Archive | July, 2012

This Joyful Single Life

19 Jul

by Rhea H. Boyden

are so lucky to be single and have the freedom to go out and have
fun.’ one of my students here in Berlin said to me recently, trying
hard to conceal her envy of my lifestyle. ‘I am stuck at home with a
screaming 3 year old.’ she said. ‘But wait, I thought you were
happily married and had a nice house and an adoring husband who pays
half the bills?’. I inquired. ‘I envy that, and it looks more and
more like I will never have it.’I said. ‘I am happy with my husband,
and I love him and my kid, but I never get to go out and have fun. I
am so settled and boring’. she moaned. ‘Well, I am sorry if you
regret having settled. That is always something I have never been
willing to do, but then I may sorely regret that some day too, who
knows?’ This is one exchange I have had with a married mother, which
helps put my life into perspective, and another is the following
scenario: when I admitted once to a married mother what a huge amount
of time I spend on Facebook. ‘Oh’, she retorted, smugly, ‘I cancelled
my Facebook account. I think it’s a silly waste of time.’ ‘Oh
really?’, I responded. ‘Well, I can’t live without Facebook.’ It is a
big part of my life, and I get all my music, entertainment and news
about my friends there on a daily basis. As a single woman who lives
alone, Facebook is my faithful friend.’ I said. I did not say to her,
that maybe she did not need Facebook as much as me, because she might
be fullfilled enough with a husband, two kids, one cat, two dogs and
a goldfish, and that she seems to have somehow found that blissful
state, whereas lots of others of us are still searching for it. And
one more great thing about Facebook: It’s free. A fact that is really
great, considering that single life is indeed more of a financial
burden than coupled life. Singles may be envied by couples for having
autonomy on how to spend their money, and the fact that they don’t
have to discuss money matters with a partner, but they are under a
lot more strain financially than couples, as we still live in a world
that rewards couples and families despite the ever increasing number
of single households in the West.

I go food shopping as a single I get frustrated fast. ‘Why does this
store only sell a whole net of five zucchinis when all I want is
one?’ I wonder. I also notice that buying in bulk is way cheaper than
buying smaller single sized portions. Buying a ready made salad is
way more expensive than buying lots of fresh salad items which you
can feed a whole family with, but I do it anyway, because it’s
convenient and I would only end up wasting food and throwing it away
if I bought too much. The list is endless for how much more singles
have to pay. More rent, more electricity, more taxes, and a statistic
I found most shocking recently was from a travel brochure that
advertised package holidays to the Turkish Riviera. For a one week
package tour a couple has to pay 804 Euros. For the same deal,
however, a single person has to pay 1,072 Euros. You do the math.
This is pure discrimination against singles.

DePaulo, a Harvard trained psychologist coined the term ‘singlism’ in
2005 intended to parallel it with ‘sexism’ and ‘racism’. She says:
‘Singlism is the stimatising of adults who are single and includes
negative stereotyping of singles and descrimination against singles.’
There are so many of us choosing to stay single and live in single
households, you would think the discrimination would wane. I choose
to stay single and live in a single household too, but the drive to
mate, date and be on constant partner search is still deep within me,
despite enjoying most aspects of single life the majority of the
time. In light of this fact, another thing that has gotten very
expensive for me is online dating. There are savvy business people
who have really cashed in on all these singles who are looking for

couple years ago, as another lovely event filled Berlin summer was
drawing to a close, I suddenly felt a pang at the prospect of
spending another long Berlin winter alone. I then signed up to an
expensive dating website that claimed it had high standards of the
people it allowed to join. I guess I am really gullible, because how
do you monitor that? It was nothing but a disaster. I met the
weirdest guys and went on the strangest dates. When I told one guy I
came from Ireland, he snidely responded: ‘Oh, so you are from the
country we are bailing out’. I retorted with: ‘Oh, so you want to
talk politics, do you, and insult my country? How romantic, can’t
wait to go on a date with you.’ I sent another guy a sweet message
asking if he wanted to meet for a coffee and he wrote the following
back to me: ‘No thanks, I am not interested. You are not as slim as
you claim in your profile.’ I wisely ignored this comment, but
seriously, I am not fat. I may not be a beanpole, but I am slim and
athletic and I certainly wouldn’t lie in my profile. As far as I have
experienced, internet dating is a minefield that left me depressed,
and the worst part was that I stupidly failed to read the fine print
which instructed me to cancel my contract with them otherwise it
would be renewed automatically. This is the biggest scam, and I am
still paying for it. I am sure a lot of other singles are in the same
boat, and its a dismal one to sit in.

I joyfully return to good old Facebook for my free entertainment, of
which there are hours. As well as the great music that is posted by
my dear musician and producer friends on Facebook, there is the
wonderful scrabble app that keeps me entertained for hours. Last
winter, I noticed that an old school friend of mine in Ireland was
playing scrabble and so I sent him a request. We then played scrabble
and chatted for 6 months and it was quite a delight. I became quite
dependent on our chats and I also developed quite a crush on this
handsome man, whom I had not seen in 18 years. He sustained me
through a long winter, and he became my muse and inspired me to write
a lovely poem for him, which I then casually posted on his wall. I
also suggested that we skype at the same time and his response was:
‘I read your poem, and it’s good, but I am nicely ignorant to poetry
in general. I haven’t used my skype in years.’ he casually wrote. ‘I
was hurt, by this double rejection in one message, so I responded
with a knee jerk reaction: ‘Well, I know where I stand with you now,
anyway. I wrote the poem for you, by the way, after 6 months of
scrabble chat.’ I then went on to add: ‘Poetry is the beautiful and
subtle language of love, and I pity people who do not take the time
for it!’ He wrote back and said ‘I didn’t realise that the poem was
for me, sorry. I thought this was just scrabble chat.’. I then said
‘Well, fair enough’ you have a point, this is scrabble and not a love
poetry forum. Poetry has never been a favourite passtime and you
can’t expect people to love and appreciate your poetry, as is summed
up in a lovely New Yorker cartoon with the following scenario: A
hijacker is standing in the aisle of a plane with a gun in one hand
and a notebook in the other. ‘Ok’ he shouts. ‘No one will get hurt,
if you just allow me to read you a few of my poems.’

I bashfully realise that I projected too much onto a scrabble chat
with an old school friend and ruined it, but I can at least look back
and see that it sustained me for a long time, and it was free, which
is far better than online dating. I still have my games of scrabble
with my other friends. He and I have left it on civilised terms and
I have dealt maturly with the rejection. So my joyful single life
continues and I enjoy most of it, most of the time. I am not willing
to settle for a mediocre relationship and I have a full life with
lots of friends off Facebook too. So, now I just have to mustre the
courage to do that one big annoying thing with no emotional support
at my side, and that is the delightful task of filing my taxes. And
yes, I have to pay more taxes than married couples as a single
childless woman, but I deal with that too, somehow.

Documenta Series

16 Jul

By Rhea H. Boyden


                                                                                                      Photo by Erin Reilly


Documenta 1

Not heeding the mangled faces and forgetting their importance, she wages a war of fairy tales. Only thinking of the proud bee hive and its self-centred importance in the world. But the magical bees and the honeycombs only mask the mangled faces, barbed wire and camouflage that we so easily forget, locked in our own silly dreams. Is there any importance behind this screen? How can one give so much energy to a game on a computer? It is senseless in the grand scheme of things. How can one fill a whole grand hall with meaningless scribbles in pastel that also make themselves so important behind their plush blankets. One can only see half the picture in this too. Half the picture on a screen, turned into a fairy tale, half the picture behind the blanket. Yes, we must look at the mangled faces as hard as it is to do. We must stare, as painful as it is, and not cover them in warm blankets. I am not all insane. Just a part of me. Just that little part that enables me to create something worth looking at outside myself and away from the screen. Why, oh why must a fly have a whole marble block all to itself under a crystal covering? That too deserves respect. A simple fly puts everything into perspective. You can’t stop the clocks, they keep on ticking, so to freeze yourself in this moment is pointless. Perpetual motion is all around. The screen creates the myth of the perfect. Sometimes a person never comes back from the event horizon. There is no turning back to the screen, you have smashed it and scared it away. You must find entertainment elsewhere and not regret the past. It served its purpose. I nearly missed this nice image here while staring at the screen. Here I can find time to meditate. Watching the lovely spinning tubes, filled with singing fish and flashing lights turning life into a playground. But wait, there is a gun! Do not forget the mangled faces! They will come back to you under your own plush blankets and make your flies of problems seem positively minute. Even the playground is sinister. You can never escape the mangled faces. They will always be there. Always.

 wooden loom

Photo by Erin Reilly-Documenta 13

 Documenta 2

The seamstress can work hard to make a futuristic suit to protect us from the unwanted Nordic Nuclear energy. But will it make any difference? How can she sew such a garment on a machine made of wood that refuses to budge? Hours and hours go into carving out the fine and intricate curves of the wooden garment press. And all the work is lost in a protest that is dragged out of existence in the middle of the night. The banks and energy lords won’t listen to this. The plant will open anyway and they will drag away the Real Occupy Camp and leave the Art Occupy Camp there to try and quench our thirst for protest. ‘Oh, how quaint’ they may say. A faux white tent with the word ‘Greed’ written on it. Beware, Bankers! Art is more powerful than you think. It speaks a language that is beyond your scope.

tents at doc

Photo by Erin Reilly

Documenta 3

2 young women sit in a restaurant bemoaning the fact that they cannot find suitable mates. The Restaurant is aptly named ‘Il Convento’. At least the food is excellent. There is no modern map to help them chart their futures. The traditional maps have either been sucked into a black hole or burned in a lava flow from a volcano trapped in a dark hall. Art will rescue them for one day.

blinds over tracks

Photo by Erin Reilly

Documenta 4

There is no time to ponder an ocean wave in a landlocked city. Only the rushes can linger to enjoy that. The silver blinds are hanging over the train tracks and the clocks are ticking ever louder. The pistons are pumping and the mercury is rising. There is limited art for limited spaces and limited time to see it. Our calendar gives us more days than the Chinese, but still we must flee. German trains do not wait.