I find My Name is Earl the right mix of laugh-out-loud funny and poignant. The antics of the characters crack me up, and there’s often a touching message that gives me goosebumps.
The premise for those unfamiliar: Earl is a layabout, drunk, and petty thief who, after finding a $1 million lottery ticket, is hit by a car and loses his ticket. While in the hospital, he learns about the concept of karma from Carson Daly, and he concludes that he lost his lottery ticket because of all the bad things he’d done. By logic, he also reasons that if he does good things, good things will happen to him. So he makes a list of the people he wronged and sets out to make amends to them. Along the way, of course, he stops caring about the good guys that could happen to him and ultimately becomes a better person.
One such episode stuck out to me. At one point, Earl and his brother Randy stole an air conditioner from Woody, a pothead who didn’t even notice he was being robbed (he offered to make sandwiches for the thieving brothers). As part of his amends, Earl attempts to return the air conditioner to Woody, only to find he’s living in a hippie commune and no longer needs “such items of convenience.” As part of his amends, Earl stays in the commune for a week and learns about how they’re helping the environment.
After wondering how these hippies live without electricity, subsist entirely on vegetables, and live in cottages made of dung (yep), Earl comes to appreciate their sense of social responsibility and attempts to convince the word to be more ecologically sound.
This episode got to me because I had a similar journey as Earl did when it came to spreading the gospel of happy singlehood. After a breakup, I discovered the work of Bella DePaulo, recognized myself as a Single at Heart and became turned onto this developing field of Singles Studies and pro-singlehood advocate. I told everybody I could about it. In addition to publishing it, though, I was calling people out on singlism in daily life and even getting into altercations on social media. I’d get triggered every time someone said “my wife” or referred to their partnership. I’d tell everyone that the “single way is the best way,” trying to stuff the idea down their throat.
Similarly, Earl has this epiphany, and he acts in a similar manner. He tries to stop loggers from cutting down trees and he switches from driving to biking, hoping to influence others. When it doesn’t, his next step is to remove the air from the tires of cars, as well as turning people’s electricity off. That’ll show ‘em! And when he finds out about pollution in China, he freaks out. He goes back to the commune, hoping to live among his new likeminded friends, but Woody tells him, “Your list is your destiny. Just take five minutes out of your day to do little things to help the environment. If everybody did that, pollution wouldn’t be such a problem.”
So I try to apply Woody’s idea to my work in Singles Studies. I don’t peck at pro-marriage memes on Facebook anymore. I do challenge those views on Twitter, but I do so under my real name, and it’s always in a professional tone. And I continue to write and live. This past year, making other “single at heart” friends has been instrumental in getting my social needs met. December 10, the night Bella, Joan, and Kris gave that talk at Busboys and Poets, right before we single at hearts took over the back room at Shaw’s Tavern, was one of the best nights of my life. Yes, I’ve been flashing Bella’s new book, Single at Heart, on the subway. You could argue it’s a bit histrionic, but hey, maybe it’ll reach someone who might not know about this idea, but could benefit from learning about it.
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.