Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Commit to Yourself

For awhile now, a close friend and I have bandied about the notion of throwing self-commitment parties if we choose not to marry. In other words, I would marry myself, she'd marry herself, and we'd have a double self-commitment ceremony. For awhile, the deadline for abandoning the prospect of marriage and committing to lifelong singlehood was 30, but now that 30 is not just a hypothetical state but a reality bearing toward us in the mirror, the minimum age has somehow been raised to 35.

Of course we're half joking. And we're half serious.

It seems like a gutsy thing to do, throwing a party in your own honor. But why should it? In the last blog, we talked about how the average wedding is more a homage to the self than to the love of another person. Given that fact, celebrating yourself in style almost makes more sense than sparing no expense for what should be one of the most selfless commitments of your life, the promise to place another human being's needs before your own.

Fans of Sex and the City may remember the episode entitled "A Woman's Right to Shoes" in which Carrie's designer stilettos are stolen at a baby shower when the yuppie mother insists that all footwear be removed at the door. When the mom-to-be refuses to compensate Carrie for the loss and accuses her of indulging in a self-centered, high-priced lifestyle, Carrie rightly counters that shelling out for a wedding or a baby is no more virtuous than forking it over for anything else that's won your heart, including shoes. She argues that singles are expected to bankroll couples' weddings, homes, and children but receive no financial help for their own dreams. In response, Carrie sends word to the self-righteous mama that she's marrying herself and has set up a gift registry for her Manolo Blahniks.

Although it's played off tongue in cheek, Carrie's turn of the tables is a respectable move which affirms the value of single people. Take a moment to think of all the ways that you, as a single, have funded the lives of your coupled friends. No doubt, you've given gifts to the couples you know for all of the following:

--Engagement party
--Bridal shower
--Bachelor or bachelorette party
--Baby shower

Quite likely, you also give Christmas presents to your friend and his or her spouse as well as to each of their children, while you get just one present in return. The same probably goes for birthdays.

And if you've ever been in a bridal party, you've also born the cost of your formal attire, the bridal shower if you're a woman, the bachelor or bachelorette party, and other miscellaneous expenses along the way (i.e. your transportation to and from the wedding, your lodgings if necessary, your stylist and/or makeup artist, etc.). Then when your friend gets pregnant, you're responsible for throwing a shower for that, too.

In a time when almost everyone got married, it was assumed that in a few years your turn would come and your friends would return the favor. But the marriage rate has declined by 50% since 1970, and it's no longer a certainty that a single person will ever tie the knot or have children. I don't have any statistics on how much married couples take home in gifts over a lifetime, but I'm sure it's thousands of dollars.

I know some people will argue that the spoils of a wedding or baby shower are tempered by the costs of the wedding and the baby, but how the money is spent isn't the issue. The role of the married parent and its attendant expenditures is a lifestyle choice. So is the choice of a single person to start a business or go back to school or travel...or even buy a pair of quality shoes. The choices of a single person aren't less ethically valid than those of a married person, but for some reason, society doesn't fund those choices.

Sometimes, singles are even labeled "self-centered" even though they're ultimately spending money the same way married people do--on things that make them happy. If those things are cars and clothes and gizmos for themselves instead of for a spouse or child, what of it? Married people attain these same things through the rounadabout method of requesting them from their spouses for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Valentine's Day. Single people cut right to the chase and buy them outright. So what's the difference?

Carrie Bradshaw had the right idea about "marrying herself." While the prospect of reciting vows to love, honor, and cherish yourself might sound silly, the principle is anything but. As singles, we should all be committed to our own growth and betterment. We should promise to take care of ourselves, to treat ourselves with dignity and respect, to stand up for and protect ourselves when necessary. We should vow to be honest with ourselves, to learn from our mistakes, and to push ourselves when the time calls for it. Most of all, we should commit to accept ourselves for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health. No matter who else makes or breaks these promises to you, you should always keep them to yourself.

And if you reach a point in life at which you know that you're not going to or don't want to be married...heck, throw a party! Go ahead. Rent out a huge facility, wear an elaborate gown, feast on catered delicacies, collect presents. Make it known that you're celebrating the person you've become and the person you're still becoming. Everybody needs a day to bask in the love of family and friends and be the sun of their universe. The act of committing yourself to someone else shouldn't be what makes you worthy of that.

But if you do get married a year later, just don't expect anyone to go out and get you another set of Lenox. ;)

How do you feel about the expenditures singles are expected to make without receiving anything in return? Have you had trouble affording the costs associated with special events for your married friends or family? Would you ever throw a party for yourself? Have you made a commitment, formal or informal, to yourself?

Fun Link of the Day


Wizardry said...

Well, that’s something to think about. I can’t really weigh in too much, only because I have some living to do in order to catch up with you all, but I can understand your philosophic position. Be forewarned, everything I am about to relate to is very superficial and shallow compared to Elsie because at this point, I am a superficial person. Okay, now that that’s out of the way. I know I hate it when my friends expect me to help include their girlfriend or boyfriend. Like, the Yule feast we had at a friend’s house. I organized the whole thing, had people bring money to pay for the food, oh, and it was good, and acted like the Nazi I am when people attempted to freeload off of us. I would have to come down on them- hard, to really get the point there. But really, Yule. Do they expect us to give them charity? Yule, the Vikings celebrated Yule. We stole and pillaged to have it, so we’re going to keep it or fight to the death for it.

As far as making a commitment to myself, I suppose I have. I’ve already decided that I won’t date anyone unless there is and excessive and obvious reason to do so. Grated, that’s not a good explanation, but its all I have. In fact, I haven’t been in a relationship for about a year now, and while that’s not much, remember, I’m superficial, and still in high school, where people seem to have new boyfriends and girlfriends every other week.

Well, glad to weigh in even a little bit. Keep it up Elsie! I know I can only manage to write a few things a day, but I just realized that you post here every other day; perhaps missing the odd single day, but so little it is completely negligible. And now, to prepare for Ostra.

Victoria Gothic

Clever Elsie said...

What you're talking about is the same principle even if it's in a different, less pricey venue. It's couples expecting two for the price of one, and they want you to pick up the tab. Good for you for putting your foot down! Maybe they got Yule confused with the infinitely more selfless holiday Christmas. ;)

And, yes, committing to be single for as long as you need to be is an excellent example of committing to yourself. :)

bobbyboy said...

"How do you feel about the expenditures singles are expected to make without receiving anything in return?"

Honestly, I don't really think about it too much. I give what I can and help where I can. Luckily for me, friends don't expect, we work things out.

"Have you had trouble affording the costs associated with special events for your married friends or family?"

Luckily, I've been fortunate not to have experienced this, but have seen others deal with it.

"Would you ever throw a party for yourself?"

I think it's the only way I'd ever get a party hahaha. I do however celebrate life everyday. Not quite the party you touched on, but a celebration none the less, so probably not.

"Have you made a commitment, formal or informal, to yourself? "

Yes, and one of them is to celebrate life everyday. I guess I just came full circle in my answers.

d said...

Yes. If I am still shallow AND single in my early 40's, I will be throwing a HUGE party for myself. I will wear a ridiculous dress (although not white), ridiculously expensive shoes and will have cupcakes and an open bar and dancing.

I will NOT have all the embarassing things like throwing a bouquet or toasts or matching bridesmaides. I will expect presents though.

Clever Elsie said...

Bobby--I like your circular logic. ;)

D--Good call on the bouquets and bridesmaids. Not sure if I could resist the toasts to my immeasurable cleverness, though. ;D

Anonymous said...

I like it Elsie! However, I would like to give my view on social events. I have always been a very solitary person, I find I enjoy my own company and I have varied interests which I enjoy alone. Don't get me wrong though, I do have one or two very close friends with whom I like nothing better than to sit for hours over a fine meal or pastry and set the world to rights.

My last partner, from whom I learnt a lot about other people, and with whom I am still extremely good friends, introduced me for the first time in my life to a social circle. I had often thought that I might be missing out by not meeting up with groups of people who all know each other, but I found that I was not missing out at all.

I do not like the game of socialising. I am a transparent person, I am very open with sharing my experiences and views on life and what is really important. Obviously I do not offend people, but I have found that I disturb some people because I indirectly remind them of what is missing in their lives. I refuse to play these playground popularity games by tailoring my responses and withholding opinions just to be "liked" I really do not care whether people like me or not, and the only thing I get out of social events is meeting maybe one person I connect with whom I can arrange to meet again and devote my time to.

My premise and connection to your post is this: Why go to weddings or christenings or baby showers if you feel like a fish out of water? Take your stance on life and stand by it, including choosing your social conventions and occasions. If you do not wish to attend a certain event or if you disagree with it's principles, then if they are true friends they should respect your decision not to attend and still want to spend time with you.

I know this may sound a little harsh, but I value mental stimulation, not superficial lip-service to centuries old institutions which I could not care less about.

By the way, I am a really fluffy guy and not as hard as I sound, I just knows what I likes!

Oh and here is an amusing thought, if a person had a wedding for themselves, what would they do on their wedding night? Hmmmmmmm!

I shudder to think of the cards, gifts and cake design.

Ta-ra for now! Peace the scouser.

Anonymous said...

Just a small additional comment. I find that weddings and christenings and so on are attended by married people with children, this I believe is mainly because families relate to each other and choose their friends thus. This is why single people feel out of place at such events, I will make the distinction between feeling out of place and unfulfilled though. Whenever I speak with families or one or the other espoused, I am often either regarded with pity for my views or I am fled from in terror for hitting an all too true chord of discontentment and awful realization in the married person. Don't get me wrong, I am sure marriage and cohabiting and children are very valid and rewarding and well thought out choices made by people very much in love, and I salute these people. However all too often many people settle for less in life because they are lonely or lack the confidence to fulfill their dreams, or they marry out of fear of the ticking of the clock or for security. In the end those people who make the wrong choice will be unhappy. I speak not from a position of bitterness but of joy in life without being fettered by convention or obligation. I truly hope that everyone finds what they are looking for, and I hope that on the occasions when I have made someone stop and think about their marriage and helped them to validate their fears that I have contributed to the making of a difficult but necessary decision which will lead to future happiness and fulfillment for that person, either in a non-cohabiting relationship or the right marriage for them.

A dear friend of mine asked me over lunch yesterday what she should do about her boyfriend's tentative hints at marriage, she loves him very much but is not ready for marriage. I asked if he was prone to hissy fits or if he was rational, and she replied that he was rational. I suggested to her that she either tentatively responded indirectly by saying she would like to marry one day but that she had things she wanted to do first, or I advised her to take the direct approach by reassuring her partner that she loved things the way they were but there was no rush. I favoured the direct approach.

As regards the cost of gifts at weddings and so on, I have for many years spent a fortune at Christmas and so on, but I am thinking of just buying one group present for the whole family or couple. A large tin of sweets or a board game and so on. Yes, I am the guy with the small pile of gifts at christmas!

However my brother, although he has a family god bless him, always makes an effort at christmas by buying me vintage toys and books from my childhood which I adore.

Anyway, this is Peace, signing off!

Anonymous said...

great post! two thoughts...

1) i hate it that when corporations claim they respect your "work/life balance" but that it really only applies to people with spouses and/or kids. i can't stand it that "i have to get home to my wife" is more important than "i want to go for a run before the sun sets." it's infuriating.

2) i've spent so much money on bridesmaids dresses that it could pay for several months' rent. though i don't ever fault or blame the bride, i absolutely hate it when she says "you'll get to wear this dress again." seriously?! if you're going to make me drop 300 bucks don't lie to me to try to soften the blow. you and i both know that i'll never wear it again, except as a joke. just appreciate the fact that i'm willing to do this for you.

Clever Elsie said...

Peace--It's good that you know your own mind and are comfortable enough with yourself to disregard social conventions when they conflict with your beliefs or values.

Like you, I feel more at home in small groups of close friends than in large crowds with their requisite small talk. But each to their own. More extroverted people report feeling energized by the social contact.

You're right that weddings are family-oriented events. Most of the guests at the weddings I've been to in the past few years were almost all older married couples. A friend who's due to be married this fall made the following revelatory comment: "We [she and the groom] won't be able to invite most of our friends. It'll be almost all family members and our parents' friends. This wedding is really for them more than us." I thought it was sad that an event meant for the two of them would revolve around their parents' wishes, but it makes sense. It's mostly the older generation that reveres marriage as an institution, so they're the ones passing the torch to the newlyweds. And, yes, it can be uncomfortable for the lone single in attendance for all the reasons you mentioned. (I've been planning to blog on this in the future!)

Refusing to participate in weddings and other family-oriented events is certainly an option. And if one objects on ethical grounds to the institution of marriage or to christenings or other traditions, I would hope that truly good friends would understand and respect the decision not to attend.

Sitting out weddings and the like just because one feels out of place is a little trickier, though. One can do it no matter what others think, but anyone who takes that route should be prepared to get a lot of flack from their friends and family, some of whom will take the decision very personally and see it as a rejection. As for me, because I do feel uncomfortable at weddings, baby showers, and such for some of the reasons you mentioned, if I get an invitation from someone I'm not close with, I usually decline or just make a brief appearance. For example, I sometimes attend a wedding ceremony but don't go to the reception. However, with my close friends or family, I make the effort to attend because I know my presence means a lot to them and shows them that I care. The way I see it, I may not agree with all the choices they make, but it's their right to make those choices, and because they're happy in their choices, I support them. But that's just my way of handling those white, frilly events. It's a perfectly legitimate choice to stay at home. Again, one just has to be willing to deal with the potential fallout from friends or family.

Family gifts are a terrific idea! I've started giving one "couples gift" at Christmas. I guess "family gifts" are the next step.
In fairness, some of my coupled friends have been giving me more expensive presents lately, which I suspect is because I'm now spending for the two of them, and I think that's an equitable approach as well.

With a little creativity, I think most wedding traditions could be adapted to the singleton. Just think...a cake with a lone bride or groom figurine, cards wishing you a lifetime of commitment to yourself, slow dancing to a certain Divinyls song... ;) Okay, so maybe it's a little too cheesy for real life, but it sure would make a great film scene!

Sub-urban--Ugh, I completely agree with you about discrimination against singles in the workplace! There's another good blog topic, come to think of it!

I think some brides mean well and really hope we will wear those dresses again. That or they delude themselves into thinking we will to lessen the guilt that keeps them up at night along with their $20,000 Visa bill for those floral arrangements. :) Actually, I'd like to wear those dresses if I had any place to wear them to without looking like a, well, bridesmaid reject. :)

Anonymous said...

Elsie, I put this comment on a politics post by mistake as you know, please post it here in order to maintain continuity, cheers!

Additional Additional! Last one on this date, I promise! I realize I may have been a bit harsh about attending occasions for a friend, if you are close to someone it can mean a lot for them if you attend. It's like, I would rather go kayaking with a bunch of interesting singles than go to a wedding, but if it was a very dear friend I would make an exception.

Carl xx