Tim Kreider is single, and in today’s New York Times, he’s begging us to think that his marital status isn’t his fault. For the most part, he does a good job of convincing us that “quirkyalone” doesn’t mean people like him are weird or commitmentphobes or any other romantically undesirable trait. He makes a decent case too.
It would be easy for a glib armchair analyst to conclude that although these people think they want to be in lasting relationships, on some level they really don’t or else they would be by now. They’re all lovely, intelligent and ambitious. Even in New York City’s dating pool, they are catches. But when it’s you, trapped in the labyrinth of your own intractable patterns, it feels much more involuntary.
Why do we keep being attracted to the obviously unavailable, the grotesquely inappropriate, the resolutely wacko? I feel like we’re a brother- and sisterhood of misfits, one that becomes more desperate and closely bonded as our numbers dwindle, like an embattled platoon down to its last few soldiers.
Fair enough. Lots of people have been there. But then Kreider starts describing a relationship he jumps into yet the woman is clearly insecure and can’t commit beyond a few days with him. This was after he described a “doomed affair.”
Each day, around midmorning, she would sheepishly ask whether I could delay my departure for one more day. When I asked why she didn’t just admit she wanted me to stay and I’d get a sublet for a week or two, she’d insist that no, no, no, it wouldn’t work out. I should leave tomorrow.
I was like Scheherazade: Each day my last, earning every extra day with my charms. I imagined that years from now I would still be calling Amtrak daily to again postpone my departure, and she still wouldn’t admit that this was anything long-term.
All pretentiousness aside, it’s clear that if Kreider really wanted to be in a serious, committed, long-term relationship, he wouldn’t be investing time and effort in doomed affairs or a woman who is terrified of making any plans beyond a 24 hour time frame. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that because I’ve also passed time with similar scenarios, and I imagine zillions of other humans have too since the beginning of time.
Saying one thing and doing something different are not where Kreider goes wrong. It’s not what he says in this article, but what he’s not saying in this article that he has said in other articles — namely that he doesn’t want children and he isn’t sure monogamy is for him.
Before I tackle his selective omissions, I want to be absolutely clear about something: I have zero judgment of people who choose one or both of these options. My beef is with Kreider and Kreider alone, specifically how he conveniently leaves out two details his desire for two things that are dealbreakers for large chunks of the dating pool.
I’m starting to think that what may be hardest to give up for the sake of monogamy isn’t the sex per se so much as a certain self-image that goes with it. I like thinking of myself as single – it means being available, up for anything, faintly dangerous. Undomesticated. Couples, by contrast, seem inert, done.
Kreider’s dismal outlook on long-term, committed relationships is hardly a hot take. But rather than value the differing life paths these choices can bring, he exudes smarmy judgment.
It’s very hard to get any inside intelligence on marriage from married people. Unless a marriage is heading for trouble and starting to leak secrets, it tends to be a black box from which no information emerges. Most of the marriages I know of are traditionally monogamous; one has a French don’t ask, don’t tell policy; another is explicitly open and has impressively outlasted many other relationships (but since they’ve also been directly responsible for the destruction of many of those relationships, they probably shouldn’t be too self-congratulatory).
I can’t tell if Kreider is being intentionally unintelligent here or he truly doesn’t get it. Marriage isn’t some weird, mystical labyrinth of confusion. It varies from couple to couple, and those differences are easy to spot if he’s paying attention to people he’s close with, which he clearly isn’t because doesn’t everyone know at least one couple who can’t stop bickering?
I may be exceptionally conscious of the Referendum because my life is so different from most of my cohort’s; at 42 I’ve never been married and don’t want kids. I recently had dinner with some old friends, a couple with two small children, and when I told them about my typical Saturday in New York City — doing the Times crossword, stopping off at a local flea market, maybe biking across the Brooklyn Bridge — they looked at me like I was describing my battles with the fierce and elusive Squid-Men among the moons of Neptune. The obscene wealth of free time at my command must’ve seemed unimaginably exotic to them, since their next thousand Saturdays are already booked.
Or maybe they think Kreider is a dullard who can’t find anything more interesting to do or maybe they were staring at something amazing behind his head. We’ll never know, but it’s no surprise to anyone that people without children have more time to allocate to non-children activities than those who have children.
Going back to the doubt-ridden, day-to-day girlfriend of Kreider’s, perhaps there was something else she was sensing in him — namely the no children desires and the aversion to monogamy — but she was still having short-term fun with him because she genuinely liked him and had conflicting emotions. Perhaps what has been holding Kreider back for his entire life on this planet because he’s intentionally or unintentionally not looking to meet people who have one or both of those desires. Maybe his aversion to monogamy and parenthood are turning off his dates who might not know him that well or that long and can leave a relationship with him that they’re probably not all that invested in anyway. Maybe his smugness and unoriginal, judgmental attitudes of others who made different choices are seeping through his general attitude in the same way it does in his writing. Perhaps most people would find such a smarmy attitude undesirable regardless of the romantic factor.
Who knows? But the New York Times and Kreider did a major disservice to the readers today because as the current article reads, Kreider just looks like a nice guy who hasn’t found a lucky lady yet. A three second Google search says otherwise.