I’m going to tell you the first few words of a sentence in a true story. See if you can predict how it ends.
The story is of a woman who is alone in Paris. She is at the opera, where she “had a seat in a box: a plush crimson closet that one shares with six strangers.” Her description continues like this: “The claret-cushioned chairs were arranged two, two, two, and then – at the rear of the box centered between all of the coupled seats – was a single chair: mine. I was ____.”
That blank at the end of the sentence? That’s for you to fill in. What do you think this real person really did say?
If this were the standard media tale of “woe-is-me” singlehood, if it were written by a predictable matrimaniac, then perhaps the word filling the blank would be something like “embarrassed” or “self-conscious” or “humiliated.” If you guessed any of those words, or any remotely like them, then I am delighted to say that you are dead wrong.
The actual word was, well, “delighted.”
The article I am quoting from was “Solo in Paris,” written by Stephanie Rosenbloom for the New York Times. So often, what I read in the media – even the most respected media, such as the New York Times, is so laden with singlism and matrimania that I end up writing scathing, mocking critiques. It is such a relief and deep pleasure to find writing that is just the opposite – writing that genuinely, proactively, unapologetically savors the solo experience.
Stephanie Rosenbloom has been writing “solo in…” articles for a while. For example, she offered “Single in the Caribbean,” which includes this snippet, which warmed my heart, “if you’re like me — not looking for romance, but simply yearning for a lazy Caribbean escape…”
“Single for the Holidays” begins like this: “AH, the holidays. The perfect time of year to be with the one you love the most: yourself.” While others are stuck in traffic on the way to Grandma’s, she continues, “you, dear reader, have the opportunity to be cosseted in a Venice cafe. Or learning Spanish on a Costa Rican beach.”
Rosenbloom also wrote the wonderful article on the dreaded single supplement, “Singled Out (for the Single Supplement).” But back to where I started, with her most recent article on visiting Paris on your own.
I especially love that she took on Paris as a solo traveler, because Paris is so often associated with conventional romance. In Rosenbloom’s writings, it is solo travel in Paris that is romantic – and not because you might end up coupled.
Here’s another example from that story:
“It was easy in Paris to surrender to the moment. But why? What alchemy transmuted ordinary activities, be it a walk across the bridge or the unwrapping of butter, into a pleasure? …It was because I was there on my own.”
“There is a Paris that deeply rewards the solo traveler. Indeed, the city has a centuries-old tradition of solo exploration, personified by the flaneur, or stroller.”
Finally, one last example, this one from a bistro with windows that open onto the sidewalk:
“Places like this, where one looks out as others look in, are ideal for solo travelers. I had that exquisite feeling described by Baudelaire in “The Painter of Modern Life,” in which you ‘see the world,’ are ‘at the center of the world,’ and yet ‘remain hidden from the world.’”
Thank-you, Stephanie Rosenbloom, for being such a joyful, unconventional, and unapologetic voice for singles and for solo travelers.
Readers, if you know of writers who deserve to be commended for their inspiring takes on single life, do let me know. Or post your recommendations in the Comments section for all of us to enjoy.