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Last week, it was all over the news: “Divorce is very bad news for men’s health.”
I mean, all over the news. Yahoo, CNN, MSN, Business Insider, and 62 other outlets all published pieces based on the findings of a single study. To be perfectly honest, this is the sort of thing that makes me think of that famous line Marvin Gaye sang, “People say believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear.”
Most of the more reliable pieces gave a link to the original study, and it only takes a click of a mouse to get at the truth of this junk science. This study, published in Denmark earlier this month, shows a correlation between middle-age, single men, and rates of inflammation. The study included 4,835 people, and no such correlation was found in women. Obviously, it’s healthier for women to live alone than for men, I guess.
For full disclosure, let’s take a look at a couple of other “interesting” correlations: there is an almost exact correlation between per capita cheese consumption and the number of people who die from getting tangled up in their bedsheets. The same with the marriage rate in Kentucky and the number of people who drown after falling out of fishing boats. And the number of films Nicholas Cage appeared in and accidental pool drownings.
In other words, the only premise any of these findings prove is that your high school teacher was really onto something when she said, “Correlation does not imply causation.” Why the long-winded rant? Because at the age of 51, I have spent half of my adult life living alone and half living with partners and, although I’ve never had it medically tested, I’m almost certain that my rate of inflammation goes down when I am not at the mercy of someone else’s mood, vibe, and Birkenstocks.
So, in an effort to balance this month’s media output, I give you 10 reasons why “happily ever after” may not include anyone but your own beautiful self:
1. The Freedom to Pursue your Dreams
As someone who found myself alone after several years, I made up my mind to do everything in my power to realize my biggest dream: walk into Barnes and Noble and see my book on the shelf. If you know my story, you know it took years of obsessive work to see that come to fruition. The question of whether this could’ve happened if I was living in “domestic bliss” is obvious to me: no way.
2. Less Arguing
This is pretty self-explanatory. When no one is in your space, there are no fights. Of course, there are those who sit in front of the TV and yell at the screen, but I am not one of them. I don’t even have a TV.
3. There’s Always Plenty of Hot Water
I’ll let you in on one of my proprietary secrets: there is no luxury like a nice, long, hot shower. Now, I am not the average ugly American who wastes resources as a matter of course; however, every so often I do indulge. And as frivolous as this sounds, someone would have to be pretty damn cool and sexy for me to sacrifice this luxury at the altar of “partnership.”
4. You Can Flirt Whenever you Want
I’m not saying I didn’t flirt when I was involved with other people, but it did always leave me feeling a bit guilty. Living by yourself means you can flirt with a clear conscience.
5. You Only Need to Ask yourself for Permission
Last month, I received an email from one of my favorite music stores that advertised a limited edition, Johnny Cash signature Martin acoustic/electric guitar for several hundred dollars. This thing was gorgeous. It was all black with white stars on the frets and “Cash” stamped on the neck. This was not the sort of thing that can show up on your porch without having to endure a lengthy negotiation process with a significant other. In my case, though, I looked in the mirror and asked, “Should I get it?” The answer was a loud and clear, “Yes.”
6. You Never have to have Another Annoying Person in your House Again
No one has ever escaped this eventuality: male, female, non-binary—we have all had partners at one time or another who, for whatever God-awful reason, choose to hang out with someone who makes our skin crawl. It’s best not to read into this too heavily. But take it from someone who has wasted far too much time looking for meaning in this anomaly: being single practically guarantees you never have to deal with a partner’s obnoxious circle of friends.
7. Travel is Simplified
Right now, with the Omicron variant ripping through the country, round trip airfare to Rome is about $530. Cough up another $400 for a week at a halfway decent hotel and you’ve got yourself a holiday for under a thousand dollars that likely would’ve cost a few grand five years ago. With a live-in partner, this plan gets a lot more complicated. You both have to try to get a week off at the same time, and one of you will want to take a touristy ride on a gondola while the other one will want to drink Chianti in a café. Being by yourself means you can do whatever the hell you want, often for less.
8. The Blanket Issue No Longer Exists
You know that feeling of waking up in the middle of a cold, January night without so much as a wisp of a sheet and you look over only to see your partner wrapped up like a snuggly, warm cannoli? Need I continue?
9. Platonic Relationships can Thrive
I’ve found that friendships are usually way more important than the relationships based on romance and physicality. Why? Because sex is a biological imperative that takes up so much bandwidth in our motivations, we often find ourselves compromising other needs to preserve or maintain those connections. Platonic relationships are special because to survive, there needs to be something beyond instant gratification, or we wind up drifting away from these people. Generally, we listen to our friends, and they listen to us; they give us the space to work stuff out. And unfortunately, it can be tough to find time for these friendships when we are with our partners day in and day out.
10. Unsolicited Parenting Advice…Nah
Okay, single parents everywhere can probably agree that the dynamic between themselves and their children changes drastically when a stepparent in training comes into the picture. It’s only a matter of time before we become the unwilling recipients of unsolicited parenting advice. And most of us will take a hard pass on that sh*t.
So even though most of us Gen Xers grew up listening to stories about two people falling in love and riding off into the sunset together, maybe it’s more realistic that “happily ever after” includes peace, quiet, and the day beginning and ending without once tripping over someone else’s shoes.