Onely On the Warpath September 7, 2015Posted by Onely in As If!, Bad Onely Activities, Heteronormativity, Marital Status Discrimination, single and happy, Take action.
Tags: childless discrimination in military, illegal discrimination in military, marital status discrimination in military, navy nurse discrimination, singles blog
Enlisted sailors go out and get married and have children. Because it works to their advantage.
A well-meaning coworker said this to my close relative–let’s call her Megan Muster–after Megan was finished crying in the bathroom. (Or maybe she was kicking the toilet, I’m not sure.)
Megan is a navy nurse who has spent months deployed to an unpleasant place which we’ll call “Stinky Stress Land”. She recently sent my family an excited email saying she was coming home, and I was set to meet her at a naval base near my house on a certain weekend.
But all that changed when her superior officer, the “Senior Nurse Executive” (SNE)–let’s call her Donkeybreath–told Megan that Donkeybreath was extending Megan’s deployment. Donkeybreath explained that of the three Navy nurses who were eligible for extension, Megan was the only one who didn’t have kids. So she had to stay in Stinky Stress Land.
In her email to my family, Megan said the SNE (Donkeybreath to us) told her the decision “ultimately came down to the person who had the least responsibility at home [italics mine].” At that instant Megan knew what was coming. Donkeybreath said, “LCDR Smith has a son at home, and LTJG Jones has two children. LTJG Muster, I know you don’t have any children at home. I’m so sorry, but I have to extend your Orders”.
Copious readers, I’m sure you can spot Donkeybreath’s many errors in logic. I’ll break them down for any new readers of Onely.org (welcome, and I promise I’m not always this p*ssed off. No, actually I guess I am). Let’s use some of Megan’s own words:
It doesn’t matter to the military that I have a family that I care about every bit as much as the next person.
Onely adds these thoughts: What if Megan had an uncle or a close friend that she was normally caretaker of, as opposed to children? Or what if LTGJ Jones were a closet alcoholic who beat his kids? Wouldn’t the kids be better off if LTGJ Jones stayed deployed and the kids remained with their stable, kind, grandparents?
Doesn’t matter! Not in our nuclear-family-obsessed culture. I’m concerned that our U.S. military is draconian and unimaginative and inflexible. I know we’re not Stalin or Pol Pot for goodness’ sake, but having a limited view of what and who constitutes “responsibility” can only undermine the morale of our troops.
As Megan also said in her email,
It doesn’t matter to the military that I have traditions with close friends that I was planning on.
No, because friendship is deemed less important than blood ties–for no real good reason that I can see. (And those traditions she’s talking about? Some of them include. . . actual children! No, she doesn’t roast them with a splash of cooking wine. For seven years she and her close friend have given kids candy on Halloween–the good stuff, peanut butter cups, not taffy sticks. Yes, gasp! She’s childfree but doesn’t hate kids! Craziness!)
But Megan wasn’t finished with her note yet:
Why should I even sit there and justify to her why my life is every bit as valuable as someone’s who has children? And the poor LCDR Smith who had to sit there and listen to her say this B.S. to me. He was squirming in his chair from the discomfort!
Whoa. Donkeybreath not only committed a crime–illegal discrimination–but she did it in front of a witness! Copious Readers, does anyone out there have legal expertise in situations like this? Any suggestions of what Megan should or could do in this circumstance? There is a law in the U.S. federal code that states it’s illegal to discriminate based on marital status (everyone ignores this law), but I’m not aware of a law that specifically states you can’t privilege breeders over non-breeders.
I’ve never like the word “breeders” much, but I’m using it here because I am so angry. Maybe later I’ll go back and change it to “parents”. Meanwhile, “Breeders breeders breeders breeders breeders!!!!!”
And here’s the O.Henry twist: The extension was “only” for two weeks, said Megan, who continued:
So whatever. I’ll survive. But it’s the principle of the thing.
And moreover, if it’s “only” two weeks, who gives a poop about kids or no kids? The majority of children left home in the States with a spouse or grandparents or whomever are not going to be much affected if their deployed parent stays away another two weeks. After spending months away from the military parent, the children are either fine, or damaged. Two weeks won’t make a difference. So what Donkeybreath should have done to choose between the three nurses for a two-week extension is flip a fvcking coin.
Onely hasn’t posted in a while, because I’ve been sick and just able to attack the daily necessities as life throws them at me: hunger, thirst, work, and–if I and my coworkers are lucky–personal hygiene. But upon receiving Megan’s email I spasmed and roared like a zombie bursting out of the earth, and this post came screaming out of me.
Screamer posts often attract haters and heteronormaholes. Welcome! I look forward to verbally hosing your a$$es, unless you bore me, in which case I won’t bother.
Copious Progressive Readers, I hope some of you will have thoughts on how Megan can proceed after this disappointing interaction with this particular Military Mindset.
Photo credit: Wikicommons
Onely Commits Amatonormativity Twice In One Conversation December 20, 2014Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Everyday Happenings, Great Onelies in History, Heteronormativity, single and happy.
Tags: amatonormative, heteronormative, partner-seeking, singles blog
1 comment so far
For a blog that for years has been waving its bloggy arms and screaming about how our world is largely set up for couples, especially hetero couples, and about how they are privileged at the expense of other kinds of loves and families (this is what we mean by amatonormativity, sometimes also called heteronormativity), we at Onely sometimes screw up and act just as badly as the people, governments, and organizations we critique.
And by “we”, I mean me, Christina. I don’t believe my coblogger Lisa, who is much more in tune with peoples’ feelings, has ever been so gauche as myself.
But first some background, in defense of my recent episodes (yes, plural!) of amatonormativity:
–For years my friend Natasha has been looking for the love of her life. The perfect man. She’s suffered many breakups, after one of which she told me, “He was my everything!” When I explained that, in fact, she also had a cat and parents and siblings and friends and a house and a job, she gave a surprised little “O!” with her mouth in that same shape. As if that had never occurred to her.
–For years she talked about how she was tired of being “alone”. For years I tried to talk her out of this need she felt to be part of a couple. Find yourself first, I said. Just do things you like and be happy and it will happen. Go on the internet if you are truly in a hurry. It increases the statistical likelihood that you’ll meet someone compatible (or get killed). Lots of my friends have met this way (and even lived to get married).
Eventually I just stopped trying to Onelify her. I started wishing she would find a stable boyfriend. (That is, opposite the one in college who played basketball and one night said he was being a snippy asshole to her after one game because his team had lost, and they had to act sad and upset.) She was crankier when she was single. If she was single and I wan’t, then she got crankier at me. Then she wanted kids. I wished she would find a partner because obviously it was important to her. My bloggy diatribes about living single and confident and proud were not for her, and I finally accepted that.
SO then the other day we were talking on the phone and Natasha said she was going to an Italian speaking meetup that night. So I said, “Great!”
Do you think there will be any eligible bachelors there?
(First, who still uses the term “eligible bachelors”? Me apparently.)
Natasha was silent for a moment. “No, it looks as if it’s mostly women. But I can never make enough good girlfriends.”
Huh? Who are you and what have you done with Natasha?
Tags: chronic illness, I didn't work this hard just to get married, misdiagnosed the search for Dr House, misdiagnosis, Nika Beamon, single and sick
Copious Readers, as you can see from our previous post, we are currently exploring the topic of singles with chronic illness. As we have discussed before, unmarried people face a good deal of discrimination not only socially, but economically as well. Social security, health insurance, retirement savings plans–all of these are governed by laws that can very negatively impact singles. So we asked ourselves, what about unmarried people who have severe health problems? How would all the legal and financial discrimination affect them?
We would love guest posts on these (or other) topics from singles who are battling difficult, ongoing diseases or disabilities. But in the meantime, we are pleased to introduce you to an upcoming new memoir written by Nika Beamon, who is the author of I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful Single Black Women Speak Out and a chronic illness survivor herself. She is available for speaking engagements about her books and related topics and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more ways to follow the book, see the end of this post.
Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House
WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:
Anyone who has a chronic illness. (Para 1)
Anyone who has cared for someone with a chronic illness. (Para 2)
Anyone who has treated, or attempted to treat, someone with a chronic illness. (Para 3)
Anyone who has not had a chronic illness. (Para 4)
Anyone who influences health policy in the U.S. or other countries. (Para 5)
WHO SHOULD NOT READ THIS BOOK:
The faint of heart.
SUMMARY: Beamon writes raw. Her memoir chronicles her journey from a hospital-worthy hemorrage on a first date to scorching headaches to intestinal polyps to a 104 degree fever and an ongoing combination of all those symptoms, plus many many more. You the reader make the scary journey along with Beamon. Neither you nor she knows what’s wrong with her, or what freaky thing her body might do the next day. Not until the very end of the book.
1. Anyone who has had a chronic illness–even one that is fairly easily diagnosed and stabilized–has probably experienced at least one Doctor with Attitude who avoids eye contact and only half-answers your questions, especially if he or she can’t figure out what’s wrong with you. Nika meets many such health care professionals. Survivors of mysterious chronic illnesses will recognize themselves in her dogged search for someone, anyone, who can tell her what’s wrong.
2. Anyone who has cared for someone with a chronic illness will identify with Beamon’s boyfriend, Bryce. Beamon paints a stereotype-shattering picture of Bryce as both dedicated caregiver and thoughtless philanderer–at the same time. Bryce is a living metaphor for any long-term caregiver who (hopefully) loves or respects their “patient” but eventually starts to feel the strain of constant medical jargon, pills pills pills, a forlorn attitude by the sick person, and maybe, in extreme cases, the physical stress of helping the ill person move or medicate. This frustration doesn’t mean the caregiver has stopped caring about the sufferer. It just means the caregiver struggles with conflicting emotions, the confusing kind that probably encouraged (but was no excuse for) Bryce’s sleeping with other women (a habit he’d had even before her sickness). Yet he still provided invaluable support to Beamon. . . But what if she had been socially single, you ask? Well, her parents often stepped up to help as well. If she had not had a nuclear family, she would have had to rely on friends, and no matter how much her friends loved her, it might have been harder for Beamon to accept extreme amounts of help (the kind she needed) from them, because we’re just not conditioned to think of friendship that way. (Note I’m speaking my own opinion here, not referencing anything Beamon says in her book.)
3. Anyone who has ever treated, or tried to treat, someone with a chronic illness, especially a mystery chronic illness, will recognize themselves in at least one of the puzzled doctors Beamon seeks out for help–internal medicine practitioners, surgeons, gastroenterologists, neurologists, and more. They give her endoscopies, colonoscopies, pills pills pills, and more than one tube up her nose. Most of the doctors fall somewhere along the scale of mildly assholish to major prick, until. . . but I don’t want to spoil the story for you.
4. Anyone who has NOT had a chronic illness will learn from this book to feel a little less sorry for themselves when they have some dumb cold. Heck, I myself have a fairly serious chronic illness, but even I flip through the Misdiagnosed manuscript whenever I need a mental ladder out of one of my sludgy wells of self-pity.
5. Anyone who influences health care policy will–hopefully–be horrified at how much Beamon had to struggle, as detailed in all the paragraphs above. They will–hopefully–be horrified at how often she had to take her health into her own hands, seek out her own doctors, and research her own condition(s) and symptoms. Fortunately she was able to fight this battle off and on throughout her sickness–but many chronic illness survivors are not so lucky. They can’t work and must rely on disability, or they don’t have insurance, or—or they’re single, and these problems become amplified for them. Look at the crowded rooms of the startling public hospital in which Nika accidentally stays for several days; it is bare-bones, not super hygenic, and even possibly dangerous (for example, her wallet is temporarily stolen). This is where the unluckiest chronic illness victims end up–if they are poor or under-insured. Perhaps, given the legal and financial discrimination against singles, more unmarried people end up in substandard facilities than do coupled people. This study has not been done, but it should be.
Hopefully Beamon’s book will be one step towards opening the dialog about singles with chronic illness. Read it, people, and start talking! Thanks!
P.S. Keep up with Nika and Misdiagnosed here:
Photo credit: garret_33
Help! I Need Somebody! (A guest post) April 11, 2014Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Guest Bloggers, Guest Posts, Your Responses Requested!.
Tags: friends and family network, single and sick, single with chronic illness, support system, writing about chronic illness
Copious Readers, welcome to another installment in our latest series about singles with chronic illness. Today we are pleased to introduce a guest post by our reader Bea, who ponders the meaning of “friends and family” and their role in the life of a single person with chronic illness.
Help! I need somebody!
Ever so often I stumble over this one expression that triggers kind of an allergic reaction in me. Like a mental allergy, even though I swear I can nearly feel it physically. It makes me upset and my mind starts to go in never ending circles, consisting of negative thoughts, hopeless thoughts à la „how is this ever gonna change?“. And I stumble over this expression all the time, in conversations, magazine articles, TV shows and…in self-help books, which is the last place where I wanna be confronted with depressing thoughts, seriously.
The expression I’m talking about here is this: „getting support from your family and friends“. Which is supposed to be something good in your life, something soothing, empowering, something to rely on. Especially when you are in a crisis, like losing your job or your home or an emotional crisis or getting sick. Like so sick that it changes your life, temporarily, or in case of a chronic illness, permanently. Which in itself is an enormous challenge, because a chronic illness alters your life in so many ways. It can be compared to a grieving process, accepting changes in your body, maybe restrictions in mobility, maybe constant exhaustion, maybe chronic pain. And if this illness is something totally new in your life, there’s a lot of things that need to be said good-bye to, things that you remember you were able to do before, but now can’t anymore. The good thing is, there’s also a lot of beautiful moments during and after the grieving process and the human psyche is definitely something magical, being able to adapt, to survive and build new things.
But one thing is for sure, dealing with a chronic illness all on your own is not advisable, the one thing you absolutely need to adapt to is the fact that you need help. And not only professional help from doctors or therapists etc., but in your personal life. Which is what brings me back to this expression that I don’t like, this “family and friends” thing. What I mostly don’t like about it is the subtle distinction between the two, the meaning behind the words. Because the conventional understanding of family is a biological – or at least legally adoptive – family, meaning your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles etc. The only way to extend this kind of family – in a conventional understanding – is, if you fall in love with somebody, then marry, maybe have kids, and by this way you build a new “family branch”.
But what if you don’t have this? What if you don’t have a family, never had one or lost it or had to cut all contact out of self respect or the will to survive? And what if you don’t have a romantic relationship either, a so-called “life partner”, and your life works quite well without one? But that’s what the “friends” part in “family and friends” is for, isn’t it? Yes, that’s what I thought, too, and I’m a big advocate for families of choice, for people building close-knit ties without a romantic or biological connection behind it. The problem is I still feel quite alone with it most of the time, with this wish of changing the status quo. And I feel even more alone in moments when I am depending on somebody’s support.
Because way too often I experience that people secretly still have this hierarchy in their head, this clear distinction between family – and – friends. And yes, I do understand that people only have a certain amount of energy, that they can’t support everybody, that they have to take care of themselves, too, after all. But it bugs me that there still seems to be this huge self-evidence of who comes first and who second. It bugs me in many ways, if for example I see friends circling their life around each new “life-partner”, no matter for how little time they’ve known this person. And it bugs me, if people don’t even question the fact that they spend their vacation always with their “loved ones”. And it bugs me, of course, to then get pity from those people, because I don’t have this kind of life, not even asking if I want or need it, pressuring me into something that I actually don’t want for myself. Honestly, I love being on my own!
But what I do need is help and support, if I like it or not. And it will become more and more in the upcoming years, since my chronic illness will result in me sitting in a wheel chair at some point. And I admit that right now, I am still in the midst of my grieving process, and maybe I am too pessimistic and bitter and single-minded at this point in my life. But, of course, what’s behind this pessimism is an unfathomable amount of worries and fears. One of those fears is that my lifestyle of choice, being a single and being without my biological family, will not be compatible with this new situation. So I guess what I need the most right now is to know that there’s more people out there who have an allergic reaction to old conventions and who don’t give up working against the status quo.
Hi, Christina here again. If you are a single person with a chronic sickness, feel free to write to us at email@example.com to share your story. We are also looking for good ways to say “singles with chronic illness” with fewer syllables (“sick singles” already having been nixed as a possibility). Some of us brainstormed up Single and Surviving Sickness, Single and Sick Survivors, Single and Sick but Surviving–all of which condense to the handy acronym SaSS. But acronyms aren’t everything so we still need your help to come up with some non-tongue-twisting terminology.
Photo credit: kr8v
The Great Diaper Debate September 8, 2013Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Food for Thought.
Tags: diapers, single blog, single fathers, single mothers
Copious Readers, I have never changed a diaper.
Is that weird?
I had a very, shall we say, impassioned discussion of this topic with a friend of mine whom we shall call ‘Trent’. (Every blogger–nay, every writer–knows that the best part of writing is making up pseudonyms.)
Fate chose for Trent to walk the married-with-children path. Result: a seven-year-old son and a sixteen-year-old daughter and lots and lots of diaper-changing experience. Fine. (Smelly, but fine.)
The argument (I’m upgrading it from ‘impassioned discussion’) happened while I was talking to Trent on the phone–he was at a beach house with some friends. (Strike one against him.) Also present in the house, according to Trent, were one male friend with two small girls and another male friend—hmm, how about ‘Derek’!–who had no children. Trent told me that Derek was good with the little girls but that he wouldn’t really be the best person to watch them alone, because he’d never even changed a diaper. Trent told me this and laughed, as if it were a funny and surprising fact.
“But I’ve never changed a diaper,” I said.
“Are you serious?” he said.
I won’t recreate the dialog here because it went pretty much along those lines, with a couple interesting twists. He said that diaper-changing was a right of passage. He said 95 percent of Americans do it. He said, didn’t I ever babysit? (No, not since I had to chase that naked four-year-old around the house with a toothbrush and pajamas.) He said diaper changing was a way to show love, to overcome the grittiness of life for a greater purpose. (I’m saying it better than he did.) He equated it to never having travelled outside the U.S. With nearly every sentence, he intimated that I had missed out, and that I was a lesser person for it.
I tried to argue back, but I argue best on paper (or on pixels, I guess) so most of my words came out “but. . but. . .I. . uh.. no. . .” So sure was he of the order of things, that he didn’t even realize he was making me nuts. He laughed harder and harder, while at the end of the conversation I was practically screaming into the phone, near tears and feeling frustrated and offended.Copious Readers, what would you have done? What would you have said? Below is a slightly edited version of the email I wrote to him once I calmed down (sorry for any bad formatting juju):
Dear Trent, (more…)
Single? Blogfest Explains How to Get Screwed 1,000 Times! April 15, 2013Posted by Onely in As If!, Bad Onely Activities, Food for Thought, Guest Bloggers, Guest Posts, Marital Status Discrimination, Singled Out, Singles Resource, Take action, Your Responses Requested!.
Tags: #SinglesBlogfest, #UnmarriedEquality, Atlantic Magazine, bella depaulo, Christina Campbell, Cindy Butler, Eleanore Wells, Marital Status Discrimination, singles blogs, The High Price of Being Single, Unmarried Equality
Marital Status Discrimination: Today, Onely joins forces with dozens of other bloggers to highlight the problem of Marital Status Discrimination. Why? Because on Tax Day, Uncle Sam picks the pockets of singles at the same time he’s rewarding couples for getting married.
So what? So this: The U.S. government–a democratic government, a government “By the People and For the People” and all that–discriminates against fifty percent of its population: unmarried people. Our federal code alone contains over 1,000 laws where marital status is a factor, and in most cases single people lose out.
Because this phenomenon was a problem with no name, we at Onely christened it “institutionalized” Marital Status Discrimination. In January we made a big slam-dunk stink about it in The Atlantic.
The Million-Dollar Difference: According to our very conservative and basic calculations, a single person earning $80,000/year could easily pay at least a million dollars more over her lifetime than her married counterpart, based on only a few of the most discriminatory laws (such as Income Tax, IRAs, and Social Security).
What’s more, our hypothetical scenarios did not consider state laws, nor the many ways Marital Status Discrimination shows up in corporate policies–such as when singles pay more for all sorts of insurance. These factors could easily push the million-dollar figure higher. Much higher.
But money isn’t everything: That’s why our government has thoughtfully provided other laws that don’t impact single people’s pocketbooks. These laws instead impact single people’s peace of mind. For example, as we described in 2010 on Psychology Today, an anti-stalking law promises protection to the victim’s spouse. Phew! But a single person being stalked is offered no such additional protection for a loved ones.
Any stalker who does his research (and we imagine this is all of them) would know exactly whom his stalkee loves most. R.I.P. Grandma; if only you had married your grandson maybe there would have been cops by your door when his stalker came calling. . .
The U.S. Government thinks being unmarried means: a life free of connections and cares, and full of discretionary spending. Unfortunately, even if this were true (and we at Onely fervently wish it were), no society is at its best when half its members are treated differently from the other half.
So let’s get started obliterating Marital Status Discrimination! Our first step is to. . uh. . . We will start by. . . ahem. . . Our next move should be. . . um. . . Well, as you can see, while we at Onely are skilled at pointing out these problems, we aren’t so sure what we should do next.
So, Copious Readers, here’s where we need your help: Now that we’ve gotten the dialog started, what do you think our “next steps” should be? How do you think we should take action (and by “we,” we mean the collective blogosphere standing up for single people everywhere)? What subject matter experts are best positioned to spread the word or propose legislative change? Do you know tax professionals or legislators friendly to our cause? (Or can you convince them to embrace our cause?)
Please share your insights and spread the word: Comment below. Or tweet #UnmarriedEquality and #SinglesBlogfest. Or share this article on Facebook!
If you have more questions about Singles Blogfest, please write to Onely@onely.org or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Huh? Clue? Yes:
The Communication League for Unmarried Equality (CLUE):
We at Onely were not the only ones who instigated this effort. We were honored to have had lots of help from three of the most active voices in the progressive singles’ movement, who jumped on board the Singles Blogfest project with unparalleled enthusiasm and expertise:
Thanks Copious Readers, We Love You!
Photo Credit: The Atlantic.com
The Wife Date December 9, 2012Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Dating, Heteronormativity.
Tags: (not) looking for a wife, dating checklists, dating for fun, single and happy
As our Copious Readers know (but as we often have to clarify to our not-so-Copious Readers and Friends), Christina and I are not against coupling per se. We’re against the privileges associated with coupling, especially when they are unequal to the privileges provided for singles.
Why am I giving you this caveat? Because I went on a date recently. And I didn’t want anyone to think that, by going on a date, I was not being Onely. We believe it’s possible to be Onely and have a love life too.
That being said, I have something to say about the date, which I am heretofore nicknaming The Wife Date. Perhaps by the nickname you can guess how I felt about it. But in case you can’t, let me explain:
Have you ever gone on a date where the conversation consisted of a series of generic questions, rather than from finding mutual experiences or interests in common? (more…)
Onely Gets Stood Up, Resorts to Machinery June 18, 2012Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Dating.
Tags: cleaning, getting stood up, love dramas, singles blog, vacuum cleaner
My mom set us up, so I should have known the date wouldn’t turn out well. To be fair to my mom, I did ask her to find me someone. And when she described Robin over the phone, Robin sounded amazing and I couldn’t wait to meet her. The whole week my stomach filled with happy butterflies I looked forward to Saturday at 2 pm.
Saturday arrives. At 1:50 I move my car so Robin can pull up right in front of house when she arrives. At 1:55 I start to pace by the window. At 2:00 I make sure the ringer on my phone is on in case she tries to call to say she’s running late. By 2:15 I’m pacing faster, in ever more erratic circles. By 2:30 I begin to worry: Do I really want a relationship with this woman if she can’t even call to say she’s running late? Is she a chronic late person? Because I could never be with a chronic late person. My butterflies settle into the pit of my stomach, a soggy cocoon of disappointment.
At 2:45 I call her. “Oh I’m so sorry,” she says. She doesn’t sound sorry. She sounds distracted. “I’m in Silver Spring.” This is a forty minute drive from me. She says, “I got caught up and didn’t realize the time.”
I’m opening my mouth to tell her not to bother coming now, when she says, “My longtime client had a fire in her nursing home and I’m trying to clean that up. Smoke damage. Can we reschedule our consultation?”
“Oh,” I say. “That’s too bad. Of course we can.” But I’m really thinking, Oh, the old fire-in-the-nursing-home-excuse. What about *my* estimate for a vacuuming job? What about the tumblefurs flying across my hardwood floors, clinging to the feet of my chairs, and sticking to my newly-moisturized face?
Robin lives in my neighborhood, so she says, “I’ll be home around six. Call me tonight and I’ll come over and give you an estimate for your vaccuuming.” She seems unfazed about having missed our 2pm date, and I wonder whether she would have even called me if I hadn’t called her first. That’s how it always is for me in relationships–I give, give, give and the other person takes, takes, takes. I curl up for a nap and rock myself to sleep through the tears.
At 7pm I wake up and call Robin. When her machine picks up I try to sound breezy, as if I don’t need her (more…)
Bad Onely Activities: Packing for My International Move August 22, 2011Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, solo travel.
Tags: cross-cultural communication, international adventure, Moving without much help, online research, packing alone, shipping boxes
It was a Saturday morning in August, and all my clothes, papers, and miscellaneous junk had been pulled out of my two closets; now they laid heaped in large piles across my living and bedroom floors. My dog stared at me nervously from one of the few remaining free squares of carpet. I was all alone, and I was ready to cry.
Such was the scene three weekend ago in my apartment in Louisville. My mission: finish packing all boxes for sea freight and plane luggage for the upcoming move to Beirut. I had already packed the easy stuff – eight boxes full of books. I had already sold most of my furniture, as well as my car. But tons of work remained. My final departure wasn’t for another month, but the boxes (19 in all) were to be picked up on Tuesday, and I had two domestic trips planned that would keep me away from home for three of the remaining four weeks.
On this particular Saturday, I needed to sort all unpacked items into four piles – one pile for trash or recycling; one pile for charity; one pile for the sea shipment; one pile for use over the next month – and then I needed to stuff everything for shipment or upcoming travel into the aforementioned boxes or bags. Later, I would somehow need to dispose of the hills of trash, recyclable papers, and donatable items. Did I mention I live three flights up and have no car?
I needed to focus, and I needed help. But I was alone, in spite of making it infinitely clear to my closest friends for the weeks prior that this weekend was not only my second-to-last in town, but that it was the final push for packing and I would need their help. After receiving no voluntary offers of help or inquiries about my need the week prior, I posted a desperate – and public – plea for help on my Facebook wall Friday morning. Still having heard nothing, and feeling totally ashamed, I sent an email Friday night, once again reaching out to the six or eight people whom I consider my closest friends here.
Finally, by Saturday morning a few friends had acknowledged my email. But no one could help me, and some ignored the message altogether. I felt overwhelmed, but more significantly, I felt abandoned. I have lived away from immediate family for many years and am pretty independent. Truthfully, I hate asking for help, but of course sometimes it’s necessary, and I have gotten pretty good about asking diplomatically and not taking “no” personally. But facing my mess alone that Saturday morning, I couldn’t help feeling hurt because I had assumed my friends would at least want to keep me company since our time was short.
Maybe I should never have hoped for help with such a personal task. Or perhaps it was too much to expect my friends to understand what it might feel like for me emotionally as I prepare to leave while they remain. Even worse, it’s possible my friends aren’t as close as I thought.
But given that every one of the friends I emailed has never before avoided me and seems to like me very much (!), I am tempted to speculate instead that they may have a hard time imagining what it feels like to move without the help and support “guaranteed” by a spouse or significant other. All the friends I emailed Friday night happen to be in coupled relationships. While I *need* my friends for practical support and consider them family, they don’t need me in quite the same way. If I want to go out to dinner with a companion, I don’t have a ready-to-go partner. If I forget something at the grocery store, I have to go back myself. Some have moved locally several times, and while I’ve helped with the physical move, they’ve never requested packing or logistical help. Plus, there’s a strong Midwestern mindset here: I have few uncoupled friends in Louisville, and fewer still who have experienced long periods of being single. Many are regional ‘insiders,’ having grown up in the South or the Midwest, with families who remain in the area. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (I am a Midwesterner myself) – but I truly feel unusual in that I have been mostly uncoupled for the duration of my four years living here and have no family nearby. So perhaps I suffered that Saturday due to a lack of serious single-person empathy.
The good news is, I accomplished my task that Saturday and even enjoyed an hours’ worth of help Sunday morning from some of the same friends who left me alone Saturday. And I am damn proud of all I’ve done by myself. But I surely wouldn’t classify this as an enriching Onely experience!