Friday, February 17, 2012

'Cause If You Ain't Holdin' Hands, People Say That You're Queer

Katie Roiphe:

The averagely nonjudgmental person may wonder why, in 2012, being single should be a radical act, an interesting topic of discussion, a viable subject for a spate of new books and magazine covers. Why is this relatively ordinary or banal mode of life even worth commenting on? Why, in short, all the fuss?

...This cultural obsession with living alone is a sign or symptom. It fascinates and enthralls us and arouses our curiosity because the general wisdom about how to live life, even in liberal circles, is so narrow, so respectable, so uninspired. (Or as Helen Gurley Brown put it, “There are a lot of half-alive people running around in the world.”)

"He's a flamer!"


"Yeah, when I went into his bathroom? No feminine products at all, nothin'."

That was my former boss speaking, after we had finished a satellite installation at a customer's house. A middle-aged, apparently single guy with a tidy house? Scented candles, even? Was that a hint of a feminine lilt to his voice? Case closed.

Maybe he was divorced or just casually dating. Maybe he had a girlfriend who didn't want to cohabitate before marriage. Maybe he didn't have time left over after work and hobbies to want to invest the energy in romance. Or maybe he was just a misanthrope who preferred the company of his dogs. I was just momentarily taken aback that anyone would be concerned enough about it to comment. I barely even noticed what the guy looked like, let alone considered inspecting his medicine cabinets for tampons.

The general wisdom about how to live life is narrow and uninspired because, like all things general, it's a lowest-common-denominator wisdom. Intentionally childless couples are treated the same way. The herd has no problem with banishing someone, but a person who voluntarily disassociates themselves from the norm is treated with wary suspicion, if not considered to be giving purposeful offense. Hey, what do they know that I don't? Why wouldn't they like the things I like? What's wrong with me?


  1. The offense, of course, is the denigration, not the speculation. Unusual lifestyles naturally inspire curiosity. Randy and I can't help but speculate about the sexuality of the unattached adults we know. But I'm rather amused by the stupidity of such men as your boss - he obviously thinks he's superior because of his sexual orientation. Is being excited by boobies an accomplishment?

  2. Haha -- the very first thing I saw when I showed up at the warehouse for training was a magic-marker sketch on the desk of a pair of bodacious mammaries, helpfully captioned "Boobies".

    I remember him once making a smart-ass joke about someone being gay, then catching himself -- "Nah, I shouldn't say that. I don't care if someone's gay or not." I imagine for a fair amount of people, being gay isn't something they personally have deep feelings about, but they intuitively understand it to be one of those character traits that are socially acceptable to bully people over.

  3. Well then; he's forgiven. Even many gays can't shake the prejudices our culture saddles us with.