One of my most long-standing personal critiques of society is the emphasis placed on romantic relationships. There’s an deeply entrenched normative value that to be in a relationship is inherently better than to be single. There are various caveats – not all relationships are good, to be single is better than to be in a bad relationship, one must love oneself before one can find a happy relationship, etc, and these caveats are often the themes of books and movies. But pretty much all roads sooner or later ideally are supposed to lead to coupledom. Especially for women.
It’s a line of thought that comes up often for me, probably because I am and throughout my life usually have been happily single, but struggled for years to stop feeling a sort of automatic desire to be in a relationship. It comes up when I think or talk about my friends’ relationships. It comes up in the context of pop culture, movies, magazines, tv, etc. But remarkably, it occurred to me for the first time in the context of kid/teen lit only just recently, as I finished re-reading THIS PLACE HAS NO ATMOSPHERE by Paula Danziger (one of my favorite YA authors, although its not one of her best books).
In the wide world of fiction aimed at teenage girls, I can’t think of a single book that has an explicit message that to be single might be an inherently good thing, that a particular individual might be simply be happier single than in any relationship. There are books that stress the importance of not expecting a relationship to solve life’s problems; that value balancing friends with boyfriends/girlfriends; that deal with getting away from bad relationships. There’s a whole catalogue of books for teens about the right boyfriend/girlfriend not necessarily being the cool (but as it turns out not so nice) kid but rather the nice (but maybe slightly dorky) one. But I’ve been thinking about it on and off for weeks now and I can’t recall any teen books where the point is “you know what, I’m perfectly happy being single and don’t want to be in a relationship.” And in retrospect, it would have been really good for me to read a book like that when I was a teenager.
There must be some out there, right? Anybody know of them?