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The Power of Being Single

If we're living through a new golden age of the single person, why does pop culture make us feel so unhappy about it?

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I’m putting myself out there as fodder, partly because I do think arguments are more convincing if you personalize them and stand behind them. People attack me for being bitter or not being mature enough to truly commit or being an ivory tower elitist because I’m a professor. It’s incredibly antagonistic because people are fighting for the legitimacy of this thing that they see as so important and they see me critiquing them specifically. But what I’m actually doing is critiquing the institutions and the hierarchy and the prominence of it, not necessarily the actual experience of being someone who’s being involved or not involved.

I was in this relationship for most of the time I was writing this book and it drove people crazy because I was supposed to be this thing I was writing about. They wanted to invalidate me because I wasn’t practicing what I preach. And again, even since the book has been to press I’ve had heartbreaks and relationships and also long periods and long stretches of being on my own, and I’m finding neither condition to be the  cure-all. But by asserting “I’m single right now and I’m happy and I have all sorts of fulfilling relationships, interests and activities” I’m creating a conversation about this thing, singleness, that has no official language or culture or history.

I was very happily single for most of the first five years I lived in New York, and almost all of my group of friends were single too. Now I’m in a relationship, which was a little awkward at first, mostly because it involved renegotiating my relationships with my happily single friends, and I was paranoid about creating resentments by, for example, talking too much about my boyfriend.

That probably comes from the fact that couples culture wins every time, so the resentment is that now you’ve become “legitimate.” So the perception is [that you're going to say], “I’m still going to be your friend and I’m going to try to be respectful that you’re in this damned condition even though you’re happy about it.” Hopefully you’ve determined that your relationship doesn’t invalidate the earlier [single] history you had, and they’re simply different moments in your life. You’re most likely the same person you were.

I think that’s very true.

What I’m saying is: You’re still a mess.

Ha. Awesome.

Thomas Rogers is Salon's former Arts Editor. He has written for the Globe & Mail, the Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at @thomasmaxrogers.

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