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While We Were Out… Can Marrieds be Onely? August 4, 2008

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought.

Hi everyone! Christina and I are back from a luxurious mosquito-ridden backpacking trip on North Manitou Island in Lake Michigan… It was great! (and no, I’m not being facetious). While we were gone, we received an interesting and thought-provoking comment/question from a good friend of mine, Lisa (and no, she’s not an “imaginary” friend, I swear!), in response to my recent post entitled Naps. Coming from her perspective as a married woman, Lisa’s asking some good questions that I’d like to respond to/clarify about how we define Onely. So you don’t have to go digging around the site, I’ve reproduced the first half of her comment (and my subsequent response) below (I or Christina will get to the second half of the comment in a post later this week, as it deserves special consideration):

i’m curious about this definition of onely. ok, so i’m married and have my own guilty pleasures, similar to “nut-sucking” (though not nut sucking because plain ol’ powdery salt sounds yucky). and i feel i fulfill these private, usually uncouth, wonderfully rejuvenating activities when needed and quite successfully. i’m thinking someone could be onely and have roommates and have a lot more trouble than i do. so what’s up? i mean, if being coupled means that you can’t be alone to enjoy your own stuff and your own smelly body in your own private time, i don’t know why anyone would want it. except for the tax breaks. and the respectability. ha! alright, maybe not so outlandish.

First of all, I am absolutely overjoyed to hear that you get to “enjoy your own stuff and your own smelly body in your own private time” even while being married! I would hope that *everyone* gets to enjoy these things, whether they are coupled or not… Which is a primary point that Christina and I are trying to make here at Onely: there is a common misconception that people who are single must, according to larger cultural presumptions, be lonely and miserable because of their single status. We definitely don’t think that the simple pleasures – nap-taking, nut-sucking, or whatever – are or should be reserved for “the single.” Rather, we write about these simple pleasures in order to resist/refute the popular stereotype that to be single means to be lacking something “more” and to be somehow miserable because we’re “alone.”  As we explain on our “About Onely” page, we aren’t against marriage or relationships; we’re against faulty assumptions made about people who are single – whether that means not being married, or not being in or pursuing serious relationships.

In other words, we really really like being alone – that’s the point. And, I would venture to add, we do experience activities such as naps and nut-sucking (for example!) in a different way than those who are coupled… The difference, it seems to me, is that being coupled means being responsible to/for someone else. If you want to take a long nap and don’t want to be disturbed, well, you must let your spouse/Significant Other know so that he/she won’t disturb you. Or you take a nap when you know said spouse/SO will not be around – therefore working around his/her schedule in order to truly “enjoy yourself.” Or, perhaps, you don’t walk around half naked and smelly after getting home from your volunteer work for fear that you might offend or “turn off” the other person for being so nasty – instead, you hop into the shower right away so as to avoid (understandable) critique…

As for nut-sucking, well — after Christina posted that one, I told her myself that I certainly couldn’t stand to be around her if she were doing that around me (thank GOD she lives in Virginia!!!). Others might be concerned about the amount of salt consumed during said nut-sucking: I’ve seen plenty of couples who nag each other about various (unhealthy) activities such as eating high-fat, high-salt foods or watching TV all day, or smoking, or drinking, or etc. And while, in some ways, I appreciate the level of concern that such nagging might represent, it sure is nice to be able to revel in one’s bad habits without having to do it in secret or while simultaneously trying to ignore another person’s complaints/value judgements prompted by these habits.

I do think your point about roommates is an especially interesting one, because you’re right — neither Christina nor I live with other people and so we’re doing our nap-taking and nut-sucking ALONE in a very literal sense. But again, having a roommate is different than having a spouse/SO, in the sense that your roommate is not legally bound to have concern for your health or safety, nor is he/she having sex with you or hoping to have sex with you (or you with him/her), so in general, even if your roommate is disgusted by the way you smell after working in the forest pulling weeds all morning, he/she can complain all he/she wants, but he/she cannot levy any major personal (emotional, sexual, etc.) consequences if you refuse to comply.

This also brings me to another question, one which I hope to address sometime in the near future: Is Being Onely a middle-class endeavor? In other words, *can* someone who can’t afford to live alone (or who can’t afford not to get married) or who has kids, or you-name-the-special-situation Be Onely?

Readers, please weigh in – about my response to Lisa’s comments, or about the questions posed above… I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

— L


1. lp - August 10, 2008

>”Rather, we write about these simple pleasures in order to resist/refute the popular stereotype that to be single means to be lacking something “more” and to be somehow miserable because we’re ‘alone.'”

that’s really well said, lis! you two certainly are accomplishing this on onely. thank you so much for tending to my comment so carefully. i’m grateful and really appreciate the thoughtful, interesting, smart response!

>“And, I would venture to add, we do experience activities such as naps and nut-sucking (for example!) in a different way than those who are coupled…”

i imagine that’s true, that the experience of enjoying secret habits or caring for/indulging oneself is different* for non-single people who live together (i’d be interested in hearing from those who do not live together). and, yeah, you’re right. one can’t ignore the other person in the house and probably will squeeze in nut-sucking or a long luxurious shower when he/she isn’t around to say “hey, aren’t you being a bit wasteful!?” but doing these things by oneself is definitely the main issue here for me. i wasn’t trying to say that i enjoy my smelly body in my own time around my spouse or not—but specifically when i am alone (not to say that he is “turned off” by the grime of the outdoors).

what accounts mostly for the difference*, i think, is the amount of alone time one has. i can’t always count on being alone; it must be especially hard for couples who have similar work schedules. and (to use your word “responsible”), when you are jointly responsible for keeping your two lives on track, time by yourself might be time to go to the store or clean the house or time to practice your own personal projects, visit friends, weed the garden. there are opportunities but most likely fewer opportunities to pamper yourself and be creative with your time. however, i’d also say that single people have other people they are responsible to and also have to make time for pampering.

there is quite a stigma against doing things for oneself. no, we don’t want to be the guy who wastes every weekend watching wrestling in his underwear or the woman who eats bonbons for breakfast and then naps through election day. and i think it’s good we don’t want that—that we want to earn this time for reveling. right, your hard work pulling up invasive species in the park earned you the time to nap and relax? but for couples, this time might be less easy to get or given lower priority. unfortunately some often forfeit completely their right to take time off. and although i believe there are economic reasons for this for everyone, there are also cultural reasons. women especially are not supposed to enjoy themselves (e.g., only men masturbate, right?) when there is too much nurturing to be done in the world. i mean, why would a pretty, smart girl like you want to enjoy her day alone when she could be serving a husband and raising the kids up right? one great thing about your blog is that it will help all kinds of people contemplate their issues with this. and if you are coupled, you might question what is it YOU might be lacking, not the other way around.

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