Do you have a special place you can go where you feel comforted and calm? A place that is almost sacred, where no one else is likely to intrude?
I have recently started interviewing people for a new project on how we live today (alone? alone but near others who are important to us? with others? which others?) and how we find just the right mix, for each of us as individuals, of time alone and time together. (I’m finding some people from an online survey, which is here if you are interested. Referrals, including self-referrals, are also welcome.)
At first, I thought that a sanctuary would be especially important to people who live with other people – especially if they live with a whole group of other people. One person living with roommates told me that she goes in her bedroom and shuts the door. Another person living with a friend described as her favorite place a cozy room with a comfy couch and ottoman and a big pillowy chair.
Have you ever noticed that fully-grown single people sometimes get treated as if they are not fully adult? Their coupled friends invite them to lunch (if that) instead of dinner, to their children’s birthday parties but not to movies on Saturday night with the grown-ups. When traveling, singles get the back seat of the car, and when they arrive, they get to sleep on the couch in the living room instead of in a room with a door that shuts.
I’m not saying everyone treats single people that way, of course, but I am quite sure that single people get the children’s treatment far more often than coupled people do.
Recently I saw the movie, The Five-Year Engagement. I know, I should have known better. It was pretty funny at times, but honestly, with all the talent and creativity on offer, does Hollywood really have to produce the exact same ending every single time?
I hadn’t read anything about the movie before I went, so I was surprised to discover that my very own field of social psychology had a role. Emily Blunt, playing Violet, heads to the University of Michigan to join a lab group that apparently designs experiments by generating totally silly ideas that have no relationship whatsoever to psychological theory or anything else. All a big game. Also, there is no script for the experiment. The professor and the various students mill around behind the one-way mirror taunting one another about who is going to go into the room with the participants and actually run the study.
I cringed all the way through those scenes.
In my last post, I shared some of the personal accounts of the appeal of solitude, as offered by people who see themselves as single at heart. The single-at-heart typically love their time alone.
It is a different story for those people who say that NO, they are not single at heart. First I will relate some of the ways they talked about time alone. As their comments indicate, that’s not what they enjoy. Yet that hardly means that they do not live happy lives. They appreciate different things than do people who are single at heart. So in the second part of this post, I’ll share some of their descriptions of what they love about their lives.
Last time I posted here, I described the survey I have been conducting, “Are you single at heart?,” and promised to tell you about the results from the first 1200 participants. That’s what I’ll do in this post (Part 2 of the series), a few subsequent posts, and this one.
After the survey, in which participants had answered a number of questions, I asked them to tell me whether they thought that they were, or were not, single at heart. (You can find a description of the questions, and the wording of the question I’m describing here, in my previous post.) Then they had the option of describing, in their own words, why they thought they were or were not single at heart.
Participants sorted themselves into one of four categories:
Results are in from the first 1,200 people to participate in the survey, “Are you single at heart?” There is so much to tell you from this first, exploratory study of people who are and are not single at heart, so I will write several posts on the topic.
In this post, I will mostly describe the kinds of questions that were in the survey and preview the topics of the next posts. So you don’t need to wait for the next post to learn something about the results, here is the most compelling finding so far: People who are single-at-heart love their solitude.
Contemporary society is full of matrimania – the over-the-top hyping of marriage, couples and weddings. There is so much marketing of romantic love, and celebration of marriage-minded lovers, that it can be difficult for people who are single at heart to realize that single life really is the most meaningful and authentic life for them. Doesn’t everyone really want to be married?
When I study single life, I do it from the perspective of a social psychologist – that’s my training. I also read a lot from sociology and women’s studies, and learn a great deal from those disciplines.
Anthropology may not seem like the obvious place to look for insights about singles in the U.S., but to anthropologist Leanna Wolfe, some of the practices of single women in Los Angeles did seem like odd rituals: Going to workshops to learn how to please a man? Transforming your body with fad diets and surgery, and your mind with therapy? What’s all that about?
In 2009, before I was blogging here at PsychCentral, a reader of another blog asked me to address the topic of asexuality. The post I wrote, “Asexuals: Who are they and why are they important?,” immediately became one of my most popular articles, garnering tens of thousands of page views in short order.
I first learned about the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) while researching that blog post. Because I reviewed some of the basics back then, I’ll just share the opening sentences of the overview at AVEN before moving on:
“An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.”
The new point I want to make here is how far the asexuality movement has come in just a few years. Dave Jay, who founded AVEN, has made the rounds in the media, from MTV to The View. He has been taken seriously in more intellectual venues as well. Just recently, the Atlantic magazine published, “Life without sex: The third phase of the asexuality movement.”
Third phase? Hey, wait, what were the first two?
From what I’ve read about her, Amanda Dougherty seemed to be a traditional high school student. She’s a 17-year old at a Catholic high school who was so excited about her junior prom that she bought her dress months in advance. She had also bought her ticket to the prom and her shoes and other accessories.
Amanda and her girlfriends started a Facebook page, closed to the guys, so they could share pictures of their prom dresses to make sure no two of them would show up in the same gown.
Then, about a week or so before the prom, her lout of a prom date backed out. Now this is what I love about Amanda: She did not let that deter her. She was going to go to the prom solo.