One of the true joys of blogging is getting to know your readers. Some participate in discussions of blog posts and others send me their stories. Karl Wiebe has done both. In fact, something he wrote to me a while back was an inspiration for a previous post about making friends when you are single that has been viewed thousands of times.
Karl recently shared with me some of his experiences living single for nearly five years after more than twice that long living married.
My interview with him is below.
Karl has also written a book called First and Life. I haven’t read it yet but I’m looking forward to it. My guess after interviewing Karl is that the book will be quite witty! You can also learn more about Karl Wiebe from his website.
Bella: I’m always curious about how people start reading about single life from the perspective of living that life fully rather than just trying to become unsingle. So if you will humor me, will you tell me how someone who was married for more than a decade discovered blogs and books about single life?
Karl Wiebe: Well, I’m a guy in my mid-thirties (okay, okay, almost forty). I found myself suddenly single in 2008 after a decade or so of being married. I was struggling to find my own identity – I had spent my entire adult life being part of a couple. It was like the guy from North Korea sneaking across the border and discovering that other people in the world have meat in their soup. It was a bit of culture shock. I bought your book and loved it.
My mom is also single and lives in the Yukon (near Alaska). It’s actually near Santa’s workshop because it is -20 all the time and I’m convinced the only reason someone would live up there is to actually build toys for poor kids. Anyway, you (and the readers) provided some different ways for my mom to meet people and do fun stuff. It was really refreshing to have a blog that acknowledges both the positives and the (sometimes) negatives of being single. Being single can be liberating but sometimes it can get lonely too, and it is OK to talk about that without discounting that this is the right life choice for a lot of people.
Bella: Let’s talk about that culture shock, which of course can be shocking in a good or a bad way. Start with something you loved about living single for the first time after your marriage ended.
Karl Wiebe: I remember sitting in my condo and for the first time in my adult life, I was completely free. I mean that in the sense that I could literally go do anything I wanted – I could stay up all night, I could go to the bar, I could eat cheezies for dinner. I could pick up strange women – I didn’t necessarily want to do these things, but the idea that I could was really weird. I decided to stay up super late on a work night (past 11 pm!). I think I watched TV in my underwear. I don’t regret the decision. Not exactly cocaine and hookers, but the idea that I could do anything at any time was very strange.
Bella: I’m also curious about how friendship circles and social life change when you go from married to single. Do you have any stories to tell about that?
Karl Wiebe: After I told my friends that I was single, suddenly the invites to hang out with all my single friends went through the roof. I was booked every single night. Single people do more than just hang out on street corners trying to find a mate. There are groups of single people who have fun (hiking, sports), help out others (giving blood, volunteering time). I felt like an athlete who had been traded from The Moose Jaw Marrieds to The Sarasota Singles. I do admit, it felt a little weird to hang out with couples if I was by myself. They didn’t seem to mind, but I felt sometimes like the extra donut leftover in the box.
Bella: You mentioned that you had some experiences you would like to share about how other people’s perceptions of you seemed to change.
Karl Wiebe: Well, I’m talking perception here and definitely not reality. I want to make that clear. One really weird thing that comes to mind is that there is an implied perception of two camps: the singles and the coupled. Coupled people are inherently “out of the game” – they are more like moms and dads, even if they are barely thirty years old. Hey, I have an extra ticket to the hockey game, maybe I’ll ask my coworker Kim to go with me. She’s really nice and likes hockey. Well, actually Kim is married, so asking her to a hockey game can be viewed by some as the equivalent of spying on her in the women’s washroom. Not cool. It can be awkward to even ask, because we are so conditioned that any time spent outside work between guys and girls are “dates”.
Single people, however, are perceived as “in the game” – there is at least a theoretical non-zero chance of seeing them naked by the end of the night. This can also be problematic – hey, I’ll ask Sheila to the hockey game. She likes hockey. But she’s single – if I ask her to a hockey game, does that mean that I want to see her with no clothes on? What a predicament. I can now understand why some people go to hockey games by themselves – because there is nothing creepy about a single guy in a trench coat watching a bunch of kids playing hockey.
Bella: Is there anything new you learned about yourself now that you are single?
Karl Wiebe: Bella, you are like Barbara Walters in the sense that I feel an overwhelming desire to confess something. Actually, Walters is like two hundred years old so that might be a bad example. Oprah? Let’s say you are like Oprah. Imagine me jumping on a couch as I tell you this. So, back when I was married, I was working in an office. They stuffed two employees in each office – my “roommate” was a young, single guy who was somewhat shy around the ladies. He’s super smart and funny, but he’s just a little quiet. The boss would come by regularly and say things like “we need to find this guy a date”. And here’s the kicker – we would all agree! We thought we were being helpful. It literally never occurred to me that this guy might want to actually spend some time by himself.
Fast forward a couple of years – he is going skiing and invites me along. Two single guys going skiing! We make a great team – he drives all the way to the mountains and back, and I help out by either constantly changing radio stations or sleeping. On our drive out I apologized to him – I felt really bad about “trying to help” in regards to dating. He said that it happens all the time – people are constantly trying to set him up on dates, as if he somehow “needs help”. I felt so bad I actually chipped in for gas on the trip.
Bella: What a great story! Thanks for sharing that. And thanks for offering to tell us about your experiences, and of course, for being a long-time reader and participant in the discussions on my blogs. Good luck with First and Life! I’m looking forward to reading it.
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From Psych Central's website:
Singles Doomed to an Early Grave? Oh, Please | Single at Heart (January 11, 2013)
Last reviewed: 11 Jan 2013