Tag: marriage

My Imaginary Husband

imaginary husband

So today was an interesting day at church.  It started with an early meeting with my bishop and  a surprise release from my calling as Relief Society secretary.  It was a bit of a bittersweet moment for me because on one hand I felt relief because it frees up a lot of time (at least until the next responsibility comes along).  The reason they released me is they dissolved the whole presidency.  They did not give me a new calling so your guess is as good as mine.  I’d love if they called me to be a teacher.  (As stressed out as I’d get teaching I still learned a lot).

Then we went to sacrament meeting and had one of those ‘when I was a boy’ talks where old people berate the incarnate modern times while waxing nostalgic about their television, movies, music etc.  (Remind me to never do that when I’m 80).  The truth is every generation has its good sides and bad sides.   After all, blacks and whites couldn’t get married or go to the same pools when he was a teenager, so it hasn’t all gone down hill.  Sigh…

Then we had Sunday School which was academic but fine and relief society.  I was busy as we got things started and then had the lesson which was on marriage.  Now, I have no problem with a lesson on marriage.  Everything is not about me after all.  However, this focused on ‘keeping the romance alive’.  How exactly do I keep the romance alive with a relationship I don’t have?  She even went so far as to give tips on writing love notes to your husband and talking about her vow renewals in Africa and Tahiti (I thought vow renewals were discouraged by the church.  Who knew?).

Anyway, I normally wouldn’t care but for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way.  I let a tear out during closing prayer and tried to sneak out but my visiting teaching companion saw me and was inspired to offer words of encouragement.  She’s normally not a super cuddly person so I knew her thoughts were sincere, and I was very grateful that she followed the spirit.

As I was thinking about the women talking about their husbands and how one brought them breakfast in bed every weekend and another always did the dishes, I started to wonder what I would want in a husband.  I guess thinking about what you’d like to have seems less melancholy than what you don’t.

One of my pet peeves is when I say something like ‘I’d like to marry a Republican’ and my friends say ‘Oh, I bet that means you’ll marry a Democrat’.  This is very annoying.  Yes, I get that he probably won’t be anything like I think but am I supposed to have no idea what I’m looking for because if I do I will get the opposite?  This doesn’t seem logical to me.

How do you find it if you haven’t given it some thought?

I look at it like searching for a house (although even more frustrating).  When househunting I had a list of must-haves.  Over time, about 3/10 of those must-haves didn’t come to fruition, but I don’t think creating the list was a bad idea.  It helped me get the 7/10 and some things I didn’t know I wanted.

So, it begs the question- what would my imaginary husband be like? Here goes nothing:

I think he would be kind if a little obstinate, have opinions on things and be open to discussion (I used to know a guy who had no opinions on anything, such a turnoff), he gives good hugs and has a nice smile, he probably likes the outdoors more than me but we can go to a lake and he can set up camp while I swim.

He loves God and tries his best to be a good man and worthy priesthood holder.  He leans conservative and is interested in learning/talking about the world and new things.  He is ok with the fact we might not be able to have our own kids.

He is willing to do laundry and doesn’t care that I hate to iron.

I imagine he comes from a big, loud family like my own, or at the least can relate when I love them and when they are driving me nuts.  He lets me have time with my girls and he can do his own thing.  He comes to my recitals or my swim meets even if he hates them.  I will come to his events even if they are deadly dull.  We both watch movies, TV and sports together.

Most importantly he loves me and when we fight (which I imagine will be somewhat explosive!) we still know that our marriage is eternal and our commitment is above any such squabbles.

Overly-simplistic? Yes.  Unrealistic? Yes. The only way to stay sane? Yes.

President Eyring has a talk called The Law of Increasing Returns where he talks about how some harvests are immediate and some late, requiring great faith.  It can defy human nature to keep ‘working and waiting with nothing seeming to come of it’.  He speaks eloquently about the moment of frustrations some of us have when we decide ‘what’s the use?’.  ‘I seem to be giving too much and getting too little’.

One of his words of wisdom for dealing with late harvest is to create a picture of what you are working for.  I just love this (seriously everyone should read this talk):

“You rarely can have a photograph of that future for which you now sacrifice, but you can get pictures. Years ago, near the time of that sacrament meeting, it occurred to me that I would sometime perhaps have a family. I even joked about them, calling them “the red heads.” My mother’s hair had been red when she was young. I certainly didn’t think the idea of red heads was inspiration, just an idea. But more than once that picture was enough to make me work, and wait.

If all my four sons were here tonight, you would see two blond heads and two red ones. In a kitchen chat one evening, one of them said to me he’d not mind exchanging red hair for beach-boy blond. I just smiled. All dads may think their sons are handsome, but I would not exchange his red hair, nor my early vision of it, for spun gold.

It’s not wise to daydream, and I’m not recommending it. If you girls dream too much about a house or a car, some poor man will someday have to get it for you. But I recommend a little thought, not about things or places but about people.”

So, yes my imaginary husband is ridiculous but I agree with President Eyring that it is wise to have a picture of what you are working hard to achieve.  Perhaps it makes disappointment more acute but I don’t know? If I have no idea what I am looking for does that not leave me more open to being disappointed?   Regardless, it is the only way to do things.  Not to be living in the stars but to have a goal, an image, a picture of who someday I might get a love note from and who I can give lessons about our great love in church…. (Remind me not to do that either!)

I Hate Love Songs

love songs

Ok that really isn’t true.  I am all about love songs, but sometimes I hate them.  Sometimes I want to scream at the radio with impatience and frustration.

My single friends- don’t you sometimes feel like there is this big part of life you are missing out on?  Like there is an inside joke that everyone elsegets but you?  I know I do.  So much of what you see in movies, music, theater and novels centers around romantic affection, whether it is lust, infatuation, break ups or constancy.  Now before you start reassuring me that marriage isn’t so great and that I should be grateful to be single, ask yourself this would you want to be in my shoes, for real?

I am not wanting to seem ungrateful but sometimes I worry that I will miss out on this big part of being human.  If you were to believe the media a persons sexuality is the most important part of who they are (hogwash if you ask me) so where does that leave me? I’m happy with my life but at times it feels like I’m missing out.  (I know I’m being repetitive but I can’t think of any other way to say it).

I am not writing this to engender a pity party.  I’m just being honest and admitting that sometimes I feel sad that I don’t get to experience romantic love, or that I haven’t too this point.  I guess I get tired of pretending like it doesn’t affect me or that I’m not allowed to feel sad about it because “other people have it way worse”.  If that were a valid reason for not feeling emotion,  nobody would feel sad about anything ever, and that’s not human.

So I’ll just say it- most of the time I am fine being single, but sometimes I feel sad.  There you go.

Most of all I wish there was something I could do.  Like some big secret I could learn that everyone else has figured out but I haven’t been clued into.  I meet people who seem to be so difficult and yet their lives have been full of romantic affection.  It makes me wonder what they are doing and I am not doing?  I know there is no answer to this question and it is all in God’s hands, but still I hope I’m not doing anything to make it not happen. I worry about that sometimes

When it comes down to it I wish I had control, but I don’t.  I wish I could have all the blessings of a temple marriage but it’s not looking good right now (haven’t been on a date in months).  Again, don’t feel sorry for me.  I’m just trying to be honest about how I feel at times.

It seems natural to me that I would have moments of longing for a partner. Doesn’t everyone want love and companionship? I’m no different.

Basically, I would like to fall in love and get married.  I’d like to have companionship.  I’d like to get married in the temple.  I’d like to see how I’d do in a relationship because I think I’d be pretty great.

Am I wallowing in it? I don’t think so, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my moments of envy, regret and sadness at my single life.  Not as much as some girls, but I am human, and I feel all emotions in my own way.  Sometimes it seems like it is not socially acceptable to feel sad, frustrated, angry, remorseful and that those feelings are explained away or not taken seriously.  I get that dwelling on them doesn’t help things but to pretend like they don’t exist isn’t helpful.

So, yes, sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes being single sucks.  Sometimes I long for a kiss goodnight or a squeeze of my hand from a person who really loves me.  Sometimes I feel sad, angry, upset and melancholy.  I know God is looking out for me and all will be well but I do feel the full scope of human emotions and deal with them in the best way I can.

There I said it.

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Myths About Being Single

So this might seem a little random but over the last few months I’ve wanted to write a post on the greatest myths many married people have about being single.

1. Myth #1- “You’re single so you get to hang out with your girlfriends whenever you want”.  Sometimes I think there is this illusion that the singles life is Sex and the City without the sex (well without the sex for the Mormon singles!).  Me and my 3 galpals hanging out and gallivanting around town at our hearts content.  The truth is about 80% of my friends are married with kids and most of the time I’m so exhausted from work and other responsibilities that watching TV or heating up a microwave meal is all I can do.  I would say I get 1-2 (maybe more in the summer) nights with friends in a month, which may be more than those with small kids but still its not like I’m partying it up all the time.

2. Myth #2- “You don’t have kids so you must have lots of extra money”.  I found this attitude pervasive with recent events.  The attitude seems to be ‘well, you’re single so you must have money to hire movers’.  In reality married people statistically are wealthier and healthier than their single counterparts.  Even if you don’t have a two income household, in most marriages you have two people managing the budget and making decisions.  Plus, everything is more expensive for just one person.  Food is more, taxes are more, rent is more etc.

3. Myth #3- “You must have tons of free time because you don’t have kids”.  Well, this may be marginally true but between work and other obligations my time gets full, and I usually can’t skip off at a moments notice just because I don’t have kids.  I try to help where I can and working from home makes me more available than some singles, but my time seems to fly away as fast as anyone else. I’ve actually had people sign me up for things without asking me first- assuming I can do them because I’m single and carefree and can easily find the time.  Not always true.

4.  Myth #4- “You must get tons of sleep because you don’t have kids”.  I deal with insomnia and on a few occasions when I have mentioned being tired to my friends with kids the claws come out.  I have no right to be tired because they have kids and are up all night.  I totally get that, but I sincerely do feel tired.  Really.  Can’t we all be sympathetic of eachother’s tiredness? This one is more in humor as I know I’d be a total grump if I had kids and was up all night.

5. Myth #5- “You’re single. You must travel all the time”.  Now I do travel more than most of my married friends but it isn’t as easy as one might think.  First of all, as a single you have nobody to travel with which means you must either go alone or corral someone to go with you.  The latter can be easier said than done.  A couple of years ago I had tickets to Hawaii and everyone bailed on me so instead of going alone (I had never been before so was nervous about going alone) I visited family.

Going alone is certainly an option but not for everyone and it wouldn’t be my first choice (I’ve traveled alone on several occasions and its fine but a little drab).  Also, you can pay more when traveling alone as single occupancy is almost always more expensive than double.  The other thing is that most of us are working and get limited vacation hours so traveling isn’t as accessible as it may appear.  Last year I had to use my vacation hours to visit my family.

6. Myth #6- “You are so lucky because you get to do everything just the way you want”. This can be a big benefit to being single.  For instance, I got to pick out my own wall color, furniture, light fixtures etc.  If I wanted to have a big party with a cake I could without discussing it with anyone else.  However, this has a bad side too.  You have all the pressure of every decision on you.  There is no partner to discuss situations with or lighten the load.  Something like which loan to get or how much to pay in a down payment had to be made by me and only me. I had to do all the research and get all the inspiration.  Any mistakes lie squarely on my shoulders. That’s tough.

7. Myth #7- “You must hate it when your friends set you up on dates”. Actually the opposite is true. I would love it if people set me up on dates.  Its hard for me to meet people, especially since online dating is not my thing.  I guess if it became an obsession and silly maybe that would be bad but I’ll go on one date with just about anyone. Nothing could make me happier than my friends helping me find good people to interact with and date.

Now, I had a roommate who’s mother would have a date waiting for her at any family gathering including Christmas and Thanksgiving.  That is definitely taking it to the extreme.  Being single does not define us.  It’s a challenge that we may not want to be continually reminded of especially on holidays.

8. Myth #8- “You’re single so I should avoid talking about my family and kids around you”.  No!  I love when people talk about their family.  In fact, I have some ideas that might be helpful.  I may not have kids of my own but I helped raise siblings and cared for babies my whole life.  I’m not totally clueless.  I have opinions on education, homeschool, parenting and child rearing just like anyone else.  Once my friend Adrienne showed me her cloth diapers and how they work and I was actually kind of grateful she didn’t shy away from including me in her life.  You are my friend, so if it is important to you, its important to me.

9. Myth #9- “You’re single because you have chosen to be single”.  Not true.  I’m not actively avoiding marriage or dating.  I’d love to meet someone and fall in love.  I need no encouragement or convincing on that level.  I may have issues about having kids but getting married absolutely.  I’d love it.   Maybe this myth is true for some singles but nobody I know.

10. Myth #10- “You’re single so you should be treated like a college student forever”.  Ok nobody has actually said those words to me but sometimes I feel like that impression is out there.  For singles that are over 30 we resent when it is assumed we are still the same as 20 year old singles.  While I have friends of many ages I have learned a lot in the proceeding years and hopefully have become wiser and better.   I loved my college years so in a way its kind of flattering to be looked at as younger than I am but it can also feel a bit patronizing. Just getting married does not make a person more mature or more of an adult than someone who is unmarried.

11. Myth #11- “You’re single so I’ll send important information to your parents”.  What I mean by this is some still consider me as under the umbrella of my parents family group.  I certainly am proud to be their daughter and perhaps am more dependent on them than my married siblings, but I feel like I am my own family group of me.  Its sort of frustrating when I have to hear news or updates on things through my parents while my married siblings get notified.

The truth is whether you are married or single we all are different, unique individuals that don’t fit nicely into boxes or labels.  Our lives may follow some vague patterns but even if they do we like to be understood for who we are not what category we fit into.  We can all work on that, myself most of all.

So there you go.  You’ve now been demystified.  Now have a great day!

What do you think of these myths?  Have I missed any?  What are the myths singles have about married life?

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The Richer Sex

Recently a Time magazine piece and NPR broadcast caught my attention.  Both featured the author Liza Mundy who has written a book on the topic of the recent trend of  ‘women…overtaking men as America’s breadwinners’.   In the article she gives an example of the Hawkins family in Detroit, Michigan.  Despite growing up in traditional families with a working father, the Hawkins father, Danny, left the ‘crushing’ corporate world to be a stay at home Dad.

“He is a master of the shopping list, appointment calendar and household budget; he has served as treasurer of the PTA and the HOA; and on Halloween he did a statistical analysis of trick-or-treaters to gauge how much candy to buy next year. ”

“I told Susie several times that my job is to make her life easier, and I like doing it.”

Susie, the Mom says “We both have made sacrifices but your priority is to provide for your family- the love, the affection, the nurturing.  For us, its about what’s best for the family”.

The article then says “Assuming present trends continue by the next generation, more families will be supported by women than by men…In 2009 4 in 10 working wives out-earned their husbands- an increase of 50% from 20 years before”.  I found this to be an amazing statistic!

“Think about what this portends.  The primary role men have played since they departed the cave…to earn paychecks in the Mad Men era will be passed to women.  The impact will be felt everywhere, from the classroom to the boardroom to the bedroom, in how men and women work, play, shop, vote, save and share, and court and even love each other”.

I have to say I feel mostly positive about these changes.  While still a gap women have been working for decades to reduce the wage gap and be treated fairly for their hard earned labor.  Also, the work of a stay at home provider, traditionally a woman, was downgraded (even still can be downgraded today- Hillary Rosen!) and treated as nothing but watching soap operas and cleaning after kids.  As I’ve mentioned before on this blog despite having a wonderful stay at home Mom I didn’t see its value until I was an adult.  I wanted to do something important and in my young naivety that could only be done outside of the home, out in the big world.

Now hopefully men are getting a more appreciation for what women have been doing for years.  Also, the work in 2 income households is more shared than it ever was before.  It used to be that a woman would work full time and then still be expected to contribute more than her husband to the house/family responsibilities.  Now with more men learning domestic skills such as cooking and cleaning, these tasks are shared across sexes more than ever before.

“As for child rearing, men have become significantly more hands-on over the past generation, and that trend will only accelerate as more families let earning power rather than gender determine who is the primary parent.  While some women will struggle to adapt to more distant mothering, they may also relish seeing their children enjoying intimate relationships with their fathers”.

This seems like a good thing to me?  I grew up in a culture that is always talking about the nurturing gifts of women to the point where men can feel ostracized and less capable of bonding with their children.  I think both sexes are equally capable of loving and raising children.

I was discussing the ‘marriage crisis‘ with a friend the other day, and he said he felt pressure ‘to provide for a family’.  This surprised, even amazed me.  In the modern world I think most women see marriage as a team endeavor where both parties work to make a budget effective for a family.  For me I am not looking for the traditional male protector and provider role in a prospective partner.  I figure if I get married we will be a team and conquer any challenges that come our way together, not a husband guiding me through perilous waters to safety!

On a purely selfish perspective I love this change.  I love being able to go into commerce and experience both women and men in almost every situation.  I have had much better experiences with women doctors (more on that in a bit) and am grateful for the sacrifice they make to serve me in their chosen field.

In the article Mundy goes over the history of male/female relationships and even says ‘Evolutionary psychologists argued that dependence was women’s desired condition- that women were genetically driven to seek providers who could support their offspring. ”

But now “‘the deal is off.  High paying industrial jobs that once enabled a man with a high school education to bring home a family wage are disappearing and as women become co-breadwinners or primary breadwinners in more households, all kinds of assumptions about how the household works are changing such as the domestic division of labor and women’s ‘economic influence at both home and in public’.”

“A study found that in households where the husband brings in more income, buying decisions are made equally, but in households where the wife earns more, she typically makes twice as many buying decisions as the man”

Does this not put additional pressure on already over-burdened women?  Could that not be a negative?  Even if it isn’t, could women still feel a self-imposed pressure to do everything at home and work, despite a husbands efforts?

Other negatives-

The fluid nature of the role of manhood has changed.  While I abhor any notion of chauvinism there was an aspect to a traditional male role that is appealing.  A sense that man knew who he was and what he was supposed to do with his life.  Will Ferrell  and Seth Rogan have made careers out of playing lovable louts who don’t know what to do with their lives.   Traditionally men didn’t have the choices they now have because of the pressures of providing for a family.  Now so many seem to amble about waiting for the perfect job, perfect school, perfect woman.

Also, the desire of women to date and get married reduces when it is  difficult to meet a true and equal partner.  Why get married if you know you will have to provide for a family?  That’s the decision men have shouldered for centuries and women sometimes find it harder to answer than they might have expected. Also, why get married when you can live a happy life by yourself? Characters such as Robin on HIMYM are facing this dilemma.  She doesn’t want to get married but the eager-to-have-a-family Ted is dying to.   Do you see this change amongst your friends and family?

There is also the issue of women still making less money, particularly in certain fields, as men.  We’ve made huge improvements but still careers that are viewed as feminine such as teaching are vastly underpaid.  In addition, women still have a ways to go with entering leadership positions and running for public office.   As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is still difficult for most people to envision a woman as president. I wonder if that will change as these trends change?

And then there is the delicate issue of pregnancy (the age old female problem that women can’t pass on to men!).  Many jobs still make maternity leave a difficult prospect and the idea of being gone for a vacation let alone months of leave can be very scary.  As a breadwinner, can a woman sacrifice such time for her family and will the work-force tolerate it?  Naturally this causes people to put off having children, have less children or have no children at all (All 3 decisions which I support, it is just an interesting societal change).

Last year in the New York Times a doctor named Karen Sibert made huge waves with her article  Don’t Quit This Day Job.  She argued that women who have so much invested in their education to become doctors and don’t work in the field full time are denying society of the investment it has made in their services and from the services they can provide for the greater good:

“Medical education is supported by federal and state tax money both at the university level — student tuition doesn’t come close to covering the schools’ costs — and at the teaching hospitals where residents are trained. So if doctors aren’t making full use of their training, taxpayers are losing their investment. With a growing shortage of doctors in America, we can no longer afford to continue training doctors who don’t spend their careers in the full-time practice of medicine.”

I’m not saying I agree with the doctor (in fact, I think her assumption of an all-or-nothing deal is a bit crazy) but it is a conversation we need to have.  Women need to acknowledge that they may be asked to give up their career full time or that their husband may make this sacrifice (or that you are comfortable with outside childcare, or having no children)  Before you are married or have children it is good to ask yourself the question of what you are going to do and what you want your family to look like?

Whatever choice you make there will be sacrifices for both spouses and their children.  As a society we need to be aware of these choices and encourage a discussion.

We also need to make sure that both men and women are educated in domestic skills.  That they both know how to cook, clean and live on a budget.  I have known so many girls that can barely toast a bagel let alone cook for their families.

Part of these psychological adjustments in femininity and masculinity will go away in time as the differences between the sexes becomes smaller and smaller.  I know a lot of people that would see such a change as a very sad thing.  What do you think?  What do you think of stay-at-home-Dads and the new female breadwinners? Do you think this is a mostly a good or bad thing?

The article ends with this thought:

“It would be nice to imagine a world where employers make it possible for all mothers and fathers to work reasonable hours.  But some jobs will always require more than the eight hours a day.  For a woman, like a man, reaching the highest levels of achievement may depend on a sp0use willing to downshift.  What’s new is that the decisions about who dials back will be based on personal aptitude and what works best for each couple rather than outdated n0tions of which sex is better fitted to what”

Seems like a good thing to me…

Benefits of Living Alone

As all my facebook fans know I’ve been deeply absorbed in a new non-fiction read:  Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg.  Through both anecdotal and statistical evidence Klinenberg examines the new reality of 31 million US residents—roughly one out of every seven adults—live alone.

By the way, I love a good non-fiction.  Reading this book reminded me of the excitement I felt when I read The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenberg, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam- which discusses social and political loneliness not living arrangements,  Urban Tribes by Ethan Waters, and The Big Sort by Bill Bishop.  Books like this make you feel validated because someone is taking your life choices seriously and examining them for both good and bad side effects.

The book description sums it up best “Though conventional wisdom tells us that living by oneself leads to loneliness and isolation, Klinenberg shows that most solo dwellers are deeply engaged in social and civic life. In fact, compared with their married counterparts, they are more likely to eat out and exercise, go to art and music classes, attend public events and lectures, and volunteer. There’s even evidence that people who live alone enjoy better mental health than unmarried people who live with others and have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than families, since they favor urban apartments over large suburban homes.”

Recently this has been on my mind because in moving to the family ward I have found an untold number of people who are surprised even shocked that I live alone. This happened so frequently that I began to feel hesitant in bringing it up and perhaps a bit of defensiveness.  Who, after all, does not feel a little bit defensive when their lifestyle is questioned.

This reaction is particularly weighted in my community where marriage is not only a goal for a happy life but a requirement for exaltation and eternal life.  By choosing to live alone during this portion of my life some may fear I have abandoned hope of meeting Mr.  Sunshine, or that I have something against marriage.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I strongly support traditional marriage and believe it is a holy institution.

From my view living alone is proof of that support.  I value the institution enough to not settle for anything less than the right person.

That said- I value my life enough to keep moving forward and progressing with or without a man. Perhaps this feels more natural to me because I’ve never really had a romantic partner.  Not sure why but it is the truth.  I have always been a social butterfly, with lots of friends and activities but never met someone I wanted to date more than a couple times or certainly marry.  The way I see it finding the right person is not in my control.  I can do what I can but even when doing those things he may not come into my life.  God has His reasons for this and I trust Him.

What can I control?  I can control where and how I live my life.  I can control how hard I work, what friends are worth nurturing and what activities are worth my time.  For me, living alone is my opportunity to control my life in a definite and concrete way.  I love that!

For example, by attending church each week I am deciding what I believe and want to dedicate my life to.  There is no one else to get me out the door or push me into getting ready.  I am not doing it to set an example for children or to keep a relationship happy.  I am doing it because I believe it is true and the best way to live MY LIFE.

People often seem worried about my social life living alone and that a sense of isolationism will overtake me. I’m not going to lie and say that never happens but as Klinenberg points out loneliness can happen in any situation. In an interview of a woman named Helen he says:

“In Helen’s view for most of us loneliness is inevitable.  It’s part of the human conditions, and she rejects the belief that living alone is its source.  ‘People are in an incredible panic to avoid being alone in the room with themselves’, she explains, but their desperation can lead to disaster because ‘there’s nothing more lonely than being with the wrong person…When a relationship doesn’t go well, its a very lonely situations.  You can’t go to the person that you’re with for help because, in your eyes, they are the problem.  So you become a little island all to yourself within that relationship, and it’s very lonely'”

I would wager to say that even in the healthiest of relationships there are periods of isolation and loneliness that top anything I have felt through living alone . There are a few moments where I wish I could call on someone to help with the groceries or fold the laundry (laundry I detest). The times I wish I didn’t live alone the most is when I am sick because there is no one there to take care of me and nurse me.  Luckily such moments are few and far between and I make do.  In general I believe I am not a lonely person despite living and working alone.

Many singles, particularly single women, who live alone are remarkably active and social in their community.  “The General Social Survey, which is the largest study of American social behavior, shows that single women above age 35 (divorced as well as married) are more likely than their married contemporaries to do the following activities: see or visit a best friend at least weekly, have a ‘non-visit’ contact with a best friend at least weekly, spend a social evening with neighbors, regularly participate in informal group activities and be a member of a secular social group. ”

The great thing about living alone is all of those interactions are done by my choosing.  I am not forced to be friends with my husbands peers or make nice with my kids friends parents.  Is that not a blessing?

Klinenberg goes on to say that not only can it be a blessing to live alone but it is in many ways the fulfillment of the American spirit.  The idea of self reliance and rugged individualism is woven into the fabric of the American dream.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay ‘Self Reliance’ that “society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members” and “Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world”.

Henry David Thorough made the case for self reliance by moving out to Walden pond and living alone “I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself” .   That’s how I feel about my apartment.  It is a little world all to myself.  I have a form of freedom that is not possible in a relationship, and while I would love to meet someone, I don’t think there is anything wrong for appreciating the life I have, while I have it.

As a silly example, I have pink bed sheets and pink curtains with 2 Audrey Hepburn posters on my wall as a headboard of sorts.  Could I have this room when I marry?  Probably not and I’m OK with that but its exciting to do things uniquely my way while I have the chance.

I also have the freedom to live my life the way I want.  For example, a friend of mine recently told me about the efforts his wife makes at keeping him on a diet.  Portioning out food, making only healthy recipes and scolding him when he diverges off the plan.  I laughed when he told me saying  ‘and people think in  Mormon marriages the man rules the roost!’.  In some ways this is very touching and loving but it made me feel proud of my own weight loss journey.  I did it on my own with no micromanaging from anyone.  While everyone’s support has been key the day-to-day decisions are mine.

Almost half of the people in DC and New York live alone. Amazing.

There are also more silly benefits of living alone including full usage of the fridge (and particularly freezer space), full control of the television and the DVR space, freedom to keep the home as clean or messy as you wish, and entertain as little or as much as you prefer without asking permission from roommates or spouses.

I can also put up whatever Christmas tree or other holiday decor I want without consulting any other opinion.   My apartment is something that is mine and mine alone.  Is there not something appealing about creating your own space that is just for you?  I am sure if I do get married I will still need my own space whether it be in the form of a garden, park, room or even a jetted tub!

I also have complete discretion on how I spend my money, which to me is very empowering.  I can take a long shower or turn my heat up to whatever I want.  I can take a trip if I decide I have the money for it.  I can go out to eat or get frozen yogurt before dinner.  I can lead the life I want to lead.  I love that!

I enjoyed living with roommates for years, had 31 of them from 17 to 28.  I had good relationships with all of my roommates and 3 of my current best friends were former roommates.  I loved creating a mini-family with my friends but there just became a time where I needed to move on from an adolescent roommate experience to a fully functional grown up living on my own experience.

The cravings to have my own space really started after my mission- the ultimate shared experience, 24/7 no breaks with a total stranger.  I was a little scared at first that it might be socially difficult but I’m so active with church, gym, voice lessons, friends etc that I honestly have not felt lonely much.  In fact, I revel in the sanctuary I’ve created for just ME! Aside from getting married, I don’t think I would like having a roommate again, even with someone I love like a family member or dear friend.

I’ve always been fiercely independent, so in many ways living alone is the ultimate example of my nature.  I have achieved independence in every way possible and yet I’m still a remarkably social and giving person.  I have found a lifestyle that I like, even if it stumps and confuses others.  Hopefully by knowing me people’s views will be expanded and stereotypes erased (speaking of stereotypes… I do not own a cat. I’m allergic!).

I work alone.  I live alone.  I’ve traveled alone.  I go to the movies alone (something that befuddles most people) but in truth I am never really alone.  Jesus Christ and His spirit are always with me.  I have spent probably a cumulative month of my life feeling truly alone and those were some of the hardest days, but learning to reach for my Savior during those tough times made me a believer to the end.  He has never abandoned me in the lonely times.  If anything I feel His presence more and more with each tear I might cry.

I promise I want to get married, so please don’t read this thinking ‘Rachel is getting too set in her ways’.  Send Mr.  Sunshine my way and I’m all over it. 🙂

Social Singles

Does that look like 3 antisocial girls to you? They are all 3 single.

I normally don’t post entire articles but I liked this one so much I decided to do it.  It reinforces what I’ve tried to say on this blog and on facebook.  As someone who lives alone I can feel defensive about the assumptions and stereotypes that go along with my lifestyle.  This idea of the old maid with a collection of cats just isn’t a reality any more.  I’m not sure if it was ever a reality.

I liked 2 points in particular.  First,  when he says “There is much research suggesting that single people get out more — and not only the younger ones”. On one hand this seems like an obvious point but you’d be surprised how often I have to reassure people that living alone does not mean I am a social hermit.  In fact, I believe it forces me to try twice as hard for companionship since I don’t have it with me in my home.

Second,  I liked when he said, “New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel involuntary or like solitary confinement. The person alone at home can digitally navigate through a world of people, information and ideas. Internet use does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections.”.

I have  found this to be the case in my life.  While the internet can definitely be a time suck, on the whole, it has been a tremendous blessing in my life.  It has allowed me to keep in touch with friends from high school, college and my mission, and most importantly to receive support from them on a daily basis.  My trip to Maryland in September would never have happened without Facebook and my blog.  There is no way I would have kept in touch with all those people.

Plus, I’ve received so much support from people located all over the country as I’ve battled to lose weight, diabetes, PCOS and fibromyalgia diagnosis and all the other chaos in my life.  All in all the internet has been an overwhelmingly positive social tool in my life.  My circle of friends and support is way larger  than it ever would be otherwise.  I don’t know how I would have gotten through the last 2 years without it.  Seriously.

My blog has also given me a voice in the world.  It is a chance to communicate my feelings and learn how to write those feelings in a coherent way.  If I die tomorrow there will be a record of my life for all to see.  A record of my thoughts, wishes, opinions and struggles.  There is something beautiful about that.  I hope that it is a way I can make a difference, maybe inspire a few people or give them a laugh.  Such a difference might have been more difficult for singles in the past.  I am SO grateful to have a voice and a platform to speak.  Thanks!

Single ladies on the single cruise I went to in 2009
A group of us girls going out for Camille's birthday. I think this was in 2010?

One’s a Crowd

By ERIC KLINENBERG

MORE people live alone now than at any other time in history. In prosperous American cities — Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Minneapolis — 40 percent or more of all households contain a single occupant. In Manhattan and in Washington, nearly one in two households are occupied by a single person.

By international standards, these numbers are surprising — surprisingly low. In Paris, the city of lovers, more than half of all households contain single people, and in socialist Stockholm, the rate tops 60 percent.

The decision to live alone is common in diverse cultures whenever it is economically feasible. Although Americans pride themselves on their self-reliance and culture of individualism, Germany, France and Britain have a greater proportion of one-person households than the United States, as does Japan. Three of the nations with the fastest-growing populations of single people — China, India and Brazil — are also among those with the fastest growing economies.

The mere thought of living alone once sparked anxiety, dread and visions of loneliness. But those images are dated. Now the most privileged people on earth use their resources to separate from one another, to buy privacy and personal space.

Living alone comports with modern values. It promotes freedom, personal control and self-realization — all prized aspects of contemporary life.

It is less feared, too, for the crucial reason that living alone no longer suggests an isolated or less-social life. After interviewing more than 300 singletons (my term for people who live alone) during nearly a decade of research, I’ve concluded that living alone seems to encourage more, not less, social interaction.

Paradoxically, our species, so long defined by groups and by the nuclear family, has been able to embark on this experiment in solo living because global societies have become so interdependent. Dynamic markets, flourishing cities and open communications systems make modern autonomy more appealing; they give us the capacity to live alone but to engage with others when and how we want to and on our own terms.

In fact, living alone can make it easier to be social, because single people have more free time, absent family obligations, to engage in social activities.

Compared with their married counterparts, single people are more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors, go to restaurants and attend art classes and lectures. There is much research suggesting that single people get out more — and not only the younger ones. Erin Cornwell, a sociologist at Cornell, analyzed results from the General Social Survey (which draws on a nationally representative sample of the United States population) from 2000 to 2008 and found that single people 35 and older were more likely than those who lived with a spouse or a romantic partner to spend a social evening with neighbors or friends. In 2008, her husband, Benjamin Cornwell (also a sociologist at Cornell), was lead author of “The Social Connectedness of Older Adults,” a paper in the American Sociological Review that showed that single seniors had the same number of friends and core discussion partners as their married peers and were more likely to socialize with friends and neighbors.

SURVEYS, some by market research companies that study behavior for clients developing products and services, also indicate that married people with children are more likely than single people to hunker down at home. Those in large suburban homes often splinter into private rooms to be alone. The image of a modern family in a room together, each plugged into a separate reality, be it a smartphone, computer, video game or TV show has become a cultural cliché.

New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel involuntary or like solitary confinement. The person alone at home can digitally navigate through a world of people, information and ideas. Internet use does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections.

The Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community Survey — a nationally representative survey of 2,512 American adults conducted in 2008 that was the first to examine how the Internet and cellphones affect our core social networks — shows that Web use can lead to more social life, rather than to less. “Social Isolation and New Technology,” written by the Rutgers University communications scholar Keith Hampton, reveals that heavy users are more likely than others to have large and diverse social networks; more likely to visit parks, cafes and restaurants; and more likely to meet diverse people with different perspectives and beliefs.

Today five million people in the United States between ages 18 and 34 live alone, 10 times more than in 1950. But the largest number of single people are middle-aged; 15 million people between ages 35 and 64 live alone. Those who decide to live alone following a breakup or a divorce could choose to move in with roommates or family. But many of those I interviewed said they chose to live alone because they had found there was nothing worse than living with the wrong person.

In my interviews, older single people expressed a clear preference for living alone, which allowed them to retain their feelings of independence and integrity, and a clear aversion to moving in with friends or family or into a nursing home.

According to research by the Rutgers sociologist Deborah Carr, at 18 months after the death of a spouse, only one in four elderly men and one in six elderly women say they are interested in remarrying; one in three men and one in seven women are interested in dating someday; and only one in four men and one in 11 women are interested in dating immediately.

Most older widows, widowers and divorced people remake their lives as single people. A century ago, nearly 70 percent of elderly American widows lived with a child; today — thanks to Social Security, private pensions and wealth generated in the market — just 20 percent do. According to the U.C.L.A. economist Kathleen McGarry: “When they have more income and they have a choice of how to live, they choose to live alone. They buy their independence.”

Some unhealthy old people do become dangerously isolated, as I learned when I researched my book about the hundreds of people who died alone in the 1995 Chicago heat wave, and they deserve more attention and support than we give them today. But the rise of aging alone is also a social achievement. The sustained health, wealth and vitality that so many people over age 65 enjoy allow them to maintain domestic independence far longer than previous generations did. What’s new today is that the great majority of older widows, widowers and divorced people prefer living alone to their other options, and they’re willing to spend more on housing and domestic help for the privilege. Some pundits predicted that rates of living alone would plummet because of the challenged economy: young people would move into their parents’ basements; middle-aged adults would put off divorce or separation for financial reasons; the elderly would move in with their children rather than hold on to places of their own.

Thus far, however, there’s little evidence that this has happened. True, more young adults have moved in with their parents because they cannot find good jobs; but the proportion of those between 20 and 29 who live alone went down only slightly, from 11.97 percent in 2007 to 10.94 percent in 2011. In the general population, living alone has become more common — in absolute and proportional terms. The latest census report estimates that more than 32 million Americans live alone today, up from 27.2 million in 2000 and 31 million in 2010.

All signs suggest that living alone will become even more common in the future, at every stage of adulthood and in every place where people can afford a place of their own.

Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology at New York University and the author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.”

All the Single Ladies

I am not a wedding girl but this has been my favorite wedding cake for years, since high school

The November issue of the Atlantic Monthly is all about marriage and in their words- marriage scarcity. There are lengthy articles full of both statistical and anecdotal evidence but I will try to summarize the ideas as best as I can (I apologize in advance if this is a bit muddled.  My thoughts were all over the place).  The main point is that the numbers of marriages and likelihood of finding a marriage partner is getting increasingly difficult.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/the-new-scarcity/8669/

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/8654/#.TuocqmHfAp0.facebook

Here’s some stats: (excuse the long quotes but the articles say it so well)

“Half the adult population is single, compared with 33 percent in 1950; and 40 percent of children are born to single mothers. Partly, this may be a result of women’s no longer feeling compelled to marry a Mr. Collins. But it also appears to signal that the rise of women is being matched by a decline, not just of male dominance, but of men.

Their plight is serious; men have seen their median wages for full-time work fall over the past 40 years. Among other consequences of such deterioration is what Bolick calls a “new scarcity” that narrows women’s choices for marriageable men just as their other choices in life broaden. It seems, somehow, cosmically unfair that when the strong-minded women of Jane Austen are at last set free, they are being liberated into our Shteyngartian (a bleak  modern writer) society.”

More:

“Foremost among the reasons for all these changes in family structure are the gains of the women’s movement. Over the past half century, women have steadily gained on—and are in some ways surpassing—men in education and employment. From 1970 (seven years after the Equal Pay Act was passed) to 2007, women’s earnings grew by 44 percent, compared with 6 percent for men.

In 2008, women still earned just 77 cents to the male dollar—but that figure doesn’t account for the difference in hours worked, or the fact that women tend to choose lower-paying fields like nursing or education. A 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that the women actually earned 8 percent more than the men. Women are also more likely than men to go to college: in 2010, 55 percent of all college graduates ages 25 to 29 were female.”

Does that mean the women’s movement was bad and we should go back to the age of ignorant, submissive women?  Of course not but there is a reality that marriage is getting more and more difficult each day,  Even in the highly matrimonial culture in Utah and amongst the LDS church I am amazed at how many young men there are who have little to no interest in marriage.  It is hard for me to think of a man who is as motivated to find a partner as the women I know.  This quote describes it well:

“What my mother could envision was a future in which I made my own choices. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.

But what transpired next lay well beyond the powers of everybody’s imagination: as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind. We’ve arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.”

I was speaking with a friend on this topic and he pointed out that he has been hesitant to pursue a marriage partner because a feeling of financial inadequacy.   Particularly in a conservative culture like the one I live in there is still the idea that a good husband should be able to provide for a family/wife.

While perhaps this is the ideal I think it is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  Most families can not afford to be single income anymore and with all their education women are increasingly hesitant to give up their careers for family.  (With some careers the debt incurred to accomplish the career literally limiting women from completely giving them up).

I wonder how many men feel like my friend and worry about providing for a family?  Its interesting to me because its not really what I look for in a potential spouse.  I want someone who will be my partner, so we can overcome challenges together.  I want someone that is my intellectual, not necessarily my financial, equal.  I want someone that I can I have a decent conversation with and who likes being with me. Is that too much to ask?

I certainly don’t expect to be taken care of by anyone (not my style!).   I wonder if this is part of the reason for the marriage scarcity- men see it as a burden, women as a blessing? (that is a simplistic generalization I know but I’m speaking of over-all trends not individuals). I know that children make providing for a marriage more complicated but why not conquer that challenge together? The man shouldn’t feel like it is solely up to them.  Even the stay at home Mom’s that I know are essential to keeping costs down in their marriage so they can live off whatever their husband can provide- its a group effort.

With the women’s movement the entire idea of gender has been confused.  Who’s to say what is male anymore or female?  Again, in general I think this is a good thing but it can have negative side effects. In the old world a woman knew where to look for a likely mate and typically those men would be looking for them.  Now the conventions and dating rules are completely smudged together.  This leads to a feeling of ‘winging it’ and hoping to be hit on the head by an epiphany of love.

“Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates—an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends. In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing.”

“We are in a period of sorting out, in which old customs and conventions are being stripped away, and new ones have yet to be firmly established.”

Sometimes this sorting out can be confusing.  I think that’s why so many people are attracted to online dating- it seems simple.  They even have ‘compatibility’ systems that supposedly take ‘the guest work out of dating’ (yes, I’ve seen one to many eharmony ads!).  I have tried online dating 4 times to no avail.  It just doesn’t have the human connection I need to pursue men (or be pursued evidently).  This leaves me with the hope of meeting someone randomly (through church or social activities) or being set up by mutual friends (I’ve only been set up 2 or 3 times by friends on actual live dates)…

As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog I am happy being independent and single.  While I’d like to get married I will not be devastated if I don’t.  I think even in Mormon Utah this type of attitude is becoming more common.  After all, marriage is not something you can make happen. If I want a masters degree, I can get one.  If I want to serve a mission, I can.  If I want to own my own business, I can.  If I want to get married…Not so much.  It just doesn’t’ work that way and like the articles say it is the ‘new scarcity’ in America.

Most singles are reminded of their marital status (especially in a singles ward in Utah) far too frequently.  It leaves me feeling impotent and oddly unworthy- like I am 18 forever and can never progress in some viewpoints without marriage.  A couple of years ago at a family Egg hunt I was put with the children hunting eggs.  None of my married cousins were grouped this way.  It is subtle slights like this which can be very frustrating. To be at the time approaching 30 and still be viewed as a child is very annoying.

Sometimes I admit I can be a bit hesitant to approach this topic because I feel defensive about my life choices- that somehow being single makes me less of a person in some people’s eyes.  Indeed, almost all depictions of single women in the media are either as desperate to marry, needy women (every Kathryn Hiegel movie) or cold ice queen corporate executives (Sandra Bullock, the Proposal, Meryl Streep, Devil Wears Prada).

I am not an ice queen and definitely not needy.  My single friends out there, how do you deal with the stereotypes of not being married? Do you feel looked down upon or marginalized?

I think all singles can relate to being condescended to or belittled because of our marital status- something we have little to no control over.  Again, show me the line to get in for marriage and I’ll be right there. Its just not that easy.

Even worse than the condescension is the pity.  Especially people from my grandmother’s generation often look at a single woman and feel sorry for ‘all she’s missed out on in life’…Urgh!  Its not my fault! I’ve never met anyone I want to marry. Nobody even close!

These articles were actually quite comforting to me to see that its our entire society that has moved away from marriage, not just the men I meet!

How can singles support marriage and remain hopeful of being married without becoming discouraged or jealous?  How do you feel like an equal contributor to society when you don’t have progeny to mold?  I have yet to find such a balance.

I wonder how many other women are like me, content to live a productive life by ourselves until we meet the right one?  We certainly don’t feel the kind of financial or social pressure to marry that at one time existed for women.  In general this is a good thing but it can’t be all positive? Women don’t feel like they need men like they used to.  Good or bad?

In truth, a part of me wishes marriage didn’t exist because then there wouldn’t be this big hole in my life (in the eyes of other people).  I kind of live my life as if it didn’t exist that way I don’t feel lacking or sorry for myself or  like I’m missing out on this huge part of the human experience.  I live a happy life and only occasionally wonder where Mr.  Sunshine might be…?

That said,  I would like a partner to face challenges with.  To me it is depressing to think that such opportunities become smaller each year I get older but what can you do?  (they say you have a better chance of getting killed in a terrorist attack than getting married above 40…).

“But while the rise of women has been good for everyone, the decline of males has obviously been bad news for men—and bad news for marriage. For all the changes the institution has undergone, American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be “marriageable” men—those who are better educated and earn more than they do. So women are now contending with what we might call the new scarcity.

Even as women have seen their range of options broaden in recent years—for instance, expanding the kind of men it’s culturally acceptable to be with, and making it okay not to marry at all—the new scarcity disrupts what economists call the “marriage market” in a way that in fact narrows the available choices, making a good man harder to find than ever. At the rate things are going, the next generation’s pool of good men will be significantly smaller.”

How do you think this marriage trend affects our society? Why do you think there is this divide between motivated (marriage and otherwise) women and men?  How has the changing definitions of manhood and womanhood affected our society and marriages?  What of these changes are good and bad?  What, if anything, can we do to encourage marriage?  Please read the articles. I think you will find them as fascinating as I did. I don’t know if I’ve done them full justice (they are quite lengthy) but at least this can be an introduction of sorts.