Living Alone Together
The myth says if you’re married you’re capable of connecting with another human being. If you’re single, well, you’re single because you can’t.
I have an eighteen-year-old cat, Smokey Joe who is well past his nine lives. When he got sick recently, I was in crazy mode trying to figure out what was wrong and whether it was time to put him to sleep. Much of the week was spent at a critical care animal hospital, waiting alone in a small exam room while Smokey was in the back getting blood tests, sonogramed, poked and prodded.
After the third time of being left alone in the exam room I asked the nurse, “Can I stay out in the reception room instead?” I didn’t want to be alone in that room for a second longer. I wanted to be with other people who were experiencing the same sense of anxiety, fear and concern for their pets that I was feeling for mine. Even if I didn’t have a conversation with them, I wanted an opportunity to share a meaningful look, a nod and a sense of connection.
Most people, including singles, need and want social interaction. In our glorious independence, we still depend on each other, not only in times of need, but also for that human connection that simply feels good. We singulars are not so different from our coupled counterparts in that regard. The only difference is, that instead of expecting a husband or wife to be the focus of our social interaction, we create a network of lifelong friends.
In fact, I think we who are single are more likely to spark with strangers we meet here, there and everywhere. Since we’re not so focused on that one relationship with a spouse, we’ve learned how to live outside of ourselves. We can quickly convert a chance meeting at the dog park into a life-long friend or, at the very least, an enjoyable, if fleeting, shared experience.
That’s why I had to laugh when I saw an article about a new restaurant in Amsterdam — supposedly made for single people. The title alone was enough to make any self-respecting singular cringe: “Forever Alone? World’s First One-Person Restaurant Opens.” Whoever came up with this idea must have heard that singles are the fastest growing demographic in the world, but he or she remains clueless about what we’re really like. Why? Because instead of a big community table, the tables in this restaurant are just big enough for one plate, one place setting and a glass — and each table is arranged to provide customers with as little contact as possible with the other patrons.
Apparently the creator of this odd restaurant has the mistaken idea that single people don’t want to have other people in their lives, as if single were a synonym for crotchety hermit. It does fit, however with that stereotypical assumption that if you don’t have a husband, wife or live-in partner you must be uninterested (or worse, incapable) of connecting to people outside of yourself. It’s that old “single people are selfish and self-centered” idea bubbling up in the guise of a “fabulous new restaurant for singles.”
Yep, the myth that if you’re married you’re capable of establishing a relationship with another human being and if you’re single, well, if you’re single it’s because you can’t, just lingers on despite evidence to the contrary. If anything, those of us who don’t have an official life partner are more likely to make the effort to create a network of friends that can provide the companionship, support and caring that almost all humans need and want.
Our friends are not “just friends” but “dear friends” who offer their advice, their time and their wisdom — and we do the same for them. The result is a connection of resources and resourcefulness that allows us to live independently while enjoying the knowledge that although we may live alone, we are, in fact, connected to many different people on a deep and satisfying level that often lasts a lifetime.
This post is part of the second blogfest put together by The Communication League for Unmarried Equality (CLUE). Our Independence Day theme is independence and interdependence in the lives of single people. The CLUE organizers are Cindy Butler, the Executive Director of Unmarried Equality, Christina Campbell and Lisa A. of Onely, Eleanore Wells of The Spinsterlicious Life, and Bella DePaulo. The tags for this event are #unmarriedequality, #singlesblogfest, and #endmaritalstatusdiscrimination. The first blogfest was on the topic of economic discrimination against single people. The dozens of people who participated, and the links to their posts, are here.
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