This is not a singles evening, nor is it couples therapy. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Whatever the case, the subject is relationships, single and otherwise. I’m grouping both ‘categories’ because I’m pretty tired of the pervasive ‘us-and-them’ mentality of singles and couples. Any of us could at any time be on either side of this dichotomy (despite what we might think on the matter), and neither should be seen as a ‘solution’ for the other (nor does it ever end up being so!)
Some directions the talk might go in: what do we need relationships for, anyhow? What do they provide, what kinds are there, how are the cultural and societal priorities we live in reflected in our relationships? (to wit: Did you know that couples get great tax breaks? And when was the last time you saw an ad aimed at single people that WASN’T for online dating?)
There is a reason solitary confinement is a dreaded form of punishment for prisoners, but WHAT IS IT? How do the difficulties we have with ourselves change in the presence of people we love and care about? And for those of us who have just gone through two years confined in small apartments for way too long with our significant others, how has that reevaluated (if at all) our choices to be with them?
A lot of us in the group are expats, so I’m going to throw the city of Berlin into the mix. This city is densely populated with a revolving door of aspiring creatives, tech entrepeneurs, europhiles looking for utopian bohemia, and other modern-day dreamers, all on their own convoluted paths, making it a city that can be hard to put stable roots down in, particularly when it comes to other people. Or is that actually a good thing?
A Natural History of Love | Diane Ackerman | Did you know that love was invented (in part) by books? To wit:
“The invention of printing aided and abetted lovers. Once people became more literate, they could take a book with them to some quiet place and read to themselves and think. Reading changed society forever. Solitary contemplation began to emerge as commonplace, and readers could discover in romantic and erotic literature what was possible, or at least imaginable. They could dare controversial thoughts and feel bolstered by allies, without telling anyone. Books had to be kept somewhere, and with the library came the idea of secluded hours, alone with one’s innermost thoughts. Lovers could blend their hearts by sharing sympathetic authors; what they could not express in person they could at least point to in the pages of a book”
The Symposium | Plato four jovial greeks sit around imbibing shamelessly and discussing different models of love. (and yes, Taboo Symposium gets its name from this book)
The Course of Love | Alain de Botton – our favourite School of Lifer goes through all the different phases of a relationship, including the uncomfortable ones (cheating, boredom, having kids), and examines how the nature of love changes throughout all of ’em.
The Four Loves | C.S. Lewis: filled with clever ruminations on love such as: “Love ceases to be a demon only when [s]he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment [s]he begins to be a god.”
The Feminisation of Sex | Barbara Ehrenreich – do you ever
wonder if S&M is just another product of capitalist greed? Or how many of our other dainty proclivities in the bedroom came to be? Then this is the book for you. Achtung: patriarchs prepare for a licking (not the good kind.)
The illustrated books of Marion Fayolle
(Particularly: Les Amours Suspendues and Les Coquins, both graphic novels.) Fayolle’s illustrations are magical little allegories on the nature of all sorts of relationships.
The Whores of Yore (website)
the Ultimate archive on sex through the ages. Vintage erotica? Sex workers rights? Word of the day? What do you MEAN, you don’t know what a Whistle in the Dark is?! Find it all here!
Where should we begin: a game of stories | Esther Perel
Esther Perel is the therapist who developed the podcast ‘where do we begin’. You should listen to it. Then, if you are in a rocky relationship, or perhaps even if you are not, you should play this game.
What’s your attachment style | NPR’s Life Kit (podcast)
If you tend to be anxious when it comes to your relationships (cough cough), this podcast will otherwise come to be known as nineteen minutes of pure personal redemption. 😉
Bonk | Mary Roach including such scintillating chapters as “The Sausage, the Porcupine, and the Agreeable Mrs. G”, “The Taiwanese Fix and the Penile Pricking Ring” and more!
Dataclysm | Christian Rudder Do you ever wonder if you are being manipulated by the algorithms on your online search for the person of your dreams? The founder of OK Stupid lays it all out from behind the digital curtain.
They Call Me Naughty Lola | “I’ll see you at the LRB singles night. I’ll be the one breathing heavily and stroking my thighs by the ‘art’ books. Asthmatic, varicosed F (93) seeks M to 30 with enough puff in him to push me uphill to the post office. This is not a euphemism. Box. no. 4632″
The Nerve Guide to Sex Etiquette | “If a pickup line turns into a conversation, gentlemen and ladies are earnestly advised not to limit their conversation to remarks on the weather and the heat in the room — this shows a poverty of ideas that is truly piteable…”
It’s Not You: 27 (wrong) Reasons You’re Single | Sara Eckel – “….If you feel sad sometimes, it’s not because you’re single—it’s because you’re alive.”
Der Ursprung der Liebe | Liv Strömquist
Ich fühle es nicht | Liv Strömquist
** W.E.I.R.D = White, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic