When I discovered the book “The Challenge of Being Single,” I was excited to find a book that was helpful for navigating our couple-centric world. Marie Edwards’ book grew out of workshops she offered for singles to overcome their shame and learn to be comfortably single. It was published in 1974. These workshops are no longer offered, though her Singles Manifesto still rings very true. It still very much is a challenge to be single. So, I decided to offer a workshop inspired by Edwards’ work but also informed by newer research by Bella DePaulo and Kay Trimberger. I call this workshop a Singles Empowerment Workshop.
What can you learn in this workshop? I am planning on covering two aspects of being single in a couple-centric world: How singlism develops and how we can counteract it in our own lives. Singlism basically develops just like any other stereotype. As humans, we have a tendency to categorize people. Exactly what we use to do that depends on the culture we live in. Our culture uses the wedding band as one of the categorizers: If you have it, you belong to “married;” if not, you go into the box “single.” It’s gotten a little bit more complicated because co-habitation is becoming more acceptable: There is no obvious way to categorize people anymore (maybe that’s where Facebook comes in?). Nevertheless, the category “single” comes with tons of negative messages (the external singlism) – these messages turn into internalized singlism. Internalized singlism materializes as those things we tell ourselves: “I am nothing without a partner! There is something wrong with me because I am single.” And these messages are flat out wrong.
Before we can change these messages we need to realize that they are there. Then we need to replace them. Culturally, we can do that by beginning to value other things: Instead of celebrating the couple, we could celebrate friendship, for example. As singles, though, we need to counteract these messages now – to begin to overcome the shame many of us feel for being single. The first step is to feel more comfortable with our state. One way to do that is by playing around with it: Are we single for a while or a lifetime? Are we quirkyalone or single-at-heart? By looking at these questions, we move away from the idea that there is something wrong with being single. We begin to look at it as something to investigate, to explore, rather than something to end or fight. Once we feel a bit more comfortable with being single, we can take a look at what we would want to get out of a SEEP relationship. If we assume that we all are trying to meet certain needs – from companionship to sex – we can explore if there are other ways than those dictated by culture to meet them. For example, I have found that learning how to give hugs is a wonderful way of meeting my need for touch. So, that’s another thing we’ll explore in the workshop: What needs are we trying to meet and how could we meet them without coupling up?
I am very much hoping that the workshop on Tuesday, March 29, held in San Francisco will be the first of a series. I would love it if my version of Edwards’ workshops would help us counteract singlism – both within culture at large and within ourselves. And if you are in the San Francisco bay area, I’d love it if you join me on the 29th!