Ah, the single life!

Last week, my students and I were talking about compare and contrast essays.  I put a few options on the board for us to talk our way through: life in 2009 compared to life in 1909, a job you love compared to ‘just’ a job, and being single compared to being married or partnered.

The century topic was amusing.  The main contrast in my students’ minds is technology: those poor saps in 1909 didn’t have Sidekicks and laptops.  A job you love?  C’mon, Miss, who ever heard of such a thing?  Every job is just a job, so there’s nothing to talk about.

And then there’s marriage.  Here’s the breakdown:

Single

Married

You’re free

You’re tied down (one might even say ‘trapped’)

 

You get to sleep alone

You have to sleep with someone else

 

You don’t have to have a pet

You have to have a pet (a distraction from the other person)

 

Don’t have to worry about morning breath

You have to face morning breath every day

 

You can hang out with your friends

You can’t hang out with your friends

 

You can do what you want

You have to make compromises

 

… and then the tide turned …

You have to pay for everything

You can share expenses

 

Lonely (but you could get a pet to keep you company)

 

Have companionship

You will die alone

You won’t be alone

My favorites here are the morning breath and dying alone comments.  That last needs some explanation.  You only need to worry about dying alone if you’re single and over 35.  No, really.  This from the mouth of a newly sixteen year old.  “You shouldn’t be single when you’re something like 35,” he says.  “Then you gotta do something or you’re going to die alone.”  Lovely.  One more thing for me to worry about!

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6 thoughts on “Ah, the single life!

  1. Well, I dunno. Being married is far from a guarantee of dying with a friendly audience on hand; ultimately, even with the friendly audience on hand, only one person has the experience of dying, so I tend to think we die alone no matter what. (I’m just hoping to keep my faculties enough that I can be pleasant to the orderlies in the public hospital I’LL probably die alone in, so that maybe one of them will hold my hand while it happens.)

  2. molly

    Everybody in the world dies alone, as far as the act of dying is concerned. That is one of the fascinating facts about dying. Nobody knows what is on the “other side”, and each person really goes there quite alone.
    What about having somebody with you at the last moment of your life? In every marriage, at best that happens for one of the two partners, unless they manage a carefully orchestrated double suicide.
    I think having lots of good friends that you invest a lot of energy in is a better guarantee against passing that very last moment of your life alone than being married is. More people, more chances, it’s that simple. I think it is very, very sad that people close off their friendships when they get married. I also think it is not “natural”, in the sense of not being what human beings have done for the longest time of their existence. It is a recent, and quite sad development that marriage means isolation, and family means three or four people stuck with each other and with nobody else.

  3. molly

    I also think this is one of the really cool things about teaching basic English, as a first language, as you do, or as a second language, as I do. You are allowed to talk about really important and basic facts with young people. One time I told a colleague that the students (all young women) had chosen “love, sex, and marriage” as the conversation topic for the next week. He said, “oh, three things that have nothing to do with each other.” It turned out that my students thought that they would stay with their husbands “no matter what”, “in sickness and in health”, because they defined themselves as good Catholics, but they would dump their husbands if the men got AIDS by being unfaithful. I pointed out gently that their religion did not allow that, and they were quite surprised. I adore young people and their brilliantly unrealistic world views.
    Bad morning breath, indeed.

  4. “You have to have a pet (a distraction from the other person)” lol, pets are much more than that, and love goes far beyond your couple’s morning breath.
    Comparisons are intelligent, although I think the feelings involved are over simplified.

  5. Linda and Molly– I agree about the dying alone. I love that 35 is the magical age of doom. But that makes sense, coming from a 16 year old, I guess. And yes, I love the conversations you get to have with young people. They (the kids and the conversations) are so much fun.

    Hi Carl, and thanks for stopping by. Yes, sometimes there is a LOT of oversimplification in the way my students describe things. As if anything in life could be so cut and dried. But they are very young still. If grown ups talked the same way I might worry, but the 16-19 year olds make me smile.

  6. Molly, I’m with you in not liking it when a married/partnered couple quits putting energy into friendships, as if it’s disloyal for either person to have other close connections. I like the idea of “your friends, my friends and our friends,” which intuitively seems healthier than “Us against the world” or “We have each other–what else do we need?”

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