So why have you never been an accountant? Why aren't you a Christmas tree? When did you last have sex? Maybe if I get hit on the head with a rock and turn into a different person.
Seriously, though, I was delighted to get Weisman's book, not because I'd ever stand behind it, but because it is so inadvertently telling about what it is like to be single in contemporary American society.
Weisman's interest is in single men, but what I find so intriguing and disappointing about his book is relevant to single women, too. I ended a previous post with the question, "Why is there such a disconnect between the negative perceptions of single men and the actual life experiences of those men? Weisman's book provides another set of responses. The author did not mean to address that question, but wow, did he ever leave some delicious clues to those who are not content to take what they read at face value!
First, I'll give you some background about the book. Then I'll provide some examples that I found particularly intriguing and ask whether you can see the accidental singlism in them. Then, after each one, I'll tell you what I think about it.
About the Book Carl Weisman, the author, is 48, heterosexual, and has always been single. He wanted to know how other men similar to himself - over 40 and in his words "never married" - would answer the question, "So why have you never been married?
Then he interviewed 33 of them by phone, for at least a half-hour. Upfront, Weisman tells his readers what he thinks: Marriage isn't for everyone. He's practicing singlism, albeit unintentionally.
Here are eleven examples. So why have I never been married? What's wrong with me? What if anything is wrong with the title of the book, and the author's two goals in writing the book? Think about your own answer, then read on. One possible answer mine to 1: The singlism in the author's second question is obvious, and even he recognizes the "built-in negative bias " that he has created. But I object to the "why" question as well.
As I said to Weisman when he first offered to send me his book, I don't think any single people should have to answer the question of why they are not married. The "why aren't you married" question teeters on the assumption that if you are past a certain age and still single, you have some explaining to do.
I don't buy it. To me, the question is akin to the infamous "when did you stop beating your wife" in its presumption of wrongdoing. EXAMPLE 2 The author said he wanted to make sure he "investigated every possible factor that may have had an influence on the men to get them to avoid or postpone marriage.
What if anything is wrong with the author's framing of this goal? One possible answer mine to 2: I'll make my answer personal. I'm not "avoiding" marriage, I'm living my single life - fully and joyfully. Do you have kids? Are you afraid of marriage? Why have you never married? Do you have any regrets about not being married?
What if anything is missing from this list of topics? What else would you want to know if you were interested in all of the important factors in a single person's life? For now, just consider the overall categories. Later, I'll get to the question of what is missing within the categories. One possible answer mine to 3: Even if I answered every question that the author posed, he would have no idea why I love my single life. He asks nothing about my work, nothing about my passions, nothing about what I appreciate about the texture of my everyday life.
There is no place to tell him that I enjoy socializing and I also cherish my solitude, and as a single person with a place of my own, I can have both. How many do I have?
Are they younger or older than me? Have they been married? Have they been divorced? What if anything is wrong with that? One possible answer mine: I'll start with an anecdote. Coincidentally, while I was studying the items in Weisman's online survey, I got a call from my "baby brother.
Just about every time I finish a conversation with him, I'm in a better mood than I was before. But Weisman's questions in his online survey do not offer me an opportunity to mention any of that. If Weisman had interviewed me by phone, I think he would have asked me something like the following: How does it make me feel that my younger brother is married and I am not?
Here's my answer and I think it is safe to say that it is not the one Weisman is expecting: It makes me smile. My brother likes being married; I like being single. Do I own or rent? It is true - I rent. I wish I owned the place where I live. I did own a home when I lived in Virginia, but I can't afford one out here in California. Now here's what I don't get to include in my response to the online survey: The place I rent is a beach house with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.
I've lived here for eight years and I never habituate to it. Every day when I wake up, I look out the window and I am in awe of my great good fortune. The author tells us that the care-giving experience has made Martin realize that he is a selfish person.
Martin has spent a decade of his life caring for elderly relatives. He wishes he did not have the obligation to provide this care, and that's why he sees himself as selfish. But he IS providing the care. That is not the least bit selfish. And, because he is doing this care work, others perhaps siblings or other relatives are not. I wonder if they see themselves as selfish? If Ryan has wanted to be a sculptor since he was very young, then maybe art, to him, is not a distraction - it is a passion.
EXAMPLE 8 Donald told the author that if he were to marry, he would miss the ballgames, the golf, and all the other experiences he shares with his friends. The author muses to his readers, not to Donald: Donald already has companionship. He values his friends and the time he spends with them.
The author seems to imply that the only companionship that really counts is kind that comes packaged with a romantic partner.
She is getting no professional help. Sandy thinks that maybe she is getting better. Here's what the author says to his readers: It's that way for Sandy and his girlfriend. He wants her to win and he is rooting for her, so there is hope they could succeed.
Apparently the author is rooting for this couple, too. But should he be rooting for them to marry, or for them to not even consider marriage until the woman gets professional help? Is this an example in which the mythical tug of marriage is so compelling that to some people even abuse should not stand in its way?
He's sure there are women like that, too. Okay, author, let me spell it out. I want to be single. You also recognize that there are men who want to be single. Yet your conclusion is that you hope we find each other? After interviewing 33 of the men, he concluded that he was right all along. Some, for example, had parents who divorced; others had parents who should have divorced. The author articulated an utterly conventional point of view: