The other night I was hanging out at the local studio and gallery I volunteer for. It’s a multifaceted space, but most of the crew is composed of queers. I was sitting working on some paperwork when two friends came in. Dykes, both of ’em; one a regular crew member and the other is dating our artistic director. (The two lovebirds have really been at it lately–twitterpated to the max–which would normally bug the shit out of me, to be honest, but I’m actually really happy for them, so it kind of negates the weird inferiority feelings.)
Anyhow, the gals are shooting the breeze, and suddenly I hear it–the question single people dread more than any other: “So what’s new in your love life?” The other girl started talking about this lady she’s interested in and how that’s been progressing. No big deal, nothing shocking. But I was only sitting a few feet away, trying my best to be inconspicuous. I could feel my stomach tying itself into hideous knots as I prayed and prayed that they wouldn’t turn to me and ask me the same question.
It’s as though I can literally feel the thorn in my side everytime someone asks me this question. Close friends of mine have been known to ask me multiple time a week, which just feels like rubbing salt in the wound. Really? You think my single status has been updated since yesterday? Or have we just truly run out of things to talk about?
Fortunately, the ladies moved on their conversation without dropping the question on me. But it’s still baffling me how visceral my reaction to the sheer thought of being asked that question was. I was getting activated the same way someone does when they have to fight, flight or freeze in the face of an immediate threat. Somehow this looming question seemed like an immediate threat.
But really, how ridiculous is that? How have we gotten to that point? I’m sure there are single people out there who are not fazed by this question, but I know there are many others that fear it just like I do. It should just be a query about one’s life, not much different than asking someone “So how’s work going?” Instead, though, it feels like a misplaced victory lap. Maybe it’s just that most of my friends are coupled, but this is not a question single people ever ask me. Only coupled friends ask about my love life, and even though I (assume) they don’t mean it that way, it feels condescending. “How’s your love life? Oh right! You don’t have one! Haha!”
And all I can ask myself is, “When did we become enemies?” We’re all human beings and it shouldn’t matter if we’re with someone romantically or we’re not, but it does. Somewhere along the line we made it matter, made it mean something, when it reality it’s a value-neutral fact. You’re single or you’re not, so what? The same way that the word “fat” is value-neutral. I’m fat. I have fat on my body. That’s not me putting myself down. But we think someone is putting themselves down when they say they’re fat because we’ve stigmatized fatness. We’ve made fat mean that you’re also lazy, unhealthy and unattractive. None of those things are inherently true. None of them. Fat is fat, body size is body size, health is health. There’s no causal link between them. But when people take it upon themselves to moo at fat people on the street, give them unsolicited health advice, or even tell them they should go kill themselves, then we’ve made it mean something else.
And single is no different. By itself, single is just single. There are pros and cons, just like pros and cons to being in a couple, but it doesn’t say anything about you inherently. But we’ve made it mean something. We’ve made it mean that you’re lacking, broken, unlovable, too picky, stuck-up or a loner. And in this context, suddenly it’s not so hard to see why a question like “So what’s new in your love life?” feels like a very real threat.
So my question to you, dear reader, is how can we end this war? How do we stop seeing each other as single or coupled, fat or skinny, gay or straight, and just see each other as human beings with thoughts and feelings just like everyone else? How do we see past the labels and start loving each other instead of all this comparing we do?
What if we stopped thinking of “love life” as meaning romantic love? What if “love life” meant all the love you give to other people, romantic or otherwise (which, thanks to English, we forget there are many, MANY other kinds of love besides sexual or romantic love)? If we thought of it that way, and all made a point of making sure our love lives were active–that we’re giving our love to someone, somewhere–I think the world would be a much more hopefully place.
So go and give your love away.