Perspectives from singles, singletons — and our supporters
The Who but You? project gathers the in-between spaces, the grey places: what we do in our lives and where we hide in our hearts to balance isolation and community, lonely and overwhelmed.
Started in 2015 with an initial focus on people who live alone, the Who but You? project broadened the singleton theme to include the unspoken foundation beneath it all: no matter with whom you share your life or your home, what is your solo journey?
When words fail us
What does it mean to be “single?”
I don’t find in the word the loneliness we sometimes feel when we are in loving sexual relationships.
I don’t see “single” pinpointing virtual connections — the weight of the outside world as we scroll down screens while sitting at home alone.
No matter your relationship status and how and where you live, who but you possesses your emotions, insights, memories, and motivations? In this sense, you are quite single.
But, I’m walking alongside you – me, and much of humanity. No matter how lonely you may feel in a given hour or era of your life, countless others are now feeling or have felt similarly. Given this reality, you are never alone.
Big, gold star for couples
For the most part, singles are no longer looked down upon like they were in the bad ol’ days in the U.S., but having a significant other is still held in high regard; partnering up – especially long-term — is culturally encouraged and rewarded.
Yet, who are you when you are “in a relationship,” anyway?
Feminists (female and male) still grapple with their identities and roles in monogamous partnerships, living together, serial dating, child rearing. Sex at Dawn fans dive into polyamory – some belief systems adopting specific vocabulary (foundational couple, secondary partners, intimate networks, etc.).
Half the population in the United States is unmarried now, according to the research of sociologist Eric Klinenberg. This statistic could symbolize many things, of course, including couples opting out of legal unions as well as people not dating at all.
Love may be communal and healing, for certain, but, if they can afford it, many couples retreat into their own private homes to “build a life together.”
As these couples with or without kids live in self-contained units, households containing only one person are increasing at an alarming rate. Globally, people exist in homes of solitude now more than ever before: 277 million individuals in the world live alone. There’s even a word for single people who are the sole occupants of their homes: singletons.
When it comes to our living spaces, we desire integrity. We want privacy.
Gathering around the campfire
Seemingly absent or rare are cultural models for affordable and comfortable housing options for individuals and families who may crave both quiet solitude and a sense of belonging.
Especially for those who are frail or well into their elder years, the choices are limited. Here in the U.S., it is said we’re a nation of failed Skilled Nursing Facilities.
I, for one, would like to learn how and why we morphed into encapsulated homes from our community-dependent existences eons ago.
As we continue to embrace digital connectedness, I wonder if we will need in-person communities less and less.
Finally, as self-destructive as our world and its inhabitants have always been, we seem to be reaching a crescendo. It’s surprising to me that our inclination is to seal ourselves away in our bubbles, instead of huddling together around kitchen tables.
Have we become too independent from one another?
The Who but You? project welcomes your perspectives on any or all of these things. We would be honored to bear witness to your inner journey – the fears, triumphs, discomfort, and treasures, through solitude and togetherness, in chaotic homes or in quiet abodes.
A single story at a time.
SPECIAL NOTE OF GRATITUDE: Permission granted by Eric Klinenberg to paraphrase statistics from his book, Going Solo – The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, 2012. Thank you, Eric! Also, special thanks to Es Bee, my singleton friend whose lit-up life inspired this project. Blessings. –K.