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Dr. Lillis Makes Onely Cry! Tell Him to Apologize! July 19, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, blog reviews, Heteronormativity.
Tags: , , , , , ,

If any of our Copious Readers have friends who buy into the (flawed) “marriage-makes-healthy” studies, send them to Singletude‘s 15 July post. Singletude professionally and eruditely tears into Dr. Christopher Lillis, an internist with Chancellor Internal Medicine in Fredricksburg, Virginia.  High on his recent nuptials, Dr. Lillis basically says that:

1) Everyone needs to get married so that their spouse will remind them to take care of their health! Singles wither away because they don’t remember go to the doctor! 

2) People who remain single are likely to be genetically inferior to marrieds! (This isn’t at *all* like eugenics, is it? Lisa says, “What, is he going to measure the size of our heads?”)

3) Scientists who discount the “marriage-makes-healthy” studies are bitter because they never have time to get out of the lab to find true love!  (Here he admits to hyperbole, but claims he’s allowed to say such things, because it’s his essay and he “just got hitched”. Careful of that bit and bridle, Doc. I can see it’s already squeezing on your brain.)

4) “Getting married reduces depressive symptoms, and getting divorced increases them.”

Singletude explains how Dr. Lillis’ above interpretations of the study data reveal that he understands neither the scientific method, nor the difference between correlation and causation. I imagine him encountering a depressed patient and suggesting that he remarry as soon as possible after the leech treatment. I have an MFA in CREATIVE WRITING for goodness’ sake, and even I understand the scientific method and the difference between correlation and causation. (Or maybe I’m just bitter because I never get away from my word processor to find true love.)

I’m horrified that this logic-impaired man somehow got himself turned into a doctor. And I feel terrible for his patients that their physician exhibits such a snobby streak and apparent lack of empathy for people who take different life paths from his own. Having had my share of experiences with mean, ignorant doctors, I am particularly sensitive on the topic and I think that’s why I responded so strongly to this article–less because it was singlist than because the singlist author was a person who was supposed to be a figure of trust and authority. By the time I finished reading, I was in tears. 

I have asked Dr. Lillis to apologize for making me cry. Copious Readers, please go comment on his column at Fredricksburg.com and demand an apology to singles everywhere. Unfortunately, the site is one of those annoying ones that require registration, but if you don’t want to deal with that Dr. Lillis does provide his email address.  So far no one has commented on his article except me, so maybe no one is reading it. I hope not, because I worry that a fifteen-year-old girl like I used to be will stumble across it, read that genetically superior people get married, and decide that to increase her chances of marriage she better stay with her ratty boyfriend. Shame on you, Dr. Lillis. Shame. 



1. Alan - July 20, 2009

I suspect this article was intended to be a somewhat humorous paen to his recent nuptials, with a few “facts” thrown in for good measure. He probably figured that it wouldn’t be that controversial, that everyone agreed that marriage was better.

Waiting on the registration process for that site in order to make a comment…

2. Lauri - July 20, 2009

That article should have been called: marriage an excuse for men to be irresponsible.

Oh haha, it’s so cute and funny, men can only seem to remember to go to the doctor when their wives make them appointments. Isn’t it great when these men get married, they get new mommies. The answer is clearly then that they should all go out and get married! It’s the only way they can possibly remember to pick up the phone and call a doctor.

Even if married men WERE healthier, I still don’t see how all this helps women. Even if this “science” were correct it would suggest that men should go get married so they can be healthier while taking less responsibility for themselves, and women, go get married so you can take responsibility for TWO people.

3. Special K - July 20, 2009

Isn’t it funny that in my most significant relationship, I DID turn into a mommy. I felt responsible for waking him up on time, for packing his lunch, whether or not his clothes were cleaned. and he thrived, really, while I became smaller and smaller.

The marriages I see that we should praise are ones where like my friend’s, where the responsibilities are NOT split 50/50, but constantly are in negotiation, according to whatever the individuals are capable of doing at that time. She said to me recently “yeah I am doing his laundry right now, he’s writing his dissertation. But you better believe me that after the baby came, he was cloroxing all the fluids in our household.”

Lauri - July 21, 2009

I don’t know, I don’t even like the negotiation thing- I don’t know if it comes out completely even. And single people writing dissertations don’t have other people to do their laundry. For things like general household cleaning that both people, that’s ok I guess, but your laundry is your laundry. You’ve got to keep track of it yourself. I can’t keep track of my own laundry, there’s no way I’m picking up responsibility for someone else’s. It’s the same with the issue of going to the doctor and/or maintaining healthy behavior. It’s a full time job for myself, I’m not going to take on responsibility to nag a husband to go to the gym or get a teeth cleaning (as the column suggests is a benefit of marriage), let alone making the appointments, etc.

And though are many relationships where responsibilities are split fairly evenly, I’ve heard complaints from some of my friends that their husbands seemed like they could take care of themselves before they got married, but somehow after that “wife” tag was dropped on them, their husbands couldn’t manage simple tasks they had their whole single lives. Plus, by nature of being a woman sometimes, I think you get stuck as the default go to person. because you get paid less overall, you stay home to wait for the plumber, you pick up the kids when they are sick at school, you run around after work picking up the dry cleaning.

Perhaps I’m just a product of my parents’ marriage, but in my one serious relationship, I remember having to take care of a lot of things for my boyfriend, and he was fairly responsible. The things I “helped” him with were things his mom helped him with while he was single- shopping for clothes, stuff like that (I hate clothes shopping for myself, I don’t want to pick it up for a guy too!). But health-wise I really did have to put work in. He had a potentially serious condition but refused to see a doctor- I had to nag, which is something I don’t care to do. Also he would complain about small things like his skin was getting horribly dry and itchy in the winter until I went out and bought him some manly moisturizer. He was extremely thankful and it helped him a lot, but come on, you can’t pick up your own moisturizer?

Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles - July 21, 2009

I’m with you, Lauri. I think men tend to make out better in marriage than women do. I know that’s a generalization, and I’m sure there are many men who are unhappy in their marriages. But I look at the stats that show who files for divorce (mostly women), I look at the research showing who does the “second shift” (women), I look at studies that show women benefiting more from singleness in certain areas than men…and I have to think that women get the bum deal much of the time.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the same. In my relationships, I’ve been the one who picks up after and looks after the guy. Most coupled women I know have the same arrangement. I only know one or two in the reverse situation.

Not trying to man bash here! I don’t dislike men. I just dislike the dynamic between men and women as it often plays out in relationships.

onely - July 22, 2009

No, picking out moisturizer is VERY VERY difficult. Apparently.

4. autonomous - July 20, 2009

Oh my gosh, this reminds me of the ad depicting the guy who wanted to stay healthy to see his daughter’s wedding day.
How silly- If this Dr. Lillis is so much healthier because he married, then how did he manage to attract his fabulous mate in the first place? Unless, he was so unhealthy as a single man that the woman just couldn’t help herself and her nurturing side took over her senses. Doesn’t speak well for either one of them. He was unhealthy until he met her which speaks to a certain lack of discipline and self-respect (both qualities women might prefer in the positive) and so she fell in love with the slob or the potential?

I dated a man-child and had we married, I imagine I would have eventually been very unhealthy due to the self-medication required to get through.

5. Simone Grant - July 21, 2009

Is it my imagination or are there many more articles with this theme popping up lately? I find it really very scary. But at the same time, somewhat validating. People are clearly scared. We singles are living the lives we want, going against the rules and traditions that society set out for us. And that scares the heck out of closed-minded fools.

onely - July 22, 2009

I guess it makes us feel good that we are trying to contribute to a more enlightened rhetoric–it makes our blogging feel less fluffy, I suppose. I mean, seeing all the scary singlism out there helps keep me and Lisa posting when really we just want to sit and watch America’s Next Top Model. (Did I just type that out loud?)

6. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles - July 21, 2009

Thanks, Onely ladies, for picking up this story and spreading it further! There are just no words to say how infuriating that article was, and like you said, Christina, the fact that it was written by an authority figure makes it so much worse.

I’m glad this guy is happy in his marriage, truly. I just don’t understand why that translates into this insatiable hunger to bash singles! He could have made his (illogical, invalid) point without all that offensive rhetoric. (And then we could have corrected him just as politely.)

I know he’s young and recently married. I can’t help wondering how his outlook might change as he gets older. As it is now, those kinds of generalizations are just wildly inappropriate, not to mention inaccurate.

I imagine him encountering a depressed patient and suggesting that he remarry as soon as possible after the leech treatment.

Hah! That’s priceless! 😀

onely - July 22, 2009

Thanks, Singletude–glad to have your articulateness on OUR side! = )

7. bobby - July 23, 2009

In a country where divorce has gone above 50%, and I suspect many more that would want out of their marriage, do we really believe that marriage is any kind of answer to anything? Apparently you didn’t do real research, but I would really love to hear your response to those that have a different perspective on this like: https://onely.org/2009/07/19/dr-lillis-makes-onely-cry-tell-him-to-apolo
Up for the challenge?

*I had to keep to the 512 character aloowance and cut short my original reply. My first post didn’t seem to go through so I did it again.

8. Singlutionary - July 25, 2009

heh. Divorce makes you happier when your marriage was so awful that you decided to get one. I think there are a lot of people out there who, while feeling the trauma of divorce, also feel immense relief.

9. Chris Lillis - August 3, 2009

Hey – Dr Lillis here. So very sorry to offend anyone. It was mostly meant for humor, and I tried to say one need not be married to be healthy, nor did I ever mean to get across the message that singles are genetically inferior. Far from either of those. Again, my sincere apology if my attempt at personalizing my recent wedding in a fluffy health article rubbed anyone the wrong way.

10. Chris Lillis - August 3, 2009

Just to clarify – I think there is nothing worse than a poor relationship in terms of the toll it takes on one’s health – I mentioned that in the article that unhappy marriages caused health problems. I would also like to say that a tremendous societal problem comes from abusive relationships. I did mention a wonderful book that helps people navigate the complexities and difficulties of relationships in my article. But when all is said and done, I care for 100% of my patients, no matter their marital status. Relationships are a matter of personal choice, and I would never impose my choices for my life on my patients.

I hope this helps with the hurt feelings. I hope you feel open to contacting me in the future if you have concerns about what I write.

onely - August 3, 2009

Thanks Dr. Lillis,
I appreciate and accept your gentlemanly response to my request for an apology. I do notice some couching of the apology with “buts”, such as “it was a fluffy health article”, but I believe they are meant as explanations and not excuses. You’ll note that I reiterated some of my initial gripes in my response to Maria. This is not because I discount your points here, but because I needed to clarify my original point of view for her. Her comment (you guessed it!) made me cry. Hmm, need to up the meds, much? = ) Again, thank you for stepping up.

11. Maria - August 3, 2009

Stop slamming Dr. Chris! Did any of you ignoramuses even read the original article? He was citing studies that are well-researched. He DID qualify that a bad marriage is worse for your health than being single. He DISCOUNTED the genetics argument. He SAID he was biased as a result of his current situation. When he spoke from his own experience with the men who come into his office, he qualified it as anecdotal evidence. I am single and happily so. But I am still happy to hear the other side of an argument and not so insecure about my own status that I am brought to tears by it. If you really advocate that it is just as valid and fulfilling to be single as it is to be married, then stop being defensive about it. Otherwise, you are your own worst enemy.

onely - August 3, 2009

–He was actually citing poor studies that had been incorrectly interpreted by the media and even by the scientists who did the studies (see the Living Single blog in Psychology Today).
–He acknowledged “the other side” by saying, “Think Darwin: Healthier and more genetically appealing people are more likely to get married, thus the observed effect in longer lives” This isn’t “discounting genetics”, it’s citing Darwin. It is not couched in the article as a rebuttal.
–Admitting your bias is no excuse for trashing and judging other people.
–Saying something is anecdotal doesn’t give you a free pass to apply the anecotes to wide swaths of people.
–I guarantee you that most of the people who read the post either already believe–or came away believing–that the studies were accurate, that marriage is inherently better, etc. That is why we need to speak out. Marriage is so fraught with unnecessary and unfair privilege, and causes so much grief to so many people who are striving for it and forcing themselves into it, that we cannot afford to continue to propagate these myths that are simply untrue, which is what his article did. We are not defensive, we are angry. And we are not angry because we are insecure in our status as willing and happy singles; we are angry because the rest of society (represented by those who nod blankly at the Dr Lillis article) does not give us all the tools and rights we need in order to fully bloom as satisfied singles. This is an acceptable, even necessary anger. Onely and the other blogs in our community have many reasoned, politic, thoughtful, engaging dialogs on singles issues. Yet we reserve the right to express our feelings now and then, against rhetoric that we find particularly offensive. I urge you not to judge me (or others) for what makes me cry, or presume to know why it does.
–Also, on behalf of all us Ignoramuses, I must point out that Onely does not sanction namecalling on our site (unless we are the ones doing the namecalling). Moreover, when you interject namecalling into your argument, you become your own worst enemy.

12. bobby - August 3, 2009

Hi Chris Lillies, thank you for clarifying and replying here to one of the two links I gave in my response (although not posted on Fredtalk?). For me, I wish you would have inserted some of what you wrote here in the original article. I think that would have helped a great deal. 🙂

Maria, I didn’t slam Dr. Chris so I’ll leave your reply here to other’s you must be talking about. Dr.Chris came here and clarified some points that obviously needed to be clarified, which even you alluded to, “He SAID he was biased as a result of his current situation.” But, he also said here, “It was mostly meant for humor” which I didn’t see in the original article.

I think a nice deep breath for all of us would do a world of good Maria 🙂

onely - August 4, 2009

Bobby – amen on the “nice deep breath” point. Thanks for your response.

— Lisa

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