What might it mean to think of the single as a potentially queer subject, and in what ways does singleness pose a challenge to heteronormative conceptualizations of the lifecourse and household formation?
Eleanor Wilkinson, “Single People’s Geographies of Home”
I have never felt incomplete or alone without a romantic partner, but I am beginning to feel particularly singled.
Caleb Luna, “Romantic Love is Killing Us”
You’re right, I’m literally writing this because I’m a mad fat girl who can’t get a date and is demanding to be cared for, regardless.
Samantha Marie Nock, “Decrying Desirability, Demanding Care”
Compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory coupledom, compulsory sexuality. How do these turn as keys to entry? When Caleb Luna talks about being singled, they immediately clarify things. “When I say singled,” they tell us, “I mean the position of being denied intimacy and care from those in my life, who reserve it for others.” That feeling of detachment, of delinking, of loneliness produced by the structural reality of always being secondary to someone.
Blocked off from care by the way it’s unevenly distributed through modes of institutionalized intimacy, shaped by logics of familial, sexual, and romantic primacy. Eleanor Wilkinson’s question about whether single should be considered queer is the right question asked poorly. Samantha Nock writes to “those not invited into desirability” – the fat, the disabled, the elderly, the non-white – and points the way that desirability acts as a prerequisite for care.
If I’m drawn to Luna’s and Nock’s critical complaints, it’s as an ace man for whom sexual and romantic desirability is not something I want, but because of the way desirability and care are linked, care is similarly cut off along the lines of sex and romance. A similar wish at a different frequency. But to claim that you’ve been singled as a white man involves getting caught in the toxic gravity of misogynists and incels – men who misinterpret an affective kernel around the lack of care by violently lamenting their lack of access to institutional intimacies that benefit men.
To say that this misogynist gravity is a form of terror is necessary, but it’s hard to admit that the kernel at the heart of it is a real concern over the link between desire and care. At heart, there’s a question about why no one cares for you strained through the rubrics of successful heteromasculinity. Successful gender expression is tied to desirability is tied to care, but the solution to this problem is not to crave success and desirability, but to find care outside of those rubrics. We don’t need to be desired, we shouldn’t need to meet normative expectations around gender, but we do need care. Which means we need to reciprocally show care, but how when care seems to be monopolized within sexual and romantic relationships?
Deanna texts that she almost started crying while transcribing a recording where Trudy Rosenfeld describes Roy Kiyooka lived off pastries from the bakery because no one was around to care for him. She reminds me of the contradiction in that when I joke that self-care is just letting capitalism take care of you and she retorts that capitalism is letting others take care of you through their unwaged labour. I don’t want this exploitation, but its hard not to wish for someone to take care of you, even if it’s in a way that’s exploitative.