Throwback Thursday: Living Single

Today’s Throwback Thursday has me digging up a piece I didn’t claim as mine before. I don’t like to get personal on here because some of y’all don’t know how to act. Also, I’m still working out the importance of emotions and expressing them. This may be a lifelong process.

I wrote living single at a time when I was thinking about how I do relationships of all kinds and if its sustainable. Many concerns that I raised remain but there are also updates.

Mia and Stacey made it to the Bay and have been documenting the very real and hard work of seeing what is on the other side of dreaming. They are also doing work to spread communication skills to their community to help folks strengthen their relationships. I’m also energized by the amazing toolkit produced by Creative Interventions that provides practical resources and practices for dealing with interpersonal violence without the state. Both of these projects remind me that the communities we live in have an important role to play in how we do relationships. The stronger our communities, the better our relationships, romantic, platonic and in between.

__________________________________________________

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 their brilliance to the piece.

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

 

 

 

 

moyazb

moyabailey.com

9 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Living Single

  1. Congratulations Moya for owning your work. This is a truly necessary conversation as we age and the rules of past generations no longer apply. Interdependence has definitely worked better for me and unfortunately I have encountered romantic partners who could not grasp that I may have had more emotional intimacy or richer interactions with friends, and that those friends were not going anywhere because of said romantic partnership. We must embrace a larger scope of relating as a community as opposed to forcing ourselves into the narrow confines of the current social vocabulary.

  2. I found your posting quite interesting. I have 1 yr to go before my 2nd and last kid is gone (1 in college and the last starting the college process). Been a sgl parent for 15 yrs. (and I do mean single – no boyfriends, no dates, no ‘special friends’, etc.) Made the conscious decision 15 yrs ago to be a mom that was fully present for her kids rather than searching for a mate that tries to squeeze kids into the pix. Now I’m wondering “what about me”? I don’t regret my decision – I’ve got 2 kids that are well adjusted, smart, healthy, thriving and walking the straight and narrow (cuz they know Mom don’t play!). But now I wonder, where to go from here (clearly, I didn’t think 15+ yrs ahead!). Quite scared, slightly excited and a bit unsure.

    Things change year after year, much less after 15 yrs. Not sure about doing the marriage thing again, but maybe single ain’t so bad. We have many more options now than we did years ago and the stigma has lessened or been erased for some lifestyles. Since everyone has a story, you really can’t judge how folks decide to live their lives – I can see that more clearly as I get closer to being childless. I know that in in the end, ‘you gotta do you’ – whatever ‘you’ may be. Straight, queer, bi, tri, committed, playa, etc. In the end, it really does take a village and YOUR village is what you make it. When in need, you’d be surprised at what actually comprises Your Village. In that vain, I look forward to seeing who is really in MY Village.

  3. from my experience in this world, this is much more of an american thing than in other places, and it isn’t unrelated to other alienating constructs around space and proximity we have here, from the hatred of public transit in favor of cars to the need for huge homes over apartments. i strongly feel that in other places in the world, there’s a space for adults to go out at night, mingle with different ages and generations at bars without seeming “weird” or over the hill (and i’m talking as a 32 year old, not as an older person) and for there to generally be more fluid movements between dating, being in a couple and being “single” rather than being characterized as such.

    however the flip side of (my personal observations as a straight male) is that, with this ostensible freedom comes a reinforcement of other potential power sources, including the big one for me, sexism and machismo… i feel that it would be much more acceptable – from female and male friends, from family – to be with prostitutes and cheat (yes, i’m talking from a heteronormative postion) in a country like brazil or argentina, for example, than it would be here. the “boys will be boys” effect, which is at minimum impolitic here, is explicitly and grandly encouraged there by very prominent role models.

    that’s one example, and i’m not saying the two are necessarily related or consequential. i too long for a world where i can just be with my friends, my partners or neither without having the stigma of not having achieved something… and i say this, again, as a straight white male who doesn’t endure anywhere near anything people of color, and especially women of color, sustain in this country and in our world. i guess the point of this rambling comment is that to focus on these things we also need to think about how we physically divide ourselves from others, not just emotionally or existentially.

  4. After my last recent break up. I’ve come to the realization that being single is great because relationships ALWAYS end at some point, whether its through break up, divorce, or, death. So spare yourself the heartache, sleepless nights, complete avoidance of places you’ve been to “get over” him or her, and just stay single until you’re six feet under.

  5. “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 have uttered this sentiment many times over the years as I attempt to develop a social support network in a new-ish (5 years) city. I thought I’d made some pretty good friends in the last city I lived in only to realize that new friends and romantic endeavors would prevent them from keeping in touch after I moved despite my best efforts to do so.

    I don’t have a relationship with my birth family and the only people from my past-which are friends, not relatives- live across the country.

    My partner and I are waiting until same-sex couples obtain the right to marry before we get married and the fact that if something were to happen to me (despite having an advance directive) that my family would be contacted. I haven’t spoken to them in ten years.

    I am a straight woman of color with a live-in primary partner of 6 years and despite being here for 5 years and actively working to develop a social support network (albeit while attending school) I have one person who is willing to set aside a day of the month as our day to spend time together. I’ve been trying to cultivate something like this for years and everyone is hesitant either because of severe introversion, a disdain for planning, or the fact that they want to keep a lot of their time open for future romantic partners. Even the poly people here seem to operate under the assumption that people can’t become important until they’ve at least tried dating. I remember one guy in particular who flat out told me (after trying to date me this came up in a conversation where I laid out what dating means to me) that he did not have time for a “significant” friendship. Oh, but we can have sex and there is an unclarified assumption that the act holds no significance for me as a survivor. I see.

    Polyamorous people are just as bad at this as monogamous folks. One of the draws to poly for me was to meet a community of people who a. are good at scheduling and b. value connections and relationships outside of their primary relationship.

    This has been the case maybe 2% of the time. It seems as if poly people are worse because they feel justified to just jump into bed with someone and if you don’t want to do this then you have ‘hang ups’ that are steeped in monogamy/patriarchal society. As a polyamorous woman of color who lives in a predominantly white city I don’t feel like I’ve found my people and I don’t feel empowered-although polyamory is supposedly empowering for women-I feel more isolated and alienated than I ever have. I hate the assumption that polyamory empowers women. That is bullshit. It empowers certain women just like any other social advancement.

    I hate the assumptions that people make that just because I am in a relationship that I do not want a significant relationship (be it platonic or romantic) they don’t even see that as a possibility because of my relationship status. Despite the fact that the majority of the time I see my friends it’s just them and I, they still make assumptions even though I work to develop relationships and maintain relationships that are independent of my romantic partnership. Everyone assumes that just because I’m a straight woman that all I want to do is get married and have babies despite the fact that my partner and I have been very vocal about not wanting to do either of those things.

  6. “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 … 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…
    “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… 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’m an avid reader of the blog, but I’ve never commented. But I just had to say I’m so glad that you re-posted this. When I first came across it last year, you took me all the way to the Amen corner! (So much so that I literally printed it out & posted it on my fridge – and told everyone on facebook why):

    “YES!!!! Amen! I might go post this on my refrigerator – actually not maybe, I’m printing it out right now! I need a world where I can STAND in love, not fall out of my wits in it. And that’s not about fear of losing control. Rather, I want a love I can be grounded by and in, love with fortitude that acts as a mooring – not something that sets me adrift. I need a place where the many different shades of how I love who I love when I love (and yes, I love hard) are accepted (& expected!) by society, my network and indeed, the people themselves (being affectionate does not always = being in love, but just because I’m not “in” love doesn’t mean that how I do care/appreciate/love (you) is insignificant or any less essential to my fulness of being).

    I want a model of relationships, of love – and the significance of each in my life – that is bigger, wider, greater than our bounded notions of singleness, friendship or coupledom. I want, I need, a world that can hold an understanding of love, and the relationships in which we share it, that no longer needs to classify, delimit and categorize the myriad expressions of love of which we’re capable. I guess what I am saying is that I need the freedom to have and sculpt relationships that are as expansive … well, that are as expansive as I am… and I am vast. And the models we have now, they simply are not enough.”

    I thought of this post again more recently, though, when I came across this saying posted on a friend’s wall: “Single doesn’t mean lonely. Single means you are preparing for the arrival of a better love.” I know these sayings are well-meaning, but reading it made me realize that beyond what you pointed out about the judgment & stigmatization attached to singleness, isn’t just about the state of being single, but there are also unrealistic constraints & limitations placed on HOW we experience it.

    We’re deemed odd, broken, delusional if we’re happy being single; yet we also get shamed for acknowledging that sometimes, for some of us, it’s not a desired state – and pressured to deny or put a positive spin on any longing we feel in the process of living single. No – single doesn’t mean lonely, and yes it certainly can be a process of “getting ready” for some folk (definitely not all), but sometimes that process, those circumstances (certain Tuesdays & Thursday in the process of those circumstances), CAN be lonely. And to deny that is not only fallacious – it’s disheartening, mainly in that we feel compelled to treat loneliness as if it has to be a reluctant admission/confession rather than a simple statement of our feelings – the way we say we’re happy/angry/tired/bored/ecstatic, etc. I look forward to the day when we can say and acknowledge that fact without burdening ourselves issue of shame/guilt. We have just as much a right to feel lonely as we do anything else; it doesn’t make us pitiful or in any way lacking. There has to be a space, we have to GIVE ourselves space, to hold all of our feelings, in all their shades & complexities & nuances, without pretense or diminishment. It *does* get lonely … *lonely* some time. But experiencing loneliness isn’t an indictment on having a full life – they aren’t mutually exclusive.

    More importantly, until we can acknowledge and INSIST on that fact, being uncoupled (un-partnered, not yet engaged/married, divorced, etc.) will continue to be marginalized and relegated to a second-class, subordinate position (and we single folks will be complicit in perpetuating that marginalization). Being single is a state of being just as legitimate & valuable as being coupled (in any form) – whether it’s temporary or permanent, by circumstance or choice.

    Anyway, sorry for writing a novel, thanks for re-posting … & here’s to being single (for now or forever), having a full life AND feeling moments of loneliness while yearning for the many ways that life will continue to grow in its expanse.

Support the CFC! Donate Today!

Thank you to our Generous Supporters!

Email us at crunkfeminists@gmail.com to find out how you can become a supporter.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,705 other subscribers

Follow me on Twitter

Blog Topics