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Can We Stop Talking about Marriage as though It’s about Love? April 5, 2013

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, Singled Out.
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Marriage is not about love. But most of the public conversation about marriage – most recently, the conversation about gay marriage – tends to treat marriage as the equivalent of love. Marriage, public discourse suggests, makes love official. And who could argue against that? Just as you generally can’t have a satisfying debate with a religious person about the existence of God, you’ll be booed off the stage if you say there’s something wrong with being in love. In popular rhetoric, the word “marriage” is used to signify (stand in for) the concept of romantic love.

Let’s be real; let’s stop saying marriage is about love.

In the best of cases, marriage stems out of love. But marriage itself is not the same as love. In truth, marriage is decidedly un-romantic. It is a legal, and sometimes religious, contract between two people. The contract ties the partners together – in no uncertain terms – in terms of finances, law, and kinship. These are not romantic concepts. In fact, in certain contexts, these concepts can be downright terrifying.

But public rhetoric wants us to ignore the ugly reality and focus on the feel-good. As a result, it’s challenging – almost impossible – to take a critical stance toward the institution.

The recent conversation about gay marriage, currently at the center of two cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a prime example of the consequences of our popular discourse. Our discourse suggests that the right to marry is an issue of civil rights (in the States, as some have pointed out, the Human Rights Campaign has problematically dominated this kind of discourse). While we at Onely agree that the achievement of marriage equality is an admirable goal, it does not in fact achieve the larger goals of civil rights, which would ensure that all people – regardless of their marital status – are treated equally in the eyes of the law.

As we have argued time and again on this blog and elsewhere – marriage creates and maintains a social hierarchy that grants specific financial, legal, and kinship benefits to individuals based only on their marital status. And guess who loses, precisely because they are not married? More than 50% of the population, single people.

As Scot Nakagawa puts it: (more…)

This Is Not a Valentine’s Post February 10, 2012

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Dating, Food for Thought, sex, single and happy.
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It’s been almost 6 months since I crossed continents and landed in Beirut. I’ve got to say, living here has added strength to my already strong Onely sense of self – and it’s not just because I made it here on my own. Certainly, simply making this journey made me stronger. But now that I’ve settled a bit and feel less like a stranger, I have come to realize that, for the first time in my adult life, the work I’m doing is absolutely satisfying.

That’s not to say that the work I’ve done in the past wasn’t satisfying – I’ve always loved teaching, and I loved getting my Ph.D. It’s just that my work never made me feel like this. I never imagined it could. And recently, the way I feel about my work has been thrown into high relief when I’ve been forced to compare it to the way I feel about the three men who have recently expressed interest in me. (more…)

The Great Facebook Relationship Feeding Frenzy December 12, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, Just Saying., single and happy, Take action, Your Responses Requested!.
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Or, Your Relationship Status Is (Apparently) Everyone’s Business.

To the left, you see the results of a little experiment I conducted recently on Facebook (if the Spanish throws you off, my apologies! It’s how I learn other languages. And you get the point). I’ve been thinking about doing this for some time now: I’m always astounded by the amount of attention other people receive when they really are in new relationships (or engagements or marriages) and publicize the info on Facebook…

My hypothesis: Changing your relationship status on Facebook will garner more attention than anything else you’ve ever posted.

(Tentative) Conclusion: YES.

So I finally did it, and voila! Not only did my relationship-status-change draw the responses you see here (3 unqualified “likes” and 11 comments), but I also received three inquiries via text message, five private messages from friends wanting to know the “scoop,” and even one question about it at the end of an otherwise-serious phone call with my little brother. Considering I only have 130 “friends” on Facebook, that’s a pretty decent amount of attention — certainly much more than I’ve ever managed to solicit from anything else I’ve done on Facebook.

What’s more, two of the private messages were sent from friends who I haven’t seen or spoken to in the last six months, and although I replied graciously and honestly to their inquiries (I told them both it was a joke, sorry to disappoint (!!), told them a little bit about my current life and asked them about theirs), I haven’t heard from either of them since and it’s been almost a week. The message I’m getting from this silence? A relationship-status change is everyone’s business. And if you make it a joke, people will get angry.

It wouldn’t be fair, however, if I didn’t give kudos to many of my friends. You can probably guess from some of the published comments who knows about Onely and who doesn’t (see Carrie, Lisa [not me], Paulina and Kimberly). What’s more, some of the private messages and texts I received were from close friends who actually know me in my everyday life and imagined it was a joke but wanted to be sure I wasn’t hiding a secret life from them.

The problem is, this experiment is flawed because my FB friend base is biased (my real-life FB friends know about and appreciate my pro-single status), and some of them even knew I was thinking about the experiment in advance.

So I’m hoping that you, Copious Readers, will be willing to add to the data by conducting the experiment on your FB pages and report the results here (if we get enough of a response, I’ll write a follow-up post about it).

Here’s what I’d like to know: (more…)

Please Don’t Ask Me Out. June 24, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Dating, Food for Thought, Just Saying..
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No really, I mean it. It’s not only because I don’t find you attractive, or because you’re 15 years (or more?) older than me, or because starting a relationship is nowhere on my to-do list.

It’s because, when I signed up to be a member of this public hiking group, I did so specifically because it was not geared toward singles, nor did it seem to be grounded on the premise that “meeting people” really meant “finding someone to date.” I signed up because the group already had 800+ members on its roster, so I thought I would enjoy relative anonymity and wouldn’t stand out as “fresh meat.” I looked forward to meeting new and interesting people at each hike (one of whom turned out to be you), but I also liked knowing that I wouldn’t feel pressure to attend every event or make friends unless I wanted to. More than anything, all I really wanted was to enjoy the Great Outdoors with like-minded people.

I definitely wasn’t looking for a date. (more…)

Beating a Dead Horse: Or, More on Elena Kagan’s Gay/Single/Unmarried/Lonely Status May 21, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Heteronormativity, Singled Out.
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Thanks to Copious Reader Rachel A. for calling our attention to this op-ed in The New York Times by one of my favorite columnists, Maureen Dowd. In it, Dowd astutely questions the (gendered) implications of calling a woman (in this case, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan) “single” versus “unmarried.” She writes:

Single carries a connotation of eligibility and possibility, while unmarried has that dreaded over-the-hill, out-of-luck, you-are-finished, no-chance implication. An aroma of mothballs and perpetual aunt.

Men, generally more favored by nature as they age, can be single at all ages. But often, for women, once you’re 40 or 50, or simply beyond childbearing age, you’re no longer single. You’re unmarried — meaning it isn’t your choice to be alone.

Intriguing as this analysis is, Dowd’s primary argument — that calling Kagan “unmarried” instead of “single” carries stereotypically sexist negative connotations — is grounded on the decidedly singlist premise that in order for Kagan to be seen as “young” and “fun,” she must also be seen as “datable” and, more importantly, looking for a romantic relationship. Here’s how Dowd puts it:

Why is there this underlying assumption that Kagan has missed the boat? Why couldn’t she be eager to come to Washington to check out the Obama-era geek-chic bachelors, maybe get set up on a date by Michelle Obama, maybe host some single ladies fiestas with Sonia Sotomayor, maybe even sign up for JDate with a new and improved job status?

(For a more expansive review of similar problems on the media’s “debate” about Elena Kagan’s gay/single/lonely status, you should also check out Bella DePaulo’s posts here and here).

Copious Readers, I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

— Lisa

Isn’t it sad that some people are surprised that you can be happily single? April 6, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, Heteronormativity, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy.
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Kudos to Contented Single, who (inadvertently) titled this post thanks to her comment at the end of this discussion about whether or not being Onely has made me clueless. In answer to her question, YES I DO think it’s sad that some people are surprised that you (we) can be happily single! In fact, running this blog has spoiled me; I’ve clearly forgotten how unusual the Onely mindset seems in the public’s eyes.

Having my friend Jenny in town last month reminded me of that. We don’t know each other all that well, and I offered to let her stay with me since our national annual conference was here in Louisville. I wasn’t sure how things would go, since we only ever see each other in academic contexts — and since I try to keep my academic life separate from this blog, she doesn’t know anything about Onely. She stayed with me for five days, and during that time, not only did she insist that my friend George was “in love” with me — she also kept mentioning how “happy” I seemed being single.

Her surprise was as great as mine! The second night she was in town, she told me how different I was from most of her single friends back home, who she described as strangely “resentful” when she got married last summer. And a couple nights later, after she met George and couldn’t help trying to pair us up — and I kept resisting her compulsion, she finally “admitted” that if I was really happy being single, then (she supposed) there wasn’t anything wrong with that.

I almost told her about Onely, but then I decided against it because I was just so fascinated by her surprise that I wanted to see if it would last through the whole visit. And it did. So when I saw her off, I felt pretty satisfied, knowing I’d made a good impression on her as a happily single person. I think she’ll carry it with her — I guess we need more Onelers to represent!

Copious Readers, have you had experiences like I had with Jenny, when someone expressed surprise by your happy-and-single status?

— Lisa

PS: Jenny also told me that she felt that after she got married and started wearing a wedding ring all the time, she’d noticed a big change in the way men treated her (less as an object). Made me think that I should start wearing a fake wedding ring on errands or when traveling — as a social experiment! If you have thoughts about this, please share. 🙂

Has Being Onely Made Me Clueless? March 22, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Heteronormativity, single and happy, Some Like It Single, Your Responses Requested!.
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Dear readers,

I am afraid that my life as a happy Oneler may have made me oblivious to the signs of chemistry that a “normal” person would generally notice. I’m not talking about overt sexual advances (eww), and I’m not wondering about a first date (easy enough to figure out in the long run). I’m referring, instead, to a close friend (I will call him George here for the sake of privacy) whom I have never thought of as anything “more than” a friend — probably because we were both coupled when we first met several years ago (hey, even though I’m happily single, I’m not immune to checking out attractive single men).

Over the past few years, mutual friends of ours have asked me if I’m interested in George, or they’ll wonder why we haven’t dated. Occasionally — and usually while under the influence — someone will insist that we belong together. But I always brush these comments off as silly heteronormative proclamations; after all, we are the same age and have similar professional interests and are often the only single people running around our common social circles. According to common heteronormative logic, single man + single woman = HELLO, couple!

As you might expect, I resist that logic. But this past weekend, several friends who had never met George, and who had never even met each other, happened to be in town for an academic conference (I will call them Tracy, Jenny, and Dave). On Saturday night, I invited everyone out to a local restaurant. The only local friend who showed up was George, and soon, I noticed, Tracy and Jenny were exchanging meaningful glances. We moved on to a bar downtown for a nightcap and took separate cars (George drove Jenny, and I drove T & D). In the car, Tracy and Dave told me it was obvious: George is “in love” with me. There is “so much chemistry,” they said. I shrugged it off — more heternormative nonsense. But at the bar,  George sat close to me in the booth; our bodies kept making contact, and I kept thinking, this has never happened before, and neither of us are drunk. Maybe my friends are right — but how is it I’ve never noticed?

The conference is over. Not only have my friends left town (cheerful because they think they were right about George), but they have left me with a great deal of confusion: On the one hand, I think that my friends may have just been doing what so many coupled people (each of these friends happen to be married) want to do when confronted with two nice and attractive single people: hook them up! But on the other hand, my friends had never met each other before – they all noticed chemistry right away, without any prompting from me. So this gives me pause. And then I think about George himself, and I think about our friendship: Not only is he smart and funny, but he has always been quietly supportive (he was around but non-intrusive during a particularly dramatic breakup after I first moved to Louisville) and interested in my life. We never run out of things to talk about. And last summer, when I traveled alone to England and Ireland, he happened to be in Ireland at the same time as me, and I traveled with him and his family (mom, brother, and sister) for a few days. He is a genuinely kind person and a good friend, and I wonder all of a sudden why I’ve never “noticed” him, and I wonder if it’s because of Onely, because being coupled is not high on my priority list.

So I’m curious, Copious Readers, not about whether I should “do” anything about this (I’m pretty sure I won’t, for several complicated reasons), but rather, whether or not you think that having a Onely mindset makes you oblivious to possibilities that you may have otherwise entertained as a couple-oriented single adult. Or, alternatively, if you think that my friends are the clueless ones!

— Lisa

photo credit: zazzle

Pop Culture, Scourge of the Onelys: This is … news? February 9, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, Singled Out.
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This just in via the New York Times: Women outnumber men in college, and it’s affecting their dating lives.

Thank God for good reporting! Because without it, we wouldn’t know that women in college these days “often find it harder than expected to find a date on a Friday night” and must instead choose between “assert[ing] themselves romantically or be[ing] left alone on Valentine’s Day, staring down a George Clooney movie over a half-empty pizza box.”

Nevermind that “women are primarily in college not because they are looking for men, but because they want to earn a degree,” or that “Many women eagerly hit the library on Saturday night. And most would prefer to go out with friends, rather than date a campus brute.”

Nope, all that matters is our nostalgia for what used to be:

The loneliness can be made all the more bitter by the knowledge that it wasn’t always this way.

“My roommate’s parents met here,” said Mitali Dayal, a freshman at North Carolina. “She has this nice little picture of them in their Carolina sweatshirts. Must be nice.”

And please don’t concern yourselves with the fact all students at the University of North Carolina appear to be straight and white, and that the male students can’t seem to help their misogyny…! If anyone ever doubted that the media perpetuates stereotypes about gender, race, and sexuality, this story should shatter those doubts.

Copious Readers, what else irks you about this story?

— L

photo credit: Inju

Valentine’s Day: Scourge of the Onelys (Nature Edition) February 1, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, Singled Out.
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So last week I was reading one of my favorite blogs, a local site that announces public events and gatherings located in the Louisville area. (I really appreciate the site and the owner, who obviously cares about our little city and runs the site pro bono, so I’m not going to link to it here.) On the site, there was an announcement for an event held at a beautiful forest about 20 minutes outside of the city — my dog and I love hiking at this forest, and so I read the following with enthusiasm — and then jarring disappointment:

A romantic Valentine’s Day evening awaits Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13 at — Forest. For only $25, couples will be treated to a romantic candle-lit hike that ends with a view of Louisville’s lights from the scenic — House.

Following the hike, couples will enjoy a roaring fire, hot drinks and gourmet desserts within the — House. … The evening begins at 7:30 p.m. and is expected to wind up by 10 p.m. Couples are also invited to bring flashlights to the hike for added visibility along the trails.

Because of increased demand for the hikes, an additional date was added this year.

“The natural beauty of — Forest is a great fit with Valentine’s Day,” said —, public education coordinator at — Forest. “Couples can have a romantic evening by taking a stroll through the grounds, then relaxing in front of the fire. We have many couples who have made this part of their Valentine tradition. They look forward to seeing other couples they have met in the years past. The — House offers enough room to sit together or find a romantic spot away from the group.”

I’ll admit: I’m not normally all that surprised — or even bothered — by V-day events. They often sound boring and/or cheesy; they’re usually activities I’d rather not participate in, even if I were coupled. But being the outdoorsy kind of woman I am, I feel completely offended by this event. I am simply horrified by the idea that this cool night-time nature hike — which I would truly enjoy! — has become a couples-only activity! The strangest part about the announcement, which Christina pointed out to me, is that it doesn’t even say explicitly that the event is only for couples… But the language used in the announcement is clearly grounded upon that basic premise (especially the last paragraph — which makes me nauseous!).

To which I say, F*** you, — Forest!

Copious Readers, what do you think? Am I overreacting?

— Lisa

photo credit: asiastockimages

single. academic. female. January 26, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, single and happy, Your Responses Requested!.
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Over the weekend, I took a walk with my friends B & A, and B — who is male, pursuing a PhD in my program, and married to A — asked me about how I felt about something he had heard: That women who begin pursuing their PhDs while single are less likely to find partners or be married in the long run when compared with men (my apologies to B if I’ve paraphrased incorrectly, but this is what I remembered). B sounded pretty stunned about what he had heard, but I was not.

So although I have not found any statistics to verify whether what B heard was true or not, I want to go over the reasons why this fact seems relatively unsurprising to me (as a single academic female myself) and to see what you, Copious Readers, have to add to the conversation (especially if you have access to any useful statistics or personal experiences related to this issue!): (more…)

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