What’s Wrong with This Effusive Account of a Great

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On the Travel page of the magazine, The Week, was a one-paragraph excerpt from a story about a visit to America’s “happiest seaside town.” Read it and see what you think. Then keep reading if you want to know what I thought.

“I was with an old friend, not my husband, but a full day in Beaufort, S.C., had me charmed, said Laura Johnson in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. ‘If this were a date,’ I said, as we sat on a porch swing near the water, listening to a live band, ‘it would be the best date ever.’ The state’s second-oldest city is the gateway to 200 Lowcountry islands, and we’d already strolled among antebellum mansions, shopped charming boutiques, savored shrimp-centered meals, and soaked up some local history. The following day, we’d take a ‘soul-stirring drive’ to the beach at Huntington Island State Park and a ‘gorgeous’ ruin of an 18th-century church…From our back-porch dinner at Plum’s, it was just a short walk to the city’s waterfront park and the view across the Beaufort River. Next time, my husband’s coming.”

So what do you think?

I thought it was a very sad commentary on the author, the editors at The Week, and contemporary society. What a put-down of an old friend, and of the value of friendship in general, from a clueless matrimaniac.

She was with an old friend, not her husband, but she was still charmed? Wow. Imagine being charmed by a charming place when you don’t have a sex partner at your side.

Something else that was striking about the essay was how unselfconsciously and unapologetically the author let her old friend know that she wasn’t much valued. Her conversation with her friend apparently wasn’t about how much she valued that enduring relationship, or how grateful she was to get to spend time with her friend in such a magnificent place. Not, it was about how much better it would be if she were with her husband.

The author’s utter obliviousness to her devaluing of her old friend, and friendship itself, is evident throughout. She was happy to publish her narrow-minded, matrimaniacal views in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. What’s more, The Week then proudly reprinted this friendship-disparaging piece, apparently equally oblivious to its shameful values.

Unfortunately, there is nothing special about the author or the newspaper or The Week. They are all just mindlessly perpetuating the dominant societal values, in which sex-based relationships are extolled, and all the others are demeaned or neglected.

I wonder what will happen to this woman if her husband dies before she does. Even after she gets past her grief, will she be unable to fully appreciate the charm of any place she ever visits if she does not have a spouse to accompany her? How very sad. Well, maybe she will just get married again, as soon as she possibly can.

 

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Visiting Professor, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Visit her website at www.BellaDePaulo.com.Like this author?


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