Single and Interchangeable

I hope this doesn’t warrant a #MeToo, but I have a habit of forcing my wife to the edge of the bed so she has to back her body into mine unless she wants to fall several feet to the hard floor and risk concussion.

If she tries to wriggle for some breathing room, I immediately advance into the empty space and she loses even more territory. Inevitably, her myopic escape attempts lead to multiple limbs hanging over the edge, and I retreat just enough to accommodate the compact spooning we should have skipped to in the first place rather than play this tired charade. We end up falling asleep occupying about one-fifth of the bed.

I just can’t get enough of that sensation of a human being consensually pressing against me. It makes me feel loved.

My favorite non-human creature in the universe is a coworker’s dog who visits the office once or twice a week. I figured out if I reach over her body and pet underneath the far hind leg, she’ll press her haunches against me. Again, it’s a feeling that floats near the top of my Maslow hierarchy.

I bring up all this cuddle talk to acknowledge my appreciation for companionship before telling you my wife was gone for 12 straight days this month, and I didn’t really notice much of a difference, let alone miss her.

I’m not trying to be mean or tough, just observant. It’s kind of interesting, right? Twelve days isn’t long, especially with a known end date. But it’s long enough to miss things that don’t have a perfect or close substitute: toothbrush, internet, exercise, car in L.A.

So what substituted for my wife? I abhor strip clubs, and I made it until the last day without so much as a sideways glance at adult material. I didn’t want to cave but felt I had to honor the circumstances, like being given an In-N-Out Double-Double when you’re not really hungry. What are you supposed to do, live with the missed opportunity because you didn’t feel like it at the time?

I suppose some combination of work, family, friends and leisure outlets elevated while my wife was on the other side of the Atlantic. These elements aren’t necessarily neglected because of marriage, but naturally they get more attention in the absence of it. They didn’t substitute for my wife, but they absorbed the extra time and kept my quality of life from dipping.

My life partner undoubtedly adds so much value. However, this value is not immune to opportunity cost. This is what I like to impart when single friends lament their dating struggles.

You should celebrate and enjoy the aspects of being single that you won’t get on the other side. It sounds lame coming from a happily married guy, like a millionaire pontificating about how money isn’t everything. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

I think being single and being married offer the same ceiling of satisfaction. They simply get there in different ways.

If I’m getting 20 units of utility from having someone to talk to at the end of the day, maybe if I were single I would get 5 from FaceTiming my mom more, 5 from more bro time, 5 from reading for pleasure, and 5 from that deep peace of shutting down with no one else around.

If I’m getting 50 units from cuddling, maybe I would get 5 from more REM sleep, 5 from answering to a single alarm schedule, and the balance would be made up over the medium term with the occasional steamy casual hookup.

If I’m getting 100 units from companionship, maybe 20 would be offset by discovery and adventure, 20 by independence, 20 by personal growth without a social crutch, 20 by pouring time into a passion project, and 20 by the drive to meet new people.

It seems to me living a good single life is a more diversified approach to investing in your limited time on Earth. Single friends are distinct in my mind, each with a story and personality. Most of my married friends kind of blend into one heuristic, especially the white ones who go to brunch together. There is a clear regression to a very boring, unremarkable mean shortly after “I do.”

Yet when I talk to single folks in their 30s, I hear a singular fixation on finding a spouse. It makes me worried they will settle for a mediocre relationship rather than a fulfilling single life.

There should be no rush as long as you’re being mindful enough to enjoy the present. Yes the clock is ticking on everyone, which is why you shouldn’t waste it on people not worth the time.

Are you worried about being old, sick and ugly and dying utterly alone? I truly cannot think of a better way to die at that point. I don’t want anyone to see me like that. I like being married while I’m still rocking a six-pack. When it comes time to roll around in my own diarrhea, I actually would rather not have any company.

Two weeks shy of 2 years married, I fully plan on getting to the diarrhea stage with my wife. For whatever reason (and by whatever reason, I mean children), most people gravitate toward marriage. If that’s the goal, I would just encourage the right frame of mind, one that allows you to be happily single until happily married.



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