The Referendum – Tim Kreider

Came across this short piece called ‘The Referendum’ by Tim Kreider online at the NYT site, via Andrew Sullivan.  The writer is a single, 42-year-old cartoonist whose putative subject is ‘arrested adolescence’ but it’s really all about the choices we all make, and how to live.  Here’s a taste:

A lot of my married friends take a vicarious interest in my personal life. It’s usually just nosy, prurient fun, but sometimes smacks of the sort of moralism that H.G. Wells called “jealousy with a halo.” Sometimes it seems sort of starved, like audiences in the Great Depression watching musicals about the glitterati. It’s true that my romantic life has produced some humorous anecdotes, but good stories seldom come from happy experiences. Some of my married friends may envy my freedom in an abstract, daydreamy way, misremembering single life as some sort of pornographic smorgasbord, but I doubt many of them would actually choose to trade places with me. Although they may miss the thrill of sexual novelty, absolutely nobody misses dating.

I regard their more conventional domestic lives with the same sort of ambivalence. Like everyone, I’ve seen some marriages in which I would discreetly hang myself within 12 hours, but others have given me cause to envy their intimacy, loyalty, and irreplaceable decades of invested history. [Note to all my married friends: your marriage is one of the latter.] Though one of those friends cautioned me against idealizing: “It’s not as if being married means you’re any less alone.”

We all make choices about how to live, sometimes feeling good about them, other times feeling perhaps we’ve made a mistake.  We can look at our friends’ lives and try to make some comparisons, but in the end it’s pretty impossible to know how other people are really feeling about their own choices.  So we carry on, trying to do the best we can, to live with choices we’ve made, to optimize our future outcomes.  No do-overs, no rewind!

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  • Jim  On September 21, 2009 at 8:36 am

    “Though one of those friends cautioned me against idealizing: “It’s not as if being married means you’re any less alone.””

    His friend is very wise. We all are “alone”. As I often like to remind my family members and friends: all that “exists” is what is inside your skin. The rest is “perception” – at one level or another!

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