It’s hard to be on social media and not see at least one post related to how introverts are faring way better in this time of self-isolation/self-quarantine than their extroverted counterparts. After all, we introverts derive our energy from alone time, whereas extroverts get theirs from being around others. There’s that message going around, “Introverts, check on your extrovert friends! They are not okay!” It’s done in jest, but there’s some truth behind it. Some of my extrovert friends and family members are having a tough go of it, and I send them vibes.
On the Community of Single People Facebook page, we see all kinds of things related to singlehood. At least once a day, I see some kind of vent about a condescending coupled person. Recently, someone posted a Tweet from a pastor named Michael Foster that I’d prefer not to quote, so I’ll let you read for yourself.
Okay, so you read it, and hopefully, you read a few opposing comments, including my snarky little response (he had it coming). But, for us singletons, it’s actually a very good time to be single, particularly if we spend a lot of time outside the home. I’m an introvert, yet I maintain a very active social life, filled with concerts, dinners, and other gatherings. That being said,
“alone time” is a necessity in my life. And I’ve used it to Netflix and Chill, write, and read, things I normally do. But I’ve also picked up my guitar and practiced for about 45 minutes every night, something I’m pretty sure I haven’t done since my 20s. I’m also relearning songs and recording them for my Facebook followers. I also have an online chess game going with a friend (I was never much of a chess person, but I have to say I like it, even when I’m getting slaughtered). Finally, I’ve been hosting a small writing group with other CoSPers via Zoom and have had the opportunity to meet some cool folks from around the world, people I wouldn’t meet in real life.
So this introvert singleton’s doing pretty well. But I actually do express concern for some (not all) of the coupled folks out there. If I were in a relationship where I wasn’t totally happy, I’m pretty sure I’d be going out of my mind during this Coronacation. And if I had children, well, I just don’t wanna picture it.
So, in a moment of jest, I posted “Fellow singletons! Check on your coupled friends! They may not be okay!” on CoSP. It got some laughs, but this joke is rooted in seriousness. I’ve seen a few articles mentioning an increase in domestic violence calls. In many cases, these victims are stuck in unsafe environments, and I made sure to mention this to Pastor Foster (and I wonder what his church is doing for those folks).
And even in safer yet still toxic environments, the quarantine is problematic. I always said that even if you’re having a tough time with singlehood, you can still change your perception about being single. When you’re in a bad relationship, you’re stuck with that partner you can’t stand.
So fellow singletons, call your coupled friends (preferably on videochat) and tell them things you’ve learned or things they might funny. It helps with their loneliness and reminds them that they’re whole people.
COVID-19 is changing the world’s entire landscape and will no doubt have long-standing ramifications for the future. Fortunately, for us, social media has given us the ability to make virtual connections without having to leave the house, and there are tons of funny memes. One was posted by a single dude I know with a picture of a guy with a bulging right bicep with the text that read something to the effect of, “Single guys, make sure you masturbate with most hands, or by the time this ends, your arms will look super weird.” Sadly, I cannot find the meme itself, and I really didn’t care to look for it.
It can be healthy to poke fun at oneself, and I’ve even done that myself. I used to moderate the Childfree and Single Facebook group, and I instituted a “no single-shaming rule (i.e., “you seem like a jerk, that’s why you’re single”). But I would occasionally share a corny joke and then say, “this is why I’m single (it doesn’t count when you’re single-shame yourself”). But I look back and think, I’m just perpetuating negative stereotypes around singlehood, and what good is that?
Internalized singlism is real. It was first mentioned on a blog called Rachel’s Musings, and it refers to how we put ourselves down for being single. I’ve done that, and I entered relationships I had no business being in as a result. For some people, it’s actually dangerous, and I believe it contributes to victims of domestic violence staying in relationships that could end up killing them.
The Facebook group, Community of Single People, is a place where singles can be free to talk about singlehood: its positives, its challenges, societal marginalization of singles. It’s also the place where I became truly comfortable in my singlehood. There are a lot of other groups in which people bemoan their single status, and I get it. It’s hard. But if we can all learn how to not see being single as a defect, we might just be better off. But it starts with us.
Stay safe, sane, and healthy, and do the five!
So thanks to “the ‘Rona,” our classes have gone remote (as has just about every class at every institution of learning in the free world). So we did an online discussion of Chapter 4 of Happy Singlehood. This chapter discusses socializing as relates to singles. A number of students identified with Sarah, the woman who mentioned becoming anxious on Sundays, because that’s typically a “work-free day.” A couple had concerns as to how they might negotiate those feelings.
While I am a big advocate for singlehood and singles’ rights, I’m not naïve to the fact that singlehood definitely has its challenges. When your network seems to be coupled, it can be isolating, even if you’re a happy singleton. One student felt self-conscious during the solo dining exercise because of the couple nearby. A few others expressed anxiety about the big question: “how will I manage when I’m older?”
I’ve faced both of those issues, and there’s really no clear solution to it. The only advice I can really offer, even as an experienced singleton, is: 1) cultivate your social networks. My platonic friendships are my most meaningful. You never know when they can help you; and 2) learn to enjoy your own company. I love a good Netflix binge or a day spent reading and writing. I always have. A lot of married/coupled people don’t develop either of those skills, which is why many feel adrift when they become divorced/widowed.
The out-of-class assignment revolved around pro-single films. In preparation for their pop culture critique assignment, students watched films that advocated for a pro-single message. One person chose Sister Act, which I put on the list, thanks to Nicole (no romantic subplot between Whoopi Goldberg and the detective!). A couple of students chose Freedom Writers, in which Erin Gruwell sacrificed her marriage for her teaching (and it’s a good thing for the kids, and education in general, that she did!). Two chose How to be Single, a subversive in the rom-com genre. Girls Trip, a film that celebrates platonic friendship, showed up as well, as did Dolemite is My Name (my heart sunk when Dolemite first meet Lady Reed, as I thought it was going to be another romantic subplot, but it turned out their relationship was strictly platonic, and to my knowledge, Rudy Ray Moore never married, as it might have gotten in the way of his legacy).
One new film was introduced to me, How to Get Over a Breakup (thank you, Brandy, for that introduction). It’s a Spanish-language film about a woman who, after a breakup, begins blogging about singlehood (were the filmmakers spying on me?). I may need to watch this in my social distancing.
Whiplash also appeared. Michael liked that the character sacrificed his romance to focus on his drumming. While my first thought was that the film portrayed the breakup in a negative light, I can definitely identify with the choice to pursue an art over a relationship. J.K. Simmons’ seemingly sadistic bandleader, Miles Fletcher, got into Andrew, the young drummer’s head, and, while his methods are definitely outside the mainstream (and that’s putting it mildly), they do push Andrew to be the best drummer he possibly can be. I don’t have a Miles Fletcher to do that in my writing, but I do have good friends (Christina and Nicole, for example), who help me stay accountable. For me, romance would be a distraction from my craft.
Over the next couple of weeks, students will be working on their Popular Culture Critiques, so it’ll be a bit before the next class blog, but if I come with anything, y’all will hear about it. Stay safe and healthy, and don’t forget to do the five!
Bachelorhood and the "Rona
“The ‘Rona” is a term Niya, a student in my Blogging class coined, so I have to credit her. Life has gotten very strange in the last couple of weeks. Everything’s been cancelled: races, concerts, sporting events. Social distancing is being encouraged, which can make life difficult for those who need interaction.
That being said, as an introvert and a singleton, this social distancing is something for which I’ve prepared for, well, my whole life. After a spring break spent with family, friends, and concerts, four days of teaching, “Rona Panic,” going to a workshop on building my author platform, doing Pilates class (my studio just announced a temporary closure), and hitting the gym, I started to develop a runny nose and a light cough (diagnosis: likely allergies). Normally, it wouldn’t be an issue for me to keep living life. But these aren’t “normal” times.
Our school’s gone “remote” for the next few weeks, which means we’re teaching, but through the Internet. So I’m still working. But I’ve decided to “self-isolate” because I don’t want my symptoms to infect anyone else.
So I taught remotely. My first Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session went well with my Blogging course, as they read observation exercises they wrote; I had taken my students to the campus Student Center to write about things they observed, and we shared them. Otherwise, it was all about grading, lesson planning, writing, and communicating with students remotely. This writer always takes the events around him/her and turns it into prose.
After that, I had dinner and hooked up digitally with my friends Nicole and Maggie to catch a live stream of a Dropkick Murphy’s show. Typically, this Irish punk band plays in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day, but for obvious reasons, they chose to do a virtual show. The singer, Ken Casey, dedicated a couple of songs to folks “have someone annoying them in the house.” I felt excluded for a second, but then I realized I can watch this show without interruption, and as I’ve always had the natural ability to enjoy my own company, I’m great at living alone. I might get annoyed at a roommate or a significant other in my “zone.” I just need my own space, or as Virgnia Woolf put it, “a room of one’s own!” On the chat feed next to the video, a dude commented, “I’m trying to enjoy the show, but my wife keeps telling me about all these COVID closings.” Yeah, I feel you. At a show, I try to tune out the world. It’s problems will be there when I get back.
On Facebook’s Community of Single People page, someone posted about reading something that said, “Married folks, check on your single friends.” The way I see it, though, we singles are quite the resilient bunch. Self-isolating comes pretty naturally to a lot of us. Enjoying your own company is an essential skill no matter what your relationship status or your Meyers-Briggs type is; now, it’s even more important.
For this week’s class session, students were required to watch a movie with a “singlist” or “matrimaniacal” message. I gave them a bunch of romantic comedies from which they could choose, or they could certainly pick their own.
From the list, one student chose Roll Bounce, which isn’t a romantic comedy, but has a romantic subplot that I felt was unnecessary. I was quite happy the student noticed that at the end of the movie, there were THREE hookups: the protagonist, the protagonist’s best friend, and the protagonist’s father.
Another student gave a very nice distinction about the 40-Year-Old Virgin: “I do not specifically think the film favors marriage over singlehood but it certainly favors some type of romantic bond over being single.” Very true; Andy is seen as a broken weirdo until he hooks up with Trish.
Students who analyzed Just Wright and The Ugly Truth also found that the female protagonists in the movie were critiqued for dressing casually (“How are you supposed to find a man?”). I wondered whether they had changed their attire by the movie’s end (many movies have their characters doing just that).
A couple of students found that in their movies (Just Wright and He’s Just Not That Into You), the protagonists found romance just by being themselves. It’s a better message than, say, Crossing Delancey or Just One of the Guys, but still, can’t one be oneself and be single? Mary pointed out that one of the plot threads in He’s Just Not That Into You had a woman discovering she was better off single.
Sandy pointed out that in Hitch, the titular character’s true occupation (date doctor) was revealed, which led to the “Dark Night of the Soul” moment (Will Smith and Eva Mendes’s characters break up). Of course, true to romantic comedy convention, they get back together (not much of a spoiler alert either). Sandy noticed that “the film is more realistic if the character’s relationships would have ended with them going their separate ways.” Yeah, but that’d be too realistic for Hollywood.
All of this came out in our discussion, and I provided them with a handout, “Seven Story Beats to Help Outline Your Romantic Comedy.” We discussed about how it’s the law for Hollywood screenwriters to follow those beats because romantic comedies are essentially a form of escapism. We also talked about Amy Gahran’s concept of the “relationship escalator” as related to the thread of He’s Just Not That Into You, in which everybody’s pressuring one of the couples to transcend from domestic partnership to wedded bliss. In the “romantic subplot” discussion, I brought up the “beat sheet” from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, which advises aspiring screenwriters to place the “B-story” at thirty minutes. Usually, this B-story is the romantic subplot. I also offered a reading, “Contradictory Messages: A Content Analysis,” by Kimberly Johnson and Bjarne Holmes, in which they analyze scenes forty different romantic comedies and discuss the possibility of impact on real-life romantic relationships. They found there was no significant impact for adults, but I mention a concern in my upcoming book that adolescents who make decisions based on the narratives they receive from romantic comedies (i.e., marrying or giving birth at a young age) could be destructive for some. It’s a theory, but a valid one, I think.
As of this upcoming week, classes at my university are being taught remotely, so it’ll be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out.
I know I said I’d be in back two weeks, but I just graded the first assignment students in class wrote, the Singlehood Manifesto, and I just couldn’t wait. Students have great ideas. As a writing instructor, I’m required to point out errors in comma usage, as well as spout the phrase “Titles aren’t underlined” and “References are double-spaced.” I also had to correct the spelling from “matrimonia” to “matrimania” for two of my students. Other than that, here are some items that stood out to me:
One person alluded to “traveling before I settled down.” Even if that does mirror conventional wisdom about singlehood, at least even if he does marry, he’ll make better, more measured relationship choices as opposed to just jumping into one because “it’s there.” He also admits how hard they are: “It is about compromise and give & take.”
“Why waste the person’s time if you’re not going to get married?” This person wrote about how she only wants to date if it’s going to get serious. While it does personify the traditional relationship escalator point of view (nothing wrong with that), at least she’s not going to settle for less than she wants. Kudos!
“The largest hindrance to enjoying the single life is the constant pressure single people to get married and make their own traditional families” – It’s dangerous too. He cited Kislev here, who’s cited others.
“I’m too pretty to be single” “No, I’m too pretty to be harassed by you, sir” Slow clap here.
One gentleman expressed concerns about “who’s taking care of me when I’m old” – To that, I recommend Check out Bella DePaulo’s How We Live Now and Eric Klinenberg’s Going Solo. I also would like to see us establish intentional living communities for single adults and single seniors. It could encourage people serving as each other’s lifelines, like my friend Maggie and I have done in case of emergency.
A more global comment: I love that they’re applying the term “singlism” correctly in their essays and they offer strategies on how to overcome it. I’ll also sent them Bella’s article here.
Keep up the great work, and keep on doing you!
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.