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 #87 here
Waiting – Part 1
This is the first half of a special episode, one that gave me chills not once but twice. I’m joined by guest co-host, Iris Schneider, a fellow solo and behavioral scientist to talk to Kinneret Lahad, a Sociologist who researches the intersection of time in singlehood. There’s so much to say about this episode. Here are some of the topics that we covered in this one or in the sequel. We talked about what is the sociology of time and how our perceptions of time are influenced by the prominence of the relationship escalator. Also, how this affects women in particular, often left either waiting hopefully or waiting hopelessly to ride it. Related to waiting, we talked about how people who are waiting are often lacking power.
Another interesting topic was the purported moral superiority of people who have a family. They are morally good people because they are doing hard work. In turn, if having a family does not mean that you’re an adult, we ask the question, what does it mean to be an adult? Iris’s answer to that question is brilliant. If indeed this transformation of becoming an adult means that you have to give up childish things, less you’ll be accused of being frozen in time, à la Peter Pan. It does beg the question, if childhood is great, why are we giving up so much of it? Finally, there’s this notion of where to find freedom. I’ll give you a hint at the answer and that may be in your mind. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Our guest is Kinneret Lahad. Kinneret is a Senior Lecturer at NCJW Women & Gender Studies Program at Tel Aviv University. Her research interests are interdisciplinary, spanning the fields of gender studies, sociology, and cultural studies. She’s the author of the open-access book called A Table for One: A Critical Reading of Singlehood, Gender and Time, which is the focus of this episode. Welcome, Kinneret.
Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
I’m thrilled you’re here. We are joined by a new guest co-host, Iris Schneider. Iris 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, which I suspect will be relevant to the topic of our show. Welcome, Iris.
Thank you for having me.
I want to tackle this topic of what I call waiting, this idea that a lot of singles are living in what we might call a liminal space, waiting for a better life of sorts. Kinneret has done cutting-edge work on this topic and why she’s joining us. Before we do that, I want to talk to both of you about how you got here. Why do you find yourself on the show? Kinneret, how did you come to study this topic? What’s the origin story of this research project?
One departure point is that I was fascinated by the study of family life. At some point in my academic career, I realized that I want to study families. In particular, what intrigued my curiosity is how despite many stories of family crises, family problems, and disappointments of family life it’s still the ideal of family life. Coupledom is strong. What makes it strong despite many everyday realities, at which point otherwise? Why do we still cling to that ideal and not to other ideals? I began my PhD researching compassion as an emotion. I thought I would pursue a research that would be involved more in humanitarian aid, compassion, and a cultural study approach to representations of international aid.
At some point, I realized that I’ve answered most of the questions I was interested in when I wrote my graduate thesis and I wasn’t curious anymore. As a single woman at that time as I am now, I felt that there is no literature that represents the complexity of single life. It’s either pathetic or celebratory. It is either glamorous or catastrophic. I said, “I want to theorize singlehood. I want to understand singlehood.” First of all, I realized that the studies I’ve read about singlehood were descriptive and not theoretically engaged. The second problem was that they were quite binary. That’s my criticism on some scholarship on that topic. At that point, it was usually like, “Did you choose to be a single person? Didn’t you choose to be a single person?” I said, “Our life is much more complex than that.” When I proposed that topic, I got some quite harsh reactions from my surroundings.
It means you’re on to something. In academia, you’re either wrong or on the cutting-edge of understanding something new.
In my study with Michal Kravel-Tovi on self-marriage, people thought we were mad and insane studying this. It was published in quite a good sociological journal. I love pursuing these topics. One story I can choose was an intellectual passion to think about singlehood in a serious way. I hope I did that.
You did, indeed. I want to make a couple of quick comments. The first one might only be relevant and the three of us care about is academics. There’s a saying in academia that is attributed to Max Planck, which is, “Scientific progress happens one funeral at a time.” We all agree on this stuff. The fact that you agree on all of it constrains the field, whatever field you’re in. It often takes someone who has either a new perspective, a new approach, and who’s old enough to know but young enough to be dangerous to find these new areas that are being overlooked. You’re often looked at as crazy and weird. Thank you for doing that work. I’ve done a little of it with my humor research also. I’ve had that same experience.
The second thing I want to say is this idea of relationships in general and family life specifically is difficult for many people. People say, “Relationships are hard.” We know about divorce rates and the devastation that goes with this. We know about the abuse that can happen within relationships and yet everybody’s like, “I’m going to do it. I need to do it.” In some parts of the world, almost everybody does it. For example, in India, everybody does it. In the United States, nearly everyone does it. In Europe, it’s much less. It’s difficult to find anything that everybody does to the same degree as they do marriage. There’s nothing else they do that has the same level of pitfalls.
It’s interesting that you mentioned this because this commitment with which people do something that they are aware of can be quite difficult and sometimes not end well. It might be the reason that people respond strongly if you suggest alternative narratives of relationships of life. I remember once, I was telling a colleague about a couple that I know who decided to buy a house and build two apartments in the house. They wanted to be close but they wanted their own space.
My colleague got very upset. She said, “That’s immoral. How can you take up a whole house and make two apartments? There are not enough houses to begin with.” I was struck by this visceral reaction that she had. She didn’t even know what was happening. At first, she had an emotional response and then she tried to make a story around it to justify it. The alternative to maybe her world where she was living in a small house with three children and a husband she might not have liked, was like, “I could have done that. I should have done that. Why did I go?”
This is how bad it is. I was having a conversation with a happily married woman. They live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, and use different blankets. One of them has a heavy blanket and one of them has a light blanket because they prefer different temperatures. One of their family members thought that was wrong. They found it peculiar and weirdly threatening. Think about doing anything unconventional, it goes against the common narrative.
We both studied the mixed feelings, especially how you resolve them. It’s a classic dissonance paradigm. I feel some dissonance because there are alternatives to what I chose. I must resolve this by doubling down on my opinion and also changing you because you must be wrong and I must preserve the balance into a higher interpersonal triangle. In Germany, everybody has two devices on their bed.
As they should. It’s nearly impossible to have the same temperature preferences while you sleep.
I want to respond to what you said, which was fascinating. The common therapeutic discourses conveyed the message that marriage, coupledom, and parenthood are hard work. Therefore, you get moral acknowledgment for being ready to dedicate yourself and involve yourself into that hard work. In many ways, it’s a moral accomplishment. Therefore, you’re morally superior because you’re willing to engage in this hard work as opposed to these selective single people who are not willing to be engaged in any hard work. They’re emotionally lazy. They’re not putting any effort, not going to therapy, and not involving themselves. This moral therapeutic ethos is prevalent in the stereotypes and stigmas towards single men and single women.
Thank you for saying that. First of all, the idea that single people aren’t grown up is obscene to me for people to say that. We know they’re more involved in their communities, they donate more of their time, they donate more of their money. They’re more likely to be a caregiver of a parent or other sick family member because the people in the family go, “I can’t do it. I’m already overwhelmed.” They’re pursuing scientific benefits. They’re making art. Single people make the world better also and they may do it in different ways. They don’t affect climate change as much.
The fact that you have all these reasons ready, Peter, also the background of your show, that in itself is striking that we have to justify that we also contribute. This illustrates how strong are these ideas. This link with morality is important. For instance, in the work setting, especially in family-friendly work settings, single people are expected to contribute more and be more flexible. Also, assume that they have no responsibilities, they have no preferences, and that they can move aside to accommodate people with families, which they can. The fact that it’s assumed and expected, it’s reflective of this idea that a single person’s life is incomplete or they have time, they’re lazy, and they should do more to have this value.
They’re doing less important things. That’s what this says. You have less important endeavors, so you can move it around. The idea that you’re not being compensated for your flexibility and for the additional value that you bring is wrong.
I’ve been asked, what are the social implications of my work. It led me to think a little bit about my work from a distance. I’m trying now to develop this idea that singlehood and aloneness studies can be radical literature and form of thinking. For example, why do we need to be adults? Why do we need to be significant? Why do we need to work overtime? Why do we need to be flexible with our time? Let’s use the single vantage point to change your value systems, to rethink the value system through which single people are stereotyped and stigmatized.
Let’s rethink the value system which evaluates us and change it from that perspective and not just say, “We are not childish.” What’s wrong with being childish? That’s fantastic being childish. What could be better than being a child in many ways? We’re thinking, “Let’s use this vantage point that single people offer to rethink the system as queer theory has done.” Allowing us to reformulate some of the normative and taken-for-granted ideas of what is valued and what is devalued of these hierarchies of values. This is an idea I would love to share with you.
Iris, I want to get to why you’re here. We’ve jumped right in, which is great. Your perspective on what you shared is perspective-changing for me, especially. As someone who gets referred to as Peter Pan sometimes, I’ve never been married, no kids, and no interest in that, this idea that I haven’t grown up is seen as a negative thing. What you’re suggesting is that it’s potentially a positive thing. We lament the loss of play.
The other thing is we live in a world that is built for families. The time course, the development, and the nature of work, everything is built around that thing. When you strip away having a family, it suddenly gives you a lot more options about how to live your life both personally and professionally. One of the things that I say time and time again is that solos never consider those options because no one ever presents them to them and they never give them to them. I’m sorry to editorialize like this but I don’t want this idea to be lost. We should think a little bit about what we want our adult lives to look like. Maybe we can get into that a little bit.
I want to follow up on this. One question that follows from this is if we have all these strong values for what it means to be an adult and we want to change them maybe or at least strip the judgment away, it’s one thing to say being single has positive values. Maybe the first step is to stop putting a value on different lives and different pasts. The question is, who imposes this idea of adulthood? One thing that sprung to mind is that I think of these norms about who people are supposed to be are communicated by marketing.
Families are also a big target of consumption. They drive the economy. You always see this in policies, families need to be supported. That’s because capitalist economies are aimed at growth. You don’t want people who are not adults because they might not buy two cars, might not get a mortgage, and might not follow this consumer pattern. That’s why you see all these narratives, although it’s a little bit less now that the buying power of singles is being acknowledged. A lot of these narratives come from commercial interests. I don’t know how you feel about that, Kinneret.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that aspect of consumerism. For example, the LGBTQ communities, I’ve been thinking, “How is it possible that the single community, to a certain extent in other places in the world, is still not perceived to be a consumer niche?” At least in Israel, that’s strikingly so. It’s not as much as the LGBTQ community. Having that thought, I said to myself, “Being an anti-capitalist person as I am, that is not the path I would like singlehood life to follow and get its recognition and respectability by being a consumer niche.” That follows from the criticism from LGBTQ scholars that say, “Queer life is not about consuming. Queer life is radical. Queer life is by questioning the norms.”
These developments point to, “Singlehood, they are worthy consumers.” It’s a tricky and quite dangerous path to take. I hope single life will not gain its recognition by buying as it happens in many places. Our consumer society is where you get your identity and recognition by being recognized as a consumer. We should pursue this liberty of not being a consumer nation and not look for that recognition and respectability per se. Don’t look for that recognition and respectability from a value system that you do not necessarily agree with.
First of all, we may not want it to happen but my suspicion is that it likely will. These are powerful forces. These are smart people who are a little bit asleep at the wheel at this moment. I teach marketing. Good marketing is about recognizing needs. It’s not about creating wants. Recognize that singles have a different set of needs and that their value systems may be different. For example, less materialistic, more minimalistic, more experiential, and more flexibility and mobility. What you can do is create products and services that make those lifestyle choices easier. That’s my hope.
The other place that we might end up seeing is also within the world of business but on the hiring and retention side of things to Iris’s point. Organizations are working in a marketplace also. They’re trying to acquire the best talent and keep that talent to recognize how valuable single talent is because they have fewer constraints. They may have different values. They might want different things. They may not want to be on a Monday through Friday 9:00 to 5:00 because they don’t have kids in school. They value remote work more. They might not need to work a 50-hour workweek. Smart businesses will start to find that they don’t need family leaves to the same degree. Maybe you give them a sabbatical. These are ideas that I’ve been working on that also will help with deliberation.
The employer perspective is interesting. As I was reading your work, there was a woman who said or you said that everything that a woman achieves or does is considered for the time being. We’re talking about women because your work is specifically about women and women also carry a stronger tag of singlehood. They go around the world, they get a degree, they master languages, they run a marathon, and they have friends in different countries, “When are you going to get married?”
I was wondering about the implications for that in the workplace. You come there as a single woman and you have this huge CV with both community work and everything and all the employers are thinking, “She’s going to want to have babies real soon. Clearly, she’s waiting for that next step in life.” That’s harmful in the workplace even though you might be an easier worker because you require less of the structure that is now in place to support a family.
It taps onto the issue of morality once again. Often, when you are single, you’re perceived to be dubious. You’re undeciphered. What are you doing in your private life? You’re uncontrollable. The boundaries around you are unclear. You’re not bounded by the couple unit. You’re not accountable to your significant other. Who are you? If you’re married, it is clear who you are. If you are a parent, there are other people who are accountable that you are not as dangerous or not as wild.
As a single person, we have no social indicators of who we are. It also plays in many arenas, the housing market and being an employer or an employee. This idea is not something that I’ve developed a lot in my work. It is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the years I’ve been studying singlehood. For example, I have this exercise in one of my classes in which I tell them that we are a committee for a gated community, a kibbutz, or a private community. We are sitting on this committee of who we can accept to our community. I then say, “There is a single man who is 51.”
He’s tall, charming, super social, and living a remarkable life.
A great podcast host.
He’s a professor. We have a gay couple with two kids, a family with three children and a dog, a man who is a widower, and a divorced woman with two kids. Who do we want in our community according to which criteria? We play this game. I then say, “What do we know about these people besides their status? We don’t know anything about them. We have no idea who they are.” Allegedly, we have a lot of information about them, which is derived solely by their status. We don’t know anything about their character, their ability to contribute to the community or harm the community, and if they fit the community. We have these external markers, which indicate that they are safe and this will be a safer choice. This mechanism is prevalent in everyday life in the way we organize our society and in the way we create these divisions of who is worthy of being near us and who is unworthy, who is dangerous, and who is safe.
By the way, how do I do in that ranking system? Am I at the bottom?
Pretty bad. You are the last person that community would want. You’re a walking catastrophe because there is a high chance that all the women in that community will fall in love with you. You are posing a huge danger to the fabric of the familial atmosphere in that community. You are the least likable person to enter the gate. There’s no chance of you entering the gate. The widower will be a huge success.
I can see that. The term uncontrollable is fascinating. You use it with regard to women. It’s especially apt when it comes to men. I’ve done this deep dive into the history of the bachelor. One of the terms bachelors get referred to throughout history is rogue elephants. The idea is that they’re useful if you need to fight a war or conquer a frontier. Once the frontier is conquered, once we’re settling in, we need to couple these guys up because they’re going to cause lots of problems. In some cases, they do.
There is a domestication analogy that happens a lot with singles. There’s a lot of animal references to single men. In China, they’re referred to as single dogs or oxen. We need to put a harness on them and get them to till the fields. That’s where we need them to be. Iris, tell the folks how you got here. You’re an academic but you’re not researching single living per se. Why have I invited you to be our guest co-host?
Together with a friend, we’re talking about being both alone and living alone for a long time. We share a lot of similar interests. We also share this frustration on how it’s viewed when you’re not desperately pursuing some coupling with another person. I recommend this book called Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg. He described something that has been going on and that you can see in many countries happening, the rise of people living alone. That’s also one of his focuses. I thought this was interesting. I then came across Peter’s show. I knew Peter from his work on the same topic as I work on, which is mixed feelings and ambivalence. I emailed him. We were talking about the discomfort that comes from feeling the pressure that you don’t identify with.
From time to time, I felt this pressure to finally do something, start my life, or achieve something. I’m quite achieved already. I’ve achieved something in my life that at least is worthwhile. Peter sent me your article and it had this metaphorical disconnection between time and waiting. I thought, “These are not my thoughts. These are not my wants. They’re externally imposed through this strong linear life metaphor that’s imposed on people through media mostly but also through other people who pick up through this media.”
It was such a relief. Peter said, “Do you think it’s worth inviting?” I said, “I do think it’s worth it.” Especially the connection, it also relates a little bit to what Peter said, the connection with power. Single women are women who are waiting. People who wait don’t have power. I thought this was an interesting connection. You’re always waiting on somebody who has more powers. Especially with what Peter was saying, there’s a way to control the uncontrollable by telling them that you don’t have power, you’re waiting, and keeping them in that space.
You’re waiting on some external thing to happen that’s often out of your control.
More than that, the people who are not waiting are superior to you by the mere fact that they’re not waiting. It enables people to say, for example, “Why are you not married?” You’re asking that question from a position of privilege. The person who is throwing her bouquet, as I’ve demonstrated in the article, is clearly in a position of superior power. This idea of the imaginary queue of where are you located in the queue, can you enter the queue at all? Can you participate? In the US, it’s a line, not a queue. Can you stand in line? Are you eligible at all to wait? At some point, how far are you in relation to the bouquet? At some point, you’re not even allowed to participate in this line anymore because you’ve become older, you’re not reproductive anymore, or you’ve left your youth and good looks.
This idea of standing in line was instructive for me in terms of my thinking of how the single life course is organized according to this pattern. It made me angry when I realized that. I said to myself, “How dare do they put me in a line?” I refuse to be in this line. I refuse for people to tell me, “Soon, you’ll be married. Don’t worry.” It’s like a Hebrew saying, “Don’t worry. You’ll get married. The next wedding will be yours.” It’s a patronizing wish in which that the person who wishes you to get married soon says, “I’ve been married already. I can be generous and wish you the same heaven that you should enter.” These ideas seem normative and natural. The person who wishes you to get married only wants what’s best for you, but they don’t know anything about you and what you want.
Iris, you’re shaking your head like you understand this experience.
It’s up there with benevolent sexism. It’s like, “I want the best for you. Maybe you shouldn’t take on the strenuous job.” I’m talking specifically about women. Why are women not in top-tier functions? Why don’t they go into science? At the University of Cologne, there’s always this gender bias discussion going on. Why are women not being professors? Seeing that in relation to this narrative of disempowering a person who is not yet married. Also, in relation to this idea of the third shift is keeping women busy with the idea that they have to go down this path and spend time, money, and resources to comply with what this apparently superior person thinks that you should do. That takes away energy from all these endeavors.
It’s so easily internalized because it’s so connected to self-worth because, apparently, you’re not attractive. It’s either you’re not attractive or you are too critical. Either nobody wants you or you want nobody, and both are horrible situations to be in and it has to be remedied. The idea that, “I should be spending time on that, not in money even. I have to get married or maybe have to stay looking young so that I attract potential mates,” or whatever is so frustrating. It’s not just for women. This linear life course is oppressive for anybody.
Especially so for women.
This crossover between this third shift kind of thing.
I’m used to hearing second shift. What is the third shift?
I’m messing two things up. What I’m talking about is that women are not supposed to only live a life but also live a life where they are attractive and thin. All the time, they have to spend on being good women in that sense, like looking good. The third shift is work children, so it should be the second shift probably.
There used to be a Chanel advertisement back in the day. She said, “I can bring home the bacon and I can fry it up in the pan.” This hot blonde woman who is good at everything. To your point about the third shift, it was the image of her looking attractive.
That’s what I mean. I was also not sure about the reference because I know that they also talked about this in The Beauty Myth, how much time it takes for women to be presentable women. Their economic power is set in that way. Are you familiar with this, Peter?
It’s only because I live in LA. There are two references. I have an ex-girlfriend who was a journalist, a reporter on air. She introduced me to the saying that I often use and is backed up as, “Beauty is pain.” If you see a beautiful woman, she’s either in pain or she was in pain or both in order to achieve that. The second one is I remember being at a party with a friend’s girlfriend and one of her girlfriends. These are early 30s, beautiful women. We got talking about what they do to be this beautiful. The list of things was enormous. What we started doing was putting price tags on all of these things. Immediately, we’re in the hundreds of dollars, and then eventually, we’re in the thousands of dollars. I am familiar in that sense as an observer and as someone who pays attention and talks to women about these topics.
This combination between this expectation that you’re not allowed to be ugly or old, and then the fact that you are being told that you are waiting is extremely disempowering. It’s so easily internalized that women start holding themselves back or they start spending time on things that are not important to them and shouldn’t be important per definition. It can be and that’s fine, but they don’t have to be.
There’s a little bit of what we call inside baseball going on because we’ve read the papers and the books, and Kinneret’s written them. In your book, you juxtaposed two fields that aren’t typically linked, and that is the sociological study of time and the study of female singlehood. What I’d like to move forward is to dive a little bit more deeply. If people think we’re nerds, we are about to become nerdy. What is the overarching takeaway of the work? Can you describe a little bit about the methodology used? Iris and I come from a psychological background. The average person understands experiments in psychology but doesn’t understand sociology and how these fields are complementary, but they have different techniques and approaches.
First of all, let me confess that I’m a proud nerd. When I talk in class, sometimes I’m so excited when I talk about an article and how I’m so much in love with this paper or with this scholar, and then I say to myself, “I’m a geek.” We should reclaim our nerdiness. It’s an interesting beginning because I wasn’t planning to engage in the sociology of time. I didn’t even know it was a field that existed at that point. My first intention was to write a thesis and to be followed by a book about singlehood, shame, humiliation, things that bothered me, and things that I saw around me.
Following what you said, Iris, about the amount of time that women and men invest in thinking, “Why am I single? Why am I not married?” When I began conducting this research and collecting texts, as now I’m also referring to my methodology, I started paying attention that most of the sayings and many of the understandings and interpretations of single life are imbued with notions of time. For example, “Why are you still waiting? You’re going to miss that train. The train has already left. Someday he’ll come along. It’s a pity, you used to be so pretty.”
There are so many sentences which are imbued with understandings of time. I said, “I have to understand the force of these expressions, clichés, stories, and fairytales of happily ever after. I have to understand what gives these stereotypes about singlehood, the conventional thinking about singlehood so much force.” I’ve understood that the normative and the natural perceptions of timetables, calendars, and life course trajectories in addition to temporal perceptions such as wasting time, empty time, losing time, or frozen time, and aging. They play a significant role in the way singlehood is constructed and imagined.
Therefore, if I deconstruct these temporal conventions, I can deconstruct the way singlehood is perceived. I wanted to go as deeply as I could and create this revolution, in which I demonstrate, of how socially constructed these conventions are and how they are connected. Each chapter in my book takes a different route, in which I take one concept such as waiting or wasting time or empty time. An attempt to understand its origins, how it is demonstrated, and why it is articulated as a truth, as something that we cannot argue with time.
We should argue with time because we, as social beings, have invented time. If we have invented time, we can deconstruct and put other ideas into our life course. We can stop waiting and we can stop thinking that we are wasting our time. I thought that would be effective also in terms of theoretical engagement with singlehood. Also, I saw this project and I still see it as political because in my work, I want to change conventions. I don’t want single persons to think that something is wrong with them. Something is wrong with the value system, which tells you that something is wrong with you and that should be changed.
You’re on the right show for that.
This reminds me of this saying, “The only thing that’s wrong with you is that you think there’s something is wrong with you.” What is so powerful about your work is that merely by demonstrating and laying out how these things are connected and communicating, you’re already destabilizing their power because they’re so familiar. They’re like the air around us. In your work, you say, “Why do we think about these things in terms of these things? Why do these metaphors exist? What do these metaphors or these ways of talking about this? What do they tell us about how we think about this construct?” That in itself was already eye-opening and opens up the question, “What other kinds of ways can we talk about this? What other narratives are there?” The self-marriage thing, reclaiming your temporal power is a strong alternative marriage and alternative narrative. It connects with your ideas also about reframing singlehood, Peter, this temporal agency that people can take back.
As psychologists, we often study time also and we do so in two different ways in general. One is this idea of the perception of time. Whether it’s moving fast or slow, whether something feels close or feels far away, and then implications for things like investing in your future and so on. Those are the kinds of things that happen. I’ve done some of this work with humor, for example, the passage of time, changes people’s emotional experiences. What you’re describing, I’d like to spend a few more moments on that because it feels academic. It’s about perceptions of a life course about what time means to us and about milestones. Can you talk a little bit more about this idea of the sociology of time in general, and then specifically for singles?
My study on singlehood was greatly inspired by scholars such as Haim Hazan, Eviatar Zerubavel, Norbert Elias, and Barbara Adam. What was interesting to realize the point when I began my study in social time, that it was a marginal subfield in sociology as opposed to the fascination. Many studies written on space, for example, which is a recognized subfield in sociology. Several years ago, it wasn’t as popular. Now, it is much more known. There are many more studies on social time than it used to be, interesting things being written.
To sum it up short, the idea is that the taken-for-granted understanding of time as to be natural, self-evident, something that happens, and we should adhere to. The sociology of time understands in a historical investigation or by looking at a social phenomenon as I did on singlehood and also with my wonderful colleague on late motherhood. We look at these sociological phenomena in which temporal notions such as age and moving across the life course are considered to be normative, natural, binding, and authoritative. You can’t do anything about time. You have to adapt yourself to the life course or you have to act your age or you are running out of time or you should be in time.
For example, the notion of timing is significant but these are not natural. These are socially imposed constructions, which tap with the ideological system such as capitalism or family life. It bestows a lot of values and a lot of truth claims, as Foucault termed it, about how we should live our lives and what makes our lives worthy. For example, to be on time or to be married at the right time, or to buy your place at the right time. We are going back into these ideas of childhood versus adulthood. Are you moral or immoral if you’re on time or not on time? I can give you a brief example of how interesting it is. For example, think of the age in which you’re supposed to stop living with roommates. I assume that in Germany, would it be 25 or 30?
I was never 25 or 30 in Germany.
In the Netherlands or in the US?
In the Netherlands, it’s not so common to live with roommates beyond your 30s, so that would be 25 or 26.
I’ll add it to this. Occasionally on the dating apps, a woman will specifically say something about not having roommates. She doesn’t want a man who needs roommates in a sense.
For example, the age in which you were not supposed to live with roommates, that we are supposed to live on our own or to move on. What does it mean? To find a partner and to move in together and preferably have your place. That is considered to be the most normative channel trajectory, which signifies being responsible and being happy. What if you want to stay and live with your best friend? What if you get on so well with the person you live with and you want to extend this idea beyond the age of 25 or beyond the age of 30? Why not? Who says that at a certain point in our life, we should live on our own or live with a partner? These kinds of ideas of who we should live with and how we should live are embedded in timetables which are socially constructed.
- Iris Schneider
- Kinneret Lahad
- NCJW Women & Gender Studies Program
- A Table for One: A Critical Reading of Singlehood, Gender and Time
- Michal Kravel-Tovi
- Going Solo
- The Beauty Myth
About Kinneret Lahad
Kinneret 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
Iris 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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