Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Solo Act

I very rarely, if ever, write about truly personal subject matters on this blog; I try to reserve it as a space to discuss my professional and creative endeavours.  However, over the last six months or so, since I went on my first Photobooth Expedition trip, it seems like one personal matter keeps creeping up into my professional life.

I unabashedly have been single for the last 3 and half years. To be more specific, in the last two years, I have casually dated but I never considered myself to be anyone’s girlfriend. Nor have I wanted to be; my singlehood has served me well! (Just look how happy I am in this photo without a real boyfriend!)

I get asked fairly regularly, “how do you get so much work done?” And one of my answers is “SINGLEHOOD!” If you think about it, relationships, especially at the start take up an enormous amount of time; everything from going on dates to shaving your legs on a regular basis. It adds up and I’m very particular with how I choose to spend my time.

I’d like to iterate that I’m not anti-relationship and my soul isn’t bitter and shriveled.  Like many people, I hope to grow old and wrinkly in someone else’s old and wrinkly arms. In fact, I even look forward to it!

So here’s where this factors into my professional life. Usually after I finish an interview for Photobooth: A Biography and the interviewee and I have bonded over geeky photobooth facts, they often casually make a comment about my relationship status. Sometimes it’s a polite inquiry into how am I able to sustain a relationship with this type of work and other times it’s more adventitious and presumptuous.

This summer I was asked this question in some form about a dozen times. (And one time these were the exact words, I had the audio recorder going.)

“Is your boyfriend okay with you doing all this traveling?”

Oh boy, let me break that down. Firstly, it presumes my sexual orientation.  Secondly it presumes that because I’ve got my life together that I must also be in a relationship as part of that package. And lastly, it implies that this supposed boyfriend is stuck in the 50s if he’s on the fence about me going off on my own. 

I’m not so sensitive that I’ve been outwardly offended by these questions, I just simply explain that I've chosen to be single for this part of my life. And I’d like to stress that I’m not bringing this up to slight the wonderful people who’ve helped me with this book, they’ve all be fantastic and wonderful.  I expect I would get questions like these regardless of the reason behind my travels.

My issue is a societal one. One where the assumption is that a “together person” can’t also be a single person.  And furthermore, the major assumption that being in love is always preferential to not being in love.

So here’s my honest truth-- choosing to “not be in love” over the last few years has been the best thing I could have done for myself, for both my personal and professional development.  It’s not hard being single but it is sometimes difficult to explain to my loving family why they shouldn’t fret about my love life.  I would love for singlehood to be recognized as a healthy choice people are able to make instead of as a circumstance they’re stuck in.

I know there are a whole lot of people in this boat, I'd like to hear your comments about single stigmas or support too.


  1. When I was on a trip to Puerto Rico recently a lot of people (many of them women) asked me the same "Is your boyfriend okay with you travelling alone?" question... it was so exasperating. I don't think the askers were thinking about what the question suggests. I broke it down into a few misogynist (never mind heteronormative) assumptions:

    1. That he should be worried about my safety when I'm alone/his presence would keep me safe.
    2. That he should be jealous or suspicious of me travelling alone (fidelity issues).
    3. That I need his permission to travel alone.

    My usual response was something like “Well, I'd be traveling if I wasn't with him so, it doesn't really matter.” My partner is supportive of me travelling and if he wasn't he'd have to deal with it.

    But they are, by the nature of their question, suggesting that he shouldn't be okay with it.

    The question empowers the refied notion that 'it's-not-safe-to-travel-alone-if-you're-a-woman-ya-need-a-man'. And it disenfranchises me. By asking if he approves of my travelling, if he gave me permission to leave the country, it takes my power and transfers it to him, this extraneous person. It completely disregards me, the person who is travelling alone (and succeeding) and makes it about him.

    I'm talking in circles but ... just never ask that question again, anyone.

    1. REALLY not about your question regarding singledom and love-is-best assumptions but... oh welly well.

    2. Thanks for your comment Lisa, it's very insightful.

      It's interesting to hear about the problems surrounding this question, regardless of relationship status. When I travel, people are always giving unsolicited advice on my personal safety, sometimes these tips are helpful but they can also be condescending, especially when I wonder if they would give the same type of advice to man.

  2. This is great! I totally hear you. There are many different kinda of being in "love" in my opinion... and being in love with creativity is definitely one of them. You might already be more in love than you know :)

  3. I spent all of my twenties and early thirties travelling. I was single for 8 years and did so many amazing things that now, at 40 something, I can look back on with infinite pride and pleasure. Most of my friends spent the same period of their lives in unsatisfactory relationships or dull jobs. They look back with regret at having done so little with that time. Good on you Meags. It takes courage to do what you know is right for you and not be pressured by societal expectations.
    PS I love the pic in this post. It is one of my favourites of your many photobooth masterpieces.

  4. This entry was very thoughtfully written and well-expressed. While I'm currently paired-off, I spent most of my twenties single, which really helped me develop into an independent and interesting person, and I feel that I bring more to the table in my current relationship because of it. I got to experience things I chose for myself alone, without compromise, and it was wonderful.

    However, I can keenly recall the unasked-for pity I received from a great deal of people. It was annoying, but easy enough to shrug off when you know what is best for yourself. Being single is a completely valid life choice!