Are you crazy busy or just lonely?

This is Ryan O’Connell on the pervasiveness of loneliness and alienation, which sometimes is connected to being overly busy:

It’s taboo to be lonely. It’s taboo to find yourself all alone in a generation that prides itself on being busy all the time. But guess what? It’s happening. You’re lonely, you’re alone, and it feels like it always does. All the Netflix queues and tweets can’t save you from this familiar feeling of alienation.

It’s comforting in a way, it’s comforting to know that no matter how much things change, you can always go back to this place of feeling restless and disconnected. You’re working 60 hours a week, you’re getting drinks with the people you adore, and you’re still finding yourself isolated between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, you’re certainly happier now than you were last summer, but occasionally you find yourself exactly where you started: Looking for human connection and coming up short…

Sometimes being busy only magnifies the loneliness. Sometimes you’re better off just being honest with yourself and lying in bed. Be bored. Enjoy the boredom. It’s so rare these days. Stop trying to fill every second of everyday.

The NY Times published a thoughtful Op-Ed, The Busy Trap, that made some good points about how Americans, in particular, pride ourselves on being busy.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

Personally, I feel most alive when I’m working hard, and when I’m so exhausted I don’t have time to think about whether I’m lonely or not. By devoting myself to writing and growing as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that I literally cannot work all the time. When I’m not busy, I am sometimes quite lonely.

But sometimes the company of others is more lonely. The same is true of boredom. I learn a great deal about my habits and patterns when I’m bored.

The most valuable lesson of my loneliness and boredom has been learning to cultivate genuine connection with my friends, relatives. This is why I disagree with generalizations that claim that the Internet or too much TV alienates us. I’m more interested in how to make friends with my loneliness, since it’s a natural emotion, just like love.

NY Times: When all the single guys live together

This Sunday NY Times story about four single guys sharing an apartment together caught my eye because the single male experience is rarely highlighted.

Even if it’s not always particularly diverse when it comes to sourcing, the Times does a good job of at least attempting to illustrate cultural trends. I am not at all surprised, by the way, that Mayor Bloomberg would try to cram single people into small spaces:

Sociologically, the men represent the apotheosis of two trends in American life. While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may be promoting the idea of tiny apartments for singles, the most recent census figures suggest that many people do not want to live alone; they prefer or need the company: The number of roommates in nonfamily households in New York City increased by more than 40 percent between 2000 and 2010. At the same time, Americans, especially men, have been pushing back the age at which they first marry — for men, it climbed to 28.2 years in 2010, up from 26.8 a decade earlier.

Indeed, though the men might resist putting so much weight upon their living arrangement, they are part of an ongoing redefinition of family life in the 21st century, in which traditional structures are replaced by fluid networks and bonds not dependent on blood ties.

“Now there are so many variations on how to live,” said Bella DePaulo, a social scientist and author of the book “Singled Out.” Many adults in middle age and beyond, she said, are choosing the “friendship model” for their living needs, opting for roommate arrangements similar to what they had in college or in their 20s, “except now they’re so much more thoughtful about it.”

It’s really rare to see mainstream outlets write about single men in a way that isn’t about chasing tail or being overgrown frat dudes, so this was refreshing. It made me think about the section of Kate Bolick’s article in the Atlantic where she writes about The Begijnhof, an single-sex community for women founded in the mid-12th century with 106 apartments  for applicants who commit to living alone (but in community with one another) between the ages of 30 and 65. Sounds like something the U.S. might need for all the single ladies.

Teenage boys are waiting longer to have sex because they’re more romantic

Speaking of unexpected things that made me happy this weekend:

Why are boys behaving more “like girls” in terms of when they lose their virginity? In contrast to longstanding cultural tropes, there is reason to believe that teenage boys are becoming more careful and more romantic about their first sexual experiences.

That’s how sociologist Amy Schalet begins her sweet editorial about the new cultural tropes being rewritten by teen boys.  I learned about it over at Sociological Images. More from Schalet:

Today, though more than half of unmarried 18- and 19-year-olds have had sexual intercourse, fewer than 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old boys and girls have, down from 50 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls in 1988. And there are virtually no gender differences in the timing of sexual initiation.

What happened in those two decades?

Fear seems to have played a role. In interviewing 10th graders for my book on teenage sexuality in the United States and the Netherlands, I found that American boys often said sex could end their life as they knew it. After a condom broke, one worried: “I could be screwed for the rest of my life.” Another boy said he did not want to have sex yet for fear of becoming a father before his time.

The rest of the editorial just made me beam with pride. I think each generation assumes that the one after it is going to hell in a handbasket. But to see that American boys, like Dutch boys, were not only afraid of the consequences of having sex before they might be ready but that they also were using really strong romantic language to discuss love was so refreshing. Maybe the kids are really alright.

When Maiden Ladies Live it Up: Lessons from Zelda Kaplan

In an interview recently, I was asked what my driving passion is in my life now.

For years, my answer to that question was always the same. I want to write. I am a writer.

What I’m evaluating now is the idea that I want to live my life to the fullest. What is the point of being untethered in any way if you don’t use that freedom to get to know yourself, to give of yourself in all the ways you were meant to?

This is fundamentally why I’m writing a book about being contented as a single person. The goal is not to disparage relationships or companionship, which I believe are their own gifts, when you find the right one. It’s to celebrate the moment you find yourself in, single or not. Celebrating yourself is not, nor should ever be considered, disparaging someone else’s life choices or predicaments. Being happily single is not a critique of people who are not.

I thought of this in February when I read the New York Times obituary for Zelda Kaplan, who sounds like she was a riot. A couple of things stood out for me in her obituary. She was married twice times, but it was after divorce that she seemed to steer her life in a more vivid direction:

It was not until she and Mr. Kaplan divorced in the late 1960s that Ms. Kaplan moved to New York, finding work as a ballroom dance instructor and as a framer in an art gallery. At parties she would demonstrate the fox trot and other dance standards. “To me the dancing that young people do in the clubs is exercise,” Ms. Kaplan said.

Living largely off her inheritance from the sale of the family horse farm and the proceeds from investments, she developed a passion for indigenous cultures and began traveling to countries like Mali, Ghana and Ethiopia in search of the woodcarvings and fabrics from which she made her designs. She made many trips on behalf of the World Culture Society, an organization she founded and financed.

On her foreign jaunts she would hire a driver to take her from village to village to speak to tribes about the perils of female genital cutting and to lobby for a woman’s right of inheritance. Like her tireless partying, her humanitarian efforts attested in part to an appetite for novelty and adventure.

“I’m a curious person,” she once said. “I want to keep learning until it’s over. And when it’s over, it’s over.”

That about sums it up. I believe we do ourselves a disservice complaining and whining about the single life when it’s completely possible for you to find more useful, joyous ways to spend your time. She lived to be 95, after all — that’s a ton of living to fit into a maiden lady’s life.

Reads for the weekend: Gratitude, Love Poems & Inspiration

I had the honor of being a guest writer over at WomenWellLoved, Katina’s insightful & lovely blog. Single or Paired-off: It’s Time to Get Engaged.

To those of you who have been following the blog since December and those of you who just arrived, I am deeply grateful for your presence. There is a lot to read out in the world, so I really appreciate that you take time to read my work & thoughts. I was thinking of y’all on Valentine’s Day, when I shared the love of the guest blog with my Facebook family & Tumblr friends. It is true love to have the love of your life — for me, my writing — valued by a community, virtual & otherwise.

Before I get all choked up, here’s some good reading for the weekend:

The New York Times Room for Debate blog offers perspective on the advantages & disadvantages of living alone.

Stephanie Coontz says marriage suits educated women, contrary to popular belief.

While I was hanging out, trying out my not-very-latent comment/trolling tendencies, I noticed this related blog about the battle of the black sexes being The Media’s fault. I have a psychological tick & pet-peeve against anyone who blames The Media for any sociological phenomenon. I had forgotten how pronounced my pet peeve had become.

18 Ways to Inspire Everyone Around You — I think about these things when I’m not being a snarky, non-anonymous commenter.

& finally, a book recommendation, because the librarian in me just cannot stop: For my birthday, one of my favorite women in the world gave me this book of poems selected by Caroline Kennedy. May the sweet, enormous love in some of these lines fill you with enough passion to share — with yourself &/or with others. The book is full of greatness.

Come live with me, and be my love.

And we will all the pleasures prove,

That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,

Woods, or steepy mountain yields. ~Christopher Marlowe “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

What is brilliance without

coordination? Guarding the infinitesimal pieces of your mind, compelling audience to

the remark that it is better to forgotten than to be

remembered too violently,

your thorns are the best part of you. ~ Marianne Moore, “Roses Only”

(Last, but never least, one of my favorite quotes in the world)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

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