I have to say that I heart my Conversation class. The students are at an intermediate level so they can express themselves enough to actually have a conversation about something beyond "At the Grocery Store" or "In the Taxi." What they need are opportunities to do this. This week I picked the topic of Singletons.
Singletons, if you don't already know, is a term coined by Helen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones's Diary. Bridget Jones used it to refer to herself and others that had no romantic partners. In so doing, she recognized the "us and them" situation, distinguishing singles from couples or "smug marrieds" as she called them.
With the exception of one couple, my class consisted entirely of singles. When polled, all of them claimed to be happy with their lives. But when asked "Are single people happy being single?" ironically they all answered no. I was actually a little surprised. Furthermore, not one of them wanted to be single in the future. I thought for sure that (out of a class of 15) at least one person would want to be single!
Given the inevitability that all of us will be single at some point in our lives, I had to wonder, is one really the loneliest number?
Our class identified some reasons why a person might be single. A mental or physical handicap or deformity might curtail marriage. Circumstances such as poverty or lack of suitable mates would also be factors. Someone mentioned a life of service or mission and referenced Mother Theresa. Of course this led us to the ultimate singleton- Jesus of Nazareth. Was He happy being single? Surely someone who is fully human (yet God) would have feelings of loneliness and a need for intimacy. To quote a song from the 80s "Ponderous man, truly ponderous!"
(Oddly enough, not one person gave being gay as a reason for being single. A unmarried middle-aged man, more often than not, used to be a gay man. My, how times have changed, eh?)
It occurred to me while talking to a classmate at my recent high school reunion that some people will be woefully unprepared for singlehood when it comes along. Does this girl, who immediately married her high school sweetheart and had two kids, even know who she is? I truly believe that a person is different by themselves than when they are with someone, no matter how much they protest "Nothing will change! I'll still be the same!"
This started me thinking about how different my life would have been if I had never been single. There would have been fewer goals, self improvements and risks taken. I would be in debt with kids and possibly have little professional satisfaction. There would be numerous trips untaken and stories untold. Not to mention the unmet life long friends and privotal moments that made me the person I am today. And, at the risk of sounding like an arrogant bastard, the person I am today is a vast improvement over previous versions!
So in closing I think it's vitally important to be content (rather than happy) no matter what marital status you may find yourself in. While I will acknowlege that there are downsides to being a singleton, there are disadvantages to being a "smug married" as well. The following from the last episode of Sex in the City really sums it up best:
Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous.