The Spurrious Rhetoric of Singlism January 2, 2009Posted by Onely in As If!, Food for Thought, Heteronormativity.
Tags: Abby o'reilly, bella depaulo, Dr. Pam Spurr, New Scientist, seepie, single in denial, singlism, the f word
This great article by Abby O’Reilly talks about old-school stereotypes against single women. O’Reilly critiques some interesting rhetoric by Dr. Pam Spurr, “alleged sex and relationship expert at the Daily Mail” and, frighteningly, a life coach. (I forget which blog originally led me to the O’Reilly post, but whoever you were, thanks!)
Spurr espouses the notion, so prevalent in singlist society, that if you say you are single and happy–you’re lying. She bases this grandiose generalization on the “thousands” of single people she has life-coached.
She doesn’t seem to realize that her data set is inherently skewed, because usually only people unhappy with their relationship status would approach Spurr about the issue in the first place; what about the thousands–or millions–of happy singles who never use Spurr’s services? Or worse, what if a happy single were to go to Spurr about a different life issue and in the course of discussion happen to mention she was single, and Spurr were to hit her with this, from Spurr’s article in the Daily Mail:
In fact, do you believe any single woman over 30 is being honest when she claims to be happy that way? I don’t. What’s really going on behind that confident demeanour and fulfilled exterior is crushing loneliness and desperation. Single women become adept at playing the isn’t-life-grand game. They have to do it around men so they don’t appear desperate. And they come to do it around other women, too…
Why. . . do they pretend to be a satisfied single? . . .
Yes, outwardly women in 2008 are supposed to aspire to careers and self-fulfilment, but inwardly they also long to satisfy an urge that’s been around as long as humankind: to connect with a partner. . .
Whoa, intelligent Copious Readership–before you start writing unprofessional, inappropriate comments like, “What an idiot!” or “How ignorant!” or “I can think of other people I’d prefer to have coffee with, like Satan,” or “Someone not getting laid much lately?” let me point out that Spurr’s comments absolutely do not indicate she is bad, stupid, small-hearted, unimaginative, or sexually repressed, so you can just stop thinking that right now. Spurr has simply been swept up, not at all like a dead roach, in our culture’s myth of the couplehood cure-all.
This myth says that any life is automatically and unconditionally improved–even perfected!–by the addition of a Sex and Everything Else Partner (term coined by social psychologist Bella DePaulo). If you buy this idea–and it’s such a simple, easy-sounding premise that it’s comforting to buy it, which is why so many people do–then a logical next step is to think that a life without a romantic significant other is a sub-par life. Then if you buy that (and by now your intellectual wallet’s getting pretty light and floppy), the logical third step is Spurr’s reasoning that single people’s lives must be inherently sub-par. Less logical is Spurr’s follow-on assumtion that a life that lacks something (in this case, a significant other) must be an unhappy life. From that, we get her stubborn stance that any single person must be unhappy, and erego, a single person who claims to be happy must be either lying or in denial.
Lisa could speak more intelligently about the rhetorical fallacies of the “you’re in denial/lying” argument, but she’s off busy being not alone enough, so I’ll take a stab: The “you’re lying/in denial” argument is a cheater’s device. It’s not a real argument, because the person to whom it’s directed cannot possibly present a rebuttal other than, “Um, no, I don’t believe I am,” to which the cheater responds, “Yes you are,” forcing the conversation to the level of a third-grade schoolyard.
So all I can say here in response to Spurr is, “Um, no, I don’t believe I am filled with crushing loneliness and desperation.”
Oh, and I can also play a game we here at Onely like to call, “Things We Don’t Say, Because We’re Sane”:
Do you believe any married woman over 30 is being honest when she claims to be happy that way? I don’t. What’s really going on behind that confident demeanor and fulfilled exterior is crushing loneliness and desperation. Married women become adept at playing the isn’t-life-grand game. . .
That sounds insane, and why should Spurr’s quote sound any less so?
And what’s with the arbitrary choice of “over 30”? So a 29-year-old can be happily single, but a 31-year-old, no way? At the advanced age of 34, I must be a pit of misery, eh?
And you know what? I sometimes am miserable, lonely, and desperate. I’m miserable because my friend’s dad lost a lot of his retirement savings. I’m desperate because 360 people died in the Gaza strip. I’m lonely because I’m sick and have to spend a lot of time lying down, and because of my umpteen million great friends and family, no one knows what it’s like to have an ear that’s been ringing for fifteen years. Life isn’t always grand, and I don’t pretend it is. But I am not naive enough to think that having a Sex and Everything Else Person will magically fix any of that.
I used to think it would be nice to have someone to hold my hand when I was lying in bed feeling sick. I should have been careful what I wished for–my eventual hand holder kept waking me up by shifting his feet under the sheets, because “The soles get so sweaty!” ‘Nuff said?
What does help mitigate my particular miseries of life are: a network of close friends and family; a brain-flexing, well-paid job that also allows me time for acupuncture appointments and writing; a snuggle-hungry cat who visits me every day; my own, warm house not too big and not too small; our new president; New Scientist magazine; pho; my Costa Rican travel journal written on 3×4 inch notebook; writing a paragraph with good diction; Rosetta Stone; my Bose headphones; coffee shops; doodling; movie nights; giggles; the acrylic painting my sister did of my 16 foot Hobie Cat sailboat; volunteering.
I could go on, but you get the idea. In the end, it all accumulates, and I end up feeling–wait for it. . . wait for it. . . HAPPY.
Should I do as Spurr seems to think appropriate, and ignore all the privileges and blessings I have, and not be happy, just because I don’t have a romantic significant other? Then I would not only be lonely and desperate, I’d also be a spoiled brat.
What do you think, Copious Readers?