Saturday, December 25, 2010

Would You Like Some Advice With That?

Shopkeepers are wonderful. They sell us soap and batteries, bag it all up with a smile, and then proceed to tell us how to run our lives.

Or maybe that only happens to me.

As a single person, I’m used to getting advice from family and friends, suggestions that I take this class or buy that dress, all in the interests of netting a man. They seem to feel I’ve made a blunder by not getting married, and it’s their duty to help me straighten it out.

But twice now, that well-meaning prying has spilled over into shopkeepers. Once, at a produce store, the man at the checkout stand was weighing my one yam, my one crookneck squash, and my single serving of green beans. He shook his head, looked me in the eye and said, “You need to get married.” Another time, while bagging my items on a hot day, a vendor at the farmer's market asked me if I was heading out to the lake that afternoon. No, I said. She asked if I was married or had kids. No, I said. “Well,” she cheerfully offered, “you might as well go to the lake. It's not like you've got anything else to do.”

Now, I realize these shopkeepers were just trying to be neighborly. But it made me realize that single people are one of our culture’s last remaining punching bags: poor schlumps who have so obviously erred that they deserve—indeed, need—unsolicited advice. There’s probably some patriarchal, Judeo-Christian mumbo-jumbo going on here, but I’m not going to think about that. I’m going to go home and enjoy…the sound of no one talking. The wild taste of a single yam.

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