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Mixed Fruit, or the Unmarried Conglomerate (Donna Ward Interview, Part 3) June 22, 2021

Posted by Onely in book review, childfree/childless, Guest Posts.
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Welcome to the latest installment in our series, Onelers Of The World. This is the third part of my interview with Australian author Donna Ward, who elaborates on aspects of her beautiful memoir She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on lifeHere are the first and second parts of the interview. The third part, below, talks about the Unmarried Conglomerate, the term Donna coined to refer to the diverse group of people lumped together simply because of what they are not: married. There’s also a bonus vocab section!  (I am the one who bolded some of the sentences in Donna’s answers.)

Christina: In your book, you raise an interesting issue, one that is not discussed much in singles advocacy:  By splitting society sharply into Married or Not-Married, we create a false sense that all unmarried people are alike, with the same feelings and needs:  

Assuming spinsters and bachelors live the same lives as the conglomerate commonly referred to as single renders memoirs and social research on the subject impotent witnesses of less-daunting single lives. It conceals the social, personal, and political implications of living a life mostly, or completely, without a partner and children.” (10)  

After you had this realization, you visited the U.S. Census website. Can you tell us why, what you found there, and how it made you feel?  

Donna:   Ha! Well, I guess it was one of a series of events that made me write the book. Way back, twenty years or so ago, when I began writing this book, I did a lot of reading about the research on the health, wellbeing, and you guessed it, happiness of non-married versus married people. I visited the U.S. Census website and discovered the American government was, can I say, worse at collecting data on singles than our Australian Bureau of Statistics. (more…)

Childfree/Childless Singles in Australia (Donna Ward Interview, Part 2) June 16, 2021

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Welcome to the latest installment in our series, Onelers Of The World. This is the second part of my interview with Australian author Donna Ward, who elaborates on aspects of her beautiful memoir She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life. The first part of the interview was about the differences between how singleness is viewed in Australia vs. in the US. Here in Part 2, we examine Donna’s experience of being childless in Australia. The bolded texts were bolded by me, because I had the same compulsion to highlight Donna’s interview insights that I had when I was reading She I Dare Not Name. . . 

 

Christina to Donna: “But, do not be foxed!” you say, after having told us how Australians aren’t as marriage-happy as Americans. Because Australia nonetheless has plenty laws favoring people with families. You say, “As long as he or she has children, an Australian is a legitimate member of society.” Can you give an example(s) of specific instances where you would have had different privileges if you had had children? 

Donna: Can I say, straight up, our laws are not as punitive or as stringent against childless singles as I hear they are in America.

Christina: You most certainly can! 

Donna: We have never had a bachelor tax, for example, which was popular in Europe, the UK, and America from the eighteenth century, to encourage men to marry. Nevertheless, Australian economic and social policy is built on the assumption of the dual income family with children. So the cost of living—house prices, rent, utilities, food, holidays—is priced accordingly. Tax breaks exist for those with children on the assumption that there are no barriers to those living without the cost of children.

Our social welfare system and health insurance system, are based on the individual. This was a revolution that occurred during our progressive governments of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. During those decades, even though our Taxation Law assumes everyone will partner and parent, our social welfare system was designed around individual rights. This doesn’t mean they adequately support individuals, but it does mean it is an individual’s right to claim unemployment, supporting parent, and disability benefits, and the aged pension regardless of their marital status.

However, disability, health, and age care services are designed on the assumption that everyone has a family member, especially an adult child, who will steer them through the digital rabbit hole into these services, and safeguard them once they arrive. (more…)

Book Review: She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations June 1, 2021

Posted by Onely in book review, Guest Posts, Onelers of the World, Reviews.
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Welcome to the latest installment in our series, Onelers Of The World. Today I’m reviewing an important memoir by Australian author Donna Ward:  She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life. (Allen & Unwin 2021.) Previously I interviewed Donna for our series Onelers of the World. Part one of the interview is here. Now we have a treat for our U.S. American readers: She I Dare Not Name is being released in the U.S. TODAY (01 June 2021). You can get it at her publisher or at your favorite Indie bookseller or via the Evil Empire (no judgment–I personally have financed at least one of Jeff Bezo’s yachts)

Ward makes innumerable stinging and touching observations about a world where women like her and me are “less than”.*  I went a little crazy with the Kindle highlighter while reading this book. Ok, a lot crazy. My screen looks like Jackson Pollock was trying to understand the tribulations of unmarried childless women. 

Not that I’m totally on the same page (pun intended) as Ward. She started her journey through singledom reluctantly, expecting and hoping to become a partner and a mother, until it became clear that fate had other plans for her. I, on the other hand, never cared much one way or another if I were a partner or a parent. Her story is about coming to terms with her fate and learning not only to accept it, but to relish many aspects of her solitude. She pulls no punches in describing her roller-coaster journey from subtle pariah at the mommy-brunch (and recipient of the “frying-pan-for-one” present because it doesn’t look like she’ll “ever meet anyone”) to satisfied single whose solitude “endows an intimacy of one and a romance with the world”. Even for those of us like me who have always leaned towards single-at-heart, the process of recognizing and loving our solo selves can be a roller coaster, as we duck and dodge the prejudice society throws at us. Five stars say you’ll want to go along with Ward for her ride. 

Contrary to what most believe, solitude is a direct path into a relentless intimacy with oneself. I have learnt to be kind. (She I Dare Not Name, 17) 

Ward applies her poetic voice and powerful imagery to institutionalized singlism, meaning laws and commercial practices that blatantly and legally privilege married people. In other hands, this topic could come off dry: estate taxes, next of kin, social security. . . But don’t be foxed!**  In She I Dare Not Name, LINK the topic is tinder waiting to conflagrate. 

Here’s one part where Ward describes institutionalized singlism: (more…)

Australian Singledom vs. U.S. Singledom (Donna Ward Interview, Part 1) May 24, 2021

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Welcome to the latest installment in our series, Onelers Of The World. Today I’m talking to Australian author Donna Ward, who wrote the lyrical and incisive memoir She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life. It’s available on Kindle and in Australia now, and it’s releasing in the U.S. on 01 June 2021!  As I was reading it, I highlighted the bejeezus out of every page. After much difficulty, I narrowed my myriad highlights into a few key bullets that I wanted to ask Donna to talk to you about directly, in what ended up being a three-part interview. This first part concerns the differences between U.S. American and Australian views of singledom.

 

 

This woman is not a ghost come to claim you. You are not free to flirt with her. She won’t want to go home with you unless you enjoy her company, and she yours. She is not in search of a mercy fuck. She is not a threat to your marriage. The silence in her soul is not a harbinger of death, it simply comes of keeping company with solitude. This woman is not a bunny-boiler. All the bunny-boilers she knows are ex-wives.

 —Donna Ward, She I Dare Not Name. Allen & Unwin 2021

Christina to Donna:  You had a fascinating insight when an American acquaintance asked you if you’re “happy being a singleton.” You realized that only an American would ask this. When I read your rationales, my mind went BOOM. (A good boom.) Could you explain for my readers why your acquaintance’s question was arguably uniquely American? (more…)

Valentine’s Day and Singles Empowerment Day: Recommended Reading February 15, 2021

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For a combo celebration of Valentine’s Day (14 February) and Singles Empowerment Day (15 February), I want to flag a beautifully written and meticulously researched historical fiction series that examines religion, racial identity, ablism, cross-cultural conflicts. . . and romance. Lots and lots of romance. If that seems like a strange reading recommendation for a blog built on challenging our couple-obsessed culture, hear me out: (more…)

BOOK REVIEW: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine August 21, 2020

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An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Almameddine Grove Press, New York, 2013.

In the comments on an earlier post, our Copious Reader clofa recommended some books and authors. I picked up An Unnecessary Woman because it was the only one of the books in my library system. And I’m so glad I did! Thanks, clofa. I read it in two sittings, and I would have read it in one sitting, but unfortunately a girl’s gotta sleep and do personal hygiene.

Clofa warned that some of her friends found it depressing, and yes, it is depressing. But it’s also uplifting and I find so much to identify with. (more…)

“How To Be A Happy Bachelor”: Singles’ Rights From the Male Perspective July 2, 2020

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The conversation about singles rights has traditionally been dominated by white cis hetero women. The singles advocacy community can benefit from the voices of single women of color (see Dr. Kris Marsh‘s work), single LGBTQA people, and single cis/hetero men. This post will focus on the latter. Historically, whereas single women have almost always been seen as deficient, single men at least had a chance of being seen as positive: the freewheeling, sexually engaged, George Clooney trope. Boring, but positive. Nonetheless, single men still need advocacy. They experience the same financial and legal discrimination that single women do, and moreover, there’s a dark side to the single man stereotypes that single women don’t generally experience: the loner/serial killer stereotype. (more…)

Recommended Reading: The Last Conception September 13, 2014

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Gabriel Constans. The Last Conception. Melange Books, LLC. White Bear Lake, Minnesota. 2014.

***

51OayA6JBeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_To my mother. To my wife. To my husband. Authors commonly dedicate their books this way. Nice, but boooring. (To everyone, that is, except the mother, wife, or husband.)

Gabriel Constans dedicates his book The Last Conception

To Love, in all its manifestations.

We here at Onely are interested in all aspects of the single experience and particularly like to learn about single people from different backgrounds than ourselves (Lisa and I self-identify as white, upper-middle-class, agnostic, heterosexual women). The beginning of Constans’ novel allows us into the world of single scientist and first-generation Indian-American lesbian Savarna, whose parents–still unaware of her sexuality–have been pressuring her for years to marry and give them a grandchild. Any unmarried, child-free reader whose parents have pressured them in this way will wince along with Savarna as her parents become increasingly fervent in their matchmaking–all while Savarna is trying to figure out her relationships with two different women. (I refer to her as “single” because initially she is not part of an “official” couple.)

Appropriately, as an embryologist Savarna spends her working hours manipulating eggs and sperm to help women conceive. She herself, however, doesn’t feel the tick-tock of her biological clock. If she did, this book wouldn’t exist. (Or it would be very boring.)

The Last Conception teaches that Indian culture places even more importance on marriage and childbearing than U.S. culture. So we have several layers of tension going on throughout the story:

–Savarna the happily childfree woman vs. her grandchild-wanting parents

–Savarna the American vs. her Indian parents

–Savarna is not religious, but her parents who travel to India once a year for some ceremonious gathering that Savarna has never attended and vaguely considers cultish

–Then there is lesbian Savarna vs. the heterosexual world her parents inhabit (though from habit as opposed to bigotry)

–Even Savarna and her closest girlfriend have differing opinions on commitment and children

–Savarna is torn between loyalty to herself and to her parents–whose constant nagging about reproduction, we soon discover, stems not from desires to pinch bubble cheeks or see if their grandchild has their eyes, but something far more weighty.

Through the course of the book these subtle battles wage, peak, resolve and eventually weave together into an ending so satisfying I really wish I could share it here. I’m afraid to say much more because I don’t want to put out any Spoilers. Let’s just say that ultra right-wing conservatives would hate this book, especially the conclusion. (All the more reason to read it!) One of our favorite words here at Onely is amatonormative, which means the normalizing of a few specific kinds of love relationships while marginalizing all others. The Last Conception kicks amatonormativity in the a$$.

Which is why it gets one thumb up from our blog. The other thumb is busy turning the pages for a second read-through.

–Christina

Book Release: A Voice For Singles With Chronic Illness August 27, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews, Single with chronic illness, We like. . ..
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indexA while ago we here at Onely.org gave our dear Copious Readers a heads-up and review about Nika C. Beamon’s book MISDIAGNOSED: THE SEARCH FOR DR. HOUSE.

Now we wanted to announce that it’s available on Amazon.com as a paperback and Kindle book.  It’s also available on Smashwords and as a Nook Book.  Look for the paperback version on Barnes and Noble.com. Congratulations, Nika!

She also wrote a guest post on Psychology Today that ties into the book and talks about how to deal with being sick and single.

Copious Readers, I hope you’re not sick and that no one you love has a serious illness. But even if you are so lucky, check out Nika’s book anyway, just for educational value. You might find a whole new world of weirdness as you enter the seamy, stupid underbelly of the U.S. healthcare system.

–Christina

 

Single, Sick, and Shy About Asking For Help? Do a Worksheet. May 19, 2014

Posted by Onely in blog reviews, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, Just Saying., Reviews, Single with chronic illness.
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Copious Readers, as you can see from recent posts, Onely’s new Thing is writing about singles with chronic illness. Our goal is to encourage a wider dialog on this topic. This is especially important in light of the fact that unmarried people are already legally discriminated against in many ways. And then a chronic illness necessitates dealing with additional heartless bureaucracy, especially the parts that already favor married people–most notably health and disability insurance and Social Security. Single and sick: potentially a double downer, at least as far as life logistics go. (Although sometimes it’s easier to be single and sick, or at least to live alone and be sick–we will write about this in a later post).


helpOnely has been in touch with a number of bloggers and writers who are also interested in what happens to unmarried sufferers of chronic illness (and we hope that more interested parties will contact us, please!). Today, though, I wanted to flag one particular interesting resource for any socially or legally single folks out there who are constantly sick.

It’s sometimes hard to ask for help from people who are not in your immediate/nuclear family, because our society tends to teach that it’s ok to ask parents, children, or a spouse--especially a spouse–for all sorts of care and assistance–even the ongoing care and assistance often required by a chronic illness.  So single people without that specific support system may feel odd or uneasy about asking their own, unique support systems and loved ones for help, even though those people would probably be happy to assist.

Beth O’Donnell at Single and the Sweet Side of 40 has created some workbook charts, called HELP THEM TO HELP YOU, that assist you with wrapping your mind around certain important issues and decisions in your life. The Chronic Illness workbook is not out yet (we’ll let you know as soon as it is!), but two of the other workbooks actually provide guidance and insight that could very relevant to a single person dealing with an unrelentingly irritable body.
In order to get the workbooks, visit SSS40’s support page and opt in to the email list, or contact O’Donnell via her site. The two Help Them Help You guides most relevant to chronic illness are: The Broken Heart Edition and The Heavy Lifting Edition.

First, The Broken Heart Edition: The phrase “broken heart” usually appears in the context of a separation from or loss of a loved one. But the loss of your body as you once knew it can also break your heart. You might need as much moral support as if you had gone through a terrible breakup. And as helpful as hugs and phone calls are, O’Donnell points out that “Moral support is great, but if you really want to help, clean my house.” (Or, in my case, “If you really want to help, go to my office and. . . well, do my work.”)
Don’t worry about sounding demanding–remember, people want to help, and the housecleaning and other suggestions are couched in the form of a whimsical “TLC for Me” letter. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, but effective, guide for writing a letter about how someone could care for you. Sort of the way you’d leave a note for your petsitter. Except funnier.

As a cat owner, my personal favorite is:

The vacuum is _____________________on the___________________floor.

As someone whose body seems to hate her, my personal favorites are:

The odor in the house is most likely:
a) dead food
b) dead mouse
c) me
d) ___________

I’ll take a shower when:
a) water doesn’t hurt
b) my hair is so dirty it can be sculpted
c) I get out of bed
d) ___________

I’ll get out of bed:
a) when I wake up
b) for five minutes, to walk the dog
c) tomorrow
d) __________

 

Second, The Heavy Lifting Edition:

Frustratingly, if you have a chronic illness, common household chores like changing a high lightbulb or hanging a mirror or patching the hole you’ve kicked in the drywall may seem as elaborate and energetic as setting up base camp. O’Donnell describes “any seemingly simple household task requiring another set of hands, legs, or eyes” as “heavy lifting”.  She points out that if you need help, all you have to do is Ask–but sometimes, Asking isn’t simple. We can be shy about asking for help. We might exhaust (pun accidental) all other options, and sometimes drop the mirror on our head, before asking for help.
How to feel better about requesting assistance with some task that you can’t accomplish on your own? Remember that people *do* like to help. Most notable for those of us who hesitate to ask for help, the worksheet contains a list of suggestions for “Helping the Impromptu Helper” which might help you feel less uneasy about “imposing” on him or her. For example: If the helper seems to want to leave, make sure they leave, even if the job isn’t finished; provide assistance within reason; offer drinks and snacks; etc.
There are also guidelines/options to make an “Enlisted Helper” more comfortable and, by extension, make you more comfortable. For example: work within their schedule; defer to their expertise (except in matters of taste); pay them with money or wine or food or a review on Yelp or whatever; provide supplies and have the work area prepared as possible; etc.
Much of this is self-evident, but it helps to have everything written down in worksheets, especially if your mind is muddled from pain or exhaustion or too many mochas.
–Christina

Photo credit: saiyanzrepublik

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