The Club of the Unloved

In an ancient tale/play of, Tristan and Yseult, king Mark rules with his head until he falls in love for his enemy’s sister. The story revels in forbidden desires, broken hearts, grand passion and tender truth. Meanwhile, a band plays in the club of the unloved high above the stage as the story unfolds. In this play, there are both loved and unloved characters, who regard the emotional pyrotechnics with awe, envy, and relief. As in life, the voyeurs are in the majority who take comfort for the realization that they also serve as execrators of the tale.

Living alone is one of the least discussed, and sadly, poorly understood forms of living. We worry about friends and family members who haven’t found the right person, even if they insist that they’re happy. We struggle to support elderly parents and grandparents who find themselves living alone, and we are puzzled about what to do if they tell us they prefer to remain alone. In all these situations, living alone is something that each person experiences as the most private of matters.

On rare occasions of public debate, commentators tend to present living-alone as a social-problem, a sign of narcissism, fragmentation of human spirit, and diminished family life. These preconceived notions tend to frame the lifestyle of living-alone as an overly simplified choice between a romanticized version of Revolutionary Road and glamorous enticements of Sex and the City.

In 1950, only 22 percent of American adults were single. Today, more than 50 percent of American adults are single. That means: about 17 million women and 14 million men don’t have a date tonight. Contemporary solo dwellers are primarily women with a ratio of 1.2 women for each man.

The rise of living alone has been a transformation of norms and social experiences. This lifestyle changes the way we understand ourselves. It alters the way we become adults, as well as how we age and the way we die. This religion of self-reliance embodies self-sufficiency at its core. We have embarked on this experiment because we believe it serves a purpose. Living alone helps us pursue sacred dreams, personal control, and more importantly self-realization. These are exactly the traits that we need to reconnect with others –by choice.

Love and marriage are healthy and noble notions. Couples live longer. They have more sex in missionary position. Couples couple up and go to restaurants together. During dinner, they discuss highway routes to work. After dinner they chat up with waitresses and ask about the tea and its ingredients. Waitresses explain that there is water in the tea. It is all a very communal and pleasant form of life. But love and marriage isn’t for everyone. Single individuals are kinder. They volunteer 33% more than couples. They listen more actively and are more attentive to their friends.

Surely, king Mark enjoyed his love for his enemy’s sister more than the time I spent writing about king Mark. Though, in this club of the unloved I play my own music and cheer for the grand notion of love. Some of us choose to be vegetarians, and bacon continues to smell delicious to the rest.

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