The Belle Jar: Notes on a Single

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You’ll never know who she is, but you’ll read her anyway. Send questions, propositions, and fan mail to [email protected] Welcome to the Belle Jar.

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Singles Awareness Day (February 14) approaches and already, I overheard someone bitching about lacking a date. Problems like this are often best dealt with by reminding the offender about Darfur or telling them that they’re fat, but this time I actually stopped and considered the person’s complaint. It got me thinking about singlehood, and how it manifests itself differently in all of us. What follows is not a celebration of that diversity so much as a guide to how to be a good single person; how to wear your solitude—sorry, “freedom”—well.

The Whiner:

You know this person. In fact, you probably know 50 of these people or 49 plus vous. He or she won’t go to Hot Jazz without a date, is bitter about relationships without being entertaining, and will insist on buying a full body pillow and naming it after an unrequited love (who was probably less of a sexual being than the pillow). This person has clearly forgotten that they were born alone and will probably die alone. Try reminding them of that and if they cry, let them cry alone.

This will sound harsh, but indulging this person’s belief that they can’t be complete without another person is a betrayal of their friendship. You can’t grow a backbone for someone else, but pointedly ignoring their spinelessness is the next best thing. Comfort them and run the risk of conversing with a person—probably decent and intelligent most of the time—who speaks with more whine than words. Screech back at them and maybe they’ll realize they sound like a creep.

I fully support the idea that anyone who constantly complains about being single should be penalized with another month of singledom. This generally happens anyway because the more you complain about being single, the more unattractive you become.

The Piner:

Aww, poor babies can’t stop reading their gchats. These people are the epitome of pathos. Every time they see a previous love interest, boyfriend, or girlfriend cross college walk, it’s like the Furies have decided to play cats cradle with their heartstrings. If this is you, find a new idea, theory, person or art project to invest your time in. That said, celibacy is not a valid coping mechanism. Friends who have fallen out of love’s favor have presented themselves before me, declared themselves celibate for college, and waited for me to clap. Being single on principle doesn’t make you glacially aloof and above the hormonal turmoil–you’re sewing your own habit with the word “desperate” stitched into all the lining.

The Walking Disaster:

This person reads the Craig’s List “missed connections” every night looking for their description. This person thinks of Butler as a social watering hole, and describes it as such. He or she hits on strangers in elevators, convinced that finding a companion will lead them to emotional nirvana. Face it: this person, perhaps someone you see wandering alone at strange hours in the stacks, may be alone for a reason.

The whiners and piners are bad, but they can easily be single out of bad luck or awkwardness. The walking disasters are derailed, and people can smell it on them

The Jumper:

This person is in a relationship but for all intents and purposes is single. They never learned to be alone and now, regardless of how personally satisfying their relationship is, they won’t get out of it until they’ve got someone lined up and signed up to full on, balls to the wall, date them. Like most of us, the jumper wants all social interactions to involve no personal sacrifice or potential for harm, but is bound to get hurt anyway, and more importantly, take others down with them.

The Enlightened:

When I think of an enlightened single person, I think of Angelina Jolie. This is partly because I often think of Angelina Jolie and partly because the collective “we” gets the sense that she was doing fine without Brad and is glad to have him around but could just as easily be by herself. Most single people aren’t like Angelina Jolie, but most single people aren’t enlightened.

Being enlightened doesn’t mean that you’re completely fine with singlehood, but it does mean you can negotiate the difference between being single and being lonely. The enlightened single is not waiting for someone to come along and complete them. They know that a night out with friends is more fulfilling than a thousand bar hops. And the enlightened single probably won’t stay single for long. Because backbones are sexy.

The On His or Her Back Disaster:

These ones can be a lot of fun. Essentially, the OHBD has found that love sucks, reality bites, and the best way to handle this situation is to sleep with as many people as possible (or, to quote Peaches, fuck the pain away). If this isn’t you, at least use this person for a few wild nights. If this is you, be careful, because the second you fall for someone—and you will fall for someone—you’ll morph into the Piner. Or you’ll get the clap. In fact, you may have it now. Might want to get that checked out…

Next week: how not to be annoying in a relationship.

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  1. this  

    is the best some of the best shit bwog has ever had.

  2. peaches  

    nice reference.

    still good, but not quite like the first one.

  3. anon

    RE: "Next week: how not to be annoying in a relationship."

    Is that "to the person you're with" or "to everyone else around you"??

    I sincerely hope it's both.

  4. Carly  

    This article scared me into thinking I'm some hateful whiner-piner hybrid. And as for the column, I've never been a big fan of unanimous enthusiasm.
    But goddamnn, Bwog. I love this girl.

  5. Trite, cliched junk

    A list? Come on... do you really know anyone like this? It sounds like it was stolen out of Time Out or some shit like that. Fraudulent and the writing is overwraught (see cat's cradle with heartstings etc)

  6. Elna  

    This needs to be a MUCH more frequent feature!

  7. A Columbia  

    sex/relationships column that's actually worth reading? It's going to take me a while to get used to this.

  8. ...  

    reveal yourself! you deserve recognition for stuff this good!

  9. listen  

    i think it's well-written, funny, etc.

    but it is not THAT good. these ideas are not original. just wanting to put it into perspective

  10. Okay with singledom  

    Well, what about the single people who are pretty okay with being single, but have friends who insist that it isn't, and keep trying to get you to believe that "don't worry, now isn't the time, but soon!" Now THAT is a strange fixation, generally manifested by people in a relationship, in which their single friends either piss them off or scare them.

    • yeah  

      yeah, I never got that. I'm perfectly happy being single for now. If I meet someone I'm interested in, I'll ask them out for a drink. If not, no worries. Guess it's that upperclassman fear of "YOU MAY NEVER HAVE THIS CHANCE AGAIN." I know enough people staying in boring relationships just to avoid singality that there's no point in going full-bore with somebody unless you actually enjoy their company. And, y'know, the sex is good.

      Nice column, strange anonymous person. I was a skeptic at first. This is a great start. Keep it up!

  11. Anonymous  

    The tradition of insightful commentary continues. Well done, Anon, Bwog.

  12. she forgot  

    about those of us who know love isn't real, relationships suck and the only solace in life is working yourself to death and screaming your enemies' names when you ejaculate.

  13. valentineless  

    It makes me sad that I fit more than one of the categories. And I ain't no Angelina! At least I don't give two shits about valentine's day.

    But I have a feeling the next column will make me feel worse about myself!

    Thanks Belle Jar!



  15. cant you

    just give us a clue of who this is? just a clue.. im really good at figuring things out.. please?? i bet its not even a girl...

  16. The Whiner  

    Any other self-proclaimed whiners out there? I'm not sure why my friends don't stick duct-tape over my mouth...

  17. sse  

    celibacy is a great option

    trust me

  18. The Dink  

    Yo I dont know why everyone's all over this article's dick. This is not a sex column but a relationship column. "Most single people aren't enlightened" That's just like Miriam except with complete sentences.

    • well, not quite  

      This is just like Miriam except with proper grammar, words longer than one syllable, and the fun and useful perk of not making the reader to rip his eyes out, just to prevent a future encounter with the column.

      Jesus, I would even go so far as to say that this is enjoyable to read! Amazing what happens when you sign someone who can write!

    • yo yeah

      wasn't one of miriam's pitfalls the fact that she was incapable of talking about herself? i was looking forward to seeing whoever wrote that first installment really get down and dirty and say really funny shit about it. this rings a bit like that first piece but i kind of didn't give a shit by the third "person." and next week's column sounds kinda similarly frustrating. sex, please, not relationships.

    • except  

      when Miriam says it, she's dead serious.

  19. I want  

    to fuck this girl. Seriously. And I'm a girl so this could theoretically happen. Hook it up, Bwog.

  20. an enlightened

    this is great. interesting, actually applicable, and...wow. loved it. more please. what's sad is that i could pick out at least one friend for each of the distasteful types.

    • thats not sad

      it shows how genius this article is! perhaps what makes it superior to miriam the most is that it IS NOT JUST ABOUT HERSELF and does not have incessant references to "one of my guy friends" and "i'm not (insert social stigma here) but..." BLAH BLAH

  21. omg!  

    You quoted Peaches. You win at life.

  22. Your Great Aunt Ida  

    Reading this was so much more interesting than Primate Behavior! (though connections could easily be made). I am DEFINITELY a piner. How did she know about the celibacy vow?

  23. hehe  

    this is brilliant... i think my life just got a little better as it describes at least half the people i know...

  24. rockdweller

    I think that at some point in time,we may have been all of these people. to some degree or another. The whiner, because we are alone, the jumper, because we are scared and hate being alone, the enlightened, thats in the publics eye, the on the back disaster because we are looking for love in sex, and you wont find it there.

  25. Anonymous  

    Damn I want to ask this girl out. Happy Pre-Valentine's Day.

  26. FLOD

    absolutely perfect
    -the east village fan club

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