On the 4/3 Commonwealth Club panel: Rachel Sarah, Jane Ganahl, Wendy Merrill, Jerusha Stewart, Sasha Cagen
What do you get when you bring together five single women writers and ask them to talk about the single state of the union? And what do you get when you bring together a single woman writer, a married Italian playwright, a U.S. Historian, and a Persian cleric and ask them to discuss “Too Busy to Fall in Love”? I found out over the last two weeks when I served on two panels–one at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and the other at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder Colorado.
In San Francisco, at the Commonwealth Club, the “Single Women Tell All” panel we single women had power in numbers and the mood was upbeat. My favorite questions from the audience were:
What technological and social innovations do you foresee when single people cross over to majority status?
Are feminists OK with men being chivalrous and opening doors for them?
The first question got me excited because it’s so forward-looking and visionary. I talked about co-housing, the idea of building housing beyond the frame of the nuclear family that could incorporate both shared and autonomous space. That’s a business I would love to get behind! I HATE the idea of single people viewing living in little one-bedrooms and studios as the pinnacle of their adulthood. It’s so atomizing and lonely.
The second question obviously touched a nerve in San Francisco. Men don’t know whether gestures like paying on a first date will be appreciated or scorned. Jerusha Stewart, author of the Single Girl’s Manifesta, told the anonymous man who asked the question to “Man up!” Honestly I would have to agree, though I’m also not sure what “Man up!” means. What are the better parts of masculinity? I’d like to see that defined by a man.
Thee following week I traveled to Boulder for the amazing Conference on World Affairs, otherwise known as “the Conference on Everything Conceivable.” I spoke on seven panels, including topics like “The Power of Facebook” and “Why We Write.” The “Too Busy to Fall in Love” panel was probably the most challenging–and the most provocative for me personally. I realized that it’s true, I am too busy to fall in love! Too busy to fall in love with a potential mate, and too busy to fall in love with life itself, because I’m always composing a to-do list in my mind, or multi-tasking, or ruminating on the next project I need to do in off-work hours.
I have to say, though, it was hard being the only single woman on the panel. It made me realize that when I am protected in a bubble like San Francisco, I don’t have to often confront the attitudes of the perkytogether majority.
For example, one (married) woman on the panel asserted that the only way to really grow in life is through partnership with another person, and that if you never couple up, you’ll never take on any real responsibilities. Even though she might not have been directing her comments at me, they felt personal, and I felt obligated to respond on behalf of the single people in the audience (and everywhere!), that there are many ways to be engaged in the world and with people and they’re not all through romantic relationships! What about the single daughter who takes care of her ailing mother (or child) or best friends who nurture each other through crises–and good times? It was only after several members of the audience thanked me for rebutting her that I felt better. It’s so important to be in conversation with other quirkyalones!