For a lot of guys, the “friend zone” is the kiss of death. There are so many dating guides on how to stay out of the “friend zone”, because apparently, the end goal of any male-female relationship should be sex and/or romance.
When I wrote my upcoming book, How to be a Happy Bachelor, I did an inventory on every romantic and sexual relationship I ever had, but I didn’t think about those relationships that were platonic but might have “gone romantic” or “gone sexual.” I sensed some of my female friends may have had an interest in me, but I never really felt that interest back. So here’s my guide to how to stay in the friend zone, if you want to remain “friends” (notice how I didn’t say “just friends,” because the word “just” minimizes friendship):
1)Refrain from explicit flirting, and DO NOT GET PHYSICAL – Flirting can give the wrong idea. And obviously, physical forms of affection can, and in much more damaging ways. However, if you’re looking for FWB, say so. Honesty is key.
2)Use the word “friend” in conversation – It’s subtle, but it gets the message across.
3)Just be honest. If someone expresses a romantic interest, and you don’t feel it, honesty is the best policy. The worst thing you can do (to yourself and to another person) is to get into a relationship just because you want to make that person happy or just to post on social media that you’re “in a relationship.” It’s going to be disastrous for both of you in the long run.
There’s nothing wrong with being friends. The concept of the “friend zone” was coined just to sell dating guides. Don’t buy into it. My most meaningful relationships are platonic ones.
This would be our last discussion session before we move into critiquing final projects. For this week, students read Chapter 7 of Happy Singlehood, along with Bella’s “Discrimination Against Singles in the Health Care System.”
The thing that stood out the most to students was the idea of relationships with robots. Most of my students didn’t quite get the concept; honestly, I can’t quite imagine it, either. I can’t speak for everyone, but I do need my platonic and familial connections. That being said, my response to students who were weirded out by the idea was “if robots can be made to think and feel emotion, I can get on board.” It made me think of Weird Science and Her, two films about human connection with technology (singlist, though they are).
Michael wrote about the idea of communities targeted to singles, an idea I would love to see come to fruition more (we’re on our way there). It got me thinking of Eric Klinenberg’s discussion of single-occupancy dwellings in Going Solo; I would love to live in an apartment building or housing community where it’s just singles. I’d walk out of my home, and I’d only see groups of friends or people walking solo. Essentially, I’d feel a sense of belonging. Kelly also brought up how she discovered travel groups designed specifically for singles and solo travelers; in her words, “a group of 20 people pool their money together for an exclusive vacation to a tropical location.” It got me thinking of Flashpack, an agency that puts together solo travelers so they’re not necessarily “traveling solo” (I may wish to use that at some point).
The future of friendships came up in Amy’s discussion; as marriage rates are declining and singlehood is on the rise, the weight of platonic friendships will increase as well, and Amy put it nicely: “a friendship can hold the weight as a romantic relationship.” Friendships do take a degree of maintenance that can be even more challenging than a romantic one, mostly because you’re not with friends on as frequent a basis as you might be with a romantic partner. Therefore, the “rules” about how often to call or get together are a lot more fluid. Fortunately, at least in mine, they’re laxer due to the fact that I love my alone time.
Students were outraged in reading Bella’s article about the health care system. Some of the comments came:
Walter – “I think it was very weird for someone not able (sic) to visit their friends because they’re not in an intimate relationship”
Karen – “I never understood why friends couldn’t visit a loved one in the hospitals because they are technically not family”
Amy – “It is upsetting to hear about all of the injustices that the health care system can bring to others.”
One comment stood out, and it came from Mary, who is critical of everything she reads, which I admire. However, she went on to say that while hospitals shouldn’t place such restrictions on who visits, who doesn’t, it doesn’t rise to the level of discrimination. Normally, I’m pretty diplomatic when it comes to my students’ views, but I couldn’t resist putting up a challenge:
Mary, I would disagree with your contention. Why should a married person receive priority in treatment than a single person? It happens all the time. It may not be severe as racial or sexual orientation discrimination, but it's there.
My hope is that someday, this type of treatment will come to be seen as discrimination. Such issues are the reason this course exists in the first place, and it’s why students are working on a change to a policy that discriminates. More about that in a couple of weeks.
Stay safe, and wash your hands!
For their second major assignment, students wrote a critique in which they compared two popular culture items that were either pro-single or singlist, or they could contrast one pro-single and one singlist item.
We spent the March 11 class session discussing movies and TV shows, but I was impressed at the number of students who chose songs as examples, many of which I’ve never heard of and may just have to add to my playlist.
It’s safe to say that the musical tastes of my students don’t match my own, but I’m open-minded. Beyonce came up quite frequently in my students’ essays. Her fear of singlehood comes up in songs like “Scared of Lonely” and “Dangerously in Love,” while a pro-single message emerges in “Me, Myself, and I.” I didn’t know much about Beyonce, so I did research, and from reading between the lines, I concluded the marriage between her and rapper Jay-Z (“I got 99 problems but a b**ch ain’t one) could probably best be described as tumultuous what with Jay-Z’s affairs (I wonder if the Rona might be their catalyst to divorce). I’m guessing she wrote “Me, Myself, and I” while she was pissed at Jay-Z for something or other.
Other songs that came up (and are on my upcoming playlist) include:
“New Apartment” – Ari Lennox (Pro-single)
“Soulmate” – Lizzo (Pro-Single)
“Scared to be Lonely” – Martin Garrix and Lipa (Singlist)
“Single Again” – Big Sean (Pro-Single)
“Make it Last Forever” – Keith Sweat (Singlist, and this one gets special mention for being a 1980s artifact, the era of cheesy pro-romance popular culture items)
“My Girl” – The Temptations (Singlist, and we go back further to 1965, just as pro-romance)
A few people discussed movies. One student, Sandy, t brought up Legally Blonde, because after being dumped by her fiancé’, Elle finds a measure of self-worth in pursuing her J.D. at Harvard. I didn’t totally agree with that example, mostly due to the romantic subplot involving Luke Wilson, but I dug Sandy’s extraction of the self-worth message. I may have to check out her other example, Nappily Ever After.
My favorite example came from Michael, citing the Batman and James Bond franchise. While superheroes like Spiderman and Superman have significant others (Mary Jane and Lois Lane, respectively), Batman’s focus is on fighting crime. James Bond is with a different woman in each of his films; some might describe his portrayal as chauvinistic, but I say, as long as he’s honest in his intentions and his partners agree, have at it!
This is a teacher cliché, for sure, but it applies here: I learn as much from my students as they do from me, if not more.
For the past three weeks, students in my UNV390 class have been working on their Popular Culture Critique assignment, in which they analyze two pop culture artifacts (songs, movies, TV shows, books) for anti-single or pro-single messages. But, they turned them in this past week, and now it’s back to discussion.
They read Chapters 5 and 6 of Happy Singlehood and wrote out responses on our class’ Discussion Board and we got some nice responses.
A number of students commented on the idea of self-marriage as relates to postmaterialism, discussed at length at the beginning of Chapter 5. A couple of students thought about it as a possibility, and others described it as “just plain weird.” I have mixed feelings about it myself. I feel that it just perpetuates a tradition and gives more weight to matrimaniacs. That’s just me, though; I told them, “If you want to do it, go for it!”
A number of students brought up “Work and the Unmarried.” A lot of my students are type-A, work-oriented folks (like me), so they have big plans with respect to their career. A number of students in the class brought up the intersectional dynamic at play, as nowadays, women have greater options to make a living. They can have careers and own businesses instead of depending on a man. Some took note that many singles derive a lot of their happiness from their careers. I definitely fit this mold (although I do like to have fun). I actually sacrificed a relationship (one that I wasn’t that into) to move across the country to start an academic career, and “I regret nothing” is what I told my students. And I don’t. When I was in high school and college, a number of my friends wanted to make money. I wanted to do something involving being creative, and I am. Most of them followed the escalator-style path (marriage, kids, yada yada…). And it’s true; when you have a family to support, you might be more motivated by money. Supporting yourself isn’t easy either, but you can do it and have a line of work that’s more motivated by the spirit of giving than the spirit of the wallet.
Mary, one of my students, has a very strong capacity for critical thinking. She did posit the idea that singles put extra pressure on themselves in the workplace, and others may reciprocate that. I did question that, as is my job as instructor. She also said feeling limited depends on the partner you choose, and that the right partner can actually help foster a sense of independence in a person. I conceded that point, but then I questioned as to why so many people get into toxic relationships.
I do miss the face-to-face dynamic we had pre-Rona, but it was nice to be able to have written records of student contributions instead of going through recordings. That being said, I look forward to the day we can have face-to-face classes again.
Since our new normal started, I have a new Wednesday morning routine. I don’t officially have to clock in remotely until 10:30, and since the WalMart Supercenter opens at 7 now, I go there to do my grocery shopping. Armed with a scarf for the poor man’s mask (the actual ones I ordered haven’t come in yet) and winter gloves (my rubber ones ran out and ibid. with the order), I was ready to stock up on my proteins and veggies (not that I’m, umm, bragging, of course). And it’s less crowded early in the morning.
So, anyway, I saw quite a few couples shopping together. Awwww. In these apocalyptic times when the term “social distancing” is now part of our discourse, I’m wondering three things: 1) Do they REALLY need to go to the store together right now; 2) why do some couples insist on taking up both sides of the salad dressing aisle; and 3) why do they need to LINGER there?
I can understand if one-half of the couple is disabled and cannot be by himself/herself, but these are able-bodied people. Perhaps, the disability isn’t visible, but I see a low probability that so many halves of couples have disabilities that require them to be looked after 100% of the time.
Of course, I’m always looking for excuses to blog, so this made my inner scribe happy. I posted it on CoSP because that’s a safe space to post about stuff like this. In many places, supermarkets are enforcing a “one cart per person” rule, as well as a “one adult per family” rule. Southeastern Virginia tends to be a little behind when it comes to progress, so you can’t really expect that here.
My favorite comment: “but they will miss each other terribly for those 5 minutes. Two halves, etc. Would you send a half a person into a store by itself?” – Stine Merete Aspheim
Stine’s got the right idea, referring to that asinine yet ubiquitous saying of “my other half” as meant to refer to one’s person. Are you not a whole person?
So, couples, enjoy each other’s company during this time. But you can leave your “other half” home for an hour. You might benefit from enjoying your own company as individuals.
Western culture is designed for extroverts. Fortunately, thanks in part to Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, as well as her TED Talk on introversion, introversion is becoming seen as a valid orientation. Still, life requires that we interact with others. Workplaces are more communal, with shared office spaces. In our personal lives, most of us do need connection with other humans, some more than others.
Extroverts are people who obtain their energy by interacting with others. Introverts get theirs through alone time. I was always introverted, and I was told by family members, friends, and teachers things like “You need to talk more” and “you need to get out more.” As I’ve grown older, I have gotten more extroverted, and I’m probably the textbook definition of an ambivert, a person who lies in the middle of introversion and extroversion. My job requires me to interact with people on a daily basis, and even Quiet has a chapter on introverts acting as “pseudo-extroverts.” This is what I do. And on a Friday night, I’m ecstatic to lock the door to my home and binge on one of my Netflix shows. Alone time is great.
Thanks to COVID-19, I’m getting much more of that alone time than I’m accustomed to. Naturally, introverts will have an easier time with this than our extroverted counterparts. Social media still connects us, though, and there are more memes about how we introverts quarantine naturally than I can realistically count, like this one:
I even posted this mean one:
Of course, I laughed. The sadistic side of me called it “karmic justice”. Throughout my life, I had been told by so many extroverts about “needing to talk more” and “needing to get out more”. Revenge was sweet: Ha ha! This is my time!
I saw a friend post on Facebook about difficulties she was facing about being a single extrovert, and I sent her my best vibes. However, my mind changed when another friend, a married person, wrote a post about having a breakdown and crying for no reason. I’ve known this person since childhood, and she was always extroverted. At that point, I began to feel some empathy for her situation, as well as how extroverts might be coping.
There are a lot of pieces out there about how introverts can “fake extroversion.” So I’m gonna share my experiences thus far about how I’ve coped as a single introvert, and hopefully, my extroverted friends can take something away at “faking introversion”:
Stay safe, my friends! And when this is over, please don’t tell me to “get out more.” I’ll probably be doing that anyway (for a little while. Anyway).
The death toll from COVID-19 is climbing day by day. One of my fellow CoSPers posted this article about the seemingly universal fear of “dying alone.” This fear leads a lot of people into unfulfilling, toxic, and even dangerous romantic relationships; it can even be the deciding factor in whether one stays in such a relationship, even if it is soul- or life-threatening.
A doctor interviewed in the article expressed concern about being dying alone. This is a highly educated person, and even she’s subject to the fear. However, I was happy to see a chaplain express a different view: just because somebody is not in the room while a person dies, that person is not necessarily dying “alone.” A person may not want such a large presence in their room, and as an introvert, I get it. I hate people crowded around me in any situation.
Finally, we all die alone anyway. When we go into that void, nobody actually goes with us. And if you die in a car crash with someone else (i.e., a friend, family member, significant other, stranger), and that person dies, they travel in a separate pod (as far as I know, anyway).
So let’s not fear dying alone. When you’re dead, that doesn’t matter. The important part is how we live. And are we going to spend it in meaningless marriages because of this fear? Or will we spend it with the people important to us? Friends, family members, co-workers, pets?
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!
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.