Sunday, October 18, 2009

Can I be sappy without being seen as smug?

I just got back from an overnight trip to L.A. to visit a close friend who recently moved there with her husband. I drove up with my Significant Other, who my friend was very curious to meet, and we had a really fun evening, with good food, drink and conversation. This morning, the guys watched football while my friend and I took her dog for a walk. Of course, I wanted to get her opinion of my S.O. This is a friend who knows all about my previous, incredibly unhealthy relationships, and she's been hearing about this new guy for a while. What she said this morning was that the guy is great but more than anything else, she has never seen me this happy, that she thinks she heard me laugh more in the previous 24 hours than in the last several months, and that she is really, really happy for me.

I'm sharing this because I think that readers of this blog know that when I talk about how happy I am in my current relationship, I do not intend in any way to belittle or diminish those who are NOT in relationships, or to refute anything I have ever said about how important it is to be comfortable with being single. Mostly, when I talk about how happy I am in my current relationship, I do so because this happiness is new, certainly a departure from relationships I have known in the past, and honestly, I'm still kind of incredulous about it. I think that people who care about me will be happy to know that I have found this happiness, as my friend said this morning. But Bella DePaulo has a couple of posts that have me feeling sort of defensive. Her first post was about people who post annoying Facebook status updates about their relationships; her follow-up post talks about how people with these sorts of updates must be insecure (that is, these folks must be insecure or else they wouldn't feel the need to "act" so affectionately in public). What bugs me about that is that lately, I have been one of those people and I know that my motivation is about as far from what she's saying as you can get. When I post something on Facebook about the amazing weekend I had my guy, I'm not bragging about my relationship; I'm letting my friends know that things are great and I'm happy (I should say that I am only friends on Facebook with people that I am actually friends with in real life). Without exception, my friends have responded with comments like "You deserve it!" or "I'm so happy for you!" My S.O. also happens to be a really affectionate person, which I love since I did not get ANY public affection in my last relationship (heck, I didn't get much private affection either). I am sure that to other people, we are probably annoyingly affectionate but a) we are still sort of new at this so maybe it will lessen over time and b) if it doesn't, well, I hold his hand and sneak a quick smooch because it makes me silly happy to do so, not because I want others to think anything in particular (and just to be clear, I'm not talking about making out in a restaurant here).

I get that there are plenty of people who buy into matrimania and who want everyone to know they are in a relationship because they think that they will be seen as a 'loser' if they aren't, and I get why DePaulo feels they should be mocked. I guess I just wish that DePaulo, and many who commented on her posts, wouldn't sound so much as if everyone with sappy Facebook updates must fall into that group. DePaulo talks a lot about 'singlism' which she defines as "the stereotyping and stigmatizing of people who are single"; maybe it's just me being defensive now that I am part of a couple, but sadly, I feel like the singles community is just as likely to engage in 'couplism'.


Clever Elsie said...

Hmmm. I'm sitting here trying to explain what it is that some of us don't like about PDAs and gushy Facebook updates without seeming like I'm directing it at you, which I'm not, especially since I've never even seen your FB page.

First of all, I know that not all couples who are "sappy" feel "smug," and I can see why DePaulo's characterization would be offensive to couples who don't intend to be that way. Second, I think there are things beyond "smugness" that can make people feel uncomfortable with public mushiness. All I can really do is explain what makes me feel uncomfortable, but please don't think I'm assuming that you do any of these things.

PDAs--These make me uncomfortable mostly because I feel like I'm being forced to witness a private moment. I don't want to see most people in intimate moments, and, for me, the "intimate" threshold begins somewhere around repeated, lengthy kisses. I also admit to having the urge to roll my eyes at couples who can never let go of each other's hands or not have some form of physical contact at all times. This is not so much because that behavior is "intimate" but because it implies that they're so symbiotic, they can't bear to be physically separated for a few minutes.

Social Networking Profiles--I'm not sure how to say this without sounding like the stereotypical bitter singleton because it has nothing to do with singleness per se. I want everyone I know to be happy. Definitely. But I also don't need to hear about it a hundred times. I'm not just talking about coupling here. This could apply to anything, but I find that coupling tends to inspire most of the repetitiously rapturous comments.

For instance, say I knew someone who published a book. I would totally expect them to make some ecstatic updates when they landed the book deal and maybe some follow-up updates if they got a rave review from a well-known critic or hit a certain sales goal. But if every day or every week they had to post about how thrilled they were about the book, I'd start to feel a little annoyed. I'd never tell them that because I wouldn't want to be hurtful, but I'd start to feel like, "Ok, I get it. You're over the moon about your book. Let's move on. What else is happening in your life?"

Now replace the book deal with a significant other, and that's what annoys me about a lot of these FB updates. I know some of them aren't trying to be boastful, but reading them constantly feels like someone is sitting there eating a chocolate cake in front of me and going on and on about how delicious it is. Maybe that makes me sound cold and heartless, I don't know. And the thing is that I truly DO want all the people in my life to be happy. But I hope that doesn't mean I also have to play the role of cheerleader or applauding audience all the time.

It's not my intention to make you feel bad but to explain a little better why some of us cringe at public mush so that it will be more understandable. Again, it's not so much the coupling for me per se as it is the relentless happy-happy-happy about anything, which starts to feel like a taunt to anyone who isn't that joyous all the time even though it may not be intended that way at all.

{sigh} This is why I try to stay far away from FB! I've had about a dozen people invite me to join, and I still haven't succumbed!

Simone Grant said...

For me it's all about context and perspective. There are people who people quite smug when they enter inter relationships. Not all. Some.

And some of them use social media as a tool to remind the people in their network, over and over, about their new acquisition - but that's pretty much what some of those updates amount to, "I've acquired a SO".

That said, I can't imagine you doing that. Or anyone I actually liked much. And I don't see anything wrong with a little bit of PDA if it's genuine and not sleazy.

IDK, I guess what I'm trying to say is that of course you can be sappy without being seen as smug. The people who are seen as smug usually are smug.

Lauri said...

BUT the question is, did you post about your happiness when you were single, and if so, did people respond about how happy they were for you?