Working though Louisa May Alcott as part of school-mandated reading was plodding work, but when I discovered her letters some years later and read that she had chosen to stay single and “paddle my own canoe” because “liberty is a better husband than love”, she became far more interesting. Being single is a choice, and not a compromise, and one that can be made only if a person has clarity and self-awareness. And yet most cultures often treat those who make such a choice with pity, confusion, mistrust and outright condescension. It’s the people who are living with similar choices who are the heart of the stories in Lounge this week.
We meet people who have created the kind of companionship they want in their lives, and unsurprisingly, many of them tend to be women. Their lives do not revolve around one person, the romantic ideal isn’t something they’re staking their future on, and they have made clear decisions about their identity. To that end, they work on their well-being and create a supporting environment for themselves. They’re not closed off to the idea of love but they’d like to find it on their own terms.
At the other end of the spectrum, as we explore in another story, is the anxiety fuelled by the search for a partner, largely on dating apps. Ambivalence rules here, a bit of a merry-go-round with all the seats occupied by people who don’t know what they want, and therefore, keep playing. And oddly enough, as they tire of the world of swiping, they’re retuning to old styles of dating—going to meet-ups, taking classes and looking away from their screens—to enjoy the process.
A fizzing essay by economist and author Shrayana Bhattacharya about our collective small-heartedness, which reflects in the state of our love lives and our public lives, complements these stories. She makes the link between power and love, pointing out that our obsession with rank and status spills into our dating and mating rituals as well, when what we probably need is a greater capacity for compassion.
And as always, we have recommendations for films and shows to watch, music to discover, books to read, and restaurants and shows to visit—whether you’re making plans for this weekend or the weeks ahead.
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