Today marks the beginning of National Singles Week (or, Unmarried and Single Americans Week). The week is especially festive thanks to the recent publication of Michael Cobb’s Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled.
I’m a social scientist, so my arguments typically come from scientific research. I also greatly appreciate perspectives from other disciplines. Cobb is a Professor of English; his book is a work of literary criticism.
The introduction to Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled is an accessible overview of the author’s point of view, complete with a terrific take on Beyonce’s “All the single ladies,” a critique of John Cacioppo’s book on loneliness, some provocative questions about the ways people reacted to Sex and the City, and a whole lot more. I’ll focus on that here. (With no expertise in literary criticism, I found the subsequent chapters more challenging, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that you would.)
Michael Cobb is “sick and tired of the single person being the avatar of the lonely crowd.” We have screwed-up beliefs about loneliness, he argues, especially as it relates to being single vs. coupled. He refuses to accept the stereotype of singles as lonely and pathetic:
“They may not be lonely – they may just want to be antisocial, or they may just want to relate to others outside the supreme logic of the couple.” (p. 32)
Professor Cobb also rejects the premise that a book about singles has to be a book about sex:
“I want to suspend questions of sex, sexuality, and courtship to open the possibilities of other questions about what it means to be single, to be in solitude, with no immediate relational/sexual prospects, or the couple’s narrative and historical belonging, in sight.” (p. 31)
Here are a few more of my favorite quotes from the introductory chapter:
Michael Cobb’s work is that rare academic book that becomes the topic of some engaging discussions in the media. I wrote about some of them in the two posts listed below, so I’ll end this post here.
Happy Singles Week! Check out The 102 Million Singles March and other posts still to come on the topic.