Saturdays have become routinized for me since my move to DC. Jog, buy romaine lettuce from farmer’s market, intermittent fasting while I grade papers, Netflix, and/or write. But with the COVID-19 rates predicted to surge and the cold weather coming, I’m planning on becoming a hermit this winter. So I’m trying to get outside while the weather still cooperatives. With that in mind, I had enjoyed some witty banter with my good friend Misti, whom I know from CoSPers, so I proposed brunch.
After a jog, I rode my Bikeshare from my place down to Woodley Park and walked to Mission, where I met up with Misti for an outdoor Mexican brunch. I had been craving a breakfast burrito, but after hearing Misti order breakfast quesadillas with chorizo, those seemed too good to pass up. And I devoured them with gusto.
Of course, the food wasn’t the highlight of the outing; the conversation was. Misti commented on how our young, Gen-Z waitress, Erin, probably uses Instagram regularly. Erin’s utterance of having eaten some Swedish Fish and jalapeno-flavored kettle chips confirmed that assumption. The dance music brought me back to my clubbing days in my 20s, and the Gen-Zs next to us in their costumes and heavy makeup added to it.
We saw a giant Great Dane named Clifford, who came up to us with his owner for petting, and a cute bird who pecked at the crumbs on the ground, both of whom I greeted with “Hellwooo, Chester.” Conversational topics included author platforms (Instagram over Twitter!), how human energy is lacking on Zoom meetups, DIYs in the house, and the concept of a “handyperson hub,” as Peter McGraw discussed on his latest Solo podcast, and the fact that when they told us to “stay home” at the beginning of the pandemic, both of us thought, sure!
Introverts, unite in your separate homes.
On the walk/bike ride home, I stocked up on carby treats for the winter: a whole-wheat everything bagel and piece of coffee cake from Bethesda Bagels (along with a coffee for the walk home), and two cake pops from Baked by Yael.
All in all, a kickass outing with a kickass friend.
I joked I’d be missing the first of the Biden-Cheeto debate because I had a song to learn on my guitar. I don’t regret it, but I felt like I needed to be “a part of” things after hearing about all the commotion (“Will you shut up, man!?”), so I watched the Harris-Pence exchange during which that fly was literally drawn to shit when appearing on Pence’s head, and then came a more “civil” exchange between Biden and Trump in Nashville. During both debates, I heard all of the candidates refer to “American families.” The constant mention of the word “family” in political rhetoric has become a pet peeve of mine since I began my work in Singles Studies. I mean, what, individuals don’t count?
However, during the Biden-Trump debate, I had a thought: maybe, in this context, it’s best for me to let that one slide. While we in CoSP as well as those in major cities and on the coasts tend to be more enlightened when it comes to issues of singlism and familism, that’s probably not true for folks in the heartland (the Midwest, the South), even if they do consider themselves liberal, and especially, if they’re undecided. So in order to conquer the great Orange Empire, the good people probably need to use language that those folks are familiar with in order to get their votes. Plus, Biden and Harris are a lot more teachable when it comes to these issues, particularly Harris, who gave multiple definitions of how family operates at her speech at the Democratic National Convention this past August.
Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices in order to achieve a bigger purpose, like with pawns in a chess match. If it helps to move our world’s thinking forward, I’m willing to put my peeves aside (especially since the opposition thinks like it’s 1935). Besides, my son/cat Chester and I are a family unit.
I earned my Ph.D. on May 2, 2014. If you had walked up to me on that day and told me that one day, I’d be co-organizing a Singles Studies Conference, I would probably give you a side-eye. But life has its surprises for sure.
Ketaki Chowkhani and I and spent some time writing up a CFP, looking at proposals, communicating with correspondents, promoting, and performing all kinds of other administrative tasks we academics hate doing. But it was all in a good cause. There were challenges and twists, the details of which not need be mentioned here, but we pulled through.
I had some anxiety the day before. What if my Internet stops working? What if I mess something up? But I found an evening with Netflix and a good night’s sleep helped a lot.
I woke up the morning of and did my usual routine: meditation, stretches, breakfast, and I added coffee to the mix. I logged on at about 8 a.m. EST to see that we already had thirty people signed in. I was quite impressed to see that all the presenters, no matter what time they were scheduled to present, were on before the festivities started and they stayed on the entire time. I was particularly impressed at those who logged on late and stayed on until morning (Laura Dales, I’m talking to you especially).
Bella’s keynote set the stage for the conference, and I thought it was a good primer for the validity of Singles Studies as a discipline – Singles Studies 101. Adriana Savu provided what I thought was a very interesting linguistic breakdown of the word “single” as it is used in Romanian culture. Laura examined the plight of single women in Japan. Lots of questions emanated from those two talks; mine was, “I wonder why divorced women in Japan are more than likely to marry than men. The research I’ve read suggests the opposite.”
In the next session on “Singlehood and Space,” Nora Kottman examined the living spaces of single Japanese women, which brought me back to Eric Klinenberg’s Going Solo, which had me wanting to advocate for more solo-occupancy dwellings, which may become more commonplace as marital rates continue to decline. Paromita Chakravarti examined single women’s residencies in hostels in Kolkata, India, which had me thinking of my observations of the badasses who hostel-hop. While I like the privacy afforded by AirBnBs, I do dig the “adventurer” vibe that comes from the singles who’ve populated the hostels I’ve stayed in.
The next panel was on Singlehood and Literature, which appeals to my inner English major. Katherine Fama analyzed Edith Wharton’s work as having a substantial connection with singles studies per her Wharton’s depictions of divorcees and widows in her work. Joan DelFattore analyzed Wit, a play about a single professor who is depicted in terms of singlist stereotypes.
I gave my presentation on how the nuclear family is prioritized in pharmaceutical advertisements, and Katherine’s comment about a Bechdel test for singlism gave me an idea to develop an instrument to create such a test. Saumya Sharma critically analyzed the discourse presented to singles on Valentine’s Day (which I typically celebrate by doing fun “singly” things).
Finally, Dominika Ochnik conducted an empirical study on satisfaction related to singlehood, and Elyakim Kislev, author of Happy Singlehood, in which we discussed the finding that singles have more social networks, which is correlated with happiness.
I couldn’t engage with the presentations as much as I would have liked due to doing some behind-the-scenes administrative responsibilities, but I’m glad as hell these conversations happened. And I got some great ideas from the conversations and presentations. And I look forward to Ketaki and I turning this conference into an essay collection.
My favorite part: living my fun solo life with a jog, a bike ride, and a solo (outdoor) dining experience out with some Italian food at a lovely restaurant called Tesoro’s on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC (they didn’t sponsor this post).
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.