Over the course of my research on innovative ways of living, one of the people I set my sights on interviewing was Karen Hester. I knew that she was one of those people called a “burning soul,” who was so passionate about living in a real, caring, committed community that she was one of the motivating forces in creating such a community. Together with several other single friends and some families, she did the years of work involved in making the Temescal Creek cohousing community happen.
When I was living on the East Coast and looking to buy a home, one of the places I visited needed some work. “Oh, that should be no problem,” the person showing the home insisted – I could just stay home while the contractors and repair people came in and out during the day.
Well actually, no, I could not stay home. I had a job, including sometimes teaching an entire lecture hall full of students. I ran studies in my lab, attended faculty meetings, and did all of the other routine tasks that are part of the life of a college professor and that take place at the university, not in my personal living room.
As a single person living alone, I did not have a spouse or a roommate who could stay home and wait for repair people to show up, or to trade off with me in taking time away from the job.
So what are we supposed to do?
In my previous post, I shared 6 psychological insights about solitude from the chapter, “Experiences of solitude,” by James Averill and Louise Sundararajan. It was one of my favorite chapters in the just-published collection, The Handbook of Solitude.
I have thought a lot about solitude, but I didn’t fully realize just how many different experiences of solitude there are until reading the chapter. Twenty of them are listed and described below. Statistical analyses showed that the experiences clustered into five groups, with a few of the experiences not fitting clearly into just one of the groups. (Those are listed under “other experiences of solitude.”)
I had planned to follow up my previous post, 6 psychological insights about solitude, with a related article about the 20 varieties of solitude. With the big jackpot in the news, though, I will instead make that my next post. I just looked up the available research and whether any of it could help us understand the psychology of lottery winners, and whether marital status matters. The most relevant study I could find does not include everything I would have liked, but it is based on quite a lot of data.
People who are single-at-heart love the time they have to themselves. In fact, when thinking about spending time alone, just about all of them react with something like, “Ah, sweet solitude,” and almost none of them react with, “Oh, no, I might be lonely!”
With more and more people living single, and more and more people living alone, a better understanding of solitude is becoming increasingly important. Just recently, The Handbook of Solitude was published. I have a chapter in it, but in this post and the next I want to tell you about one of my favorite chapters, “Experiences of Solitude,” by James Averill and Louise Sundararajan. It is a chapter that acknowledges the potential negative experiences of solitude, such as loneliness and boredom, but has far more to say about what can make solitude so sweet.
I love chocolate, but do you know what I love even more? Smart, enlightening writings about single people and single life! Yesterday, to my surprise and delight, one story after another set aside the tired old Valentine’s Day stories about gooey-eyed couples and myths about the transformative powers of marriage and coupling, and instead told some truths – or, in some cases, they at least got close to some truths.
Considering that this is not the first time that the matrimaniacal holiday was inflected with a bit of singles savvy (here, for example), maybe we can start expecting something like this to continue into the future.
Here are some of the sweetest things I found online, or in my email inbox, over the past day or so:
Sometimes people give me gift cards. I know some people think that’s impersonal, but I love it. I get to browse though all the possibilities, fantasize, then get what I want without paying a penny. Recently, I thought I’d pay some of it forward, by giving a gift card to someone else. But the site wouldn’t let me! I had to spend it on myself.
That’s too bad. If I could have spent that money on someone else, I would have been even happier than if I spent it on myself. That’s what a whole series of studies has shown. Here I’ll tell you about a review of that research that just appeared in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The book Happy Money is probably a great source, too, though I haven’t read it yet.
The English language is filled with an ever-growing collection of nasty and insulting words to refer to maligned groups. Just think of all the slurs used over the years to refer to African-Americans, or to gays and lesbians, or to just about any group that has ever been stigmatized or marginalized. I don’t even want to list any of them.
Those labels can be horribly hurtful. They can also set off shouting matches over what should happen when people use those words. Sometimes, though, people who are the targets of those slurs adopt a bold and imaginative strategy for sapping them of their power: They embrace the words and make them their own.
[Bella’s intro: This is the second and last part of my Q & A with Karen Reed, who in a very short time created a very successful first-ever Singles Day celebration. Part 1 is here. You can find more pictures from the event here.]
Bella: How did the Singles Day kickoff celebration go?
Karen Reed: Come January 11th, we had built what would turn out to be a day to remember. According to managers at the kickoff event venue, we brought in over 100 people to their typically low-key afternoon time slot. According to our informal “sticker count” of Singles Day stickers before and after the event, over 160 were given out to enthusiastic event-goers looking to display them at local businesses for specials and discounts.
[Bella’s intro: Well over 100 million Americans are single, yet as a group, they are not really taken all that seriously. What they contribute to society is mostly overlooked, and the ways in which they are stereotyped, stigmatized, discriminated against, and ignored (what I call singlism) is mostly, well, ignored. There is a week devoted to changing that, a national Singles Week, in late September. I always blog about it when it comes around. Others do, too. Yet the occasion has never really taken off.
Karen Reed (you can read more about her at the end of this post) thought there should be a Singles Day, like the wildly successful one in China, only without all the awful matrimanical mate-seeking themes. I have to admit that I was skeptical – Singles Week has never made a splash and it has been promoted since 2001, and around even longer than that. Karen, though, was undeterred. In a short time, she managed to create a very successful Singles Day celebration.