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Relationships and Singles - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
Relationships and Singles
A coworker and I had an interesting conversation about relationships during an extended drive friday. He is from Egypt, and we discussed the drastic difference between our two cultures.

"Are you against marriage?" he asked me. "Because a lot of people here seem very against marriage."

I thought about it, and attempted to explain myself. "It's not that I'm against marriage... it's just that I don't require marriage. I don't want to get married just for the sake of getting married. I want to, but only if I find the right guy."

I babbled further. "I would love to fall in love. I would love to grow old with somebody I care about. But I don't need it. I can take care of myself if necessary, and I'm prepared to live my life as a single person if I don't find the right guy."

I felt almost embarrassed, using that word. Love. I know that in Islamic cultures that is not really a consideration. He went on to say nearly as much. But he didn't disparage the concept of love: he just said it was not a factor. "You look for people who are compatible with you, social and income, in my culture," he said.

I wanted to ask if he was in love with his wife. But I didn't quite dare. Instead, I asked how they had met. They met at work. "But we could not just go on a date, like you might here. That would be inappropriate. For a man and a woman to spend time together without being married. She would be disgraced."

I started the above post a week ago, and just never finished it. I wanted to, but of course the details of the conversation grew fuzzier and fuzzier. And the conclusions I drew are less and less remembered. It doesn't help that I left my power cord in the office, so I can't even type long....

But still, I'd like to finish off this draft as best as I can -- so I'll skip to the end.

The conversation concluded with my explaining to him that I don't NEED a husband. If I find somebody who can enhance my life, that would be wonderful -- but I can take care of myself.

"No, I disagree. That is not true," he told me. At my offended frown he elaborated, "What if you get sick?"

"That's what doctors are for."

"But what if it is four o'clock in the morning, and you need somebody to take you to the doctor, or help you?"

"Well... there are ambulances if it's an emergency. But more importantly, that's what friends are for."

"How can expect that they will help you? Why would your friends take time out of their lives for you?"

I paused. I couldn't quite explain why, but I knew. There are a few friends that I know I could call, even at four AM. If I needed somebody, they would be there. "That's what friends are for," I repeated lamely.

Then as I thought about it, it became clearer. "I think it's precisely because there are so many of us now who are single adults. We're all in the same boat. Our friends, especially single friends, become our family. They fill in those gaps that would traditionally be served by a spouse. We look out for each other. I can call them, because they can call me. We take care of each other; we're family."


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bunjamin From: bunjamin Date: July 26th, 2005 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I really like this entry as well.

My thoughts on friends have completely changed over the past year or so. Perhaps because I've made so many people/made a few friends. You are correct to say "That's what friends are for."

There is lots I could say about friendships/friends, but I'll spare your defenseless LJ-comment feature ;)

shadowrose From: shadowrose Date: July 26th, 2005 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I like this entry as well.
bluelotus From: bluelotus Date: July 26th, 2005 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
That sounds like a great conversation, and I can see where both sides are coming from, very interesting.
hannunvaakuna From: hannunvaakuna Date: July 26th, 2005 02:23 am (UTC) (Link)
hehe and some of us are likely to still be UP at 4:00am (:
bob_the_mighty From: bob_the_mighty Date: July 26th, 2005 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Damn skippy we are.

joline From: joline Date: July 26th, 2005 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)
your thoughts, as you explained them here, are exactly the things that have been bumping around in my brain with increasing frequency lately. and i'm happy about it! it's interesting to hear your friend's side. (it reminds me of how chris rock said that if you're lucky enough to find someone you enjoy eating with, sleeping with, and going to the movies with, then you may as well marry them. heh!) i felt like a great weight was lifted off my shoulders when i came to feel the way you do. and, as i work alongside a bride-to-be who is my age, i see that while i actually envied her at first (all the talk about diamonds and pretty dresses and celebration), she is actually envying me now (i can stay out late with my neighbors and run my own little household and answer only to myself). anyway, i think i went off on a tangent that means: thanks for posting this, because you eloquently said some of the things i've been thinking!
jebra From: jebra Date: July 26th, 2005 03:33 am (UTC) (Link)
> There are a few friends that I know I could call, even at four AM.

And don't you forget it!
jagdoe From: jagdoe Date: July 26th, 2005 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I called someone up and had someone help me out last night at close to midnight, and frankly, I hated it. Maybe it's because he's married and it took him from his wife, but it's also because I had to call him and he doesn't have to call me. I'm sorry if I'm the single dissenter (pun intended), but I'm tired of being single. I'm tired of hearing how wonderful my freedom is and all the horrors of the married sex life compared to that of the lone wolf on the prowl.

Maybe I'd feel different if I still had a lot of single friends, but I don't. Nearly everyone I spend time with, at work or otherwise, is married. I found, in the end, the eternal fraternity of bachelorhood isn't so eternal, and no one wants to be the last one to graduate and have to turn out all the lights in the empty house. I want a family, I dream of telling ridiculous stories to children, and I don't fear the minivan.

If I was out on dates with different women every week and having to fend new women off with a stick, perhaps I'd feel differently, but I doubt it. Right now, I kind of envy the Egyptian guy.
anarmyofjuan From: anarmyofjuan Date: July 27th, 2005 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty much in your camp, man.
atdt1991 From: atdt1991 Date: July 26th, 2005 05:14 am (UTC) (Link)
*chuckle* I'd come to help at 4 a.m., ya know.

We belong to a sort of extended community that behaves differently than many, even in our own culture. I think we've cultivated strong and intimate friendships because our family relationships aren't enough; more to the point, many of us find that the family we're born with doesn't understand us as well as the family we choose.

Having already chosen a family to support us, we do not worry so much about "creating a new family" to rely on.

We already have.
ellison From: ellison Date: July 26th, 2005 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
This is SO great! That IS what friends are for! And I love the way you said your thoughts. Awesome stuff. I feel lucky and grateful for having a caring spouse and super awesome friends. Another married friend of mine would definitely help me out if I needed her at 4am, as would my mom, who's always said I can call her any time, day or night. It's nice that not just ONE person can fill the role of caretaker/supporter/listener, but many! To surround yourself with loved ones of many kinds is a nice way to live, for sure. :)
From: tlatoani Date: July 26th, 2005 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)
People don't have to be single to have those kinds of friendships -- they just have to not disappear into a little cocoon when they get married. L and I have a very large extended "family", because we've maintained those friendships.
xtatic1 From: xtatic1 Date: July 26th, 2005 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Our friends, especially single friends, become our family. They fill in those gaps that would traditionally be served by a spouse. We look out for each other. I can call them, because they can call me. We take care of each other; we're family."

Very well put, and very true.
matt_arnold From: matt_arnold Date: July 26th, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for this great post. It's the Urban Tribe, which I know quite well. tlatoani was right, you aren't saying people have to be single, just that they don't have to be married either. It sounds like your co-worker likes to take the easy way. Being a successful Quirkyalone takes more effort and deliberate intent than he is interested in; so he slides along the tracks laid down for him. That's short-sighted, because it takes the same effort for a married person to get out of the house and avoid "white picket cage" syndrome, so marriage is no automatic cure for loneliness. Sometimes it's even more lonely.
cannibal From: cannibal Date: July 26th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Funny that everyone else buys this completely. Have to be devil's advocate, therefore. Of course, I live that way too.

What happens if you fall over and bang your head at 4am, then lay bleeding and unconscious? Your friends, unless they live with you, aren't there for that. Cats are not sufficient.

Friends move away. There's an effort involved in finding and keeping up new friendships.

The investment isn't as deep. You can count on friends for moral support, but if things get really bad you can't expect them to go into debt for your medical bills. Virtual family vs real family is sort of like an HMO vs traditional insurance... the old-style insurance stuck with you no matter what, once you'd signed the contract. The HMO pays for the first $300 with a $400 deductible. Of course, real insurance doesn't exist anymore, it got replaced with a PPO.

If you got laid off, would your friends take a second job to help support you? Support you while you went back to school?

I can think of times when I've taken care of my friends, and they haven't done the same in return for me.
jagdoe From: jagdoe Date: July 26th, 2005 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm guessing everyone wants to buy this, and are tired of a society that no longer assists us in finding a mate, but stigmatizes us for remaining single. We no longer live in multi-generational homes where our parents and grandparents share the ancestral estate with us. We rent, we find new jobs, we move, and most of our day-to-day contact with other people are coworkers we eat lunch with or friends we send emails to. In the face of such isolation, people cope in different ways. Some cling to a significant other for most of their needs due to the transient nature of the rest of our lives. Others, it would seem, build a culture of single friends, and are convinced that they no longer need traditional support structures.

In the end, if I lose my job, I'm sure friends would give me a place to stay for a while, but no one will help pay my mortgage. Are your friends so close to you that they would stay home from work to take care of you if you fell ill, or give part of their savings to help tide you over during unemployment? My friends are there when I ask, but what about when I don't, or am ashamed to, or it's not an emergency? If I became ill, none of my friends would know for over a week. In that meantime, I'd be the one going to Safeway buying Kleenex and chicken soup.

Maybe I'm just having one of those weeks.
matt_arnold From: matt_arnold Date: July 27th, 2005 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
cannibal, my reply to this got so long and involved I posted it to my livejournal instead.
cannibal From: cannibal Date: July 27th, 2005 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just don't know. On the upside, Asya just sent me a really cute humorous t-shirt link that while not entirely appropriate, does at least talk about marriage....
grrry From: grrry Date: July 26th, 2005 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)


Rennie, even Annette & I would still find ways to come help if you couldn't get to someone else, though we've moved a goodly ways away.

one other thing though for your points on marriage that Annette keeps pointing out to people, so I will repeat it for her.

Nobody should be someone else's punishment.

Typically the comment used to be made that a guy had to marry a girl he got in a family way because he had to take his punishment. No girl worth anything should accept being a punishment! But that's true for any of a number of other rationales too. Settling for someone because you can't find someone more comfortable or whatever.... punishment for wanting you when you will settle for them. Agreeing to marry because it's convenient, punishment for being convenient? etc.

No one should ever accept being someone else's punishment. Ever. Accepting less than a really good marriage is just that, a punishment.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 26th, 2005 11:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi Rennie darling!!!

As a recently engaged woman, in my mid to late thirties...I can say that I have experience both in being single, and in being in a long term relationship. There are benefits to both, but due to my recently engaged status, I shall uphold the married side. :)

When you're married to someone, you can support each other to reach long term goals. Say, one person works, while the other goes back to school... or starts their own business. Or, you can learn how to ballroom dance, and know that you won't have to re-learn the dances when you start dating someone new. And, last but not least, you halve the odious house chores!!!

Furthermore, I'd like to point out that you can still maintain your urban tribal friendships from within a marriage. I don't think that my friends will desert me when I'm married (at least I hope not!!!). :)
the_leewit From: the_leewit Date: July 27th, 2005 06:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
My .02:

1. Hear, hear!

2. Seems he was asking "Why aren't you in a partnership?" and your answer was "My needs are currently better met by a good network than a legal partnership of dubious provenance." What more need be said?

3. I was married once. Ja, it's over. A defining moment came when I described myself and my very traditional living situation (one working papa, one part-time -night-shift-job mom, one baby born two years in wedlock, which began the day we moved in together) and realized it felt like I was lying. It wasn't a partnership. I stayed faithful (unlike the first half of the marriage, where I *was* in love but was militantly unfaithful) because I felt Catherine would have been better served in a two-parent household than the current alternatives would allow, but resented him terribly, like I would have the welfare system if it put deductions for bad pornography and fast food right on the check with FICA or whatever they put on a welfare check. We were not equals; we were not partners; we were not lovers. I was a parasite and I hated him for what I'd become, and as for 4-a.m. hospital trips... well, I had to start walking to the hospital when I was in labour, and that was at 8:00 p.m.

Legally a marriage. Morally? Not even friendship. A terrible thing to do to two kids and their daughter, even if they did it to themselves. If it weren't for divorce I'd be dead right now, and grateful for the relief.

But I'm grateful that both of us have the legal obligation to care for the kid, and that's a fact.

4. And now, I am in a committed relationship. He's never going to marry me--- the gulf is too wide, I have hurt his family too badly, the only woman he could ever marry dumped him because of his association with me, I am not what you'd call a stable and mature person and you shouldn't enter legal/ moral/ spiritual contract with someone who's not all there, and, let's face it, he loves me but is not "in love"" with me---

Well, really. I'm not the One and not a lifetime supply of polyjuice potion[tm] will turn me into his One.

But he is my One. And within the partnership, I have learned patience, fidelity, equality, and-- wonder of wonders--- mutual respect and the real two-way streets involved there. Most of the time.

I'm as married as I'm going to get. It's *fun and profitable* when it works--- but I wonder if that's a reason to turn it into a normative state.
cannibal From: cannibal Date: July 28th, 2005 10:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Darling Laura.

You are damaged, yes. Pretty much anyone with the soul to be worth spending time on is.

You are not damaged goods, though. You're brilliant. You're wonderful. You're charming, beautiful, and I love you. Anne and Bill do, I'm sure Catherine does, too. The idea that nobody should commit to you is anathema. Anyone who would cherish you and worship you would be incredibly lucky to get you. I want to see you find someone willing to support you, encourage you, and treat you like you're really special, because I think mankind would benefit from the work you would produce thereby.
the_leewit From: the_leewit Date: July 29th, 2005 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Dear one...

I'd get defensive here, but... has there ever been a romantic relationship I've been in that you approved of?

And, sorry. I know you kinda think Jeff and I could make a good team, but I think we all know that it would end very, very badly.

Living people are damaged goods.

And I'm bad at the relationship game, but daily getting better. Nice to find a partner that works with.
jeffreyab From: jeffreyab Date: July 30th, 2005 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
It sounds like your relationship is working better than some marriages I have come across.

If it works for you most of the time stick with it.

I think today we expect too much from relationships and marriage.

jeffreyab From: jeffreyab Date: July 30th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Late comment

I missed this and just found it.

I think today we expect too much from relationships and marriage.

Myself looking for a perfect match to avoid the catastrophic failure of my parents has left me pretty much alone in my forties.

It think its part of where you are in life too.

In your 30's you still tend to have many friends but as you age these relationships lessen in numbers as people lose touch, move away, get married and make other new couple connections.

Come back in ten years and tell me if you still think the same way.

My family from ten years ago has ebbed and grown but my circle of friends is smaller and getting smaller every year.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 1st, 2005 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)
It's good that you are comfortable being single and independent.

You seem to have a fear of losing your independence therefore you avoid life experiences where you might lose control of yourself and find that one person to spend your life with.

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