The averagely nonjudgmental person may wonder why, in 2012, being single should be a radical act, an interesting topic of discussion, a viable subject for a spate of new books and magazine covers. Why is this relatively ordinary or banal mode of life even worth commenting on? Why, in short, all the fuss?…This cultural obsession with living alone is a sign or symptom. It fascinates and enthralls us and arouses our curiosity because the general wisdom about how to live life, even in liberal circles, is so narrow, so respectable, so uninspired. (Or as Helen Gurley Brown put it, “There are a lot of half-alive people running around in the world.”)
“He’s a flamer!”
“Yeah, when I went into his bathroom? No feminine products at all, nothin’.”
That was my former boss speaking, after we had finished a satellite installation at a customer’s house. A middle-aged, apparently single guy with a tidy house? Scented candles, even? Was that a hint of a feminine lilt to his voice? Case closed.
Maybe he was divorced or just casually dating. Maybe he had a girlfriend who didn’t want to cohabitate before marriage. Maybe he didn’t have time left over after work and hobbies to want to invest the energy in romance. Or maybe he was just a misanthrope who preferred the company of his dogs. I was just momentarily taken aback that anyone would be concerned enough about it to comment. I barely even noticed what the guy looked like, let alone considered inspecting his medicine cabinets for tampons.
The general wisdom about how to live life is narrow and uninspired because, like all things general, it’s a lowest-common-denominator wisdom. Intentionally childless couples are treated the same way. The herd has no problem with banishing someone, but a person who voluntarily disassociates themselves from the norm is treated with wary suspicion, if not considered to be giving purposeful offense. Hey, what do they know that I don’t? Why wouldn’t they like the things I like? What’s wrong with me?