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.