A SPACE HOP­PER FOR ONE.

Gay Times Magazine - - A Space Hopper For One - Words Se­bas­tian Free­man

Aristo­phanes tell us that long ago, hu­mans were not like they are to­day. We were a two-for-one pack­age deal. One spher­i­cal body, with two faces, four arms, and four legs, some­thing like a pair of hu­manoid tor­toises seam­lessly stuck to­gether by some ge­netic su­per­glue. And we came in three, hip styles: boy-boy, girl-girl, and girl-boy.

God, we were jolly! We bounced around in a state of eu­pho­ria, adept and grace­ful in move­ment, small chil­dren on their third birth­day, gifted a space hop­per and reach­ing a sugar-high nir­vana - only in­fin­itely more hor­ri­fy­ing.

How life was per­fect. Un­til one ballsy dou­bled-headed bouncer ru­ined it for the rest of us. They got a lit­tle too con­fi­dent and tried to over­throw Zeus (we’re in sexy An­cient Greece, btw), who re­sponded much like a drunken grand­fa­ther would to a small space-hop­ping child when they go off-piste and knock his sev­enth can of Guin­ness to the ground. He sliced us (the space hop­per, keep up) in two. Af­ter our ini­tial wtf-shock, our wounds were sewn up, and Zeus prob­a­bly shouted “suck it up”. This left us as we are to­day, one half of a ge­netic mon­stros­ity, des­per­ately search­ing for our for­merly con­joined love.

In­ter­est­ingly, this tale of ori­gin doesn’t ac­tu­ally hold much sta­tus in the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity. Nev­er­the­less, the idea of find­ing a part­ner is deeply in­grained in our so­ci­ety. From Plato’s Sym­po­sium to ev­ery 90’s Dis­ney film to the plus-one on your wed­ding in­vi­ta­tion, it’s all about pair­ing up or be left be­hind in a mis­er­able abyss of lone­li­ness, with no one to en­rage by your vul­gar num­ber of morn­ing alarms.

What a great tragedy, to be alone.

Ex­cept that it isn’t. As a 27-year-old gay man who has never been in a re­la­tion­ship, I’ve been on dates, had con­ti­nen­tal dal­liances, and stared at those two blue ticks un­til my fore­head vein sprung to life like ex­pand­ing foam through the walls of my over­priced foam-em­balmed Hack­ney flat. But while my friends turned sparks into great blazes, for me, th­ese lit­tle fires burned out fast, and of­ten left an ashy mess that wasn’t worth the warmth it gave. In the lit­tle wells of melan­choly I then found my­self in, I would try to shift my fo­cus from the fan­tas­ti­cally il­lu­sive Lum­ber-Jaques to whom I was meant to be out­sourc­ing my hap­pi­ness to re­la­tion­ships that ac­tu­ally ex­isted. Al­beit em­bar­rass­ingly slowly, the ques­tions started to change from “Is there some­thing wrong with me?” to “Is there some­thing wrong with this?”

I’d been caught up in a game that I never re­ally wanted to play, like “spin the bot­tle” at a fam­ily re­union. I was taught to feel like I was miss­ing out on some­thing, when in fact, I wasn’t. I had friends who in­spired and nour­ished me, fam­ily who un­der­stood and ap­pre­ci­ated me, and a vi­brant sex life with amaz­ing part­ners who hap­pily kept our pas­sions con­fined to the bed­room or oc­ca­sional wet area. The idea of cram­ming all of th­ese amaz­ing peo­ple into one hu­man seemed un­nec­es­sary and rather painful, es­pe­cially when an abun­dance of won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ences were al­ready avail­able through the mul­ti­tude of hu­man con­nec­tions wo­ven around me like a beau­ti­ful byzan­tine ta­pes­try. Th­ese souls nei­ther com­plete nor need com­plet­ing, and are drawn to­gether to bask in our own com­plete­ness.

I could con­tinue to wax lyri­cal about how lucky I am to be sin­gle and happy, but am I the ex­cep­tion? Ap­par­ently not. If 10,000 hours of prac­tise leads to mas­tery of a skill, I’m an ex­pert in sin­gle­dom five times over, but sadly, un­cer­ti­fied. Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Har­vard, 1979), how­ever, is. In 2016, this pi­o­neer of the “sin­gle and sat­is­fied” nar­ra­tive panned through over 800 stud­ies in an ef­fort to de­bunk the myth that alone equals lonely, and she found some nu©ets.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 Amer­i­can study by So­cial Sci­en­tists Natalia Sark­isian and Naomi Ger­s­tel, un­cou­pled in­di­vid­u­als (re­gard­less of race, gen­der and in­come) are more likely to en­gage with their so­cial sur­round­ings, and give and re­ceive help from fam­ily and friends, when com­pared to their wed­ded coun­ter­parts. Us un­be­trothed are ac­tive mem­bers of our so­cial and ge­o­graph­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

And the told tale of find­ing “the other half” to “com­plete” some­one doesn’t re­ally cor­re­late with find­ings from The Na­tional (US) Sur­vey of Fam­i­lies and House­holds, which shows that un­cou­pled peo­ple re­port a greater sense of life­long con­tin­u­ous growth and de­vel­op­ment, and ex­press greater will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate in ex­pe­ri­ences that chal­lenge their self and world views, when com­pared to their cou­pled coun­ter­parts.

Fuck, we might even be fitter. Apart from the fact I’m writ­ing this mid Kegel, a 2015 study from the jour­nal So­cial Science and Medicine, in­volv­ing 4,500 par­tic­i­pants over nine Euro­pean coun­tries, showed that my un­wed brethren main­tained, on av­er­age, a lower BMI than those who were mar­ried. And re­lease.

Th­ese find­ings aren’t meant to sling­shot the un­cou­pled onto some sort of lofty throne, prime for the top­pling by a bounc­ing quadruped, but rather to il­lu­mi­nate the beauty and ben­e­fits of alone­ness. See­ing my part­nered friends learn and grow from each other brings me great joy, but the re­al­ity is many re­la­tion­ships are borne of fear of lone­li­ness rather than an au­then­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion of two or more hu­mans al­ready happy in their in­di­vid­ual com­plete­ness. Per­haps we need more cul­tural re­in­force­ment that the most im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship to nur­ture, the one from which ev­ery other in­ter­ac­tion we will ever have springs, is that which we have with our­selves.

If you are hap­pily cou­pled, be sat­is­fied and full of love, use your com­bined strength to change the world, lit­tle or large. For those whose heart strings might have been slightly jos­tled, re­mem­ber: you don’t need some­one else to have fun on a space hop­per.

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