It is becoming the witch in the forest, powerful and watchful and silent
May 18, 2016 11:49 AM   Subscribe

 
This reminds me of the Kate Bolick book I'd read earlier this year about discovering that being single isn't even a burden, but women have been trained their entire lives to think that way. Admittedly, there is an interesting amount of privilege to examine and unpack in being able to opt for singlehood, but I like that these stories are out there none the less.
posted by Kitteh at 11:54 AM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


The post title brought to mind Sylvia Townsend Warner's 1927 novel Lolly Willowes, recently back in print and very much about this topic.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:04 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Beautiful. I love going home to my dog, my unswept floors, and the luxury of hours with nobody to entertain, or look good for, or take care of besides myself.
posted by sallybrown at 12:22 PM on May 18, 2016 [46 favorites]


IANAW, but the linked piece captures so well tradeoffs that I am all too familiar with, and that I think certain people of any gender will recognize. Thank you for posting this.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:33 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am terrible at sharing the bed. When my boyfriend travels out of town, ...

Jesus, not even three sentences in. Boo fucking hoo for her.
posted by Melismata at 12:36 PM on May 18, 2016 [46 favorites]


I think I know what you mean Kitteh, but if I could choose not to be single, I would. I've been single (solo) for over a decade; no one is interested and I ended up going with it, because energy. Yes, there are some places I might have been forced to couple up with someone not of my liking, but in that contextual absence, there really isn't much I could do about it. Forcing people to date you isn't pretty. Now I'm ok with it, but that took a very very long time.
posted by mollymillions at 12:39 PM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Jesus, not even three sentences in. Boo fucking hoo for her.

Came here to say it, couldn't have said it better.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 12:40 PM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sure hope you guys kept reading past that third sentence instead of writing the whole thing off due to your assumptions and shitting up this thread...
posted by palomar at 12:51 PM on May 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


Yeah, she sure made sure up front that no one could mistakenly think that the author of a piece on the implications of living along as a woman was actually living alone. More than one of these paeans to feminine solitude has that anxiety embedded in it, the urge to demonstrate that they're not undesirable. Not that it's bad to want to be desired; it's common and normal. But it does rather undermine the whole "solitude is great and empowering because it liberates you from worrying about what men think!" theme.
posted by praemunire at 12:52 PM on May 18, 2016 [34 favorites]


I am terrible at sharing the bed. When my boyfriend travels out of town, ...
Jesus, not even three sentences in.


Actually that detail made me super-happy. Because by including it right off the bat, she makes it EXTRA SUPER DUPER EXPLICIT that this loneliness is REALLY REALLY NOT some kind of celebration of the faute-de-mieux: not just a sour grapes story. It's like saying: look, here's an experiment where that variable is varied, and we still get the same result: loneliness is awesome.

She's writing against some bullshit narratives. I'll take every bit of ammo she has to throw against those bullshit narratives.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:55 PM on May 18, 2016 [28 favorites]


(I read the whole thing. It undercuts your claims to love being in a particular place if you have to hasten to assure people that you chose to be there.)
posted by praemunire at 12:55 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


It undercuts your claims to love being in a particular place if you have to hasten to assure people that you chose to be there
There are two reasons to be defensive:
(1) you are in denial about your own ambivalence.
(2) you know damn well people are attacking the thing you want to celebrate.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:59 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but this was insufferable. I wanted to like this, but no.

Of course coupled people like solitude. I can't think of anyone who lives with a loved one or roommate who doesn't love the feeling of coming home and having the whole space to themselves every now and then.

I live alone and that will very likely never change. I keep strange hours, I leave teaspoons in the sink. The beauty of my home and the messes I make are my own.

Living alone, and committing to living alone for the majority of your life, is less about the space you inhabit than living with your own decisions, having to trust your own instincts, going without the reassurance of steady company or help. It's being sick in the mornings and finding comfort in the quiet walls instead of feeling like someone should be there to help you.

This... this essay reads like tourism. Ick.
posted by mochapickle at 1:02 PM on May 18, 2016 [66 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, let's aim more for the link and less for each other.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:06 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


It undercuts your claims to love being in a particular place if you have to hasten to assure people that you chose to be there

It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

If you don't assure people that you chose to be there, someone will ask: "Why doesn't she seem happy to be there? It sounds like sour grapes."

If you do assure people that you chose to be there, someone will ask: "Why does she have to make it so clear she wants to be there? It's kind of defensive."

I don't think this writer is the problem. It's the bullshit narratives about women's lives that people buy into, that make anything she says the subject of second-guessing and criticism.

But I do admit I rolled my eyes at the boyfriend line, and decided that the piece was not for me. Living alone as a woman is a different experience when it's temporary and because your partner is away.

And I do wonder about why it's this story, and not the story from a woman who is more permanently alone. On one hand, she may have insightful things to say about her experience, and that might resonate with other women in similar living situations. But also, it's a pretty safe choice.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Hi. Spinster pushing 40, here. Been living alone for the past decade, maybe more, and shockingly, I do think it's bitterness to see the mention of a boyfriend as a "please realize I'm not icky and desperate" plea. I think if you hit the second sentence of an essay and you already have that much disdain for the author, you're not really able to view the rest of the essay with any level of objectiveness.
posted by palomar at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2016 [24 favorites]


Well, I DO live alone. I travel out and enjoy the luxuries of the light, and changes in the weather and seasons, capture images, unique to my way of seeing. I know it sets off suspicions, but I enjoy my solitude, it could be much more messy trying to knit together two lives and two sets of trajectories. Often others expect women to act as ancillary to more important lives, and I can't buy in to that. I became tired of being the shoulder to cry on, the patient ear, the emotional toxic waste dump. I am so acutely aware of how social we are as a species, yet as I can look back over how I lived my life, and how others appear to live, I can't believe I traded my time for a sense of belonging or for security. I remember reading the paper on Sunday with someone, I remember having the comfort of marriage, and at the same time I wonder why I entered into half the associations I did. I witness the fervent relating of humans, the restless getting out, going out, and now I can't see how most of it is worthwhile.

Once you realize you are not abandoned in the forest to die, you are not beholden to take an interest, then you start to question what being who you are, or becoming the results of your actions and interests, means. The question is how to enjoy being you, standing on the edge of the universe and all things spread out before you to witness, what is it that you want? There is always that moment of realization of alone-ness, and it can be a pleasant tingle, rather than the edge of discomfort. It can become a pleasant stimulus, and entry into your primal relationship with the planet, the universe, the forces of nature. Indulging in this sort of reverie is like the moment when the soap bubble closes, off the blower, and for a second floats in perfection; the trick is to know it is perfection, and at the same time it is brief.
posted by Oyéah at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2016 [53 favorites]


Living alone, and committing to living alone for the majority of your life, is less about the space you inhabit than living with your own decisions, having to trust your own instincts, going without the reassurance of steady company or help. It's being sick in the mornings and finding comfort in the quiet walls instead of feeling like someone should be there to help you -- mochapickle

I began to learn to say “no” to things, to define space for myself. I considered decisions longer, and hurt people less. With no one else’s needs into which to escape, it becomes much more difficult to skid through life on self-delusion and comfortable ignorance. Living alone is a confrontation with the mirror, a removal, if only for certain hours of the day, from the social contract -- the OP.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I also find it funny how everyone is focusing on the fact that she currently lives with a mate, but has not always, and was writing about the loss of that experience. Damn, y'all.
posted by palomar at 1:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


feral_goldfish: The difference between me and the OP feels like the difference between ser and estar.
posted by mochapickle at 1:11 PM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


The author is blindly perpetuating the social construct of relationship escalation, which denies women in committed relationships the option of living alone.

"Choosing the domestic actively, out of love" is not necessarily "a sacrifice worth making," as she claims. Choosing to retain a framework for solitude is a not the indicator of childishness or selfishness or any of the other negative traits the author repeatedly implies.
posted by wonton endangerment at 1:12 PM on May 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


you know damn well people are attacking the thing you want to celebrate.

It's a complicated area to navigate, for sure. I don't think she's the worst person in the world. But the reason feminine solitude is so stigmatized is not because feminine solitude is in itself shameful or miserable, but because of the underlying assumption that the solitary woman must be unwanted by men--as if that were the worst thing imaginable, the most profound judgment that could be made against her, the most awful fate. Any praise of feminine solitude that hastens to make sure that you know that she may be alone, but she's not one of those women, is therefore flawed. I've seen it more than once in this kind of piece, and it makes me itchy. It's actually fine to be partnered, to be solitary by choice, to be involuntarily solitary; none of these make you a better or a worse person in themselves. When you implicitly distance yourself from the last, you're demonstrating that you're still profoundly concerned with that male or societal judgment you're thinking you've escaped.

I also find it funny how everyone is focusing on the fact that she currently lives with a mate, but has not always

It's literally the first thing she tells you about, though.
posted by praemunire at 1:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


It seems that these articles tend to be written once the author is safely coupled and no longer living alone. Wouldn't want to be mistaken for one of those unlovable spinsters.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:20 PM on May 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


Nah. First thing, really, is the notion that living alone is a refusal to compromise. Second thing is that she's terrible at sharing a bed. Third thing is that she's currently partnered. The part where she's saying that being alone means you're horrible and flawed and hoo boy good thing she's got herself a man... I'm having a hard time seeing that actually in the piece.
posted by palomar at 1:22 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am an unabashed spinster who is seven days (!) away from moving out of a frankly soul-crushing decade-long (!!) partnered living arrangement and back into my very own place, where I hope to be able to stay until I move out to the sticks and join a separatist commune.

The anticipation and excitement surrounding the idea of returning to a life of sweet, tidy solitude were uplifting enough already, but now you're telling me that living alone is going to turn me into an actual WITCH? THIS IS ALL I'VE EVER WANTED.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 1:22 PM on May 18, 2016 [80 favorites]


What I see is a fair amount of ambivalence about what it means to be coupled in the context of giving up that solitude. I think it's an interesting viewpoint, and it's also interesting that the reaction from other single women is one of deep anger and offence. I always forget that the "no right way to be a woman" thing always has an element of women attacking each other. It's like watching the Democrats in action.
posted by palomar at 1:25 PM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Living alone really is not a blanket refusal to compromise; it might even facilitate greater compromises. No way of telling, from the outside. Her language describing living alone is judgy and negative.

The bed thing grated on me as well. Why doesn't she even consider the option of SEPARATE BEDS, perhaps even separate sleeping rooms?

I don't get it, at all.
posted by wonton endangerment at 1:28 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I always forget that the "no right way to be a woman" thing always has an element of women attacking each other.

It sure does!
posted by praemunire at 1:32 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a boyfriend I see only on weekends, at either his house or mine. Do I live alone? Just checking.
posted by JanetLand at 1:44 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just one thing I want to doublecheck, and I don't think it necessarily invalidates anyone's comment either way: it is clear, right, that she's not primarily talking about being alone while her boyfriend's out of town?
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:45 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm going to talk about how much I loved this piece, all of which I read, instead of how baffled I am by the reflexive vitriol.

This in particular was perfect:
The idea that we progress in a clear trajectory from single unit to couple form, and achieve a sort of emotional success by doing so, seems wrong to me. Love is about what we give up when choosing to knit our life against someone else’s—to make a home in the shared bed, and enjoy the small talk between bodies within the inhabited space. A paired life is not an aspirational state, but a compromised one. Loneliness is not the terror we escape; it is instead the reward we give up when we believe something else to be worth the sacrifice.
I also just gave up my very precious aloneness to move in with a partner, after two years of guarding our separate spaces so well that we didn't even keep stuff, beyond a toothbrush, at each other's houses. The experience has been far less difficult than we anticipated -- we were ready for intermittent "oh, YOU'RE still here?" moments, which haven't yet emerged at all, much less to the degree we'd prepared for. But this speaks to my experience -- that we were making certain sacrifices for the sake of something we wanted and believed in, rather than achieving something, or climbing the next inevitable rung of a linear relationship progression -- better than anything else I've read about cohabitation.

I think the confusion may be that she's not talking about singleness, which is a different state that has some overlap with aloneness. If you're immediately dismissing her ability to have any authority on aloneness because she's currently in a relationship, that might be something to consider.
posted by babelfish at 1:46 PM on May 18, 2016 [39 favorites]


JanetLand, you're LAT.
An option the author doesn't acknowledge, possibly because she didn't know it existed.
posted by wonton endangerment at 1:46 PM on May 18, 2016


the reaction from other single women is one of deep anger and offence

Generalizing this way is really unfair and counterproductive, for two reasons:

(1) Not all single women in this thread have "deep anger and offence" toward the piece

(2) Not all women who might react from "deep anger and offence" are single

You make it sound like it's jealousy or sour grapes, but people are giving you legitimate reasons that they don't like it. Even if you don't agree with those reasons, it would be nice to take them at their word and not portray them in the worst light.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:47 PM on May 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


An option the author doesn't acknowledge, possibly because she didn't know it existed.

I expect she knew it existed and chose a different option. Sometimes people who value aloneness want to keep living apart from their partners indefinitely, and sometimes they don't want to. Not everyone wants to make the same sacrifices; not everyone wants to resist them.

There's nothing in the piece that invalidates or even remotely questions the decision to live alone. It's not the choice the author made, for her own personal reasons. What she's discussing is the fact that that choice involved not ridding herself of solitude, but giving it up.
posted by babelfish at 1:53 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I live alone with a dog and unswept floors and, although I don't relate to all of the author's choices, I really enjoyed the piece and thanks for posting.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:00 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


There is so much nuance in that piece that so many people here are missing in their rush to condemn the author for making choices they don't like.
posted by palomar at 2:01 PM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


This... this essay reads like tourism. Ick.

Yeah, as a 42-year-old who's been alone for her entire adult life, it was such a disappointment to get only a few lines in before I was told this wasn't a dispatch from the trenches, but rather some ode to being alone from someone who isn't alone. And you can spare me the "women attacking each other" critique. I have zero desire to criticize this woman's life choices, and her thoughts on being alone are in no way prescriptive. I'm so tired of hearing happily partnered people who haven't been single in many years make claims about singleness that are at odds with their life choices. If you really love being alone that much, then dump your partner and go be single for the rest of your life. Otherwise you're someone who has plenty to eat extolling the virtues of fasting to people who don't have enough to eat, and that's obnoxious and insensitive. This isn't a fair analogy, of course. The fact that there are hungry people in the world doesn't preclude any discussion of fasting. This piece is a good piece, and there's no need for me to take it personally, but thanks to some of the very insensitive partnered people I know being dismissive assholes, it's touching on a spot already a bit raw. And I would like to hear from the trenches, not the sidelines.
posted by orange swan at 2:01 PM on May 18, 2016 [54 favorites]


I liked the piece, and I think more women need to be honest that living with someone is indeed giving something up. And for women, that giving up tends to take some very demanding forms.

When I did live alone, I didn't feel so much like a problem as I did invisible. If a woman isn't taking care of anyone but herself/isn't seeking out relationships, does she truly exist? It felt like I didn't. It was kind of nice and scary at the same time.

I don't regret partnering up but I could live alone again and I'd enjoy it in many ways.
posted by emjaybee at 2:06 PM on May 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


I dearly love my husband and our life together, but I also long for the days and nights when he's out of town. Not because I don't like him or don't want him around, but because I will always and forever be the little girl who danced around the house naked and said all the swear words the minute Mom and Dad left her home alone.

As women, we are taught that living alone is something that is a burden. Even my moderately feminist mother told me "Every woman should live alone. Just so she knows she can." The idea that solitude is something that is good and golden is so rarely found. Instead it is something to suffer through, to carry as a burden, to dress up as way to show the Coupled that your life is okay too.

For me, living alone is something basic and glorious down deep inside me. Something that I set aside for something else deep and glorious but something that will always remain.
posted by teleri025 at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


Some people truly enjoy being alone and when they are not alone it brings up STUFF. I am one of those people and I enjoyed this essay. One thing the author didn't say right off was, "I am going to speak for all single people now, despite the fact that I am partnered." She has some thoughts on being alone, and she has some thoughts on giving up her aloneness in order to be in a relationship. Sarcastically dismissing her experience and her writting because her level of "aloneness" doesn't feel as "legitimate" as your own seems really over the top. I had someone in my life do exactly that to me and it's a wound that has never healed.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:26 PM on May 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


When I did live alone, I didn't feel so much like a problem as I did invisible. If a woman isn't taking care of anyone but herself/isn't seeking out relationships, does she truly exist?

That's so interesting to me - I never felt more invisible than when I was cohabiting in a (hetero) relationship and every need of mine was subsumed to his. Living alone and being romantically alone means my whole life is on my terms and I can be as visible or invisible as I choose.

I really enjoyed the article, and a lot of it resonated with me, but I also felt exhausted that yet again a coupled-up cohabiting person is writing about solitude - I don't think that's the fault of the author because I don't think this piece was necessarily meant to be about single solitude, it's just testament to the lack of single women's stories. Do editors not commission them? Do they think nobody who's coupled up wants to read about being single from someone who is actually single - and not Kate Bolick single where she still dates a lot - but given up on dating, completely happy with that choice single? Not even divorced and given up on dating single, just single, full stop.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 2:29 PM on May 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think my problem is the essay is being sold ("on loneliness and living alone as a woman") as an essay about actually living alone. And perhaps it is, but I (a person who lives alone, and likes it a lot, but has lived with a partner and liked that better) am not the intended audience. This a nostalgia piece about living alone for people who don't live alone any more.

I think more women need to be honest that living with someone is indeed giving something up.

If you thought it wasn't worth the trade, why would you give it up?
posted by WesterbergHigh at 2:44 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you really love being alone that much, then dump your partner and go be single for the rest of your life. (orange swan)

Gotta agree with this and it was exactly that feeling I took away reading the piece. Stuff like this There was a tumbling sense of inevitability, a dread of permanence, at the bottom of my stomach. just makes me roll my eyes SO HARD. There is no inevitability at all!!

The idea that we progress in a clear trajectory from single unit to couple form
It is only because you make it so! Don't buy into that crap and spin it into a melodramatic 2000 word essay. Either you want to be with someone, or you don't. There's really nothing else to it.

Sorry. This really rubbed me the wrong way - partly because I, too, was hoping to find something I could relate to. And yet again it's aaaaall about coupling and couples and yada yada. Apparently single women exist only as some form of antithesis to the sanctioned family unit. *rolls eyes*
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:50 PM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Either you want to be with someone, or you don't. There's really nothing else to it.

Man I am not in the author's position, and don't entirely share her views either on loneliness or coupledom, but lord amighty I have never once in my life been able to describe a relationship with another person in such a cut and dried manner. Romantic or no. I can't even speak with that kind of vehement confidence about the cup of coffee I am currently drinking.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:55 PM on May 18, 2016 [31 favorites]


I have never once in my life been able to describe a relationship with another person in such a cut and dried manner

Of course human relationships are often not that simple in practice, but my point is, this torturous "oh if only I could be alone, it was such bliss, but NO! my life leads me towards the inevitability of living with a mate AS IT MUST BE FOR ALL ETERNITY. Thus I heavy-heartedly abandon my cherished life of solitude" crap is just so infuriating. Clearly she wants to be with someone (or a particular someone) or she wouldn't be! Or if she'd rather not be with someone, she could easily change that!

(Certainly for myself, it is that cut and dried. I don't want to be with someone. And I'm not! Hooray for me! No need to write self-pitying articles!)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:05 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


this torturous "oh if only I could be alone, it was such bliss, but NO! my life leads me towards the inevitability of living with a mate AS IT MUST BE FOR ALL ETERNITY. Thus I heavy-heartedly abandon my cherished life of solitude" crap is just so infuriating.

Huh. From the article I read:
Yet right from the first day, as I moved furniture up my stairs and ignored text messages from him, I knew that this relationship was probably the one. There was a tumbling sense of inevitability, a dread of permanence, at the bottom of my stomach. He didn’t live in New York at the time, and I was glad this was the case. When I looked directly at our relationship, I had to admit that I wanted to come home to this person every day. But I also wanted to come home to myself.
I'd love to read the one you read, though. It sounds like an excellent fantasy piece.
posted by palomar at 3:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


If you thought it wasn't worth the trade, why would you give it up?

Come on, almost every personal choice we make has pros and cons. Almost all involve losing something--even if it's just an opportunity.

And people can feel a sense of loss without thinking that they made the wrong choice. Be in a relationship, and mourn the loss of your solitary life; choose not to be in a relationship, and mourn the loss of companionship and support. Neither is a judgment.

It would be nice to see something from a woman who did choose to be alone. That is, not someone who resigned themselves to it because they couldn't find a partner, but a woman who either never sought that type of relationship or stopped seeking because it was better for them, not because they were resigned.

I think that would be quite a bit more radical. But I do wonder if she would be attacked for rubbing her choice in the faces of women who didn't have one.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Clearly she wants to be with someone (or a particular someone) or she wouldn't be!

I feel like this sentence needs to read, "clearly, if I were in this situation, I'd want to be with someone (or a particular someone), or I wouldn't be." Because there's really no reason to believe that the author feels differently than she describes feeling, or that she is somehow disingenuous or self-deluded, simply because she approaches the world in a way that is unlike yours.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


(I'm honestly pretty sad that we can apparently grasp the notion of women being ambivalent about being mothers, but the notion that a woman can be ambivalent about giving up something they enjoy is somehow beyond the pale and must be mocked and shunned at all costs, but that's Metafilter!)
posted by palomar at 3:10 PM on May 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


(Certainly for myself, it is that cut and dried. I don't want to be with someone. And I'm not! Hooray for me! No need to write self-pitying articles!)

Also, to be like "why can't I read Article X instead of Article Y" and then sum up with "hooray, no need to write articles!" is like...you had the solution within you all along, Jedi, write the article you wish to see in the world, instead of being mad at someone for not being you.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:21 PM on May 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the backlash re: this piece here, but for my part: yes, I'm married now, but I wasn't always married. I still remember what it was like when there were no romantic prospects for nearly a decade in my life, when I started to figure out that perhaps I was going to live by myself for the rest whatever time I had left, how I felt about that, how friends and family would feel about that, and that honestly, it would be fine. I mean, I am paired up now but either me or my husband is gonna die first, and if it's him, I will have to navigate and accept and re-learn that level of solitude.
posted by Kitteh at 3:36 PM on May 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


Another 40-year-old who has now spent 12 years alone. They've been wonderful. Not blissful or perfect, but richly, tantalizingly wonderful.

Not having to be a man's receptacle is indeed a huge part of it (with a nod to my guy friends who don't treat me that way). I get to just be. If something shitty happens to me, I can chat about it with friends, then come home to my fluffy chirpy cats and digest it all. Or not, if I don't feel like it. The sheer freedom of not being subsumed; also, yes, of people being unable to credit my life to a man. Not that it always works that way, it's just there are people who are talented at inventing imaginary men who got me where I am in life. Some of the worst situations I've been in have had at their root people who thought I was too big for my britches, look at that girl whose rich parents spoiled her rotten, sent her to France, sure she seduced a Frenchman who she used for citizenship and is paying her way now... When the reality is completely other.

I've never corrected anyone who's thrown their assumptions at me like barbs. I don't share my background with many people (something of a paradox when you know how much I've written here, but eh). The barbs can't touch me, they're aimed at someone who only exists in the heads of those people. Living alone means I have a much better idea of who I am. I envy people who are able to know who they are in relationships. Not to set up a false dilemma, only saying that for me, I've noticed that living alone this long has given me such a rock-solid sense of who I am, what my strengths and limits are, that I've been able to discover my wings. I know I wouldn't have been able to discover them without solitude, given that very childhood background that did its best to put me in chains.

It can get lonely, but interestingly, there are days when that very loneliness feels more like a shield than a wall. Ten years ago I wanted a relationship very badly and never would have imagined myself saying what I'm going to say now: I would be happy to live the rest of my life alone. I know it would/will be an adventure filled with lovely people, delightful cats, and continued discovery.
posted by fraula at 3:38 PM on May 18, 2016 [35 favorites]


I admit I often feel like a pariah as a single woman living alone approaching forty. I've been solo now for almost a decade and a half.

Recently I had to attend a casual work lunch with my team as a "get to know" the new boss's boss. And fuck if it wasn't another go-around-the-room-and-talk-about-our-spouses-and-children circle jerk. And it gets to me and I awkwardly spout something about how I live with my cat or some other fucking nonsense I can't even remember. But as usual I do remember one thing--that being the familiar stench of pity. I just wanted to give everyone the finger and go crawl in a hole.

Fuck society for making me feel less than.
posted by bologna on wry at 3:40 PM on May 18, 2016 [16 favorites]


Sorry. This really rubbed me the wrong way - partly because I, too, was hoping to find something I could relate to. And yet again it's aaaaall about coupling and couples and yada yada. Apparently single women exist only as some form of antithesis to the sanctioned family unit. *rolls eyes*

We often read reflections of our own feelings into articles like this. As a woman who happily left a live-in relationship 18 months ago for the joyful solitude of single domestic bliss, I read this article and found many positive validations for my love of solitude. Fitzgerald is not whinging, nor complaining; she's identifying social and personal parameters and commenting on how they effect, deflect or intersect with her personal preferences. To me the article was far more about her awareness of her love of solitude and how that is bound to rub against her social human nature - i.e. living with a life-partner. The article doesn't prioritise or celebrate the family unit; in contrast I think it laments the necessary existance of it.
posted by Thella at 3:42 PM on May 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


bologna I for one would love to hear more about your cat :)

(and yes fuck them, if they can't treat you as a person then they're beyond rude. I have colleagues who go out of their way to talk about hobbies, pets and such in addition to their kids. Some of them even feel giddy at being spoken to like a human being who exists beyond their progeny. Win-win.)
posted by fraula at 3:45 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


With Thomas, the world seems less relentless, more forgiving, with fewer trapdoors and teeth. We thread ourselves through the other’s difficulties, offering the answers we can’t get to on our own, making the jagged edges of each day cohere. Living with a partner, when it’s truly good, is easier in almost every aspect, from the lessons in forgiveness, to the heap of congratulations society offers traditional couples, to the very literal benefit of combining resources and splitting bills.

If that isn't celebrating, I don't know what it is.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 3:47 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah upon reread that sounded a bit more harsh than I meant it to, but, well, yeah.

Thank you to all the lovely single women in this thread that make me realize I'm not such an anomaly after all!
posted by bologna on wry at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to get that waft of pity in those getting to know you work sessions, too. Then I stopped feeling tons of self-pity about being single and started talking about my actual interests in those getting to know you work sessions, and I don't notice if anyone pities me because I really don't care what my coworkers think about my 30 second getting to know you chitchat. And I started noticing how many of the women who had husbands and kids wouldn't say anything else about themselves and clearly felt self-conscious about being boring wives and moms that no one wants to hear from.

Maybe people send those wafts of pity towards those who seem to be apologizing for their lives. Try not doing that and see what happens in the next getting to know you situation you're in.
posted by palomar at 3:55 PM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh, and we can probably cherry-pick quotes out of the piece all day, but in response to the bit about how she loves her partner that is apparently something so horrible it must be called out, here is something a couple of paragraphs down from that horrid horrid display of personal growth and introspection:
But there are so many things I miss. I never get to the middle of the night in the home that I share, those empty hours when I wasn’t worried about keeping anyone else awake. Now I eat three meals a day and I hate it. I drink less coffee. My own simple, boring health, my obvious contentment, frequently disgusts me. While I am happy with my choices, I know at once that they follow a narrative approved by forces larger and less benevolent than myself, a narrative I am not happy to know I perpetuate.
posted by palomar at 3:59 PM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Now I eat three meals a day and I hate it. I drink less coffee. My own simple, boring health, my obvious contentment, frequently disgusts me.

Maybe she needs therapy.
posted by Melismata at 4:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


horrid horrid

I called it out in response to something upthread, not because I think it's horrid. It's celebrating, when someone upthread said it was not.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 4:17 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


ugh really? now we're going to police her feelings about coffee? I'm out. Y'all paragons of solitude and perfect health and total lack of all ambivalent emotion have at it. :/
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:17 PM on May 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


This is a really horrible unmefi-ish thread.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I'm really fucking baffled at the amount of backlash here for an essay about the pleasures of solitude and the complications of giving up that pleasure for the different pleasure of companionship. I didn't realize we were supposed to vilify things like this, or that talking about a partnership in a positive way would be sneered at as celebratory, as if it's worthy of sneering at. It's pretty dismaying, I thought this place was capable of better.
posted by palomar at 4:51 PM on May 18, 2016 [27 favorites]


I think the article is touching some very raw nerves in single people who want to be coupled. They don't enjoy their solitude; to them it is an indication of something undesirable. Those of us who thank our stars for the privilege of solitude have a perspective more closely aligned with the author.
posted by Thella at 5:04 PM on May 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


I am a woman who misses living alone so much that I can't even think about it because it makes me so sad that I'm not able to do so anymore. I would live alone for the rest of my life if I could. However I live with my partner because I am poor as fuck and always have been and I live in the Bay Area and it was a weird fluke and some rando luck that I was ever able to have lived alone in the first place. I definitely wish it was as easy to say "Screw it, I want to live alone so I'm going to" as people seem to think it is.
posted by primalux at 5:05 PM on May 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


I am a 56-year-old woman who has been unpartnered all my life. I am not angry at the author or the article--but I did start reading it with one expectation: Ah, here is a woman who is writing about my experience, and very quickly realized (at the mention of her boyfriend) that, no, in fact, this was not a woman writing about my experience at all. And so, at that moment, I continued to read the article with a great deal more detachment and a great deal less interest--but I read it all because I don't think it is fair to come here and comment without having read it in full.

So, it was a well-written and thoughtful article about her experience of being alone and being partnered and how those experiences differ.

It did not, however, speak to me or give me any greater insight into my experience and that was disappointing.

My relationship with my single self has changed over the years. When I was younger I tried dating. I bought into the societal expectation that there is something "off" about a person who wasn't paired up. Also, I had the example of my parents who were very happily married and such a "unit" most often in complete accord with each other. But...I also saw how often my mother subjugated her needs and compromised her interests to fit with my Dad. Dad made sacrifices as well. They both worked hard and made a good life for my brother and me.

As I watched my college friends meet and marry their life partners (for the most part, all of my college friends but one have stayed with their college or shortly after college partners). I was happy for them and their obvious happiness, but I didn't really envy them or desire that life. When they started having kids, I enjoyed the new babies but there was no envy because I knew from a young age I didn't want children.

When I was working dead-end jobs or stuck at jobs with crappy bosses, I envied my friends who had a partner and safety net that meant they could walk away from a not so great job or who had a partner who continued working when they lost their job and so they didn't have it quite as hard as I did. But I didn't envy them enough to give up my solitude. Even though there were times when I had a negative balance in the bank and no idea where my next dollar was coming from, I didn't think having a partner was worth sacrificing myself--and that is how I've always seen it. I would lose some essential part of myself if I had a life partner. You can argue whether this feeling is valid, but I am comfortable with it.

I am happy with my life and my solitude. I own my own home now which I purchased and am paying for entirely on my own. If I need help around the house, I now have the resources to pay for help. I have a satisfying career and am looking forward to a satisfying retirement. I have really good long time friends and a loving family who are important to me and who live 10 minutes away from me and can help me when I'm ill or need my mattress flipped! I have more than enough socialization at work and I will have plenty of socialization in retirement as well--it is easy for me to make casual friends. My life is quiet and fulfilling and while I've had emotional and physical ups and downs, I can definitely say it has never been lonely.

That is my experience of being a single woman.
posted by agatha_magatha at 5:10 PM on May 18, 2016 [51 favorites]


This thread makes me so sad. But I think it's very good evidence of how painful it still is in 2016 to be a woman who is single despite wanting to be partnered. The messages we get from all around us are that being alone means we are outsiders in some way; that it's peculiar not to settle if we can; that it's craven to settle if we can; that our highest purpose is to serve men and produce children; that any woman who can't get a partner is defective; that any women who becomes focused on this "mission" isn't a Cool Girl; that it's anti-feminist to care about this; that it's wasteful and short-sighted not to care about this; that we need to follow The Rules; that playing games is fake and gross; that omg every day that goes by means we're missing the boat!!!!; etc.

Apart from that, it can really fucking hurt your heart to feel that all kinds of people get to meet partners but somehow you just...haven't. It can be like a drumbeat of what's wrong with me? what's wrong with me? The always-unanswerable question.

Reading the title of this essay and then beginning and right away getting the "I have a boyfriend" thing was a bit of a kick in the teeth, in that (if you're a women who is alone and might not want to be or might be tired of feeling judged about that) it's like you read this expecting someone from your belittled, underestimated, made-fun-of tribe and instead the author is like "oh and btw I have a man" and you hear that echo "and you still don't neener neener."

What I loved about this essay, though, was it reminded me why, when i could have settled (and I don't mean necessary by taking a specific man up on a specific offer, but rather by changing things I love about myself to try and fit myself into someone else's hole), I chose not to. Because she elucidated really perfectly just why being alone, an aloneness that allows you to be perfectly and comfortably yourself, is a way of coming and staying alive. And that choosing to partner with someone means you give up some of that pure freedom.
posted by sallybrown at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [36 favorites]


It's also a bit like those "I'm a High-Powered Mom/Wife/Boss Who Leans In and Has It All" essays, in that this person here meets both the Cool Empowered Modern Lady standard of living alone and loving it, and the I'm Worthy standard of having a man (= I Don't Need a Man But I'm So Cool That I Got One Anyways), when for a lot of people it's hard to achieve either of those aims, let alone both.
posted by sallybrown at 5:39 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


This was a great read for me. I recently met a guy who's about my (middle) age and has been single longer than I have - years and years and years. We've been having these conversations about giving up solitude and is dating worth it and how risky it is - we also puzzle about what's "normal" for couples and whether we're damaged for having gotten to our forties and never been married. It's been fascinating to talk to someone else who has the same fears and questions and this article spoke to me very eloquently about what I've been thinking about
posted by bendy at 6:19 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I actually think this is a really good and interesting thread because it is really driving home to me how different people are. I lived alone for 6 years of my adult life and was unpartnered for most of those years, and now I am married. I LOVED living alone, absolutely cherished my single-person apartment, but like many of the single women in this thread, I yearned to have a partner. I felt defective and so desperately lonely. I didn't at all feel like my most authentic self, despite having the time and resources to dedicate to intensive therapy and a stint travelling and working abroad.

Now that I'm married I love the times Mr. Freedom is away - actually at this moment he has been away for the past week and a half and won't be back for another few days - but being alone is also reminding me how unrelentingly hard my life was as a single person. The staggering amount of freedom is drowning me, to be frank; I need the grounding of another human in my life on a daily basis, someone to eat dinner with who doesn't inhale kibble and then stalk off to the catitat to regally lick their toes. I'm kind of an odd duck and don't make friends easily, so the solitude is quite encompassing.

I think it's awesome, in all senses of the word, that there are people who thrive in this environment, but as much as I claim to be an introvert and need my alone time . . . I find it really hard to be alone all the time. The differences in human experience fascinate me!
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:29 PM on May 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


I found the essay and many responses here in the thread absolutely fascinating because it's such a different perspective than my own. I hate solitude and living alone. Today is my 20th wedding anniversary but I live alone in an apartment bc I left my abusive husband 2 months ago to the day. I yearn for the day when I live with a partner again, someone to stay up late watching movies with, someone to snuggle closely when it thunders (i hate thunder), someone to care for me when i am sick and care for when they are sick, someone to cook elaborate meals for that i've put a lot of time and research in, someone to chat with while in the bath, etc, etc. I like myself, I can entertain myself (movies, internet, reading, outdoor activities, etc) but I don't particularly enjoy solitude at all. I could go weeks with zero alone time and feel comfortable. I've never once thought to myself "oooh I'd like to just have some quiet time alone now". Nope. When I am alone I feel restless and very aware of my own mortality and as though I am wasting time away.

These are just my thoughts on how i experience loneliness; they're not a judgement of others who enjoy solitude. It's just very alien to me, like people who say they like to clean when they are stressed or have trouble forcing themselves to eat enough each day. i can't relate.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 7:11 PM on May 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


My mum has been single and lived alone for years and years, and while she acknowledges that *sometimes* she misses having a partner/companion, for the most part she values her independence too much to compromise that. There's another woman, of a similar age, in my extended family, who has never lived alone in her whole life, and she can't quite imagine how my mum manages even the simplest day to day stuff (but what if something breaks? who manages the finances?). There's more than one kind of happy life. I'm happily married, but my husband is more than a little offended when I start reminiscing about how much I loved being single and living alone, until he remembers his plans to go live in a cabin in the woods, and cohabit with me only part time!
posted by glitter at 7:25 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the article is touching some very raw nerves in single people who want to be coupled. They don't enjoy their solitude; to them it is an indication of something undesirable. Those of us who thank our stars for the privilege of solitude have a perspective more closely aligned with the author.

Really, no. The assumption that, if you find anything questionable in her approach, it must be driven by personal sadness and bitterness leading to oversensitivity or irrationality is disappointing to see here, though it certainly reinforces my analysis of the social stigma involved. But even if some of the people here are responding out of a personal frustration with their singleness...I'm not sure that would be wrong. Ordinarily, if you're telling someone from the outside how great their condition is, and you end up offending some of them, that would be taken as indicating that your analysis might be incomplete, or at least your rhetoric flawed, rather than that they were just oversensitive.
posted by praemunire at 8:26 PM on May 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


Like OP, I am an only child who spent a lot of time alone as a kid, and I think that plays into it. I also love love love solitude and being alone. It feels to me like I think being pampered feels to other people, like a day at a spa or something. This has always been true regardless of my relationship status. I almost can't understand loneliness in the negative sense. I've felt a lot of unpleasant things in my life, but being alone has never seemed negative.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:44 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


But is she "telling someone from the outside how great their condition is"? Because that's one very narrow interpretation, but another is that she's talking about her own personal feelings about being alone, and what it was like to give that up in exchange for a different way of being while still valuing the previous way of being. I don't understand why the ambivalence is so offensive to some, because the attitude coming from a lot of posters here is that because she didn't eschew this male interloper, she's a traitor of some kind. I mean... is it because he has a penis? Would it be okay if she were in a same sex relationship? Serious question. Is it specifically because she's not single that people have a problem with her writing this, or is it because it's with a man, or what? Are people interpreting this as being specifically about singlehood, instead of actually just being alone?
posted by palomar at 8:45 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whether one likes it or not, being alone is something that labels and identifies you. By articulating that experience without needing to live with the stigma, one enters into a power relationship. There is a place for articulating an experience you don't need to own, but if people who don't have your option of opting out don't like your version of their lives, the compassionate thing is to listen.
posted by idiopath at 8:58 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


While it did not speak to my personal life experience, I actually thought the article was well-articulated.

The rub for me, I think, is that a wide swath of otherwise very lovely people believe my singledom at this age to be pitiable and that I, therefore, must be secretly crying myself to sleep each night in my lonely bed. That's not a correct assumption. Just as it would be unwise for me to assume that every 40-year-old married with children woman is fulfilled and satisfied with her choice to partner up and procreate.

My issue wasn't with the article, but with the societal norms that remind me around every corner that I don't quite fit the correct narrative. And try as I might not to listen to them, yeah, they get to me sometimes.

Anyway, I've very much enjoyed this thread and the different perspectives shared.
posted by bologna on wry at 9:02 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


1. You're voluntarily single and happy, thrilled to be alone -> this is empowering, feminist, and great!
2. You're partnered but miss solitude and mourn your past single life a bit -> this is interesting and thought-provoking
3. You're single, but don't feel great about that and hope to be partnered soon -> Huh, this is a bit sad and vulnerable and not very empowering at all. What's the takeaway message
4. You're involuntarily single and miserable about it -> Why would we publish this

(Note, these are not necessarily my thoughts, just what I imagine is a reasoning for why we get articles like this and not articles that are like "yep, if I'm being honest every day it feels like I'm internally bleeding! But I have to smile and pretend it's all normal or else the world sees me as pitiful and desperate and not in control")
posted by naju at 9:17 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are people interpreting this as being specifically about singlehood, instead of actually just being alone?

I think that is a great question, actually, and I think the distinction is an important one. One is a relationship status and the other is the absence of other people.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make, if one at all, but that question switched on the light bulb above my head.
posted by bologna on wry at 9:19 PM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


(I quite liked the article for what it was, by the way.)
posted by naju at 9:20 PM on May 18, 2016


Ok article. I respect all those folks who choose to live alone, and make it work. I envy their freedom. I've never lived alone, and wouldn't know how. I don't always want people around, but when I do, I don't want to have to hunt them down. Plus, my son is 10 months old this week, and he has the best smiles. I think he's even starting to understand that his Mom is a complete ham ;)
posted by triage_lazarus at 10:37 PM on May 18, 2016


We'd probably be having a different reaction if the author had used a more accurate (?) title for her essay. Based on the title and this: “Living alone as a woman is not just a luxury but a refusal to bend.” I expected a completely different accounting. I mean come on, she bends a lot and she doesn't live completely alone.
posted by futz at 11:01 PM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's a classic bait and switch.
posted by futz at 11:05 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


For once, I read the article before I read the comments here, and it was in fact a "classic bait and switch" as futz would have it. I mean, it's well-written enough for what it is-- it was a thoughtful piece, and it got me thinking, and the 'witch in the forest' pull quote is killer-- but I kept thinking of my own experiences, and the author's experiences didn't ring any bells of recognition in my head. The lines-- "Living with a partner, when it’s truly good, is easier in almost every aspect, from the lessons in forgiveness, to the heap of congratulations society offers traditional couples, to the very literal benefit of combining resources and splitting bills"-- annoyed me. Nice for you, bucko, I thought.

I loved so many of the comments here, especially fraula's, and orange swan's, and especially what Oyéah said.

So, I've lived alone since I've been in college, but-- not really? As I have ALWAYS have had roommates/housemates, because I like the company, and it helps with the bills. (Yes, you don't need to bang someone to have living companions. This is another option.) When they go out of town, and I am at last ALONE alone, I am ecstatic. I run around in my towel and I sing aloud. But then I realize I am in a big house all by myself, and I am creeped out and I go around making sure all the doors are locked and the windows are closed. Years ago, I used to think I'd find a partner eventually, wasn't that what happened to all women?-- but then I thought, eh, whatever, I enjoy being on my own (sort of). I don't like subsuming myself to anyone. I like being independent. I like being Single, but with Roommates! And with dogs and cats! It's all good.

I had an interesting experience today when two of my co-workers, who are eight and ten years younger than me, were bemoaning getting older and not finding husbands, when a lot of assholes they knew were getting married. I rushed out of the break room to inform my co-worker who was speaking that she was JUST as valid a person single, that she didn't need a man to validate her existence, and that she was wonderful regardless, and her face just brightened up in this amazing way. Maybe this needs to be said more. I think it does.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:02 AM on May 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm a single woman who loves living alone and Being Alone (in the "not dating" sense), and I really liked this article. The article says that living alone means you don't have to bend. The author has decided to voluntarily bend, and there are rewards for that, but there are also drawbacks. I kind of wonder whether the title/framing of the article was decided by the website rather than the author.

When partnered people ask me about being alone, I'll be honest-- it's honestly hard for me to keep from gloating, although I try not to because it isn't fair and it isn't kind. But whenever I answer, they can usually sense the joy in my response. It kind of shuts down pity, in my experience. They are prepared for me to make excuses, or say "oh, it just never happened, oh well," but I'm pretty sure my eyes light up.

I don't have to answer to anyone, and as my close friends deal with the stresses that come from their marriages and their kids, I'm supportive but not remotely envious. The things their partners SAY to them, the things their families (nuclear and extended) EXPECT from them, my word. As a single woman, I can say "no" and "that won't be possible" and "I have other plans, but have fun" and no one pressures me to change my mind or alter my own schedule or feel guilty.

I don't talk about it much, because I know that a lot of people assume I am trying to make the best of a bad situation, or that I am trying to convince myself that it's true, or that I wouldn't feel this way if I "knew what I was missing", or or or. But the space to be myself, for myself, is something I treasure.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:31 AM on May 19, 2016 [17 favorites]


I kind of wonder whether the title/framing of the article was decided by the website rather than the author.

I think that's very very very likely, given that authors almost never get to choose those things unless they're self-publishing, which makes the hue and cry aimed at the author over the framing more baffling and depressing.
posted by palomar at 6:34 AM on May 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I kind of wonder whether the title/framing of the article was decided by the website rather than the author.

Oh man I've been trying to restrain myself from going Y'ALL MAD AT A HED AND A DEK but yes. Of COURSE the title and framing were decided by the publication. If there's anything I would like all people to learn -- well, okay, anything comparatively lower-stakes than, like, "women are people" -- it's that authors do not choose the headlines, subtitles, images, pull quotes, or social media presentation for their articles.
posted by babelfish at 6:45 AM on May 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


"I mean... is it because he has a penis?"

Could we not.
posted by XtinaS at 6:50 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


[A few comments deleted. Point about 'penis' assumption acknowledged; let's not get into a side fight about it.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:37 AM on May 19, 2016


Whether one likes it or not, being alone is something that labels and identifies you. By articulating that experience without needing to live with the stigma, one enters into a power relationship. There is a place for articulating an experience you don't need to own, but if people who don't have your option of opting out don't like your version of their lives, the compassionate thing is to listen.

Not only is this utter nonsense, it's utter nonsense that could've been written much more simply as "But enough about you, what about me?"
posted by octobersurprise at 8:17 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments deleted. I know this thread has been frustrating for folks, but we're probably better off not getting into a circular argument about who's been more uncharitable in describing other people's uncharitability.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:05 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


But it wasn't about me - it was about an article describing an experience that's used as a label, and other people here who have that label that don't like that description. I'm not a single woman.
posted by idiopath at 2:58 PM on May 19, 2016


This may be orthogonal to the article at hand, but...

There was a time in my life, a long time actually, when I very much valued every single second I could be "alone" with myself, my own thoughts, desires, and opinions. This was because I was in a relationship wherein my own thoughts, desires, and opinions were not valued, in fact derided, scorned, and diminished by my "partner". I spent a LONG time in this relationship and it very much destroyed much of whomever I was before that time. In these brief, often stolen moments of solitude, I was able to reconnect with whatever was left of my former self, and I found some kind of relief in those moments.

Now however, free from this environment, I find myself absolutely dreading alone time, which is often, but not always. Perhaps this is because I have lost so much of who I used to be that there is truly nothing left of the person I once was, and what is left is simply the discarded, worn, tarnished, rusted detritus of a person that has been smushed into the ground by a boot so many times that I have blended completely into the earth below the boot... I am but a footprint in the mud, my former self having been ground into the earth so completely that I no longer recognize the difference between what was once "me" and the mud into which I was squished.

So... I can kind of understand both sides of the equation.
posted by some loser at 5:44 PM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sending you warm and affirming thoughts, sl.
posted by delight at 6:42 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


But it wasn't about me - it was about an article describing an experience that's used as a label, and other people here who have that label that don't like that description. I'm not a single woman.

So this woman isn't allowed to experience her experience? Or she should just know better than to write about it in case someone had a different feeling about it? She should feel more ashamed/grateful/appropriate about her feelings because others don't enjoy the things she enjoys, or worry about the things she worries about?

Every person on this thread who laments the absence of essays from the perspective of the unwillingly single, the unambivalently single, the righteously single, COULD WRITE THAT ESSAY. That they have not seems like a really poor argument for some other person, with some other set of feelings, to be required to shut the fuck up.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:08 AM on May 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think putting the "boyfriend" thing right up front was a very deliberate attempt NOT to bait and switch, to let people know what kind of essay this was immediately (nostalgia for solitude, ambivalence about giving it up) so that they didn't think it would be something else (eg "Here's why I don't want a romantic relationship even though society tells me I should.")

But yeah, the title really undermines that effort to be up front about the experience she is writing about. The expectation that it will be about "Why I don't want a boyfriend" is already there by the time she mentions the boyfriend in the first paragraph. So there is bait which is switched, but it's in the title, which as people have mentioned, the author probably didn't choose. What if she had titled it something like "What I Miss About Solitude"? Would those in the thread who didn't like it have liked it better?

There is also risk in writing an article with an ambivalent point of view in general. You can make both of your perspectives seem insincere by showing that you hold the opposite point of view at the same time. But as a person who feels ambivalent about almost everything (yes, including my decision to date and marry someone) I personally appreciate seeing my own ambivalence reflected and shared by someone else.

Articles about ambivalence are actually pretty rare, I feel, because of this risk of risk of coming across as insincere. And for people who are writing about ambivalence about being coupled or being mothers, there is in particular a risk that it will sound like they don't sincerely love their partners or kids. Which I bet is a response this article has also gotten from some people (hopefully not from her boyfriend). Here people are questioning whether she sincerely loved solitude.

But it's the nature of ambivalence to sincerely love, and sincerely want, two contradictory things I the same time. To know the things you want are contradictory and that you can't possibly have bith, but to still want both anyway. To have regrets no matter which one you choose. That's what I got from this piece (ignoring the misleading title.) Personally I can very much identify with that.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:41 AM on May 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Articles about ambivalence are actually pretty rare, I feel, because of this risk of risk of coming across as insincere.

Could also be the risk of being willfully misinterpreted.
posted by babelfish at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


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