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July 3rd, 2012

You’re Not Lonely, You’re Selfish


Is Staying Single Selfish?

In a review of Eric Klinenberg’s  Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, Benjamin E. Schwartz critiques the single life…

Schwartz says in part…

Going Solo bases itself on relatively new data showing that more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million- roughly one out of every seven adults – live alone.

Yes, and I am one of those solitary adults.   I guess I was just born to have a bundle of negative stereotypes hoisted onto my shoulders.   I am an only child.   I’m gay.   I’m a socially clumsy art/techno nerd.   And now I’m getting old.   I’m that weird old guy who lives by himself in the house down the street.   The one you read about in all those newspaper stories where someone murders one or more other people and everyone in the TV news story says the suspect was a kinda quiet guy who kept to himself.   Actually I don’t keep to myself.   I don’t like keeping to myself (except when I’m in a mood to be at my drafting table).   But being gay in America you get used to neighbors who chat pleasantly with you when you approach them, but who never once approach you.   There are two openly gay guys on my block and we both get lots of smiles and friendly hellos and that’s about as much socializing with us as the heterosexuals on the block are willing to   endure.   As Truman Capote once said, a faggot is the homosexual gentleman who just left the room.

So there is more to the solitary life then mere self centered selfishness.   But that’s a pretty reliable stereotype of singles, just as it is with only kids.   We’re all just spoiled rotten…

As his subtitle suggests, he likes what the data tell us; his position could be summed up by the subtitle of a book he commends: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. Klinenberg is rarely explicit about his convictions, which saves him the trouble of seriously assaying their implications, but he finally gets to the point directly in his conclusion, asserting that “living alone is an individual choice that’s as valid as the choice to get married or live with a domestic partner. . . .

I suppose it is for those who choose it.   But not all of us do.   For some of us it is a lot we’ve simply been cast into.   And yes, there are a few negative consequences that follow from that.   But don’t expect Schwartz to grasp them…he just goes off the deep end babbling about “expressive individualism”, a term I think he wants you to hear excessive individualism in, and society’s ability to transmit moral values.   Because, you know, solitary people are innately immoral.   Kinda like how poor people are poor because they’re lazy.

Here’s a moral value for you Schwartz: empathy.   Not all solitaries are in that situation by choice, and even those who are aren’t all selfish.   Selfish is when you stereotype people because you’re too damn lazy to actually look at them and see the people for your conceits.   Maybe then people might see that a culture with half its members living alone has within it both the seeds of its own destruction and it’s own salvation.   It’s a solvable problem, if only we as a society, as a culture can see the value in expending the kind of energy on making it possible for people to find the companionship in life they need that we do on…oh…let’s see…waging war and killing people’s husbands and wives.   How about instead of fighting to keep same-sex couples from getting married, we built a society where no one has to live a life unloved, instead of casting the lonely into the trashcan of society?   Moral values Schwartz, moral values.

And…Mr. Klinenberg…   I am still awaiting all that surprising appeal of living alone you speak of.   For some of us it’s more like life in solitary confinement then an exuberant life lived lightly.   It’s hell but with air conditioned singles bars and pantries full of single size servings.   We just learn to deal with it.   Until we can’t anymore.

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