No one is alone. . .

13 05 2009

. . . Oh yes, we are. Or is that ‘Oh yes, one is’?


Many of us to choose to live alone, and we cultivate our solitude even as we cultivate friends. Some of us would like to marry or attach ourselves to a intimate companion, but we’re not necessarily distraught over the lack of such a companion.

We’re alone, and we’re all right.

And yet, even if we’re—oh hell, lemme switch to the (duh) singular—even if I’m okay with my solitary existence, I’m okay because it is not only solitary. Among the main reasons I left Bummerville was the difficulty in finding friends—true friends, people with whom I’d share ideas and embarassments and beers and tears, not just folks with whom sharing went no further than ‘What’s new?’ There were a few people, here and there, but I lacked that gathering of intimates, the jumble of personalities who, collectively, form a kind of thick weave of comfort around oneself.

I can’t say I’ve fully cultivated those rich layers of friendships in New York City, but I have discovered some people who I hope to spend the rest of my life getting to know, and some of whom I already consider good friends. This is a tough old broad of a place, and as much affection as I might have for tough old broads, I also need trusted allies in dealing with her. Hence, the friends.

That works for regular life. What, however, of the ruptures of illness or trauma or disability of whatever sort? On her NYTimes blog, The Well, Tara Parker-Pope highlighted a report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on the difficulties same-sex couples may encounter in trying to care for their partners in hospitals. She notes that

While heterosexual couples typically don’t have to provide marriage licenses to hospitals in order to prove they are husband and wife, same sex couples often must document their relationship to hospital officials before being allowed to take part in a partner’s care.

In some cases partners and their children were barred from the bedside, and their beloved died alone. Even when they had documentation of their relationship, including legal papers in which they were designated as health proxies or given durable power of attorney, the partner often had to fight to be able to care for his or her companion.

I’m not going to go into the idiocy and brutality of exclusionary policies—commentors on the blog do that quite nicely—but instead will simply note that same-sex couples and single people are in many ways in the same unseaworthy boat: We’re screwed when we need help and institutions won’t recognize those whom we would like to help us.

Even when I was straighter than I currently am, I believed that single (straight) women should unhesitatingly support gay rights. Control over one’s body? Check. Control over one’s sexuality? Check. To live outside of normal sex roles? Check. To choose to have kids or not, and in what circumstances? Check. To live one’s life in a way that makes sense to her? Check.

Attacks on LGBT folk for their (our) allegedy degenerative effects on the rest of the healthy, wholesome, heterosexual social body can, without much imagination, morph into attacks on single folks themselves. Marriage is sacred, marriage is the foundation of society, heterosexual commitment is required for stable communities, sex outside of the bonds of matrimony is empty and selfish and dangerous, blah blah. There is One Right Way To Be, and to Not-Be that way is to be, well, ‘that way’.

Fine, so I’m ‘that way’ in more than one way. But this is how and who I am, and I’d like some security in my lonely and alienated unpredictable and gratifyingly cobbled-together life. And as much as I support same-sex marriage, I want to make sure that those of us who choose not marry don’t get left behind in that leaky boat.

Queer folk have (along with feminists) questioned the boundaries of matrimony and family and rightfully demanded reconsiderations of those boundaries to include a panoply of orientations and identities. This is good. But if the efforts to broaden the definition of marriage serve only to reinforce its privileges, well, that’s not so good.

So what do we single folk do? Do we follow the route taken by domestic partners and file paperwork designating friends as health care proxies? Do we give a list of approved visitors to any hospitals we use, so administrators don’t have to worry about violating HIPAA [privacy] regs?

If I’m in an accident or get sick, I want my friends to know. (Well, honestly, part of me wants to tough it out alone, the same part which is berating me for saying I want my friends to know. But hospitals suck and they suck even more when you’re in one alone. So Shut up, me.) I want them asking about my care and in my room and, if necessary, kicking someone’s ass on my behalf.

I want them to do what my family, a thousand miles away, couldn’t do. I want my people, here, to be with me.

Maybe this starts in conversations with friends. We talk to one another, find out what kind of support we have and don’t have, want and don’t want. Tell each other what we want from each other, what we’re willing and able to provide to one another.

I’m still assembling my life, and while it’s possible that at some point I could meet someone who could be a lifelong companion, I’m not waiting for him or her.

This is it. I am alone in this city—except for my friends. That’s a damned significant exception, and I’d like these folks to be able to act as my Significant Others.




2 responses

13 05 2009


Those hospital rules are asinine. You know I don’t usually go off in this way, but it really is all part of the goddamned patriarchy. This whole focus on heterosexual marriage is so obviously about controlling female sexuality (well, and other stuff, too, like excluding anyone who’s different from a very narrow definition). Grrr!! Leave me alone!!

Why should we not get to pick who can come see us in the hospital? I picture a card like an organ donor card, you keep it in your wallet. It can be a “thing,” like your emergency contact person. “Let’s be hospital buddies!” I’m in.

FWIW, fifteen or so years ago, my friend had to carry her marriage certificate with her, to prove she was married to her husband, because she didn’t take his name. Patriarchy!! Grr!!

13 05 2009

I’ve long thought we should be able to designate ‘approved visitors’ or ‘carers’ or whatever: Why the hell should the hospital control who matters to us.

The card-carrying is an excellent idea. I mean it. And it could be low- or high-tech: An official form, for one’s wallet, and/or one embedded with a chip or something electro-fancy which would allow hospital staff to access more information about one’s preferences.

Hm. I bitch about Albany, but maybe I should find out who my legislators are, and push the idea on them. Perhaps a part of the bill would require/encourage all hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics to display these cards, and to encourage patients to fill them out. Put in some language protecting hospitals from any HIPAA-related lawsuits—that oughta neutralize any opposition from them.

This just makes sense. And if it has the effect of pulling out a few nails of the planks of patriarchy. . . well, that’s all good, too.

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