Monday, March 24, 2008

Smug Marrieds

Recognizing that (I'm guessing here because I really don't know who is reading) the majority of my readers tend to be married and I might be running the risk of insulting those readers, I am going to make this little rant anyway. If you are feeling sensitive, either don't read the rest of this post or recognize that I am mostly being sarcastic (oh, and probably a bit sensitive).

I have a habit of watching the Today show in the morning as I get ready for work despite the fact that I do not particularly enjoy it and quite often disagree with or am irritated by the stories. I watch (listen mostly) to see what the weather is like outside and have some background noise to wake me up. This morning, I had this story forced on me. The whole thing was about how neuroscientists have discovered that marriage makes you smarter! It was bad enough when that study came out not long ago claiming married people are happier, oh and don't forget about the headlines claiming married people live longer (which also implies married people are wealthier) but now they are claiming marriage makes you smarter? UGH!

To be clear, despite my own wretched marriage, I am not against the institution and I would love nothing more than to (very selectively) find someone with whom I can spend the rest of my life. But in the mean-time, I really do not need to be bombarded with these types of stories. The "expert" on the show this morning prattled on about the "cognitive decline" of people who live alone and are "socially isolated." She also casually remarked on how it is more stressful living alone.


Personally, I find living alone to be less stressful - at least less stressful than having roommates or even a spouse (granted mine was a bad example, but still). The positives of living alone are great:

*I always control the TV
*I am directly responsible for whether there are dishes in the sink or not
*I am responsible for whether or not the bed goes unmade
*I can eat cereal for dinner if I so choose
*I can spend an entire day inside with no one around to judge me
*I can indulge in any number of guilty pleasures (eating an entire box of girl scout cookies, watching bad tv, etc) without scheduling it around anyone else's schedule
*I choose when I have visitors over
*I can walk anywhere in my apartment naked
*I can turn my music up and dance around however and whenever I like
*the dishes always get put away in the right spot
*none of my stuff gets moved unless I move it

I could go on and on . . . recognizing that there is an equally lengthy list of the joys of living with a spouse.

I am the first to admit that I often feel socially isolated. I often feel I have outgrown the single peer group of which I am supposed to be a part (honestly, I am just no longer interested in 30 single people cramming into a beach house for a long weekend of prancing around in bathing suits) and my long term friends, the ones I know best and those I feel know me best - are all married or dating someone long term. Every. Single. One. Besides that, I am often socially isolated because I work A LOT! As in, a good day is leaving work by 7 or 8 pm and 9 or 10 pm is not terribly unusual.

That being said, I still manage to fill my calendar with plenty of brunch dates, dinner dates, parties and trips so, despite the fact I often describe myself (especially in winter) as a hermit or social recluse, I am hardly socially isolated.

And if I am in cognitive decline, I wonder what I would be capable of if I were married and "obtain[ing] knowledge of two people" as this segment suggests. I have met far too many unbalanced (intellectually) married couples to fully believe that. I think my job presents plenty of cognitive challenges - usually more than I care for.

Plus the suggested hobbies to "strengthen your marriage" and "build[] fresh neural networks" can all be done by someone who is single: take dance lessons, watch movies (the discussion can be done with friends, family, strangers on the internet!), throw a party (I do this), learn a language (never knew this only made married people smarter), take on a home project (again, living alone is not a barrier to this). Sure, those things probably will strengthen your marriage and your neural networks but I doubt any more than for a single person doing the same activities.

Honestly, if there really is a "never-married penalty" then maybe the experts should stop flaunting around all of the great things marriage does for people and start focusing on why singles are so isolated, lonely, depressed, unhealthy, stressed and cognitively declining. What is the social reason for this?

In my own culture (ie, the Mormon culture), I have found that being single over 30 can be incredibly isolating simply due to societal expectation that I should be married by now. And possibly have a kid or two. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have been asked why I am not married or why I don't have a boyfriend.

[As a sidebar: If I knew my own fatal flaw maybe I could do something about that but I think the biggest issues are 1) I do not like the social structure that is readily available to me for meeting people - I find them awkward and contrived and I am not comfortable in them (leaving me feeling reserved and withdrawn); 2) I do not fit easily into the mold making me more of an acquired taste, I believe; and 3) I was forced into singles wards for over a decade and at 31 I was kicked out and left to fend for myself among the other old maids in the family (or "traditional") ward.]

Maybe if single women weren't treated like sad, childless old maids and single men weren't treated like committment-phobic playboys, closeted gays or freaky weirdos (despite the fact that I have encountered all three), maybe there would be a little less depression and isolation. Maybe.


Kami said...

I hear ya. Sometimes it sounds so nice. Although I love the ones in my life so much.

Have you seen this episode? It is my favorite and I love that it is all about celebrating your single life. If you haven't, you should, you would love it.

Soul-Fusion said...

Yes, Kami I have and I almost quoted the episode where they talk about "secret single behavior" because I LOVE that concept. Not sure if that was the same episode or not.

Tiffany said...

Rant all you want, my friend. I hate stories that are so silly and pointless like that on the news. Really? What is the point there?

I know it's different, but I feel similar passion when people give/make statements about working mothers. Just watch my blood boil.

DeAnn said...

I am 41 and never married. This is a fantastic post and a great rant. Tiff has a point -- there will always be a news story on the ills of working mothers and then turn around and do one on how "stay at home" mothers are brainless idiots. I wish you lived here - I'd love to hang out with you. But NOT when you are walking around your house naked.

autumn said...

I don't know about that study. I know a lot of stupid married people. How do they measure these things anyway?

Misty Fowler said...

I've been reading since about the third installment of your series on your previous marriage. And, oh, how I relate! Thank you so much for writing this. I am almost to the two year point in my current relationship (with talk of marriage), and what you've written has really made think. I think that before, I might have gone on to get married and just been numb to the problems we have (as all couple have). Instead, I've looked at my relationship with a view to what I'd think later if it failed. And so, I'm addressing the issues now, before we get married, and that will either allow me to leave if the relationship is wrong, or to stay if we can make it right. Either way, I win. And much of this new attitude is because of your series of blogs.

Again, thank you so much for writing them!

And if married people are smarter, happier, healthier and whatever else, I'd have to say that might possibly be true of couples who have been married 20 years, but I know from experience that getting married at 19 didn't make me feel very smart in the end, and I was very broke because of it, happiness...seriously? And I'm not the only one. I know happy, wealthy, smart couples. But, those are the ones who had the smart approach to their relationships in the first place.

Besides, you can say anything you want with statistics, and I wish the "news" would stop spouting them all the time to try to shock us.

Soul-Fusion said...

Wow, Misty. Thank you so much for your comment. I have been writing all of this out for myself and I have been pleasantly surprised by the reception it has been getting out there but it is even beter to hear that it has effected you in a positive way. I've thought for a long time that there had to be a reason I went through what I did and while I think it has definitely helped shaped me into who I am today, I would also like to hope it can be a cautionary tale to others. Not a tale of never get married by any means but a warning to look a bit closer before you leap.

katie said...

I now for a fact that being married doesn't make you wealthier....or smarter. I think nursing 4 kids has caused most of my smart brain cells to be sucked right out of me. And no. Not at all.

Anonymous said...

In some cases I think this may be true, but have you ever thought that they (don't really know who "they" might be) try to tell poeple this in hopes that people might get married or stay married.

If there's anything that I've gained a bit of knowledege about by being married, is that it's really hard, not much fun and games, just life, and some psychologists say that you are not really supposed to sit around and chat with your hubby, they're not your girlfriends, so go have girl and guy time (which I really enjoy and I know he does). Another sad thing is that I don't feel as happy and excited for couples at their weddings as I once did. Oh the ignorant bliss.

It takes a lot of hard work to be truly happy weather you're in a relationship or not. A lot of unselfish acts, prayer, friends, accepting your faults and your past, and knowing & loving yourself, and accepting those thing in others that we love, that is where true happiness and "enlightenment" comes from.

By the way, thanks for your blog, I've really enjoyed it and can see myslf in so may things, especially from being young and dumb and accepting rather than reaching for better.

Soul-Fusion said...

Anonymous, I understand and appreciate that these types of studies are often conducted with the hope of convincing people to get married. But I would counter why would we want to convince people to get married who do not want to be married? As you stated, marriage is hard. HARD! Many people (me) go into it ignorant of the work that is required and collapse under the stress. Even the best marriages have periods where they falter. That isn't to say don't ever do it. Just don't falsely inflate the benefits. Many, many single people (from my own Mormon culture and elsewhere)would like nothing more than to be married but they either aren't willing to settle or haven't had the opportunity. Why make them feel worse about something outside their control?
I look at this in a similar way to those who try and convince others to have children. I love children and I would like to have my own someday but some people don't. Why push them by using guilt or "studies" of the benefits thereof into having children who might be neglected or just underappreciated.
If I am to remain single and childless the rest of my life, I would prefer not to be judged or told I am somehow not as smart, happy or wealthy as those who are married.
That being said, even when I feel a twinge of jealousy or a sense of abandonment when my friends get married, I am almost always happy and excited for them. When paired with the right person, I know (from watching many excellent examples) that marriage can be a fantastic and exciting journey. A journey I really hope I have the opportunity to make again one day.

Soul-Fusion said...

p.s. thank you anonymous for your open and frank comment, I do appreciate the feedback.

critts said...

They also did a study that said that single women are thinner than married women. :)

I don't know anything about marriage making you smarter (how would they even judge that?) but I do agree that having kids has made me dumber! I no longer have the mental challenges of a day job to counteract the fact that all I think about all day are feedings, diaper changes, and helping my child reach his next milestones. I certainly hope this changes as he gets older and I can start teaching him things, but goodness, I've never felt so dumb in my life as I do now! PS - I am definitely not saying that having kids or staying at home makes anyone dumb - I just feel like that's what is happening to me.

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