Last week, Heeb ran an essay entitled The Bright Side of Being Single, in which author Alison Stevenson illuminated a few of the benefits of avoiding committed relationships. As a woman who’s been hitched for X number of years–long enough to have two in-wedlock children in elementary school–I was gratified to see so many Facebook-likes for the post. Yet I’m concerned that some of Ms. Stevenson’s fans might think she was only joking or that if you fall in love with the “right person” her valuable insights no longer apply. Since nobody was dying in any of the emails I received this week, I’m breaking from this column’s usual format to show you the back view of Stevenson’s sage arguments instead. Our country’s high divorce rate vastly understates the number of married people who wind up wishing they were single. At one point or another we all do.
Knowing the Other Person
Stevenson’s first complaint, after bemoaning her mother’s entreaties to join JDate, is that coupledom requires learning a lot of useless information about each other, which the mind retains long after you break up. Well, imagine not just bursting with picayune realities but being constantly, irritatingly reminded of them. Your husband leaves his dirty underwear on the floor–you need this reiterated twice a week when he showers? As for the reward for your spinning head that Stevenson cites, the privilege of smelling your beloved’s farts, with age and increasing resentment they smell worse.
Sure, breaking up sucks and may lead to drunken sexting and regrettable promiscuity. If you’re lucky. If you’re married with children it precipitates financial ruin, your children’s math scores plummeting (the psychological damage has already been done), and awkward moments with your ex in the principal’s office after your son hacks a school computer to watch porn (true story, thankfully not mine). In a divorce, drunken sexting is replaced by mandatory contact for years to come, and promiscuity is confined to your dreams. And should you choose to stay together, you’re not simply biding your time chugging vodka, as Alison describes. You’re waiting for one of you to die.
Focusing on Important Life Crap
Stevenson kvetches that when love strikes she gets goofy and forgets to pay the rent. An angry landlord is the high point–enjoy it while it lasts, Millennials. Stick with it too long, however, and you’ll forget who you are. I mean were, since your old self will no longer exists. Your identity becomes whose turn it is to take out the trash (more on this in a moment). Admittedly, there is some benefit to not walking around all day stalked by your buried dreams. But snag a moment of peace and they rear up and taunt you. Enjoy your massage.
Taking Out the Trash
Today’s man does his share of housework–if a coffee mug equals a sink full of dishes. Taking out the trash is not the same as serving breakfast and packing lunches five mornings a week while your daughters complain that their socks hurt (true story, affectionately mine) in a dark kitchen because the lone family member tall enough to reach the bulb refuses to change it, because you didn’t leave the window open according to his exact specifications, because you tripped over his shoes in the dining room, because etc. Married people inflict mutual misery and suffer together, at least.
In her thousand-plus-word ode to unattachedness Stevenson mentions sex only once–to contrast modern hookup culture against our grandparents going steady. She isn’t worried about retaining a guy in her life to help with orgasms. Vibrators, shmibrators; singles get laid more than married people. Period. New couples get it on the most, but even people who don’t have fuck-buddies, who rely on one-night stands, who need a pair of beer goggles to score, score more often–on average–than folks with all their eggs in the same old basket.
The best part of a relationship is the beginning…. Breaking up sucks less if the relationship was short…. Variety is the spice of life…. You do the math. I’m not against shacking up–it’s impossible to regret if you make a baby (and are minimally sane). Just please don’t squander your singledom by focusing on the downs.
You’ll be the rare person who listened.