Visiting authors argue for the single life

Nov. 15, 2012

She writes candidly about being a single woman at age 39. He argues that "the second-class citizen" status of singles is unfair.

Together, Kate Bolick and Michael Cobb are leading voices in redefining the social landscape. They are also old friends. On Thursday, Nov. 29 the two will appear as featured speakers in a Humanities Without Boundaries talk titled "Uncoupled: Kate Bolick and Michael Cobb Talk About Singles" at 7:30 p.m at the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, 800 University Ave., room L160. The talk is sponsored by UW-Madison's Center for the Humanities.

Bolick, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, wrote last year's viral piece, "All the Single Ladies." The magazine story, which describes Bolick's breakup with a boyfriend and her decision to embrace singledom, was purchased by CBS in August, with the option to turn its premise into a network television show.

Of her breakup, Bolick writes, "I was bewildered. To account for my behavior, all I had were two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; I wasn't ready to settle down." On bad days, she confides, she feared she would be "alone forever."

"And what's so bad about that?" Cobb might counter.

Cobb, a professor of English at the University of Toronto whose latest book is "Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled," says people have been obsessed with loneliness for millennia. While being single is "ruthlessly discouraged" by society, Cobb argues, the supremacy of the couple may obscure what's delightful, and important, about choosing to remain single today.

In a casual, conversational setting, Bolick and Cobb will offer a unique rumination on the single, speaking from their own experience as well as drawing from considerable research showing that the ways in which people organize their sexual and romantic lives have changed dramatically in the last 30 years.

A Jim Fleming interview with Michael Cobb on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To the Best of Our Knowledge" show can be heard here.

—Mary Ellen Gabriel