Tag Archives: arranged marriage

30 and single.

It’s an amazing thing, the variety of reactions you get when you tell someone that you are 30 years old and don’t have a spouse or children. There’s a range of responses, which can quickly be categorized into two groups: Pity and Envy. Both reside under the umbrella of Surprise, but the logistics of each vary widely. First, Pity.

Pity 1: “What happened?” — Implies the assumed inevitability that a) I’m divorced, or b) I at one point was really close to getting married but something went dramatically wrong.

Pity 2: “Oh, I’m sorry.” — Insinuation that I’m missing out, or that my life has less meaning that it would if I was, in fact, married with children. 

Pity 3: “It’s never too late!” — This response usually happens in one of two contexts: a) The person is immediately put off by this knowledge that I’m single and is ready to transition the conversation to another topic or to another person, or b) He/she is trying to set me up with someone.

Next: Envy.

Envy 1: “In another life…” — Hinting towards the person’s own questioning of his/her life choices. He/she is currently in the middle of a life that didn’t turn out the way he/she thought it would, and sees my life some sort of hypothetical, vicarious example of what life could have been like if certain life-altering decisions hadn’t been made.

Envy 2: “Must be nice.” — Revealing a) Life with a spouse and children is hard; b) The speaker has no respect for certain realities and doesn’t appreciate what he/she has; or c) Flippant comments to give a person the excuse to complain about his/her own life are so much easier than listening to someone else.

Envy 3: “Lucky bastard.” — See c) from “Envy 2.”

The Pity and Envy responses make sense to me in various ways, and I am at a point where I’m not surprised by any of them. The problem is that both of them are on the same side of the ledger in terms of Surprise: whether they are based in pity or envy, all of these response are based on a premise of disbelief that someone could be 30 years old and not have a spouse and/or children. “How is that possible? How does that happen? Why hasn’t he grown up? When is he going to settle down and start his life?” These responses of surprise also come loaded with condescension, as if there’s some sort of rule book for what makes a life worthwhile. That rule book exists, but its criteria aren’t about spouses or children, nor are they about career choices, or savings accounts, or zip codes.

Some of the happiest people I know are married. They have spouses that support them, kids that look up to them, and families that create daily meaning and motivation for the work that they do. Some of the most miserable people I know are married, too. They have spouses that belittle them and constrain them from being who they want to be. They treat their kids as burdens instead of blessings. They go to work and happy hours in order to be away from home. I know miserable people that are single, that simply cannot find meaning without other people being immediate parts of their daily lives. And I know single people that could not be happier with their lives, that wake up everyday feeling lucky to have the opportunity to interact with the people they know and to be part of this inherently strange and confusing world. The rule book for making life worthwhile is different for everyone. That might be the most cliche and trite statement I’ve ever written, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

I’m not out to tell someone what is going to make his/her life meaningful. I don’t claim to know the solution, nor do I want to be responsible for defining a fulfilling life for someone else. I don’t know what fulfills you, and it wouldn’t be fair or productive to claim that I do. I can hope for that for everyone, and that is sincerely my hope. Finding meaning in what we do on a daily basis is a crucial part of the human experience; without that meaning, nihilism slowly–or maybe quickly–creeps in and takes over. I’ve seen nihilism, and I choose to do what I can to avoid it, and I hope that if you’re reading this you have found a better option than the postmodern bottom line of meaninglessness. But labeling certain life choices (such as marriage) as necessarily pointing to certain points on the spectrum of meaningfulness doesn’t work, and I wish we were better at acknowledging that.

Some of the statements above resonate perfectly with me. I agree: it’s never too late to meet someone. Of course I have an answer to the question “What happened?” And I don’t blame some of my friends for calling me a “lucky bastard” and being jealous of parts of my life. But when we ask people these questions or make these types of remarks, we are saying more about ourselves than we are about that person. If we are jealous of those around us, what does that say about the degree to which we appreciate–or don’t–the amazing opportunities we have in our own lives every single day? When we question the life choices of the people we meet, which of our own decisions–that we might regret–are we purposefully overlooking or brushing over? And while we remind our friends that it’s never too late to meet someone, what dreams of our own do we still have time to achieve?

Our culture is plagued with a lack of self-awareness. We are really good at seeing other people’s lives, figuring out what they should do differently, and then moving on to someone else and making the same sort of judgments. I am guilty of this as much as anyone. Maybe it’s time to stop picking up on what people don’t have, or only noticing what could be better for them, and instead start trying to be empathetic to who they are and why their life is what it is, and to use that empathy to better recognize ourselves and, in turn, appreciate what we have and why we have it. “Not like mine” is not a valid reason to feel sorry for or to be judgmental of other people’s lives. We all do this, all the time. I think all parties would be better off if we didn’t.

Yes, I’m 30. No, I don’t have a wife. Yes, I play golf more than 98% of the general public. No, I don’t want to be single forever. Yes, I do get to eat Chinese take-out twice a week, sometimes as I watch television. I’m jealous of you and your awesome marriage, and I’m not jealous at all of your crappy one. Sure, I’d be happy to meet your single coworker, or to talk in more detail about arranged marriages…Now, let’s talk about something else.



Filed under Life

Shopping Carts in Parking Lots

My last few posts have swayed more towards the serious side of things, so I figured I’d lighten it up a touch. With that in mind, here’s my most recent list of things that annoy me:

1) Empty ice trays

I am fortunate to live with people that are also my close friends. I’ve always been fortunate in this category. I’ve lived with 10-15 different people over the years, all of whom I consider my close friends. I’ve been Best Man in two of their weddings (soon to be three); I’ve traveled abroad with some of them; I’ve even been fortunate to live with my own brother. In other words, I consider myself extremely lucky so far in terms of who I’ve been able to live with.

But if you’ve every had roommates before, you know that at some point in time you find things about people that annoy, bother, or straight up anger you. Shoes left in the living room; dishes left uncleaned; music turned up too loud in the bathroom during a shower. I’ve heard people get mad about things like this, and usually I’m indifferent. But I’ve found my main roommate annoyance, and that’s whenever an ice tray is left unfilled. I don’t get it. You might be thinking, “Wait–people still use ice trays?” Yes, they do, especially when they live in an apartment that isn’t blessed with an icemaker. It’s not a problem; I actually like the intense, exhausting labor that is making your own ice. Trust me, it’s really not hard to do. And when I get home from a “rough” day of reading books and grading papers, I expect one thing: 1) there to be ice in the ice bucket. If not, then I have another expectation: 1a) I expect the ice trays to be full of water that is either frozen or is in the on-the-way-to-being-ice stage. These really should be the only two options. But, for some reason, I sometimes come home and find something else, which I’ll label as 2) Empty ice trays in the freezer serving absolutely no purpose. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to expect either 1) or 1a).

2) People that strand their used shopping carts in the parking lot.

This phenomenon is an embodiment of all things I see wrong in the world. Okay, that’s clearly an exaggeration. But seriously, leaving your cart in the lot is nothing less than pure selfishness. Every time I go buy groceries I see carts stranded in the parking lot. This creates extra work for grocery store employees that most likely are already underpaid and are undoubtedly under-appreciated, and it also isn’t efficient for shoppers as it leads to problems with re-stocking the in-store supply of available shopping carts. The worst? When someone leaves their cart directly in the middle of the adjacent parking spot. I’ve caught myself yelling horrendous profanities whenever I pull into a spot only to realize it’s already occupied by an empty shopping cart. A few weeks ago I witnessed firsthand a beautiful woman consciously make the decision to leave her cart in the lot. I saw her go through the moral dilemma of whether or not to return it to the designated “Shopping Carts Here” area, and she made the lazy decision to just leave it. I walked over and returned it for her, but not after making sure she saw me do so. She tried to withhold her shame, but I saw a glimmer of it in there somewhere.

To put it simply, I think it’s just a selfish thing to do, not to mention being extremely lazy. It’s another form of the “My time is more important than yours” sickness, closely related to the “I’m going to bypass this line of traffic in the shoulder and then eventually have to merge in at the front of the line thus creating longer waiting time for the people already in line” thought process. Both are equally worthy of profanity.

3) Rewinding VHSs. So what if I haven’t done this in 10+ years–it will always remain an annoyance to me.

4) The revision process.

I teach college composition courses, and a huge part of what I teach is the writing process. If you’ve taken a course like this then you’ve probably heard someone talk about how important revision is in this process. And I stand by this lesson: writing is, in fact, a process, and an irreplaceable step in this process is revision. Without revision, writers can’t find what needs to be better (something always needs to be better) and they can’t confront the uncomfortable admission that things need to be changed–an admission that must be made in order for writing to reach its potential. I teach this, and I teach it as often as I can.

But as a writer, I hate that it’s true. I hate the revision step, especially whenever the document you are revising is 215 pages long (give or take a few pages). Sure, there are moments when it hits you: “Hey–this part can be better,” or “Aha! I’ve got it!” But, for the most part, it usually feels like drudging through page after page, making sure that what I’ve written is good enough to suffice. I hate to admit that, but that’s how I feel most of the time. Of course there’s one great thing that revision means: the process is almost over.

5) Dating

It’s the worst. I wait longingly for the return of arranged marriages.

– – – – – – – –

On another note, here’s this post’s edition of “What to Read/What to See”:

Read: Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son (2013)

This is one of the more fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. It won the Pulitzer in 2013, and I feel like it will stand out amongst some of the recent winners as a book that finds a way to simultaneously cover a particular, current topic and also speak about broader, timeless aspects of the human experience. If that isn’t a good enough sales pitch, maybe this will be: it’s about North Korea. I don’t know much more about North Korea than the next person, but this book had me hooked from the first pages. The way that Johnson conveys an experience complete different from the one that I know–the experience of living in a world of political and intellectual captivity–is noteworthy, especially considering the fact that he’s from South Dakota. I have no idea if the North Korea he depicts is accurate or not, but I do know that his exemplification of the way that we tell ourselves stories in order to create an understanding of the world we live in is brilliant. This is, in essence, what the book is about: stories are how we make sense of our lives, but oftentimes these stories are made up for us–for good or for bad. As Johnson shows, it’s each person’s choice whether or not to believe the stories that we are told must define our lives.

See: Whiplash

I was on the way to see this movie in December when I got stuck in unexpected traffic, and I ended up having to wait until it came out on Netflix last week to see it. This type of movie is usually right up my alley, and Whiplash isn’t an exception. There were times when I was questioning whether or not I liked it, but it eventually clicked for me. I like Miles Teller, although I still see him as the goofy young guy from some of his previous movies; I think I need a few more roles like this from him before I really buy into it. J.K. Simmons was great, and I have no problem with him winning the Oscar (although, I have to say, Mark Ruffalo was fantastic in Foxcatcher). I’ve read a few articles hating on the movie because of its depiction of jazz. But I’m not a jazz purist, so that criticism doesn’t resonate with me. And, honestly, I thought that the last act of the movie was perfect. It brought the entire film to a resolution, and the last ten minutes had me hooked.

Watch: Hello Ladies (HBO Series)

I recently tried to get one of my friends to watch this show; she hated it because it was so hard to watch. And I admit that each episode has more than one especially cringe-worthy scene, in the same vein as parts of Meet the Parents or the scene in The Family Stone where Sarah Jessica Parker’s character fumbles her way through an unintentionally homophobic and quazi-racist diatribe around the family dinner table. If you find yourself struggling through scenes like that, then Hello Ladies might not be the show for you. But if you enjoy the original British version of The Office, you’ll love it. This makes sense, of course, as Stephen Merchant (creator, writer, and lead actor of Hello Ladies) is creative partners with Ricky Gervais. Hello Ladies chronicles the struggles of a single man looking for love in L.A. It’s awkward, it’s painful, and it’s hilarious. And if you’re able to stick it out through the entire series (including the movie-length ninth episode), it’s rewarding even beyond the laughs. There’s a sense of compassion and gentleness underlying the awkwardness, and I think that Merchant does it perfectly.


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Filed under Books, Life, Movies, TV