After a breakup and subsequent period of sadness during which I obsessively told myself I was going to die alone, I found the work of Bella DePaulo, which essentially saved my life and transformed my thinking about singlehood. It transformed it so much that I’ve become a scholar/writer/activist/crusader for singlehood, writing articles and even a book about it.
Yet, there’s been a downside about it. I now hear microaggressions where I hadn’t previously (such as politicians referring to “American families” as opposed to “American people”). On the way back from a solo trip from hiking the AT, as I walked toward my apartment, I heard a woman refer to her brother as a “loner/bachelor.” That triggered me for a second before I realized she may not have meant it as a negative thing. After all, I hadn’t heard the entire conversation, so I’m probably missing a great deal of context.
I’m reading a book entitled The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch, which is about a professor’s foray into cage fighting, done as a study in masculinity (and in my opinion, the primal urges that lead to toxic masculinity). He mentioned that marriage pacifies men, and that the lion’s share of violence is done by unmarried men (I hate that word “unmarried”). I grinded my teeth for a second, and then I thought, well, actually, I think I felt pacified when I was in relationships. And toxic masculinity among men is real, and men are often competing for relationships/sex, so yeah, I guess it makes sense that would be the case. Of course, without such perceptions of how manhood is connected to sex, we might see that violence drop, so we need to look at the root of that problem, which the author neglects.
The problems of singlism and matrimania still exist. But the trick for me is learning to see it where it actually does occur and to not overread where it may not.
A short prose piece inspired by Peter McGraw's Solo podcast episode, "Waiting." A widower is infinitely more attractive than a never-married person, as our protagonist proves.
There was word of a widower in Pine Hills, the gated community for senior citizens. Peter, a grey-haired man in his 70s, had lost Elizabeth, his wife of thirty years. All the widows in the complex brought him casseroles and pastries until he coupled with Gretchen. Upon doing so, he placed Elizabeth’s pictures in storage.
Peter had been a graphic designer. His specialty was altering stock photos to give them different appearances. Elizabeth, whom he had gotten from one of his suppliers, was his masterpiece.
Since I have the summers “off,” I travel to New York to visit my Mom and brother. Last summer, that couldn’t happen due to the combination of the pandemic and me moving to DC for my new job. I visited during the winter, but given the surge of the virus, I wasn’t about to go into a crowded space like New York City. Besides, it was shut down anyway. With things reopening this time, with things opening up, and I decided a New York City trip was just what I needed.
I love trains. I’d be a happy man if I could just use trains exclusively. The fact that there’s a train station not too far from my mother’s house makes me ecstatic. The hour-long train ride was a nice, meditative experience for me as I stared out the window at all of the different New Jersey towns. All the golf courses, McMansions, more modest homes, and downtown areas had me imagining what life might be like there, and it made me grateful for the one I currently have.
Once I got into Hoboken, I had to walk around the waterfront that overlooks the Hudson River. After lying in the nearby park, I spotted a CitiBikes station and decided I had to get my bike fix in. For $15, you can get as many 30-minute rides as you want in the span of one day. I rode on a path for a spell before grabbing a street hot dog and working it off by walking through downtown.
After about a half hour, I decided to head toward the reason for my trip: The Big Apple. The PATH train provided some much-needed AC in this July humidity. I got off at Christopher Street in the West Village and was greeted by a CitiBike, which, of course, I rode. After a brief ride toward the Hudson River and back, I had a hankering for some Italian Ices. I thought the nearby pizza place would have it. They had the flavors on a board, but the man behind the counter said, “Sorry. Maybe next year.” Not enough people walking around? Next, I tried an ice cream parlor. The young woman seemed apologetic at the idea that an ice cream parlor wouldn’t have Italian Ices. The next pizza place housed a man who said, “What’s an Italian Ice?” I just didn’t have the energy to explain it.
Finally, it occurred to me to use the Google Maps to find Italian Ices, and at that point, I found Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices & Ice Cream on Avenue A, about a mile away, but as I would soon found out, well worth the walk. That first taste of the Cherry Coke ice was like heaven in my mouth. I found a nearby park bench, and enjoyed my ice while I watched passersby, another old favorite hobby of mine.
Another mile down to the Pickle Guys, where I got my brother that quart of sour pickles I promised him. From there, I found another CitiBike and rode around Chinatown before the highlight of the trip, dinner with fellow CoSPer Laura Zan at Nyonya, a Malaysian restaurant on Grand Street. From our conversation, I learned that during my time as a teacher in Malaysia, my hosts had sheltered me from real Malaysian street food (they’d fed me the cuisine the school cooks had made). Laura knew a lot about real Malaysian culture. Fortunately, I was able to sneak away on a couple of occasions for Mee Rebus, a popular Malaysian breakfast dish. Laura also gave me a good tip for a hiking trail in Tuxedo, New York, right near the train station. Two things I love all rolled into one; I may just do that this weekend.
After dinner, we got dessert from Ferrara Bakery right next door (I had to have my cannoli). We took a nice walk through downtown, and there was a part of it Laura referred to as “the backwoods of New York.” A very desolate area, and soon, I learned why: the correctional facility nearby.
We parted ways at the City Hall station, and I walked away feeling exhilarated by meeting a new friend. As Kislev said in Happy Singlehood, “singles are more connected socially than married people.” Recently, that kind of connectivity has become a major core value in my life, and it’s always nice to meet people with those core beliefs.
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.