Waiting – Part 2

SOLO 88 Kinneret Lahad part 2 | Waiting


Peter McGraw is joined by guest co-host Iris Schneider for part 1 of a conversation about “waiting” with Kinneret Lahad, a sociologist who conducts research at the intersection of time and singlehood. 

Listen to Episode #88 here


Waiting – Part 2

This is the second part of a special episode. I’m joined by guest co-host, Iris Schneider, a fellow solo and a behavioral scientist. We talked to a Sociologist, Kinneret Lahad, who does research on the intersection of time and singlehood. It’s an incredible conversation. One that has me thinking differently about this project and my life. I hope you enjoy the episode.  

I have a follow up here before I turn it over to Iris. This idea of the timing of marriage. I’m thinking to myself, this notion of homeownership has to be part of this conversation. I often urge singles to not buy homes because it limits mobility and optionality as I like to talk about from an economic standpoint, but we know that marriage and homeownership are connected. We know that the roots of marriage come from land ownership and agriculture. To your point, these things are normative. The world is telling you how to behave and that is super connected. The thing that we have to tackle with regard to women and singlehood, in particular, is the notion of having children. There are time constraints when it comes to that. It seems like the whole system is built around that. Is that fair to say? 

I oppose that logic because when we think about singlehood and time, we automatically turn to the reproduction deadline and time limits. Women’s lives and temporalities are much richer than their imaginary or non-imaginary biological clock. We are seen as moving clocks. It’s not only my idea, it’s been written about extensively. In many ways, my book is a bit cheeky because I don’t talk about it. I refuse to bend into that logic and enter that conversation of when women’s reproduction time clock is going to begin or going to end. We should broaden the conversation on singlehood and time, and not only reference the biological temporality. People’s lives do not begin and end with their biological clock. We have so many kinds of temporal movements and temporal trajectories which are possible. We cannot boil it down to the children, non-children question. 

I appreciate you clarifying that. I agree with it but it is something that shows up time and time again. 

We should oppose that conversation because it channels the discussion on singlehood on a very narrow path. Single life is much richer than justifying, calculating, and binding into that logic of fertility, non-fertility and biological deadlines. For some people, it could be important but not necessarily for everyone. That part of my project on singlehood is to broaden and open the conversation into more directions than looking into women’s ovaries. I’m sorry for being a bit blunt. Enough is enough. We are not walking ovaries. Leave us alone. It’s none of your business.  

I’ll tell you something funny that happened to me in my 30s. A doctor told me that I should hurry up because it’s time to be pregnant and soon my time will be up. I said to him, “Is the person guarding the building single?” He was totally shocked because we were having this serious conversation about my fertility, although I didn’t engage in any conversation about my fertility. I said to him in a blunt Israeli way, “Is the person guarding the building free?” He said to me, “Why are you asking? I have no idea.” He was stressed about it. I said, “I’ll go quickly, have a kid with him and come back so we can continue our conversation. What do you know about me? You don’t know anything about me. You only know my name and age. You have no idea what I want in life but you are so rude in presuming that I should be pregnant and that my time is up. That is not your job. Your job is to examine me. I came here to get medical treatment but not being patronized.” This was a pivotal moment for me, also in my scholarship. I said to myself, “I’m not engaging in this kind of conversation,” which is dictated to me by doctors and by the good intentions of my surrounding. 

It’s family members, friends, coworkers, strangers on the plane. It’s amazing how people feel comfortable doing this. I’ll give you a flip of this. Early on in the show, I had a urologist on and we were talking about vasectomies. As part of his practice in Connecticut, a man who wanted a vasectomy had to get his wife to sign a form approving it and within that. We are built in a world where we want babies, as you were talking about growth, the family unit, government-supported, businesses-supported, everything is urging. To hear you be unapologetic and not be defensive about that is uplifting to hear. In many of these conversations, the single person is on the defense, making excuses for where they are and what they want. Whether they are single by choice or single by chance, to use my terminologies. 

You always have to fight two battles. The first battle that you have to fight is the assumption that you would even want kids, “When will you have kids,” and then you have to defend why you don’t want them. First, there’s the assumption. You have to say, “It’s not a valid question,” and then you have to defend the answer to that same question. It’s a lot of work. 

Here’s the other one, suppose you want to have kids but you don’t want the husband. You also have to have that fight. It’s not even that kids are enough. It’s the whole package that is expected. 

In the ’70s or ’80s in the Netherlands, there were these BOM mothers. It was the Dutch acronym for consciously unmarried moms. The women’s movement was a bit stronger there. Feminism was a bit stronger and more independent there where women went out to have babies, either by a one-night-stand or a donor. It was much more of a scene. You don’t hear this so much anymore that women go out and have babies by themselves. Even though, it could totally support the idea that women should reproduce, but not in that way, please. Only reproduce with the husband or a partner. 

I was thinking, just listening to you, how about instead of people asking one another if they’re married or they should have children or not have children, we can ask people, “What are your favorite podcasts? What is the book that has inspired you?” How about changing these kinds of small talk conversations instead of the automatic path of, “What do you do for a living? Are you married? Do you have children?” How about refreshing the conversations we have with acquaintances and with each other? That could tell us a lot more about ourselves if we say what is our favorite podcast than if we are married or not. 

Maybe the thing is that people don’t want to know what kind of person you are. They just want to know whether you adhere to these rules. When you talk about morality, if they use this as a proxy of whether you’re a good person, they don’t want to know your podcast because that won’t tell them whether you are a stable, controlled member of society. No, “Are you married? Do you want to have kids? Do you participate in the consumer society that we live in a decent way?” That’s why we don’t have these conversations. It’s the same with jobs like, “What do you do?” “What do you mean what do I do? I’m talking with you right now.” The question is, “What do you do for a living? Is that valuable in my book?” 

It helps with categorization to Kinneret’s point about do we want someone in the kibbutz or not? Are they valuable, productive and important members of society? It’s about status. Much of this is about status. What you do is an inclination of status. Families and couples have special status within society. We know that they get government benefits from it. They have more rights. They benefit economically. They have more say over each other’s lives when it comes to health and medical kinds of decision-making. This is a high-status thing.  

Kinneret, speaking of cheeky, in your book, you do talk about the media, entertainment and so on. You juxtapose two different forms of waiting and you do this by looking at two different songs. I’m not going to sing these but I’m going to read some of the verses. The first one is an Ella Fitzgerald song called The Man I Love. It starts out and says, “Someday he’ll come along, the man I love, and he’ll be big and strong, the man I love. When he comes my way, I’ll do my best to make him stay.” That’s the first one. The second one is one that people probably know more so by The Beatles, the song, Eleanor Rigby, which is a sad song. It says, “Look at all the lonely people, look at all the lonely people. Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream, waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?” I’m hoping you could talk about those two different forms of waiting and how you use them connected to these songs. 

I find a lot of inspiration from popular culture and songs. You’ve asked before about my methodology. I can work with one cliche for years, for example, “You will die alone,” which is embedded in the Eleanor Rigby song. It epitomizes on the one hand a hopeful waiting, which is romantic waiting, which is depicted in the Ella Fitzgerald and other performers who have sung that song. It’s a romantic kind of wait in which we are socialized to hope, long and wait from a very early age, which is the most romantic thing. Waiting for him to come along and this coincidence magical romantic love. We will see one another and fall madly in love. He makes him strong. I don’t remember now exactly, but her responsibility is to make him stay. A woman has the responsibility. 

Tame the beast but also being the most domestic feminine woman that he won’t run away to find a younger and better version of you. On the other hand, Eleanor Rigby waiting is pathetic and unrealistic. There is no point in her waiting anymore by the door or looking out at the window because no one will wait, it’s done. Her waiting is hopeless. These are very binary depictions of waiting, which I find very problematic in terms of how single subjects are described, people who have hope and people who are hopeless. The happy, glamorous, single woman who is eligible and waiting in a romantic way for someone to come in and sweep her off her feet. 

On the other hand, the old maid who her waiting is grotesque. It’s inappropriate. No one will come along. To think about COVID in that context of waiting by the window, I thought about writing that article. It was published in 2012. I thought about this metaphor of waiting by the window of how so many of us were looking out the window a while ago and still looking out the window in this situation. This binary of single and non-single does not reflect this waiting by the window and feeling alone. One of the interesting things that I observed in 2020 is many people who have families or in coupled relations felt lonely and very much alone, and longed to be back in society. 

This binary depiction of the lonely single, as opposed to the happy couple, was destabilized. One of the interesting things that COVID taught us is that our wishes to be sociable and longing to be in society does not merely divide the lonely as opposed to the couple. Many people said how difficult it was for them to be with their family or partner for so many days. I heard other stories that single people were relieved by that. There are all kinds of configurations of loneliness and togetherness, which do not fall and organize so neatly into the Eleanor Rigby versus he’ll come along and The Man I Love. 

I’ll add one element to this that might be useful. I did a whole series on solitude and the benefits of solitude. There’s a term called aloneness or aloneliness, which is a lack of solitude, in which it’s not sad but stressful. A lot of people with family had this issue because they had no time for themselves suddenly. Some people like to commute because it’s the only quiet time they have all day in that sense. 

I come across this a lot on dating apps. It’s often women who are around that breaking point between hopeful and hopeless, eligible and old maid, which this phrase comes up a lot. It’s, “Don’t waste my time.” There’s a lot of, “I am on the lookout for behaviors that are going to waste my time.” I have to think that some of that has to do, not just with the fact that people value their time, they live busy lives, but there’s this, “I’m on the cusp. I’m at this breaking point. These years, months, days, hours and minutes before are precious. I can’t waste them on a man who’s not serious and not looking for something real.” These are terms that I’m quoting from my experience. 

In my fifth chapter, I try to challenge this language because of the notion that you shouldn’t waste your time on short term flings or for short term engagements or relationships. In many instances, even relationships which are not long or do not necessarily lead to marriage could be very meaningful in different ways, which do not boil down or do not lead to this linear reproductive trajectory. This language of, “Don’t waste my time,” or “Where is this relationship heading? I will not date you because this is not serious or non-serious,” limits the richness of our social life. You could be with someone for three weeks and it could be so meaningful in your life. You could be with someone for ten years and it wouldn’t be that meaningful. I’m exaggerating a bit. The way we evaluate relationships has to change. In the temporal quantification and measure, time is used as something which says the truth and it doesn’t. It’s only a form. 


SOLO 88 Kinneret Lahad part 2| Waiting
A table for one: A critical reading of singlehood, gender and time

It’s almost like a relationship has to lead to something and that something has to be tangible and has to be acknowledged by me and other people as well. That could be, for instance, marriage or whatever. It’s always striking that people are seeing that because the relationship ends. It was not a good relationship or experience. I’m curious because many experiences end. This show will end at some point maybe. A relationship as an experience in a person’s life is almost tied to, “If this doesn’t monetize in some way, either in money or in another commodity that I can use or trade or give myself a pat on the back.” 

Let’s be honest, it’s about putting things on Instagram. 

I wanted to ask you about Instagram because it’s like there’s a big marriage promotion situation going on there. 

Before we do that, Iris, you’re very kind. You say it’s a curiosity. I say it’s obscene that we judge the goodness of a relationship based upon the amount of time you’re in it because a short relationship can be incredibly meaningful and uplifting. A long relationship can be debilitating, abusive and belittling. The idea that we use this concept of time is perverse and wrong, and it inhibits healthy relationships. Now we can turn to Instagram and what a marriage machine it is. 

I was thinking about it because you’re interested in media and popular culture. I was thinking about how social media so strongly reinforces this linear life course, children and marriage, graduation is one as well, and your education. We call it social media, but it’s large-scale advertising. In that sense, it’s again tied to the commercial interests of this linear life course, especially with engagement rings and the perfect marriages. These stories are lovely because they give me so much schadenfreude, one of the best German words. You read about Instagrammers who had their whole honeymoon ruined because they were so concerned with getting their correct pictures. I was wondering if this is also something that you are interested in looking at and how that plays out in this narrative. 

I feel that my book is still very relevant but in certain respects, when I wrote that book, Instagram was not as popular as it is now, which has become the medium. In that respect, the virtual world is constantly changing and developing. It would be fascinating to rewrite parts of the book in relation to Tinder and Instagram and how these affect our visibility. The crucial element is how do you look and how do you feel. It has to be coherent. In that respect, I admit that I’m a low profile on my Instagram.  

I mainly use it to keep in contact with a few friends and follow art galleries. I’m such a geek. That’s my Instagram world more or less. I prevent myself. I admit that it’s very intentional because this happy, perfect life depresses me. It’s not my idea. It’s Sara Ahmed’s idea, one of my favorite feminist scholars who critiques this promise of happiness as a regulatory idea of how we are supposed to be happy. Happiness entails specific cultural scripts. It becomes a regulatory idea in which you’re constantly asking yourself, “Why am I not happy? I should be happier. Therefore, I should do this and this.” 

This is another idea. I’m curious if I can ask you. If it’s okay to reverse the question. One of the urgent tasks of dismantling popular perceptions of singlehood is rethinking the notion of emotional autonomy. We are very much preoccupied with notions of choice and economical autonomy. One of the challenges is to rethink singlehood in terms of ways in which we can strive towards emotional autonomy, which is not so much dependent on these ideas of happiness, self-fulfillment and adulthood. As two psychologists, I’m interested in your view about that. I hope it’s okay that I’m asking you a question. 

Everything I’ll say is just my opinion and meanderings of my thoughts over time. The idea of emotional autonomy is an interesting idea. Also, in relation to what we said about roommates, it’s not okay to live with roommates because that signals some sort of emotional immaturity, but it’s okay to always want to have a partner. Whereas we all know that having a partner is also some form of externalizing your emotion regulation or your self-regulation. The idea of emotional autonomy is helpful in relationships in general. There’s this great Dutch singer. He had a song and it was called I Love Me. It’s about a love letter to himself. It also says in this song that “I love you,” usually means, “Here are my problems. Please solve them.” 

Many relationships and people would be helped if they would work on emotional autonomy and some adult emotional life before they engage in relationships. It’s also not a lot of pressure from the outside because you have your own inner world. Also, you don’t need a relationship so much. It’s fine to want a relationship but if you need a relationship, it can be a little bit more problematic. We said before, why should we become adults? Why can’t we stay as children? One reason is the difference between an adult and a child is that an adult is a good parent to themselves. Becoming an adult means that you don’t need your parents anymore because you can parent yourself, or you can stay as a child and find a new parent and marry them. These kinds of confounds where we can mistake things for what they are not, if we clear that up and work more on keeping them separate, that would go a long way and less of this pressure from outside. 

That’s a powerful idea. I want to repeat it and reflect on it before I answer the question. This idea bothers me that to become an adult, you need to be married and become a parent. It is problematic because it pushes people off a track that might be right for them. That’s one of the things that I lament the most about how anti-single the world can be. People try to fit themselves into this normative structure and it’s not a good fit for them. They make a major compromise as to who their partner is because of a biological clock or because of some other set of pressures. The idea that turns you into an adult, this moral imperative, and this is where gender is relevant where in some ways, when a man marries, it allows him to remain childlike in a sense because his wife takes care of everything. 

He’s just exchanging a parent for another parent. I believe that relationship is ultimately at risk in part because you don’t want to have sex with your child. You don’t want to make a life partner with a child because they’re not engaging. They’re not respectable in the way that an adult to adult relationship is. To say that the process of transforming yourself into an adult is to be able to parent yourself is a powerful idea. It can distinguish someone who’s doing adulthood well from someone who’s not doing adulthood well. 

It’s true for men anecdotally, you see that when men lose their wives, they often fall into this vacuum where they don’t have social relations, they don’t know how to take care of this, they don’t know how to make their own bed. The reverse is also true in a different sense, women marry a parent in the sense that they are not economically independent. The numbers are there, even in the Netherlands which is quite a progressive liberal country, maybe 50% of women are financially independent. I find that problematic, especially in light of divorce rates. I think that’s very destructive. 

Even when a woman is highly successful economically. She’s looking now for a man who’s even more so, which statistically makes finding that person quite difficult. You’re setting yourself up for a mismatch, disappointment, and so on. Your question, Kinneret, is powerful. I’m going to put this episode on the tail of a two-part series on freedom. In the first episode, I talked about the value of financial freedom. That is how it allows you to have what I call optionality. You can avoid misery. You can avoid toxic situations. You have a greater chance at justice and so on if you can find the magic formula of not spending as much money as you’re making, which the average person struggles to do. 

The second one is freedom through a lack of power. This sounds counterintuitive but if I may briefly, this is with Tim Kreider. Tim says that he has always avoided acquiring power because having power inhibits your freedom. It limits what you can say and do. It creates a set of constraints and responsibilities that may crowd out other things that you want to do. That’s a powerful idea to forego power in the search for freedom. He does it so he can pursue artistic endeavors, but we may do it for scientific endeavors. We may do it because we want to travel, whatever it is that gets you excited.  

The third idea that I have been writing in my journal about, and I’m glad you brought up, is what you call emotional autonomy, I would call that freedom in your mind and heart. That is to be unaffected by what the world tells you that you should be doing. I don’t normally curse on this show but I’m going to curse in this thing. This idea of not giving a fuck. There’s a book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The idea of this is you decide what you’re going to care about and what you’re not going to care about so that you can do the things you care about, that you can be affected by the things that you care about. The average person is not going to get as much financial freedom as they want and maybe is stuck with their power because of what they like to do or what they need to do. The idea that you can move through the world with grace unbuffeted by these forces is a powerful idea. The first step is to learn what are the forces and to understand the systems that are trying to guide us. 

It’s again Sara Ahmed’s idea. If we don’t get attached to these ideas that only this can make us happy, or only if we will do this or we will follow this path, we can be happy. We should rethink the notion of happiness itself. We should ask questions about this idea of why are we striving to that idea in the first place? There is another book you might be familiar with, which I read many years ago and I loved it. It blew my mind. It’s by a sociologist and psychologist called Ian Craib, The Importance of Disappointment. He wrote it before Sara Ahmed’s book. I loved that book because he said it’s important to be disappointed. We can’t be in the world expecting everything to be perfect, expecting our partners, our children, and our friends to always live up to our expectations. 

Disappointment is a very important factor. He is not alive anymore, unfortunately. In a short manner, I’m describing his idea that instead of clinging to happiness, fulfillment and self-realization, we should also let disappointment in our life. I found that idea powerful in terms of departing from these grand ideas of being happy and fulfilled. There are many points in our life in which we are unhappy, disappointed and bored. If we live constantly measuring our lives as opposed to Instagram photos, love songs or the models we see in magazines, we are bound to constantly be even more miserable and unhappy.  

We should realize that part of everyday life is also these everyday moments of not being satisfied. These ideas of total self-realization, happiness, and choosing everything we want, we should be critical about them as well. Also, when we think about single life, that’s why I’m a bit critical about the single by choice because many people feel that their singlehood is chosen. We have a richer vocabulary than choice. We have all kinds of feelings and stances, which describe us and our life, which is not only choice and non-choice. 

This single by choice though is so radical already that I find it helpful. You’re like a black belt and we’re talking to yellow belts here. I understand what you’re saying, but I also think that for someone to be able to say, “I’m single by choice,” is already such a powerful step in the right direction. That’s why I’ve embraced it a bit. 

I totally agree. It’s radical and political, but there is a danger in this politics. How are we responsible for people who do not identify with that position who are single, but feel they haven’t chosen that path? Are they less worthy? Is their life less precious or less meaningful? If we want to rethink the way we think about singlehood, we should open the possibilities for all kinds of singlehood and not create a hierarchy between the chosen and the non-chosen. Many people cannot choose to be single because they don’t have that option at all in their lives economically, culturally and religiously. Single by choice is a radical and strong political statement, but we should go beyond that. 

I use the term single by chance as the counter to that. I do these Clubhouse rooms where we talk about being single by choice and single by chance. A number of people say, “I can’t make the distinction. I’m a little bit of both.” It does have that sense. I never thought of it as a status situation where you’re putting yourself in a higher space. I want to make all of these things equal paths so then people can walk them comfortably. 

What is powerful about a single by choice is that it takes back the power. It’s more autonomous than the default of thinking about singlehood. In that sense, it’s a little bit on the noes and a little bit counter because the default way of thinking about singlehood is it’s sad or whatever. I can also see Kinneret’s point that people differ in many ways. You’re single and you’re a person. Why does it matter if you’re a happy single? You don’t need these labels per se, but what I wanted to respond to is I agree with this idea, or going beyond that we need disappointment, is that the idea that we should be happy all the time in itself is oppressive and very childish. It’s naive and boringly immature.  

That connects well to what Peter was saying about values. When you orient yourself in line with your values in life, then it’s not so much more about hedonic tone, whether I feel good or bad, I just live along what I think is important. For instance, autonomy and learning. You get a strong why, then you can go to a place where you’re maybe not happy all the time, but you find meaning and wellbeing in your life. That talks about radical. You enter a radical area of being namely some contentment and now you’re a real threat because society is based on discontent. Discontent is what we need to solve. This is also tied a lot to consumer, capitalist, industrial complex, whatever you want to call it. I got this from a book, a great thriller. There was a very thoughtful person in there. This person in the book said, “What is saddening is the people who are content and don’t want to solve constantly, get more, go higher and further, and exploit themselves.” 

That’s because you can’t exploit them. 

You can’t because you have nothing to scare them with. You have no leverage. That’s an interesting idea. 

Can you give us the name of the thriller? It sounds amazing. 

It’s called The Likeness by Tana French, an Irish writer. It’s a thriller but there is a person in there who’s playing cards and suddenly has this super powerful idea because it used to be threatening when people were discontent. Discontent people could cause revolutions, overthrow states and rebel, but now it’s content people that might be a threat. 

I’m going to add one. It’s a Medium article that I read that has had a profound effect on me. It goes something like this, “Are your goals holding you back?” The idea essentially is that while goals can be a useful way to achieve and all three of us have had big, hairy, audacious goals in life. The idea of becoming an academic and getting a position in academia, if you knew the statistics, it’s not rational to do it. The sacrifices that you make in order to achieve those goals for many of us is worth it. The endeavor overall is imperfect as the system is. It can be worth it. 

What this author argues is the goals and our predictions about the future, and we’re bad about predicting the future, is a hunch that we have about what’s going to happen on the other side of something. For me personally, I have found that being very goal-driven is not something that serves me anymore. I’m now much more process-driven. Now I’m much more focused on what I want to do and how I feel about doing it. I still managed to achieve things but they’re not done for a prediction of a better future but rather for a more engaging present. To Iris’s point, many of the things that I do are not pleasant. 

They don’t bring happiness in terms of the joy of an orgasm or a delicious dessert or something like that. They’re challenging but they are still good for me and at least a small group of other people. I want to get back to this issue of time and to be able to put some final thoughts on it. You had mentioned empty time and stuck in time. We’ve covered the waiting a lot. We’ve alluded to stuck in time about this childish play, but could you talk a little more about those two ideas? 

There is so much to say, I’ll think together with you about the notion of timeout. For example, being in this zone of in-between us, being in between relationships. There is a time in our life that I’m taking a break from dating or I’m taking a break to heal from my last relationship. It’s interesting these kinds of timetables in which one can take a time out, but at a certain point, grieving or being with yourself, you have to get back to the game, the metaphor of the game. The timeout is very interesting in that respect. In my book, when I thought about time out, I was inspired by a fascinating article about timeout versus dropout written by a Norwegian scholar who researched unemployment among Norwegian youth. His idea was fascinating because what he discovered among the working class Norwegians not being able to find work was putting themselves in danger of being a dropout, as opposed to the middle upper-class Norwegian who was experimenting in life in this timeout. It was clear that being a middle-class person, you can get back to the game and continue with your life.  

I thought about the ways in which we evaluate people as time outs or dropouts, as people who can continue as opposed to people who are going. I’ve written a book about academia. Think of how academia is imbued with these ideas of temporality and age. What kind of accomplishments do you have to have by a certain age. At a certain point, you can become a dropout, or taking one year off can keep you in the game as opposed to taking one year off at a particular time would signify that you are a dropout. 

This very capitalist forum of quantifying people’s lives, making them objects and rats in the race. In the same way, I tried to challenge the objectifying commodified language to which people are subjected to. People are not commodities that should live their lives according to if they are fit for the game or unfit for the game. I found his analysis of timeout and dropout in relation to unemployment in class very relevant to the ways, in my book at least, women are objectified according to their age and their value in the market. 

This notion of empty time, that’s non-productive time? Is that a way to think about it? 

It’s nonproductive time and also time, which is unclear going back to my previous idea of empty time because it is not filled with the right things. This time should be filled with values, family time and timetables. If you are living your life as a single, I’m talking about the conventions, what do you do with your time out of work? According to this formula, that family time versus work time, what do you do in your time if you’re not engaged in family, having these simplistic divisions of our lives of what we should fill our lives with? Often, single people are perceived as people who are living empty lives or not leading to anything but also leading empty presence. That’s one of the reasons that they can work overtime. 

What else can you do in your life besides waiting for something to be filled with? You probably know this work. There is an amazing psychologist who’s written about the empty self, Cushman. He’s written a fascinating book about the empty self of how we should fill our lives with commodities. The empty self is someone who’s constantly hungry and looking for external things to be filled with. That was another source of inspiration for thinking about it. It’s an amazing book. It’s been years since I’ve read it. 

I do want to wrap with this idea about this is a problem for both genders, but I see time and time again in these conversations how challenging this is for women specifically. You talk about these different terms. This is cross-culturally so late singlehood and Israel, these leftover women in China, the parasite women of Japan, and the singletons in Australia. At best, the terms are neutral. At worst, they are pejorative. I find that the issue of language, as we talked about with men also, it’s hard to find positive terms associated with single. It is easy to find negative terms and the opposite is the case for marriage. Iris, do you have any final thoughts that you want to share? You’ve been such a wonderful new guest co-host. I appreciate that you’ve done this. 

It’s a fascinating way of looking at what it means to be single. As I said, just deconstructing it or just saying, “This is there. This is imposed socially. Time is not a fixed thing. Timetables are made up.” It’s such a liberating idea. It’s like that fish in the water. One fish to the other says, “How’s the water?” and the other fish is like, “What’s water?” It’s the same with these narratives. There are so everywhere. You don’t even realize that they’re just narratives. They’re not truth or prescription. 

Iris, thank you for joining us. This was great. Iris is going to be returning as we take another academic look at what is popular now in the popular press and the regular everyday conversation, we’re going to take a hard look at attachment theory, which will be fun. I’m going to talk to an academic who’s doing work related to that. Kinneret, thank you for writing such a wonderful book, diving deeply into this, joining us, and speaking so powerfully. This was a double chill show for me. I don’t normally get the chills during a show. I got them twice now. I want to thank you for that. 

Thank you. It was a real pleasure to meet you and talk to you both. 



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About Kinneret Lahad

SOLO 87 Kinneret Lahad part 1 | WaitingKinneret Lahad is a Senior Lecturer of NCJW Women and Gender Studies Program at Tel-Aviv University.

Her research interests are interdisciplinary, spanning the fields of gender studies, sociology, and cultural studies.

She is the author of the open-access book: A Table for One: A Critical Reading of Singlehood, Gender and Time.



About Iris Schneider

SOLO 87 Kinneret Lahad part 1 | WaitingIris Schneider is a behavioral scientist from the Netherlands.

After obtaining her PhD in psychology, she lived and worked in the US before starting her academic position at the Social and Economic Cognition Research Group at the University of Cologne in Germany.

She studies mixed feelings and conflict in judgment and choice.


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