One of the positive things that emerged from the pandemic is the ability to connect with others on a global scale. Ketaki Chowkhani (India) and I (United States) have developed a deep friendship and partnership; we organized a conference and have our collection, Singular Selves, coming out in September 2023. Elyakim Kislev (Israel) and I also had a few Zoom chats and collaborated on a pair of articles, including “Changing the Language of Singlehood” and “Why Romance Movies May Be a Social Problem.”
But there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face interaction. So when Elyakim emailed me to let me know he’d be in Philadelphia for the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association and was interested in meeting up, I thought, duh! Of course I’m gonna meet up!
First, I love riding trains. Having become spoiled by the access to Metro in Washington, DC, I’ve learned that if I had my way, I wouldn’t even own a car. I’d love to take trains everywhere. So the two-hour Amtrak ride from DC to Philly was paradise. As always, I found a spot in the quiet car, where there was a nice mix of couples and solos traveling. I sat next to a perfectly nice-seeming dude who spent the ride reading a book, as did I. Jaclyn Geller’s Moving Past Marriage opened my eyes to some dark undertones regarding the matrimania that persists in our governments. The section on divorce should have been titled “Scared Single.”
I’ve become a compulsive step-counter this past year, so I saw it was only a 30-minute walk from the 30th Street Station to Reading Terminal Market, and the weather was nice and breezy. I had nice views of the Schuylkill River and Independence Hall on my walk over. Flaneuring, a word I learned from Solo, always puts me in a place of serenity.
I’d been to the Reading Terminal Market once before with my friend Melissa, where we got brownies. Doug, another friend, had told me about it as well. I have a proclivity for bringing pastries to my home (especially when they come from places outside DC), so I took the time to indulge, purchasing six cookies (all different flavors) from 4th Street Cookie Company and two donuts from Beiler’s Donut and Pickle Patch.
Elyakim and I met up at 3:00 at the Convention Center, and the next three hours were an inspiring experience, as we slowly gravitated back to Reading for some cheesesteak sandwiches (it’s not a real Philly trip without a cheesesteak). Singlehood Studies is something I’ve come to embody in the last eight years. First, I awkwardly asked him to sign my copies of both of his books, Happy Singlehood and Relationships 5.0. The following topics came up:
Safe spaces for singles
Earlier last week, one of my colleagues hosted a gathering, and in the spirit of inclusivity, said “Partners and children welcome.” Of course, in the spirit of my version of inclusivity, I asked if I could bring a platonic friend, to which the host said of course. Good job! The first two people to arrive after me brought their kids, one with her husband. Of course, the conversation revolved around childcare. As a childfree by choice person, I had nothing to contribute to this thread of discussion. Then, two more colleagues arrived, one who I know is single and childfree by choice. Ahhhhh, my peeps have arrived!, I thought.
As a result of this discussion, we talked about safe spaces for singles. Since we are a marginalized group that has to face a couple- and familycentric world, we need spaces that are strictly for singles (and that shouldn’t revolve around un-singling). For example, I started a group for Childfree Singles with the following rules:
1)You must not be in any type of romantic partnership.
2)It’s not a “meet market.” If you couple up organically, cool, but don’t come with that mentality.
3)If you couple up, you can stay in the group, but don’t come to events.
In the first month alone, this group has amassed 145 members. I have an event coming up on September 3. The reservation is for ten people, and we already have twelve on the waiting list. Conclusion: there’s a need for such a space. We’ll be co-authoring an article on this concept.
Reasons for Marriage
“If singlehood is to be respected, we must respect marriage as well.” That’s a good insight. And I’m not antimarriage by any means, and I believe it should be respected. I just don’t think it should come with the privileges it does (tax breaks, real estate priorities, etc.). Elyakim had a good insight: many people don’t necessarily get married because of those financial and legal benefits. More often than not, it’s due to societal and familial pressures. And with a system that is so ubiquitous, the pressure will come. Most of us have a primal need to belong, so joining into the system is a way to garner social acceptability. My vision for how we can reduce the stigma around singlehood can best be expressed in the following flow chart:
Ideas for Future Pieces
I’m invigorated when I devise an idea for a new writing project. Two came up: 1) a piece on “Safe Spaces for Singles,” inspired by our conversation; and 2) a book on Singlehood Discourse in film.
I’ve been a cinephile ever since junior high, when I wrote movie reviews for the school newspaper. This love of film continued into high school, when I took TV Production courses and made movies. I majored in Media Studies in college, and even though I didn’t pursue it as a career, that affinity for movies has continued. I’ve started writing weekly reviews of movies with pro-singlehood messages. I had mentioned that I had thought I had said everything Craig was able to say on the topic, to which Elyakim replied, “Nonsense.” I needed that little kick in the pants, just like my old department chairperson, Laurie Carter, gave me to take my promotion portfolio seriously.
We parted ways at 6:00, and I was aflame with inspiration. Elyakim had suggested Ketaki and I devise a launch for our collection, so we immediately set that up. I also worked on a piece in which I describe the experience of two people’s first times with solo travel (apparently, I inspired them both).
The train is a favorite place of mine to be solo; I always feel at peace, particularly when there’s nobody sitting next to me. I basked in the solitude as we rolled back to DC. And when I got to my home, I wrote down some ideas for the new book.
It was nice not having another person interrupt my flow.
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.