Now, I *love* surveys–I love people asking me what I think!–but one particular question stumped me:

Do you have a best friend at work?

Huh. (more…)

Onely’s Adventures in Accounting: The Math of Marital Status Discrimination September 22, 2012

Posted by Onely in As If!, Heteronormativity, Your Responses Requested!.
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28 comments

Phew, pant pant pant. We at Onely almost missed National Unmarried and Single Americans Week!  (Lisa says it’s because she was too busy having fun as a single person.) And indeed, lately there have been a ton of articles (“All the Single Ladies,” “A Confederacy of Bachelors”) in big media about how single people are happy being single (gasp!). Which is good.

But it’s not enough to celebrate social aspects of being single. These articles about the Rise of Satisfied Singles, while important, don’t address the underlying problem of how our society views singles:

Discrimination against unmarried people is institutionalized in government laws (and by corporate policies, which follow the government’s lead).

Take, for example, the unmarried Canadian soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. If he had been married, his spouse would have gotten Death Benefits of $250,000. But because he had no spouse, that $250,000 remained in government coffers to be given to a married person. His and other parents challenged this practice, protesting that in the absence of a spouse, the money could just as easily be allocated to them.

Do you think these parents are

A) Justified;

B) Hmmm, what an interesting idea;

or

C) OMG HOW SELFISH?

If you answered A, then you understand why we at Onely believe marriage as a legal institution is overvalued and oversanctified. If you answered C, then you’d better stop reading now. We are going to prod at your stale paradigms – with the sword of mathematics. En guard!

We’ve never done the math of Marital Privilege. No one has. Until now. (more…)

Umbrella Alert: Selective Showers Ahead! July 28, 2012

Posted by Onely in As If!, Heteronormativity.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
14 comments

Getting married is more admirable than travelling to Haiti with Habitat for Humanity. Having a baby is more admirable than writing a biography of a pivotal activist in the gay movement.

At least, this is what an extraterrestrial would think if it landed; after all, we humans (or large percentages of us) almost automatically have Showers to celebrate coupling and breeding, but not to celebrate other large life occurrences, such as post-tragedy-home-building or hours-in-front-of-a-computer-for-the-sake-of-progressive-literature.

Such social conventions favor certain personal choices over others. I can’t get a month off with benefits to do something important to me, like take an intensive Arabic course in Morocco. But the woman one cubicle over can take two months of leave, and never lose her health insurance, just because her important thing is having a baby. (To my annoyance, here I have to preempt some myopic commenters by saying Relax–I am not dissing maternity/paternity leave; in fact, I’m saying it’s so awesome that even baby-free people should get that kind of time off).

Wedding and baby showers follow the same amatonormative (normalizing and preferring pairing) principles as baby leave, but at least they only represent one day of couple-privileging, versus weeks or months. Note: Baby showers are amatonormative because our cultures still mostly consider babies to ideally be the offspring/culmination of a (usually hetero) couple.

So, enough with the social commentary and on with the fun-making.

At a dinner party the other night I made the ill-advised, perhaps judgy-sounding comment: “No more wine, thanks. Early tomorrow I’m going to a baby shower. Those things should be outlawed. Showers, I mean, not babies.”

Another dinner guest, who had recently been showing off pictures of her new twin boys, said,

Oh, but one must have a shower, to get all the stuff one needs!

Indeed. I would like a shower, to get all the stuff I need to support my personal choices. To that end, I have included some helpful descriptions of items that will look great wrapped and stacked on the coffee tables of my happy hosting friends. Yes, it’s ridiculous. But how much more ridiculous is it, really, than the things brides and mothers (and it’s significant that I don’t also say ‘grooms and fathers’) have unwrapped and squealed over at the showers you, Copious Readers, have attended (and financed)?

Come Celebrate! It’s a Graduate School Shower!

512 MB 16″ Ultralite Foldable Waterproof Laptop by Cybertonic:

Built-in microphone records the tiniest mutter of your professor from across the lecture hall. Dual-faced camera shoots both behind and in front of the screen, so you can capture the structure of 2,4-Toluenedisulphonic acid from the whiteboard and also your facial expression as you see it lose its first hydrogen. 4 GB hard drive lets you preserve those precious memories forever, or at least through exam week. Waterproof to three feet and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, this laptop is perfect for those late-night cram sessions in the hot tub with the basketball team.  $1,099.99

LifelongLearner™ Coffee Mug:

Padded handles minimize grip slippage during the caffeine shakes. Comes in Moonless Black for your favorite night owl, Glaring Gold for shiny morning people, and Panicky Pink for procrastinators.  $24.99

CampushikeBackpack:

Svelt form minimizes drag during sprints to the cafeteria for last-minute donuts but expands to fit your astrophysics texts (padded straps absorb book bounce). Available emblazoned with hand-stitched crosseyed glasses logo for science majors and french fry emblem for humanities students. Mace pocket! $55.99

.5lb Silk-cotton Blend Thesis Paper

Regular pack $20.99; Frequent Printer Jam Pack $35.99; Annoyingly Prolific Pack $99.99

WARNING. The Brilliant Beige version of this product has been recalled due to potential toxic effects of the gloss but other colors should be fine.

“Brain On Board” sign (yellow and black)

The world is full of drivers who are considering rear-ending your graduate student’s car! But with this sign displayed in the back window, those drivers will change their minds!

Regular $5.99; SUV edition $2.99 (smaller brain) (more…)

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