Thursday, September 29, 2005

Intellectual Musings

Am reading a most-interesting book right now called, The New Single Woman, by E. Kay Trimberger. In it, she does intense interviews with a sample of long-term single women (mostly in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s) about their experiences with being single and their attitudes about their lives. Trimberger makes the claim that a part of the problem is that there is no recognition of the single woman (as opposed to the carefree single girl, looking for love) but she is out there. Society defines coupledom as the ideal (heck, as the only) option, and anyone who doesn't achieve a state of coupledom is somehow a failure. The notion of finding a "Soul Mate" is potentially damaging to a single woman's sense of self. Really, being single is just viewed as a stopover to coupledom and not a valid way of living. But the writer claims that these women have the most fulfilling lives: they create communities of friends and families; they have jobs they enjoy; they own homes and have hobbies and give to their communities; they achieve intimacy -- whether sexual or emotional or intellectual -- in a variety of ways.

It gets me thinking about myself. I've been researching and writing about solitude for several months now (book option, anyone???) and while I've spent some time removing myself from my comfort zone, from my friends and family, in a conscious attempt to confront living and being alone, what I've found seems to really mirror what Trimberger is saying: that you're never really alone unless you choose to be; that being single does not have to destin one to a life of freakdom or miserty or alienation. It sounds so simple when I say it in the abstract, and yet, actually achieving a contented single life? Well, that's another story. I'll let you know when I figure that one out.


Blogger Jules said...

It sounds like a really interesting book. I'll have to try to pick up a copy.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Julia said...


It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately too, being single for the first time, living alone, holed up watching SATC and the girls discussing it. I didn't think I would like it, but I love it. I know it's early days, and I'm young, but whatever. I love it. I am genuinely content. I can't remember living any differently, and when I tell people I'm happy they nod but you can see they view my situation as a stopover on the way to something more ideal.

Here is what a long-term single male friend wrote to me on the issue:

But sometimes you do get to like being solo - I worry always that I
enjoy it too much, & the idea of living alone is so appealing that I almost engineer my relationships so that they're never going to last - or is that just an excuse?

We are a rare species though, I see so much anguish and Charlottes out there, all pining for someone - anyone! - to rescue them. Blegh. Live it up.

6:44 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

The writer talks about how even the possibility that there is a coupling in the future skews women's perceptions; it fills them with hope and takes them off the path of self-realization and autonomy. It's not bashing coupledom, but just acknowledging that for some women, coupledom (especially permanent coupledom) simply does not happen. And yet you still have to learn how to live a fulfilling life.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really have to pick up that book. Jules referred me to your blog and the issue of singledom is so prevalent in today's society and at times, for me at least, can be overwhelming. I think the issue really needs to be explored more, in that I feel society and lifestyles have evolved but we're still 'judging' ourselves on antiquated views of 'woman' and 'success'. I'm about to turn 35, I have two master's degrees and have studied at Oxford, I absolutely love what I do for a living and earn more than all of the women I know (however, personally I feel as though I've hit the glass ceiling), I am single, but am involved with two men (and continue to pine for one other)'s not a cookie cutter of an ideal female life, but it's my life and I am happy with it. But why, with all of this, do I still feel as though I've failed?

6:43 AM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

Hi there! Welcome! I think what you said really speaks to what the book is about -- it's YOUR life and nobody else's; where's the social acceptance for the choices you've made?

We are a generation of women conflicted, that's for sure. Hopefully you'll find the book helpful.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know a woman in her early 40's now who led a single life. She had short term relationships, sure.
But she DID make to uh... maturedom? happily single and instead of creating a life as a couple, she has many intellctual and artistic friends throughout the country that she visits when not living in her own happy home in northern michigane.

I love her perspective on human existence, as well. It's refreshingly different.

anyway, good news, it happens!


10:35 PM  

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