I slept quite well last night and woke at around 8. After putting some final bubble wraps on items, I was met by the movers’ 10:30 arrival. As they loaded all my furniture into their truck, things became surreal as the apartment no longer felt like mine. I talked with Damien, the driver, who found a card from Magic: The Gathering, which my brother must have left during his visit last summer. He indicated he used to play, but having kids put a damper on that. I thought, I’m glad I’m free to make this move.
I can’t stand I-95; it’s always congested, and the only thing to look at is trees. I also get a bit tepid about city driving, so I was on edge. That is, until I actually hit DC. Once I got off 395, I was met with a beautiful urban landscape, along with a view of the Lincoln Memorial as I crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Rock Creek Parkway is a beautiful drive, and when I hit Connecticut Avenue, I knew I was home. Just a long street of cool restaurants and shops.
I’m in love with my apartment building. Apparent solo dwellers abound. My space is a little smaller than my previous apartment, but I guess that’s the trade-off in urban living. Chester and I will adjust.
I was pretty wiped out after I unloaded my car. I park in an underground garage, and take an elevator up to the fourth floor. A little more of a trip than my simple parking spot-to-door route. For some reason, I crave pizza after doing physical labor. So I found a place, the Italian Pizza Kitchen, and devoured a personal Italian pizza (sausage, bacon, onions, green peppers) and a cannoli. Since the movers wouldn’t be making it until the next day, I checked into a nearby Days Inn. I got an e-mail from the Provost at my new school welcoming us as faculty, which wired me for the night. I fell asleep quickly but was up at 4:30 this morning. It’s gonna be a long day for sure!
Part 1 – Packing
On May 1 of this past year, I was officially offered a position at a university in Washington, DC. One of the reasons for my excitement is that a large city like DC is a much friendlier locale for us singletons than a Southern suburb like Newport News, Virginia.
However, this pandemic is providing a twist. I’ve moved quite a few times for work, and each time, I’ve socialized heavily, which I’m even surprised by, being an introvert and all. Not this time. I have gotten to see friends in small groups, which is nice for an introvert, but I didn’t get to really immerse myself in seeing friends as much as I would have liked. Part of it was due to my summer teaching schedule and part of it was just that a lot of us are on different schedules.
This summer, I did keep busy with writing and teaching, not to mention all the details that go with moving, like finding a new place (which I did, half a mile from work!), changing my cable, Internet and electricity, and all that packing. As I write this, 99% of my apartment is in boxes, bags, and bubble wrap. And it’s unnerving – essentially, my whole life is in boxes. And due to the pandemic, going out is a crapshoot. I’m constantly washing my hands, taking my temperature, and escapes from the mess are rare because, well, I’m following the protocol and staying home. Which I do agree we should do.
But as I write this, I’m grateful for the time I have gotten to spend with friends. I went miniature golfing with one and had a few nice dinners and socially distanced walks with others. I’m just going through the grieving process. Change is hard. And while I love singlehood, moving solo presents an additional challenge. But as I sit here in what was my apartment, the eve before the move, I feel a mixture of emotions, most notably excitement and sadness. But I’m moving forward. And once I finished my perishable items, I began to enjoy some culinary delights (see pictured).
The phrase “’splaining” has entered the public lexicon lately as a way of defining how members of privileged groups “talk down” to marginalized groups. Mansplaining is the most common one. It’s defined as “the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.” I even found a really cool chart here that breaks it down. Ever since the tragedy involving George Floyd and subsequent protests, I’ve become more conscious of my own white privilege and have been researching ways I can be an ally. In this article a friend sent me, I learned about the term “whitesplaining,” which involves a white person trying to offer a “better insight/opinion” to that of a person of color.
In my book, How to be a Happy Bachelor, I coined the term procreamania, to refer to society’s obsession with procreation and the concept of “family.” Now, I’d like to add another, a term that I hope becomes a popular one: couplesplaining or marriedsplaining.
On the various single pages of which I’m a part, people vent about various aspects of singlehood. On the Single Serving Podcast page, many share about their dating horror stories or ask for dating advice. The Community of Single People page doesn’t have dating discussions, but people do share about slights and discriminations against single people. These two pages are safe zones, but when we exit those spaces, it becomes a different dynamic. I’ll start with an example from my experience.
I once posted a news report about how Vicki Larson argues that singles should receive the same benefits as married couples. Outside of my singles groups, I don’t typically get a ton of feedback or “likes” on those rare occasions when I post about these things. However, a married “friend,” decided to comment, “I’m not quite following. Married couples and families pay additional for benefits that cover additional parties” (I put “friend” in quotes because some of his previous condescending comments about singletons essentially caused me to not call him anymore, but since we go back to childhood, I still grant him a place on my Facebook page). That’s couplesplaining, mentioning how hard it is for married folks when singles try to advocate for themselves.
Fortunately, I responded with Bella’s article about marital privilege, as did she. Said “friend” had nothing to respond with.
Many singletons who aren’t “single at heart’ face challenges in their dating lives, so they may vent to their married/coupled friends. When they’re venting, they’re not looking for advice; they just want someone to listen. Marriage apparently doesn’t help everyone with their listening skills because some folks want to preach. “When I was dating my wife, yada yada…” or “Put yourself out there! Time’s a-wasting!” Coupled people need to learn to shut the f__ up about their “expertise” on dating. After all, some of them have been married so long they don’t know how dating works in the 21st century.
Oh, and if you’re a singleton and you mention your happiness around a married person, chances are, that married person might get uncomfortable. If he’s feeling really salty, he might talk about how good his marriage is, or how good marriage is in general. Bella (and I) would call that person a matrimaniac.
In a future post, I’ll write a bit more diplomatically about how coupled people can support singletons. But, for now, the moral of the story is: coupled folks, please shut the f___ up about our single lives.
Steve’s Old World mother felt saddened by the fact that he just wasn’t looking to settle down with a woman. But the best relationship advice he ever got was “You don’t need a woman; you have a cat.” Indeed, Charlie woke him up every day by licking the back of his head. When he left for work, the feline would grab his leg as if to say, “You can’t leave!” When he returned from the office, Charlie would be on his leg once again.
Hundreds of friends and family members attended Steve’s funeral. His tombstone read, “Best Cat Dad ever.”
Frank, Larry, and Pete finished up their monster plate of wings at Blue’s Pub. Fraternity brothers from college, they had met once a month for the past twenty-five years to catch up and reminisce. As Larry finished the last wing, Frank said, “Who’s up for some shots?”
Larry had to finish packing for a flight to New York to meet with the publisher of his upcoming book, while it was time for Pete to give his cat her pills.
After they left, Frank ordered his usual shot of Dewar’s with a Heineken chaser. And then another. Wifey could wait.
Editor's Note: Rachel Sutton, a graduating senior at Hampton University, and student in my How to be Single and Happy class, wrote this letter about how the Fair Housing Act can be interpreted by some to be discriminatory against singles; her letter calls to level the playing field.
216 Multi Use Facility
Hampton, VA 23668
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
Telephone: (202) 708-1112
To Whom it May Concern:
The Federal Fair Housing Act under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development states that it does not prohibit marital status discrimination. However, fewer than half of the states have laws that prohibit landlords from discriminating on the basis of marital status. Furthermore, in some of these states, courts have interpreted the laws so that unmarried couples do not receive protection from housing discrimination. In other states, courts have broadly interpreted the laws to give unmarried couples protection from housing discrimination.
This is completely unfair due to the fact that landlords can refuse single individuals housing or place unnecessary rules in their lease. In addition, states are interpreting the law so that it does not work in the favor of single individuals, which is a continued issue. Many cities have zoning laws as well, which allow an unlimited number of relatives to live together in a "single family" zone, but prohibits a group of single adults from living in the same area. This could further complicate a single person that is looking for a place to live, due to who is living around them.
The Federal Fair Housing Act completely prohibits marital status discrimination due to the loopholes that many states, and their landlords have found. The document needs to include specifics so that states can not discriminate on their own basis, and so that it will be fairer for people regardless of where they are in the U.S.
Editor's Note: Briana Roberts, a graduating senior at Hampton University and student in my How to be Single and Happy class, wrote this letter in response to an assignment to advocate for a policy change to a law that benefits marrieds. I was impressed by the creative position she took: pretending to be a senior citizen in need of such benefits. Enjoy!
123 Fake Street
Anywhere, USA 23666
Social Security Administration
11706 Jefferson Ave.
Newport News, Virginia 23606
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Briana Roberts, and I am writing this letter to request a change in the Social Security Administration’s retirement benefit policy. As you will see in this statement, I believe that I have the circumstance to receive some form of aid from my late roommate.
For the past 30 years, I have resided at 123 Fake St. with Ms. Jane Doe. Both Jane and I are 85-year-old single women who do not have any children. Ms. Doe also does not have any living siblings. She and I have always been committed to helping each other; whether it was setting up necessary doctors’ appointments or managing tax information. Ms. Doe began drawing her Social Security benefits 23 years ago, and planned to give me her retirement funds if anything ever happened to her. Unfortunately, Jane recently passed away, and I am ineligible to receive any aid because she was not my spouse.
Currently, the Social Security Administration holds a policy that only allows spouses, dependents or paid caregivers to receive retirement benefits from a deceased loved one. However, as previously stated, Ms. Doe and I are single, without children, and we are not each other’s paid caregivers. I cared for Jane as if she were my sister, and I am most certainly sure that she felt the same way. Because of this, I believe that I am the most deserving individual to receive Ms. Doe’s retirement benefits. This money would not strictly be used to pay for living, medical or funeral expenses. I will donate this money to Jane’s favorite volunteer organizations, including The Dreams of Hope Foundation and The Helping Hands Program.
Even if this message is too late, or if I will not be able to receive any benefits from Jane, my request is that the current Social Security policy be updated or at least reviewed. More people are no longer pursuing marriage, and they are deciding to settle with a non-romantic partner. Changing this policy will allow individuals like myself to use benefits from a long-time friend towards bettering the current society we live in and help those in need. I know this is what Jane would have wanted; she would not be satisfied with her retirement funds going to waste. I hope you consider my situation and allow those who are not in a romantic relationship to be eligible for receiving their partner’s benefits.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
To say live music is an integral part of my life is an understatement. Going to concerts is so much a part of my lifestyle that I have a running joke on Facebook, “I don’t go to enough concerts,” a joke I make every time I’m at a show, which is nearly every weekend. Thanks to COVID-19, this can’t happen now. But, to paraphrase the Grateful Dead, the music never stops.
One day, almost on a whim, I picked up an $80 acoustic guitar from a pawn shop near me. I had played on and off since I was sixteen, but I never really took it seriously. That casual relationship resumed once I brought it to the office: I played it a few times, but ultimately, I stashed it in a corner of my office and forgot all about it.
When I found out we would be working remotely, something possessed me to take the guitar home. One evening, after getting done to work, I just felt the urge to play Phish’s “Waste,” a song I had committed to memory several years earlier. I had been witnessing the struggles of my loved ones on Facebook, so I posted a video of my performance. I was astonished by the number of “likes” I received. So I vowed to post a new song every week.
I started out with some other songs I had committed to memory: “Norwegian Wood,” “Blowing in the Wind,” and “Uncle John’s Band.” For me, these were fairly easy to relearn. Then, I decided to expand my comfort zone with more complex tunes, like Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times.” Not easy, but I accomplished it.
After teaching myself a few songs, and a few new chords that went them, I decided to play for a purpose. While I’m childfree by choice, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for those parents trying to homeschool their children. I always struggled with math, so I can’t even comprehend trying to help someone in that subject, even in basic arithmetic. So I learned Jimmy Buffet’s “Math Sucks” to help soothe the frustrations of those parents struggling with math.
Ever since she saw Bohemian Rhapsody, my mother has been obsessed with Queen. I give all due respect to them as musicians, and I like some of their songs, but I’ve never been enough of a fan to pay money for their music. But I decided to learn “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” as a Mother’s Day present to her, which I sent to her phone.
One thing I’ve learned in my relationship with my guitar is that perfection is the enemy of progress. If I were going to be a rock star, it would’ve happened already, so if I simplify some chords or change a lyric or two, it doesn’t matter. The only people listening are my friends, and they won’t (or shouldn’t) judge. So why not loosen up and have some fun with it?
During the summer of 1995, the summer before my senior year in high school, I bought one of those Ivy League hats that other kids wore backwards. It was meant to display my image as an artist. I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg, and this hat would add to that. My friends mocked me for it (teenagers!), but I was determined to live that image.
That fall, I enrolled in Mr. Leonard London’s Project Advance English class, a college-level writing class that was offered through Syracuse University. I had managed to skate by through most of my high school career with Bs. My teachers up through my junior year were competent enough, but nobody really lit any fires in my heart. I enjoyed my TV Production courses, and Mr. Martin Markowitz, the teacher, was very supportive and encouraging in his guidance, but I suspect I would have developed the same passion with any other teacher. I was involved with drama, and Mrs. Isabel Feldstein taught me how to loosen up and project my voice on the stage, which has helped me a lot in my own career as a professor. Mrs. Judith King, my ninth-grade typing teacher, taught me the basics of how to type, which I still use today.
They were all great teachers, but none of them compared to Mr. London. He looked and carried himself like the media image of a college professor, leather elbow patches, tweed blazer, yada yada…My best friend, Albert Farmer, who was in the class with me and loved to rag on my hat, asked Mr. London, “Do you think Craig’s hat looks artsy?” Mr. London said, “Yeah, I think that’s a bohemian look.” At that point, I knew Mr. London “got” me.
The first semester of the class was a challenging one for sure; I did well, but one thing I learned was that everything I thought I knew about writing was wrong. Phrases I had used were not acceptable with Mr. London (for example, I couldn’t refer to “my Mom” in my literacy narrative; it was “my mother”). I was able to earn a B for that semester, which, with the 10% weight from an honors course, turned out to be an A.
But the second semester was where things got real. We read George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, and while the specifics of class discussions escape me these 24 years later, I remember him assigning us a paper on our own choice of topic. Being really, really, really into movies (hell, I owned every movie review book known to humankind, from Roger Ebert to Leonard Maltin), I thought I’d give a comparison between the play and My Fair Lady, the 1964 musical it inspired. I remember Eliza Doolittle breaking it off with Henry Higgins at the end of the play; yet, in the musical, they got together. The same ending occurred in the 1938 film version of the play. I was pissed at this, thinking that this was just Hollywood’s bastardization and butchering of a perfectly realistic play. I wrote my heart out, and as Led Zeppelin’s “Sick Again” blasted over my stereo speakers, I hit a “writer’s high,” where I hit some sort of a-ha moment. For the first time in my life, I was proud of something I had written. The assignment had gotten an A-; not an A, but I was still proud.
That energy spread to my college Public Affairs class as well; for the first time, I was loving learning for the sake of learning. The following year, during my first semester of college, I was determined to keep that energy alive, and it resulted in my making the Dean’s List.
Twenty-four years later, my intellectual interests have changed. I’m not as into classic literature as I was, but I’ve developed a love of Singles Studies. My desk is essentially a shrine to Singles Studies; if one were to make a movie about me, a shot to establish my character might consist of a tilt of all those books on my desk: Singled Out, Happy Singlehood, I Didn’t Work This Hard to Get Married. My love of research and learning has been nurtured by many great mentors over the years. But it all started in Room 211 of Spring Valley High School by that man, Mr. London. I don’t know if he’s still alive (my Google searches have landed me bupkis), but sir, if you can read this, thank you!
How to be Single and Happy Class - Assignment #3 - Policy Change Letter and Overall Course Reflections
Much of our discussion on CoSP revolves around how the law and general business and organizational practices marginalize singles. Even in a course entitled “How to be Single and Happy,” I feel it’s important for students to be aware of how singles are marginalized, and my hope is that they will start to question policy and start advocating. There is, after all, strength in numbers. So for this assignment, students looked at this link from Nolo and wrote to a letter to an organization that a policy be changed to be more inclusive of singles. Here’s what they came front:
Mary – She advocated that a particular hospital should allow friends and extended family members of sick folks to be able to visit their loved ones. In other words, visits should not be limited to the spouse or immediate family members. And she brought the snark.
Karen – She also got sassy with Darlene Dovenberg, a woman who violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to a single mother because she “had no man.” Ultimately, she had to pay $15,000 to the woman. Victory!
Kelly – She proposed a change to the Family and Medical Leave Act, namely that it be expanded to the ability to look after other loved ones, such as a sibling or extended family members.
Tammy – An employee of Cracker Barrel, she advocated that the restaurant be more equitable in providing time off to its employees. In other words, why on Earth can’t a single person take a day off to go fishing when a married person can take a day off to look after a spouse?
Brenda – She got creative with hers, writing in the voice of an 85-year-old never-married woman who lives with her sister. She wrote to the Social Security Administration, asking that she be allowed to give her Social Security benefits to her sister upon her death. Makes sense to me! She gave me permission to post her letter on my blog, which will be coming up tomorrow.
Rebecca – She wants the Federal Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on marital status, in addition to its other provisions. Makes sense to me! She also gave me permission to post her letter to my blog, which will come up the day after tomorrow. Moreover, she submitted it! We shall see.
One reflection is that I’ll attempt to make is that in the future, I’ll make clearer that the letter should focus on one policy. There’s a lot of positive energy around singles activism in there, but a few people wanted to change multiple problems, which can be hard for an audience to digest. So I’ll emphasize that more in the future. All in all, I’m happy with the students’ passion for enacting social change here. And I’m happy with the way the course went. Students really got into the material, even after we transitioned to remote teaching.
My name is Craig. I'm an educator, writer, and unapologetic singleton. When not reading, writing, or teaching, I enjoy hiking, running, watching movies, going to concerts, spending time with friends, and playing with my cat/son, Chester.