The Happy Bachelors of the 21st Century
“But what about the single men?” I have been hearing that plaintive wail since I first started writing about single people many years ago. It is not a baseless complaint. Writings on single life are overwhelmingly by and about single women. So I was delighted to read Craig Wynne’s book, How to Be a Happy Bachelor. I wrote about the book for my “Living Single” blog at Psychology Today. Then I asked Professor Wynne if he would answer some questions about it. I’m delighted that he agreed.
Bella: Please give us a brief overview of your book.
Craig Wynne: How to be a Happy Bachelor is essentially a book on “how to be single” that is geared toward men. It combines a number of different genres. There’s a bit of memoir: I share some of my own experiences with singlehood, singlism, and matrimania; some self-help, in which I provide practical suggestions on how to overcome society’s stigma against singlehood and on how to live your best single life. I also provide critiques to the matrimaniacal messages our society promotes.
Bella: Your book is full of good suggestions at all levels, from very specific tips about getting practical things accomplished to more big-picture advice. I think the big-picture advice is about mindsets, or how you think about your single life. What is one important kind of mindset for men who want to be happy bachelors?
Craig Wynne: The big thing is to be comfortable in your own skin. Whether you’re single by choice or single by circumstance, it’s important to be the best YOU that you can be, without feeling the need for a partner. And be fully present for life.
Bella: One of the reasons I was so happy you wrote your book is that writings about single life are overwhelmingly dominated by women. They are typically written by women and for women. Why do you think that men are so underrepresented in books about being single?
Craig Wynne: I’m definitely generalizing, but on the whole, I think women are a lot more comfortable reading and writing about emotionally charged topics, particularly self-help. The machismo with which a lot of men have been raised prevents us from really embracing our emotions, including loneliness. Such loneliness is a result of singlism and matrimania, which affects men as well as women. Women are more apt to confront it; I’m hoping How to be a Happy Bachelor represents a step in helping men catch up.
Bella: You had an advantage in writing your book that very few people in the whole world have had: You have taught composition courses that included single life as a theme, and you really got your students involved in thinking about key issues. Can you give us an example of something one of your students said or wrote that you found especially enlightening — either because it was so on target or because it illuminated an important misunderstanding?
Craig Wynne: A lot of my students were happy to be opened up to the possibility that they don’t need to be coupled in order to live a good life. The thing that stood out to me most was the stigma my students feel. In an essay entitled “Would You Rather Be Single or Married at Age 30?” one student wrote, “I don’t want to be the old Dad at baseball games.” At the tender age of eighteen, this student’s already feeling the pressure to marry. In his end-of-semester reflection paper, he was open to the idea that one does not have to marry in order to be happy.
Bella: Some people will read about your book, but maybe they won’t ever actually read the book, or at least not right away. (Their loss!) What is the one thing you would most like those people to know?
Craig Wynne: It’s okay to be single. Don’t look at it as something to be fixed. Of course, my book does go more into depth about how to cultivate that mindset J
Bella: You give a lot of credit to the people in the online Facebook group, the Community of Single People, for inspiring some of the ideas in your book. I told the group that we were doing this Q and A, and invited them to submit any questions they had for you.
Sushma Saroj had a question. I think it may refer to research showing that on the average, when people get married, they enjoy just a brief period of slightly increased happiness, then they go back to feeling as happy or as unhappy as they were when they were single. (And that’s only for the people who stay married! The ones who get divorced are already becoming less happy as the day of their wedding approaches.) The question is: How do you deal with married people who tell you that they are happily married and that they are still enjoying their lives even after the wedding?
Craig Wynne: I have to remember that everybody has their own reality. Some married people may really feel that way, and marriage may be a very good thing for some people. Others may not want to admit their unhappiness. I also have to remember that the way I live could be a threat to some people, and their need to defend their lifestyle could be a defense mechanism. A lot of people are afraid of what they don’t understand, so their first instinct is to criticize it. If I feel someone is “coming at me,” I’ll educate them on what singlism and matrimania are. But if they claim to be happy, I just let it be. I’ll advocate for my lifestyle, but I don’t criticize others. Come at me, though, and it’s on!
Bella: Thanks again, Craig, and good luck with the book!
To everyone else: I have added Craig Wynne’s book to my collection of books, and discussions of books, for single people who are not about to apologize for being single. Enjoy!
About Craig Wynne
Craig Wynne is an Associate Professor of English at the University of the District of Columbia and the author of How to be a Happy Bachelor. He has a fervent interest in singlehood and has written several articles and presented at a variety of conferences on the subject. You can read more at his blog, The Happy Bachelor.
[Want to learn more? Take a look at this collection of articles on all sorts of topics relevant to single life. Watch my TEDX talk, “What no one ever told you about people who are single.” Check out my website. Find my other stories on Medium here. Disclosure: Links to books may include affiliate links.]