For this week, students read Chapter 2 in Elyakim’s book; this chapter is entitled "Happy Singlehood in Old Age." Sadly, I committed the error of leaving my copy at home, so it is now in my office for the remainder of the semester.
We started off this week’s session by freewriting comebacks to the question, “Who will take care of you when you get old?” The responses ranged from Mary’s “me!” to Karen’s “I can develop relationships with friends and family.” Mary, who handed in her freewrite, mentioned staying in a NICE nursing home as opposed to some of those shadier places. Being single definitely gives you the opportunities to be street-savvy because you’re not relying on another partner to help you with that. Some of us are naturally wired toward this, and others develop it through trial and error.
I then shared with the class about how singles have wider networks of friends because they use their social energy to maintain those networks; I relayed the story of my close platonic friend, Maggie, and how we agree to check in with each other every couple of days just to make sure we’re alive. One of the challenges of singlehood is if you die, will someone be able to find your body? And if you have a pet, like I do, what would that challenge be? My fear is that if something happened, how would this affect my cat/son Chester?
We then transitioned into student sharing of their solo dining experiences. A couple of people felt self-conscious doing it; one person, Michael, dined at a Caribbean café near campus and was concerned that people might be looking at him. But he distracted himself with his phone.
I employ this strategy, as did many others. Another student, Warren, was a newbie to dining solo; he went to Chipotle and watched Black Mirror on his phone while he ate. He indicated he was unsure, but once he did it, he enjoyed the solitude.
Another student, Sara, went to an Olive Garden, and was asked by the waitress, “Just you?” in a tone that seemed a little pitying. The waitress was elderly, and my theory is that since she’s from a different generation, dining solo doesn’t coincide with the values with which she’s been raised. The waitress apparently said the same thing to her friend, who was seated at a table on the other end of the restaurant (I told them they could enter the restaurant with a buddy if they’re concerned about safety). I’m also guessing a more “upscale” place like the Olive Garden doesn’t see a lot of solo diner, particularly not here in the tradition-minded South. Other than that, she enjoyed her experience. I suspect more people would enjoy doing things solo if it weren’t so stigmatized.
Karen ate in the university’s café, an experience she did not enjoy. We speculated the experience might have been different for her had she been off-campus, away from people she knows.
We also discussed how dining solo gives you a lot more flexibility than dining with others. When I enter a restaurant, I want to leave eventually. And, as an introvert, when I dine with a group, I have a certain “water level” I can reach before I need to leave (usually an hour to two hours). But, with a group, conversations tend to go on, and leaving becomes a challenge. I love being part of good conversations with people I care about, but there are always drawbacks. When I dine solo, my book is my company.
At the beginning of class, I passed around Bella’s How We Live Now and a recent Amazon order, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful Single Black Women Speak Out. A student, Tammy, asked to borrow Bella’s book so she could better navigate her living situation: having a roommate who’s thirty-two, way older than her. I typically don’t lone out those books, but I felt moved to do the right thing as long as Tammy takes care of it and returns it by the end of the semester. Upon further thinking, it is the right thing, because I’m spreading Bella’s work. And it’s not even for a school assignment; this student actually wants to learn and internalize Bella’s message. It’s my duty to make that happen. That’s what this class is about.
3/9/2020 01:54:07 am
This is fascinating! We did a similar experiment where my students and I went to bars on our own on Saturday night and recorded our experiences. They wrote about it in their mid-terms and I thought they came up with fantastic analysis.
3/14/2020 07:35:16 am
Thanks, Ketaki! I'd love to hear their experiences!
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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.