Living Single

7 Feb

Living Single TV Show Female Cast

I hate the term single. Despite the fact that most of us come in to this world by ourselves and leave that way there’s an expectation of partnering in the interim. And while you are granted a bit more of a reprieve from single shade* in queerdom, there’s still a palpable partner privilege that operates. Couples only hang outs, automatic invites to your partner’s friends’ functions, less unwanted amorous attention because you’re read as off limits, more respect for your time as it’s obviously being impacted by another person, etc. I’ve had the unfortunate but not uncommon experience of losing friends to relationships, only to be heard from again in the equally unfortunate but not uncommon instance of the break up. As a non-partnered person I also feel some pressure when hanging out with half of a coupled couple. I sometimes sense suspicion of my intentions. It seems non-partnered people are read as a roving threat to relationships. There’s always some pop culture plot point where a generally good person, usually man or masculine, is tempted by an evil single seductress who doesn’t give a damn about the existing relationship. Y’all saw Obsessed right?

As I age, I am curious about that moment when singlehood switches in peoples’ minds from the willfulness of youthful independence to tragic pathological existence. I think that timeline is too short maybe even non-existent for straight women and while there’s a bit more leeway in queer community, there comes a point when casual dating isn’t cute anymore or perhaps even possible because folks are booed up. It has me wondering if there’s room to maintain a single life as an older person, like still dating in your 50’s and 60’s? And how do you find folks to date if all your peers at that age are married or partnered? I mean the Golden Girls had it rough but they’d all been married before. I really struggle with this as someone who is ambivalent about romantic relationships, particularly as constructed in this society.

Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal.  “I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner” leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. “Forsaking all others” doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family. Why do mother-in-laws stay getting a bad rap?

And yet, there’s something really real about co-dependence in a culture that doesn’t value interdependence. A romantic partner is expected to be there, in “sickness and in health” in ways that we don’t demand of friendship. Subsequently, a spouse or partner has legal and social rights that a friend does not. For queer folks this is particularly important when unsupportive biological family can legally trump chosen family. Our legal system actively limits who we can call on which reflects and exacerbates social beliefs about relationships.

I have a more playful, flirtatious way of thinking about intimate relationships which usually rubs up against (and not in a good way) a social expectation for monogamy. I have romantic friendships that are not quite platonic, sexy time friends that aren’t quite lovers, close kindred spirits that should really be on my insurance before a romantic partner. And while pop culture flirts with poly possibilities, it never quite goes all the way. There are an endless number of songs that reference men cheating or women cheating on their boyfriends b/c of the supposed sexual prowess of whomever is singing/rapping the hit. So while there’s a tacit tolerance of cheating, intentional polyamory remains off the table. And even with an occasional “my girl’s got a girlfriend” and “ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none,” women are tools for male fantasies, heterofying homosocial sexual behavior.  Folks are more into the illicitness of affairs and the freakiness of multiple sex partners than building articulated intimacy with more than one person. I digress…

I want to live in a world where there isn’t a hierarchy of relationships, where romantic love isn’t assumed to be more important than other kinds, where folks can center any relationships they want whether it be their relationship to their spiritual practice, kids, lovers, friends, etc. and not have some notion that it’s more or less important because of who or what’s in focus. I want to feel like I can develop intimacy with people whether we are sleeping together or not that I will be cared for whether I am romantically involved with someone or not.  I want a community that takes interdependency seriously that doesn’t assume that it’s only a familial or romantic relationship responsibility to be there for each other.

I didn’t just dream this way of relating to each other up. Other cultures and communities throughout time have had more options in terms of how they construct connection. And we are doing it now. Folks are creating interdependent relationships and community that disrupt popular perceptions of appropriate partnering. I just wonder what it will take to get more of us to honestly evaluate the realities of our love and determine whether we are actually getting what we want. Love is abundant, not scarce. Why would we ever want to limit or narrow its flow?

Asking for a Lift …From the Bathroom TOSD from Mia Mingus on Vimeo.

Sincerely,

Living single

Hat tip to Zachari C. for bringing her brilliance to the piece.

*Single shade – the general social derision of single people and singleness

About these ads

34 Responses to “Living Single

  1. yonah February 7, 2011 at 4:22 PM #

    Thank you! So so true.

    • chilah February 10, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

      I like this article—as a single woman who has decided that being single is just fine (mainly because I got out of an abusive relationship a year ago) and because of that I’m an NO hurry to rush into another one. I decided that I’m just gonna date,period, and the hell with trying to find a permanent hookup with anybody else. Society has gotten women so brainwashed that something is wrong with them if they haven’t found a man by the time they’re 30 or 35, even after the feminist revolutions of the past, that it’s crazy. Especially since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner—I used to feel messed up if I didn’t have a significant other around this time of year, now I could give less than a damn about it, knowing that it’s just another commercialized holiday aimed at squeezing as much cash out of one’s pocket as much as possible. ( I loved the show “Living Single” back in the day). Anyway, the bottom line is, we’re all gonna leave this earth one day, whether we’re single, married, or not, so the thing is to just enjoy your life, period, and not worry about being single or not—just enjoy yourself!

    • The Sterling Line February 19, 2011 at 1:00 PM #

      Thank you for sharing yourself in this article. It brings up so many valid and worthwhile issues! There are a few hundred conversations this branch off into.
      Being single and generally monogamous, I am at a place where I am rethinking my own connections, desires and how my various intimacies- whether they be friends, ‘family’ or lovers- can work for me to make my life (and everyone involved’s) fuller and happier. The old templates are needing some serious adjustment! And it is lovely to see someone taking a close and real look at how we connect rather than the melodramatic or titilating peek the media casts on alteranative ways of being. Each one of us is different and because of that it makes sense to me that therefore each connection will be different and few will fit some preordered mold. I believe that living up to some script is far less important (and can be stifling and hurtful) than simply living up to the basic human morals of staying honest in all your dealings and showing mutual respect!

  2. brianws February 7, 2011 at 4:54 PM #

    Don’t think I’ve ever been around this blog before, but this was awesome. Thanks for it! I would list the parts that struck me the most, but it’d be the whole damn thing.

  3. M.Makeda February 7, 2011 at 11:16 PM #

    great post! it encouraged me to deepen my thoughts around polyamory and interdependence. most importantly, though, it is wonderful to hear you challenge the notion that romantic relationships should be privileged over other important relationships in our lives (to other people and/or life sustaining practices). i’ve been trying to open up conversation around this for years. i began doing so because i desired to build spaces of emotional intimacy within platonic relationships with other women. in my home country i had cultivated relationships, which allowed and committed to such spaces, but found that it challenging to do so in the u.s.

    also, great links!

    thanks for this post!

  4. Beanodean February 8, 2011 at 2:42 AM #

    I got to this post via a Shakeville “Blogaround” and am so very pleased to have arrived. I have been talking about and dealing with this topic for many years and it has recently become an even more pronounced and immediate subject in my life.

    I have very intimate, non-sexual friendships, and I find that many people, even those I am close to find it confusing and often assume I am emotionally stunted or secretly trying to have sex with my friends. There are also so many assumptions made about how time will be spent with my intimate friends who also have monogamous intimate sexual relationships, and particularly about how those relationships “trump” the one each of those people has with me.

    These are challenging mores to deconstruct, and it is quite heartening to find that there are others who are also thinking about this topic. Thank you for your thoughtful and well written post.

  5. northernsky February 8, 2011 at 5:33 AM #

    Wow, this really hit home. You beautifully articulated a lot of things that have been really bothering me. Thanks for this!

    • L February 8, 2011 at 10:36 AM #

      Thank you for this. I’m an avid reader of this blog and never commented, but felt incredibly compelled to do so after this post.

      I recently had to let go of two friends who were constantly putting me down because of my single like (aka “single-shaming” me). It was really refreshing to come across this post at this particular juncture in my life.

      Cheers to a thoughtful, inspiring, well written piece.

      • L February 8, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

        **single life (not “like”) haha.

      • Robyn February 21, 2011 at 4:34 AM #

        Yes, I can relate, I was “single-shamed” by a friend who is in a 5 year-live in relationship and a divorcee. She claimed she was concerned that I was letting a best friend/sister in so many words “hold me back” from settling down with a boyfriend. It was apparent she was projecting HER relationship issues onto me, since she just spent the previous hour complimenting my amazing life full of jetsetting, higher education, multiple moves, career highlights, new business ventures, supportive groups of friends, etc…She claims all her married friends with children “wished they had your life…and vicariously live through you.” Ahhh–then the single shaming began. Oh, the irony.

  6. Bevin February 8, 2011 at 12:30 PM #

    This is amazing!!! I love your analysis and calling it out like this. The pressure this society puts on romantic relationships to be everything makes it impossible to sustain. And so much more.

    Thank you for posting this!!

  7. Rose Tattoo February 8, 2011 at 1:57 PM #

    “Love is abundant, not scarce”. This quote has been ringing in my head since I read the article. I, might even write about that myself, lol. I really think that when you go at things from that mindset instead of the opposite, it really opens your eyes to a new way of approaching love. Great article.

  8. Andi B. Goode February 9, 2011 at 1:15 AM #

    This is such a great and very thoughtful post. I think, at this point in time, I still view the idea of only having one ‘romantic partner’ as for me (not that I have one at all but even when I just have a crush on someone it’s only ever been one person at a time and that’s just me) I definitely don’t find the idea of someone being someone’s ‘everything’ appealing. I still want to think I’d view my friends as just as important to me as a romantic partner…but, yes, I COMPLETELY agree with the heart of this post. It really speaks to me. Thanks for writing and sharing this. (I can here by way of a Tumblr post so have never been by here before).
    -Andi

  9. Amy February 14, 2011 at 11:10 AM #

    THANK YOU so much for this insightful, spot-on article that really captures the essence of how a lot of us ‘singles’ feel. Even the word ‘single’ is suspect, IMHO, and calls attention immediately to (lack of) romantic relationship status. Why should it be so important that it’s the first thing that defines us?

    I get very tired of trying to explain to well-meaning family and friends that I deeply enjoy my friendships, I have a full life, and I really, honestly, don’t care about pairing up and off because society has some misguided belief that I should. I’m tired of people who think that being married somehow justifies their existence. You’re so right that love is love, we ‘singles’ are NOT alone, we’re not lonely, and we can’t be put into a box.

  10. Jelly February 15, 2011 at 2:03 AM #

    Beautiful post. I find that I am incredibly happy being single because I am surrounded by many people who love me even though these relationships are not at all sexual. I have a great time expressing myself strictly sexually with some and strictly emotionally with others. Not having to report to the same person every minute of the day is so liberating. The only time I get depressed is when I tell people I am single and they have a look in their eyes as if they feel sorry for me. I am in my early 20′s and it is society’s pressures that make me sad. I have so much love to give that I actually think its rather selfish to concentrate it all on one person. People tell me, you’ll change your mind when you find the right man…well I’ve been with a few good men, but none have made me happier than when I am surrounded by MULTIPLE people I love.

  11. crunktastic February 15, 2011 at 7:46 AM #

    I read this last week, CF. And I thought it was beautiful, but somehow I didn’t let these words do the work that you sent them out to do. So yesterday, I found myself alone on Valentine’s Day and sad, not because I prioritized my romantic relationships, but because I intentionally prioritized all the other wonderful relationships in my life…as you said in this piece though, these folks felt no responsibility to be there for me or for each other, precisely because our relationships aren’t romantic. And our inability to be there for each other has me feeling profoundly sad this morning. Like you, I am ambivalent about romantic relationships, and I intentionally cultivate strong platonic relationships, because I have the notion that these are the folks who will be there, long after romance has fled. I want a life full of all kinds of good relationships, and yet, my attempts on yesterday, to let folks know they were loved, and to a create a space of communion, went largely unrecognized and unappreciated, and certainly unused. I’m feeling some kind of way about that. And when I awoke this morning, I remembered your words, and they have so beautifully and fittingly articulated what is at stake for me in these relationships. And they have helped me make sense of what I experienced; it wasn’t malicious or intentional disregard; moreso, it was a lack of responsibility to grasp the magnitude of our interdependence. Among other things… Anyway, I am rambling, but I really needed to get these feelings off my chest. Your words have provided some much needed healing ground for doing so. Thank you.

  12. dantresomi February 21, 2011 at 8:01 AM #

    I have been married for over 10 years… and i agree sometimes we coupled folk can be some damning fools.

    I too, take issue with the fact that when folks get involved, they forget about EVERYONE and EVERYTHING…
    and then come back when things don’t work out

  13. Dena February 25, 2011 at 9:37 AM #

    Such a clear statement, and personal too! Thanks for writing this.

    I have put a lot of thought into the split between codependence and interdependence. Wrote a whole romance book where those thoughts are central, as a matter of fact. Many of the people who have read the book feel like the ending is compromised or weak because they’ve been trained to expect a monogamous happily-ever-after that isolates the two main characters…though family members are sometimes allowed a place…sigh.

    A great post that states an important truth.

  14. sharpie March 22, 2011 at 11:21 PM #

    Thank you for sharing this post. Some of your observations resonated with me – especially the critiques of society’s imposed expectations that (heterosexual) romantic partners take precedence over all other social bonds and your rightful dismissal of the pathologizing “single” people are often subject to (either from themselves or disapproving outside observers).

    However, as much as I wanted to feel you, I couldn’t help but wonder if you have ever actually been in love and experienced a substantial romantic relationship. I ask, because your musings sound more as if they are shaped by your observations of society and representations than observations derived from actual experience learning to love and be loved. Why create a false dichotomy between “co-dependent” monogamous romantic relationships and your “sexy”, “flirtatious” (and, no doubt, “enlightened”) conception of boundary-blurring, homie-lover-friend relationships? Do you realize/believe that inter-dependent, healthy, romantic partnership is possible — or have you simply not experienced it?

    I’ll be the first in line to testify that being in a romantic relationship and NOT being co-dependent is exceedingly difficult. Hell, being in any kind of intimate relationship (plantonic, romantic or otherwise) and still remaining fully within authentic Self, grounded in your own completeness, is probably a life-long struggle that we all learn through our experimentations in communing with and loving others, as we learn to more perfectly love and accept ourselves.

    I do not think there is anything wrong with preferring the “single” life or renouncing traditionally-conceived romantic partnerships. But I wonder whether your manifesto reflects how you really feel, or simply how you wish you felt. A few other thoughts:

    “Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal. “I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner” leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. “Forsaking all others” doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family. Why do mother-in-laws stay getting a bad rap?” — Of course you are right to criticize the bullsh*t “You complete me” representations of love we encounter.. but.. have you ever been in love or been loved? Have you ever moved from the immature, ridiculous idea that someone could complete you to the mature, exhilarating, transformative experience of actually loving someone (and yes, I mean romantically) from a place of wholeness?

    “I want to live in a world where there isn’t a hierarchy of relationships, where romantic love isn’t assumed to be more important than other kinds..” – First of all, I don’t think most people who have children privilege romantic love over the love they have for their kids. Secondly, most people who really have been in love and in partnered relationships know that having other kinds of relationships and sourcs of love outside of the couple goes hand-in-hand with maintaining a healthy dyad. Third: Why do you care so much what kind of “world” you live in, when it comes to your heart? You will never be satisified if you seek affirmation from exernal sources. I understand the frustration you feel when coupled-up friends look down on you or others (perhaps even yourself, if you’re honest) pathologize your “single-hood”.. but if you are so determined to create the polyamorous, boundary-blurring utopia you so desire, why don’t you move to one of the communities or enclaves you mentioned, if you haven’t already? Before you try to change the world, why not just start with changing your personal experience?

    ” I just wonder what it will take to get more of us to honestly evaluate the realities of our love and determine whether we are actually getting what we want. Love is abundant, not scarce. Why would we ever want to limit or narrow its flow?” – Why do you seem to think that commitment and monogamy “limit” the flow of love?

    Peace..

    - Sharpie

    • crunkashell March 27, 2011 at 12:20 AM #

      Hello Sharpie-

      I’m going to give answering some of your questions a shot.

      have you have ever actually been in love and experienced a substantial romantic relationship? have you ever been in love or been loved? Have you ever moved from the immature, ridiculous idea that someone could complete you to the mature, exhilarating, transformative experience of actually loving someone (and yes, I mean romantically) from a place of wholeness?

      I’m not actually going to answer these questions though I think if you re-read the piece you may find some answers. These questions seem to be about the validity of my words. There’s an implicit assumption that if I had been in a real romantic relationship, “loving someone from a place of wholeness” (I’m not sure I know what that means) I wouldn’t be saying what I am saying. In your reply you, seem to be saying that the relationships I describe are not “substantially romantic”. Is that because they aren’t monogamous? Aren’t always strictly labeled “partner”? I wonder about your wonder…

      Why create a false dichotomy between “co-dependent” monogamous romantic relationships and your “sexy”, “flirtatious” (and, no doubt, “enlightened”) conception of boundary-blurring, homie-lover-friend relationships?

      I don’t think I’m creating a false dichotomy I’m pointing out that there’s a real one. There is a difference between co-dependent compulsory monogamy and monogamy. I’m not bothered by the latter but the former enjoys an exalted space in our culture. I don’t know how “”enlightened”” (why the quotes? did I say that?)my relationships are but they are intentionally formed. Monogamy can act as a default, much like whiteness or heterosexuality when in truth there are a lot more possibilities.

      “First of all, I don’t think most people who have children privilege romantic love over the love they have for their kids.”

      Single mothers wouldn’t be so vilified if this were true. Nor would people have such difficulty getting out of abusive relationships if this were true.

      Secondly, most people who really have been in love and in partnered relationships know that having other kinds of relationships and sourcs of love outside of the couple goes hand-in-hand with maintaining a healthy dyad.

      I beg to differ. Everything about nuclear family construction is about one familial unit against the world. There may be room for some hired help but the state expects folks to work it out as individual families for the most part. If this were the case there wouldn’t be something known as the “second shift” for women.

      Third: Why do you care so much what kind of “world” you live in, when it comes to your heart?

      Um… because my heart lives in this world with me.

      Do you realize/believe that inter-dependent, healthy, romantic partnership is possible — or have you simply not experienced it?

      YES! that’s exactly what this post is about! It doesn’t have to only be a monogamous partnership for this to be true though.

      if you are so determined to create the polyamorous, boundary-blurring utopia you so desire, why don’t you move to one of the communities or enclaves you mentioned, if you haven’t already? Before you try to change the world, why not just start with changing your personal experience?

      I like my personal experience. I think the structures that limit peoples options are the issue at hand, not me.

      Why do you seem to think that commitment and monogamy “limit” the flow of love?

      Commitment and monogamy are not synonymous. Commitment does not exclude polyamory. I also didn’t talk about commitment in the piece specifically but the example I gave of the To The Other Side of Dreaming folks speaks to a living commitment to a partnership that is intimate, romantic but not sexual. Co-dependent monogamy assumes that romantic love can only flow in one direction at a time. I’m arguing that that isn’t always the case. A choice to be monogamous is one thing but compulsory monogamy is something else entirely.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • sharpie March 28, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

        Hey Crunkashell ! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer (some of) my queries. I have to concede that you called me out on some of the weak points I thought I was making, and more importantly, you’ve gotten me to think more about my implicit assumptions about monogamy and commitment. I’m going to have to meditate on this for a while :-)

  15. Marie March 28, 2011 at 3:28 PM #

    I just want to say thank you for writing this. You hit it perfectly, spot on. I agree with you completely. And this is very well-written!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Living Single « The Crunk Feminist Collective -- Topsy.com - February 7, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lisa Christina, Crunk Feminists. Crunk Feminists said: get crunk! Living Single: I hate the term single. Despite the fact that most of us come in to this world by ours… http://bit.ly/h38Gzw [...]

  2. Top Posts — WordPress.com - February 7, 2011

    [...] Living Single I hate the term single. Despite the fact that most of us come in to this world by ourselves and leave that way [...] [...]

  3. The Trouble with Valentine’s Day | (Making / Being in / Staying in) TROUBLE - February 13, 2011

    [...] intimacy, connection with others outside of heterosexual monogamy via marriage? Check out what the Zachari C has to write about it over at the Crunk Feminist Collective: I want to live in a world where there [...]

  4. singleparentsgroup.net » asexy beast: Singled Out (it's a book review, yo) - February 14, 2011

    [...] as a day to ceremony almighty Chocolate. However we applaud (or don’t), we should examination this overwhelming post that Lanafactrix showed me. we adore a title: Living Single, and was blissful to see that a author [...]

  5. I left my heart in… « Soy Renee - February 14, 2011

    [...] read this piece today about “Living Single” and I must say, power to the single people! Today, and for [...]

  6. Radical Valentine’s Day « Purple and Grey - February 15, 2011

    [...] Edited to add this link. So much yes. Uncategorized love, relationships, valentine's day ← The Gender [...]

  7. More on relationship hierarchies and singleness « Purple and Grey - February 15, 2011

    [...] To go along with my post from yesterday, I bring you this amazing article. [...]

  8. Article about relationship hierarchies and singleness « Purple and Grey - February 15, 2011

    [...] go along with my post from yesterday, I bring you this amazing article. I would try to say something profound about it, but I think it really speaks for itself: I want to [...]

  9. Love Awareness Day « shAdes atl - March 1, 2011

    [...] when I found myself reading the themed read for this week “Living Single” by Crunkashell on crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com, I found myself relating to the [...]

  10. On Watoto From The Nile- Letter to Lil Wayne « The Crunk Feminist Collective - March 3, 2011

    [...] misses his own belief in narrow gender roles for men and women. The song disparages Wayne for being single and seems to imply that ideally he should be married or that if he was acting right he would be. [...]

  11. BlackPrideNetwork » Blog Archive » (VIDEO) "Letter to Lil Wayne" — Young Black Girls on Misogyny in Hip-Hop - March 10, 2011

    [...] his possess faith in slight gender roles for group and women. The strain disparages Wayne for being single and seems to indicate that ideally he should be married or that if he was behaving right he would [...]

  12. A blog you should be reading: Crunk Feminist Collective - March 22, 2011

    [...] crunkashell on the pressure to partner: And yet, there’s something really real about co-dependence in a culture that doesn’t value [...]

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers

%d bloggers like this: