Or, the strong case for being single
By L. Stewart Marsden
“I can live alone,
if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do.
I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me,
which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld,
or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”
— Charlotte Brontë
My dad, hard-working and successful as the world judges, often complained that society had gotten retirement backwards.
“We should be retired when we are young,” he contended. “When we are physically and mentally able to enjoy travel and explore the world. Not when we are old and feeble, and need walkers and oxygen tanks to go from here to there.”
That sentiment came as a result of going to South America, and because of his back and his nagging bursitis, he little enjoyed the trip.
Of course, he was in the generation that built wealth over time, not the current fast-food mentality work generation that hops onto new tech ideas and retires before age 30.
He had a point. Anyone much over the age of 65 knows that travel baggage now comes packed with more pills and prescriptions than changes of clothing.
What about marriage, then?
I believe we are headed in a direction which is slowly becoming the reversal of the way it’s always been — or seems to have been.
Get married young. Straight out of high school or college. Have lots and lots of babies to ensure the generations. Grow old and thrive in the mulit-parenthood levels — parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc.
Now few jump into long-term anything anymore. Relationships. Marriages. Careers. It’s all based on the feeling and the moment. And when the feelings and the moments lag or worse, so does the relationship. Then, leave the relationship, the marriage, and/or the career.
I want my burger and fries now. Ever see someone pull angrily out of a care line at a fast food place and drive off, tires burning rubber, because of the wait time?
More than half all marriages in America end in divorce.
In my parents’ day, divorce was a dirty word.
Not now. Now it’s a contractual escape clause.
The generations that have grown up with divorce — experiencing its trickle-down effect — are more circumspect. Willing to live with someone for years, they hesitate to commit. Who knows why? Maybe the weight of the “M” word and what they have come to know about it is the reason.
Certainly having babies is no motivation to tie the knot. But I digress.
Women are exploring careers, and having babies is a consideration tabled for a date that is increasingly later in life. Adoption is in fashion (not that I have anything against it, other than there seem to be enough adoptable children who live in America than to go traipsing half-way around the world).
Men are … Well, men are morphing into house-husbandry — taking on domestic duties at a rapid rate of growth.
And as independent a direction as our culture seems to be herding today’s men and women toward, matching and mating remain primal needs. It’s in the DNA.
If you are currently a bachelor, you know how it is. Everyone — but you — is either married, living together, or dating.
Bachelor = odd man (or woman) out.
There is now a slug of 50 percent residue from broken marriages — maybe (as in my case) several marriages — that are trying to figure out what the hell to do with themselves.
You women who are widows — who found THAT guy and endured many decades of marriage — know what I’m about to say. For you, the habit of marriage and being in a relationship is tantamount to life support. There are a few widowers out there, and my understanding is by and large women dominate this group numerically.
I’ve been married the majority of my adult life — about 40 years. Not to the same person, but pretty evenly split between two exes. That’s becoming more common, as I understand it.
Fear of solitude
EVERY person who has exited a relationship — regardless of good, bad, or indifferent — comes to the realization he or she knows NOTHING about how to enter into a new relationship. This is knee-jerk, as is that desperate need to be back into a relationship. Never mind whether being single could be a good thing. It’s like a non-swimmer being caste into water and being told “Swim!” The alternative is either learn to swim immediately, or sink and die.
Add to the dilemma that at every turn, family, friends and others are constantly assessing your singleness as bad, and their solution is quick, find somebody! Or sink and die.
If singleness and bachelorhood (both genders) is not stigmatic, why in the name of Cupid are there so many online dating/matching sites and services? And why is the viewing nation so preoccupied with such “reality” shows as “The Bachelor,” or “The Bachelorette,” or “The First Kiss?” Does anyone in their right mind think that Dirk is going to have a lasting relationship by an elimination game where every courtesan is an emotional wreck by the time the season is completed?
Who watches this stuff?
Then I realize that, sometimes, when channel-surfing, I do.
Oh the shame of it all!
The urge to conquer and commit wanes with diminishing libido
It’s one of those inverse relationships that is sad, but true. Hence Viagra. When you are a young buck, you have thoughts of sex every seven seconds. Or that’s what I heard. I don’t know how they figured that out. As time passes, I suppose that changes to seven minutes, then seven hours, seven days, seven months …
I heard a joke about the frequency of sex in a marriage:
- Try weekly
- Try weakly
Doesn’t apply to Hugh Hefner, probably.
When you are in your late 50s or 60s, your primal concerns revolve more around getting up in the morning, and less about getting it up.
I could go on. But I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.
We are called the Mature. Not old or elderly anymore. Mature. I can remember my mother wondering will I ever mature and get out of my adolescence.
Well, Ma — I’m now mature!
For those 50 percenters who stayed married and grew old together, they’ve assimilated to a lifestyle that includes the other. Whatever the day’s activities are, they do it together. In fact, there is some research to suggest the individuals of a long-term relationship begin to physically resemble each other.
The rest of us, now mature and with no one that even remotely resembles us, are left to contend with that urge, albeit socially manufactured, to re-mate and avoid being conspicuously single.
My question is why?
My grandmother’s husband died a month before I was born. She remained a widow into her late 50s, when she met my Step-Grandfather and they married. It was complicated enough. He had a law practice that specialized in title searches. She was a good Norwegian-stock woman with a sharp eye, tongue and wit. And she could cook reasonably well. He brought to the marriage an adopted son, who must have had major Native American stock genetically. All of my grandmother’s kids were married with children.
The dynamic — as mundane as it was — still bordered on challenging.
Today, with multiple divorces and remarriages and re-divorces and children and step-children and dogs and cats and lifestyles to merge? Whew!? It’s damn daunting!
So, again … Why?
Why not embrace bachelorhood (both genders) and decree that no longer shall “mature” single folk be referred to as spinsters, or worse?
After all, 70 is the new 50, right?
Read Brontë’s quote again. Makes sense.
Therefore, ergo, thus … I’m on the verge of declaring myself a permanent bachelor. After all, with 40 years of marriage already under my belt, I deserve the niceties, privacies and uncomplicated benefits of living alone.
And, yes, I’ll embark on that quest just as soon as I check to see who my weekly online matches are (which is another subject altogether).