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September 27, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


The Single Thing

Turns out National Singles Week (the 1982 lovechild of -- for real -- The Buckeye Singles Council of Central Ohio) -- was ... last week. Oops. Um, fashionably late? (Even by NYC nightlife standards, a week is a bit much.) I'm sorry. Truth be told, I had my hands full figuring out whether or not I was going to rejoin the ranks. Which brings me to:

Single Thing #1. If you think that when you do get a relationship, you're, like, done, you've got another think coming. As in: "I think we should be friends."

That's why, as you know, my metier is not to scoot you [out of and] into a relationship just as an end in itself. That, in itself, would be The End, would it not? My job -- while I do recommend that you find yourself a comfortable spot on the Flirtation Continuum (see MB's letter) -- is, rather, to Make the World Safe For Singles. And -- to paraphrase an obscure U2 line I used to doodle on my notebooks in Breakup High, when I dreamed of being not single with Bono -- help you change the world in you. To help you shrug off the icky bridesmaid's dress/tacky cumberbund of a feeling that Single, as fun and free as it can be these days, is still pre-attached, pre-married, Plan B.

(Cf. Bridget Jones, who resolves to "develop inner poise and authority and sense of self as woman of substance, complete without boyfriend, as best way to obtain boyfriend.")

And fortunately, singles are getting some validation -- other than parking at Spago -- out there. Well, some. To wit:

Single Thing #2.
Single is the new black. Single sells.



Yes, and ... not so much. Yes, in the sense that truly no one -- not even I -- looked at me funny when I went to the opera alone last night. Yes in the sense that -- at least in the world of the not-so-beaux-arts -- "happy ending" and "wedding" are no longer bound 'til death do they part.

Not so much, given that we must remember that single sells because singles shop. American women, at least, are staying single longer (enjoy these stats while they last), getting raises as they go (in fact, they now make 92% of men's wages). Also, the "Hey, baby?"-boom happening in Hollywood and on TV and in publishing is more autobiography -- and business plan -- (oh, and cheap imitation) -- than it is singles-community service. Even though the numbers back it up, calling The Single Thing a brand-new cultural trend is a bit of a slick scarlet herring. It's a teeeeeeny bit like saying "Now, all of a sudden, we've got so much culture from the Latinos!" (the new Lesbians). Did we ever actually lose our marytylermoorings in the first place? What about The Group? Or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? If you ask me (or Helen Fielding), much of this stuff is Pride and Prejudice, with more sex, less muslin.

Besides ...

Single Thing #3. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a husband.

The "the women's movement is wack" people -- and the people who love them -- are far too quick to point to Bridget and Carrie & Co. on their less jaunty days and say, "See, they say they're independent, but they really just want to get married." Why is this a contradiction in terms? Marriage requires mettle too, does it not, gentle married readers? How come when men want to get married, they're settling down, but when women want to get married, they're giving in? Why do people looking for a life partner all of sudden look like wistful misty Seventh Heaven throwbacks? Or shrill golddigging nutballs (wait til you see the scene that sullies the otherwise charming The Bachelor.)? What's wrong with wanting someone -- as The Heart is a Lonely Hunter so aptly and evenly put it -- to "share the driving?"

You know, I remember one day when I told someone, perfectly cheerfully, that one day I'd like to get married. The response: "Wow, I never thought of you ... that way."

That actually kind of stung.

Which brings me to:

Single Thing #4. The problem with the Hooray for "Hooray for Singles" thing is that it leaves us to tromp down our own middle aisle. To defend ourselves on both sides. To still have to say, "I went to the opera alone, AND I'M REALLY OKAY WITH THAT," AND to say, "I'd prefer not die alone and childless, AND I'M REALLY OKAY WITH THAT."

Which is why I'm also striving to make the world Safe for Searching. No raised eyebrows. No "that way."

Because even when we're all rah-rah, which is great, we're still defining ourselves against a norm. Defending, proving, game-facing. All in all, I'm just waiting -- I mean, working -- for Single to not even be a Thing. (Same way I'm waiting for the day when, you know, NOW and the EPA pack up and go home on account of they've got nothing left to do.) Sure, some of us can afford D&G, but we're still wearing all sorts of scarlet letters. Someday, let's hope, Single will be the new ... neutral.

While we're on the subject...

Single Thing #5. In the sociable just-gettin-out-there -- or in this case, on-there -- spirit of breakupgirl.net, tell us this:

Have you met, METmet someone -- or, yes, made a friend -- via our message board, chats, or behind-the-scenes yentacizing right here at the column? More to the point, have you struck up something e- (platonic or otherwise) that you'd like to take IRL? Help us help you! We might be able to work together on a so-cool-we-can't-even-tell-you promo project. So give me the big tell, and we'll take it from there. Thanks heaps!

Single Thing #6. Finally, can't tackle this theme without mentioning The C-Word. You know, Canada. Where people flee when they sense that they're about to be tied down.

This is the stuff of a column unto itself (I'll get there. I'm just ... not ready.) but for this week let me just highlight a couple of key points and letters.

"Fear of Commitment" -- Human freaking condition, you guys. How many people do you know who do not schvitz a bit at the thought of giving up all options but one? I mean, eeek! It's just that some folks, for whatever nature/nurture reason, are better at overriding it than others.

F of C (like its twin cousin, Fear of Intimacy) is thus not necessarily useful as a facile amateur poppsych knee jerk "diagnosis." I mean, some people settle down with the wrong person in order to avoid having to settle on the right one. Different symptom, same cause. Who's to say?

It's also not necessarily a guy thing. Granted, there is some perhaps not-so-vestigial female biological urgency to Get a Dad. But we all have feet, and they all get cold.

And/so now, a few words from Mr. and Miss Single Thing ...



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