With the heat of summer fully upon us once more, the season of weddings and break ups is officially under way. Why two seemingly paradoxical relationship statuses occur at the same time may seem like a mystery, but I’m going to explain why this is not the case.
One of the first things one hears, when an unwitting third party gains insight into the recent demise of a relationship, is “but you two were sooooo good/perfect/made for each other!” quickly followed by the second asinine input of “but I had no idea!!” No, you didn’t. You are not Whoopie in Ghost, you are not that New Jersey psychic on tv. You are only privy to the information couples in relationships choose to share outside of the home. Really, what asshole wants to spend their time talking nonstop about the problems in a very real, very personal situation? So, that’s why you have no clue. And why some couples are, in fact, not wandering aimlessly, smelling roses, when no watchful eyes were upon them. Two very good people can still be very wrong as an entity. It happens, life moves forward. Luckily, my sense of identity is strong enough that this does not throw my every action and every flavor of ice cream I enjoy into the “questionable” territory.
But much like breakups, weddings can be perceived by outsiders as “predicted” or “perfect” as well. This is never the case. There are friends we all have that, based on the limited information we are allowed to be privy to, we think IF they chose to get married, it would be lovely. Not perfect, lovely. Nothing in this world is perfect, only perfect in its imperfections (as the saying goes). I fully support all people in love who have decided that they should be able to publicly announce their commitment, and dance their butts off with great friends and great tunes. With that said, summer seems to bring on an unholy amount of both of these status changes. It is a time of reflection, a time where, literally, the grass gets greener. A time to see the options at hand, the life you are living, which then allow you to make a choice. If what you have still seems brighter than the 100+ degree sunshine, then you go and declare you are mating for life. If it does not, you make the difficult but logical decision that your world is in turmoil while the rest of the happy campers are enjoying their tans…thus, you declare a change must be made. Logic may not be the most romantic notion you’ve ever heard, but its science. Let’s ponder…
“Monogamous” species as we know it are not, truly, monogamous. They still sneak away and mate with others to increase the genetic diversity of their offspring. What they so faithfully do is maintain a life partner, one who they live with, care for, and raise their (sometimes bastard) young with. It’s all gravy. But occasionally, even these long term commitments in the animal world fall asunder. In Austria, a tortoise “couple” who have been living in harmony for over 100 years have had to be separated and are now living independent lives. “Divorced”, if you will. A “perfect union” icon for many, as this giant reptile is renowned for the longevity and peacefulness of their coupling, has thrown a wrench into the mix. Conversely, it highlights my point exactly. You never know what is going on in someone else’s relationship, be it stronger than you assumed or more fragile. All you can do is support the decisions made by the actual parties involved and celebrate whatever outcome they have come to accept. Yay weddings! But also, Yay not weddings!
And I know that many people cannot IMAGINE their lives without having a partner. Like, RIGHT NOW. And it becomes an obsession. I actually know a number of people who happily jump into BAD relationships (and I mean, they fully disclose the shit quality of it the whole time, publicly) but validate it by saying “at least I’m not single.” Which is complete and total bullshit, and insults singles the world over. Perhaps single is where some people WANT to be right now, much like being married is where some people WANT to be. Perhaps “single” people are not emotionally single, but not intending to pull all the strings that come with a relationship. Perhaps they love someone far away, perhaps they love someone taken, perhaps they love their job where they travel ALL the time, perhaps they love their own reflection. Who knows. No judgment here. Just do what comes naturally for you, and leave your opinions on different life styles behind.
The number of animals that have evolved to have “solitary” mating habits is astounding, but I will bring up only a few (and I will neglect all of the fauna in the aquatic world, because really, once you add fish and jelly fish and frogs into the mix, it becomes a whole new ball game). Orangutans, those lovable, giant, smelly apes of Asia, do not go bounding through the trees and hugging their spouses. To be fair, they don’t bound much at all. It’s more of a slow, bumbling, “I hope this branch holds my weight” kind of locomotion. But I digress. Millions of years of evolution have allowed for enough time for them to figure out exactly what works in their family structure and it goes like this: single adult female, swinging around, whose territory overlaps with that of a male. She goes, “eh, baby time”. They have sex, she has a baby. He is only present for the sex portion, obviously. He wanders around in his territory, probably shagging some other willing females. Meanwhile, our mom is busy raising her child, alone. On purpose. No mate bond, no expectations, no need. Basically the same story applies to the lorisids of Asia and Africa as well. Quick mate, gone. Males are not around for food gathering, for life lessons. And a mate is not desired. There is no point in time that these single mothers can be seen dragging their kids around, looking for their baby daddy, and asking for some cuddles. Why? Cuz they don’t need it. Jusssssst fine on their own.
Now, these stories obviously have exceptions. Many of these animals when placed in captivity are in close proximity to a male counterpart and can, in fact, live amongst their mates. The point is, they don’t need to. Unlike love birds, that get so intensely connected to their mates that if one is killed/dies the other often dies soon after suffering a period of grief and mourning. I may be anthropomorphizing, but there are just no other words to describe it as. See it, then come talk to me.
We are not alone, any of us, in our choices of mating or single hood. Of polyandry or polygamy, of solitude or harem or matriarchies. I don’t want us to stop celebrating the great milestones in our lives, or the lives of those we love. I want recognition that NOT getting married is a thing to be enjoyed and respected as well. A few “yay you! Yay me!” interspersed with the “yay us! Yay them!” vocabulary. We never know what is going on behind the scenes, which is how the magic is allowed to prosper. Everyone loves a good show, but no one really believes that woman in a box just got cut in half and put back together in a school auditorium. Enjoy you, whoever that you may be, and support the lucky ones in your lives who have been brave enough to discover who they are as well.
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About Leah Schein
Leah is a born and bred Chicagoan, and considers herself extremely fortunate to be raised by amazing liberal parents in Logan Square. Coming from a long family history of equality activism, the crazy world of politics feels like home to her. Her upbringing allowed her to fully appreciate her love of tacos, and provided the support needed to be independent and insane. She is a happy survivor of the public school system, all the way through her undergrad years, culminating with a BA in anthropology. Her love of travel and all things adventurous led to the pursuit of a Master of Science from sunny ol’ England, where she happily grasped a conservation degree and ran off to live in a number of rain forests to research nocturnal primates. Through the amazing diversity she was fortunate to be raised amongst, she has an unwavering appreciation of all cultures and peoples, and has used this to form the foundation of her outspoken support of civil rights. You may have seen her running around Boystown/Tuna town over the last decade, or at events she volunteers at for the Human Rights Campaign. It’s possible you spied her at the Silent Film Festival. That strange woman getting into a wrestling match in the leaves on Foster Ave beach at 3am…that definitely wasn’t her. She couldn’t be more excited about sharing her love of science, and it’s role in our daily lives, with the community she loves. Nerds are cool, people. They drink martini’s too.