Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beth Griffenhagen's Haiku for the Single Girl: For Those Who Can't Always Get What They Want (But Might Get What They Need)

“I’m sorry Laura,” my colleague sympathizes with me after I finish confiding in her about some romantic woes. It is 8pm on my evening without my daughter and I am, as usual, just hanging around the office. If this isn’t bad enough to begin with, she leans forward, lowers her voice, and says, “you’re going to have to Internet date.” So this is what it’s come to? Internet dating will be added to the certainties of death and taxes?

Now don’t get wrong. I love my crazy little life. I am fully complete without a better half. I would also be perfectly content if I stayed away from the dating game for good. But, every now and then – especially around holidays or whenever I see a Norman Rockwell painting – I tend to feel as though something maybe missing.

Luckily I heard of a charming little publication called Haiku for the Single Girl (Penguin Group, 2011) to get me through the holiday season. (Well, at least until the winter solstice.) Haiku is a bittersweet collection of short poetic meditations, written by Beth Griffenhagen in the true haiku fashion of three lines and seventeen syllables. Each philosophy is accompanied by an illustration by Cynthia Vehslage Meyers. This witty and introspective book resembles a Cathy comic strip meets Sex and the City. (Except – spoiler alert – nobody gets married in the end.)

Haiku examines all aspects of the single life. This includes those self-deprecating moments: “I always feel proud / So why is it referred to / As the walk of shame?” It also includes the unavoidable melancholy: “As I get older / I can hear all of my ‘whens’ / Transform into ‘ifs’.” The ever present confusion: “In my neighbourhood / Even the homeless woman / Has a boyfriend.” (I’ve actually been baffled about the last one for years.) Finally, the blissful and blessed moments of single-hood: “I smile to myself / Because I have a secret / My time is my own.”

While reading, I began to ponder the message behind the movement of single girl genre and how such a publication came to be. A generation ago we would have not seen such a thing in bookstores. Now, however, in most of the western world, there is no need to make marriage a prime pursuit. Education, financial independence, and even artificial insemination, has decreased our need for a provider. Yet, we just can’t seem to shut up when we don’t have one. Has our need evolved into a want thanks to women’s rights? Or have relationships moved up a rung on the hierarchy of needs from a physical and survival need to the need for love itself?

Further, I wonder if some of us have become victims of our great success. Have we become too hard to please? I often hear women, after a date or two, mutter complaints – too short, too bald, too loud, too shy, a hand talker, a close talker – to the point where they begin to sound like a Seinfeld episode. While I cannot think of any deal breakers of my own, I am picky in the sense that I just don't see why I would spend my (very limited) spare time with anyone I’m not tremendously excited about.

On the 9 out of 10 dates (okay, 4 out of 5 would be more realistic data) all with very nice men, if I don’t feel butterflies, I start to figure out a way to sneak away to the bookstore across the street. I begin feigning illness, or I pretend my baby sitter called, or my sister called and she’s sad, I say I’m getting a cold, or my leg is haunted. I will really say anything that will get me out of there and back to spending my time with the people, or doing the things, that I like. It’s very rare I find a man that I like more than a bookstore.

In the interim, it’s all good. I’m proud that I take care of myself and I do enjoy the “fits of ecstasy” that come with being single. Furthermore, I sometimes look at the pant-less anarchy that goes on in my household and wonder whether it’s fair to rope someone into such a mad world. Or I wonder what kind of lunatic would put up with my own neurotic ways. Alas, in the end / It would be so nice to just / Have someone be there. That is my haiku. As for the Internet dating, after reading Haiku for the Single Girl, I think I'm going to try to hold out just a bit longer before I surrender.

Laura Warner is a librarian, researcher and aspiring writer living in Toronto. She is currently based in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre’s Music Library.

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