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The Strange World of Singles

Vladimír Záhradník
May 1st, 2021 · 15 min read

Foreword, 06/24/2021

I’ve been pondering the question of why so many of my closest acquaintances are single, including myself. It was my intention to write about this a long time ago. However, I decided to find out what it looks like outside of my immediate social bubble and asked my Facebook friends to fill in a brief survey. I asked them how they met their current life partners, or whether they were single. I was quite surprised by the results, as there were only three of 35 people who were single. That’s when I realized that although the singles problem is there, it doesn’t affect nearly as many people as I thought. At least in Slovakia. In the United States, where I draw a lot of my data from, the situation looks to be much worse.

I wrote a blog on this topic back in May, but I didn’t quite know what to do with it. I realize that the data and insights I have gathered are open to interpretation. And since this is a sensitive topic, I might have offended quite a lot of people by publishing this article. It was not worth the trouble, I thought.

However, I had told people that I needed the survey data for a new blog post. They completed the survey trusting me that I will keep my word and I didn’t want to be let them down. At the very least, they deserved to know how it turned out. So I uploaded a video with the same title as this blog, though I didn’t want to deal with controversial items there. I mean, at least not directly, maybe in subtle hints only. I’ll just add that, according to Google Analytics, it’s my most successful video ever. Relationships are, in short, a juicy and popular topic.

The Strange World of Singles (in Slovak)

I find that I enjoy writing and talking about these topics. When I rewatch my videos and reread my articles, I can see my reflection of the times and how I’ve changed over time. Therefore, I think this blog is worth publishing.

The strange world of singles

I became aware of one particular thing a long time ago. Not only am I single myself. But most of my male friends are single too. And when I say most, I mean about 90 percent. Sure, you might say that’s not a representative sample, and you’re right. But we can already see a trend from this.

We are all relatively young, between 29 and 40 years old, educated, decently financially secure. Subjectively speaking, none of us is markedly bad-looking, we don’t lack a sense of humor either, and we can talk about almost anything. I have no doubt that fifteen years ago most of us would have been taken, if not outright married. Today, however, the situation is such that we are not in a relationship. Some of us at least remember what it was like in the not-so-distant past. I think women are in a similar position. What happened that has brought us, as a society, to this point?

I think entire books could be written about the reasons. For example, I hear all the time about how important it is to dress well. There could be long debates about what ‘well dressed’ actually means. But the problem I see precedes all of this. Today, the problem is getting to know someone at all.

Better Bachelor: About male attractiveness

What was is like in the past?

One could write a lot of negative things about the past, but from the narrative I have the feeling that people were closer to each other. There was no Internet, television was on only a few hours a day. People communicated with each other and knew each other. Well, how many of you at least know your neighbours in the block of flats?

In the very early days, men and women began to form marriages together for purely practical reasons. Peasants tended to cattle and land, and by starting a family and having children, they ensured that they had someone to help them with all the chores. And this went on for a very long time. The concept of love as we know it today from romantic movies is not more than a hundred years old.

Marriages of convenience have worked for a long time. In the villages it worked like that even thirty years ago. My aunt told me how one Sunday a father and son from a neighboring village came to our parents’ house. The boy was already some 29 years old, so it was time to marry him off. They came and asked my grandfather to marry my aunt. However, my grandfather had his wits about him and was quite progressive for that time. He said: “Kveta is still young, she is still studying. She has time to get married.” So they went their separate ways and later marched somewhere in a neighboring village.

As time progressed, the society began to transform. Gradually there was no more reason for marriages of convenience. But I know other stories… How boys and girls went to the campfire, sang tramp songs, and got to know each other more closely. Or they’d go to discos… What I’m saying is, you had plenty of opportunities to meet someone. And I think the expectations people had of themselves were less demanding. So only those who wanted it themselves ended up single.

The age of individualism

With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the opening of borders, not only the good but also the bad began to penetrate our society. Consumption began to dominate society, multinational companies gradually came to our country and people began to focus more on their careers. Suddenly it was no longer about us, it was about ME. We started to become individualists.

I’m glad we still live in a somewhat free society where, if you’re smart, you can make your dreams come true. But that way of life will inevitably take its toll. Our society has changed for the worse. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to build local communities today. Our bonds are severed significantly. And often even within our own families.

The mass media and the Internet are playing a role in this transformation. We constantly see various reality shows on TV that give us role models. Marriage at first sight is just one example. My friend, Erik, has done a brilliant analysis of this show, by the way. Influencers also have a huge influence. People try to copy them and adopt their patterns of behaviour. I could go on and on.

Finally, there is the cult of perfection. Everyone is the best and deserves the best for themselves. Legitimately so, many of us have inflated egos and are unable to settle for someone who is beneath them. After all, they have more than that.

The age of specialisation

I graduated from high school. In the class boys and girls were represented equally. However, at that time I didn’t think about relationships at all. But from college onwards, I found myself in a predominantly male groups and this has continued to this day. I graduated in telecommunications, and we had two girls in a class of about 70 students. I joined my first company where ony 10 percent were women (and I may be exaggerating). Gradually I went through more… But it was pretty much the same everywhere. I always had many times more male colleagues than female ones. And when there’s a significant oversupply of men, women can legitimately pick and choose. It’s not an equal fight. The other problem is that even if you have a workplace relationship and it ends, suddenly you’re seeing your former partner every day at work. That’s why I never started a relationship with a female colleague. (Note: You can see beautifully here how opinions change over time. I would have tried it today. But we can’t change the past, so we should at least learn from it.)

In addition to the way we are narrowly specializing today, one would expect men and women to be unequally represented. Although we hear everywhere that men and women are equal, this is completely untrue. Each of us has a certain preference for what we enjoy. It’s no accident that there are so many women in education and healthcare… just as it’s no accident that most programmers are men. This is not to say that women can’t pursue this profession. They can and they do, but just as I won’t go into nursing because it’s not close to my heart, most women tend to do a profession where they come into contact with people. So you get work environments with a significant gender imbalance.

The #METOO era

Sexual harassment is real. But this term has taken, over the years, monstrous proportions. In the United States, it’s gone so far that men are afraid to mentor women because all it takes is one crooked word and their careers are over. Nobody is a winner. There are only losers. The #METOO movement has taken things to such an extreme that today you can destroy a career without evidence. And even if it turns out later that the other side made things up, it doesn’t change anything. I’m referring, for example, to the false accusations against Johnny Depp.

Some time ago, you could just approach a lady on the street and something nice could come out of it. Today, you don’t know where you stand. And that’s why we’ve backed away from that as a society. Doing this kind of introduction is perfectly natural.

The story of Johnny Depp

The age of feminism

Initially, feminism, the struggle for women’s rights, began innocently. Women rightfully wanted their equality with men. But here too we have gone too far. Today the movement is usurping the rights of men. Many companies are beginning to introduce quotas to balance the proportion of men and women. They are putting women in senior management positions or on the board of directors, just to have women represented.

Just a minor digression. I am a supporter of meritocracy, which means I am in favour of giving equal opportunity to everyone and letting it be seen who has the best talent and aptitude for the job. I don’t care if it’s men, women, African-Americans, whites, Asians.

The ads mock men and talk about a kind of “toxic masculinity.” And that’s how they further polarize society. It’s obvious from the ratio of likes and dislikes in the video below.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film)

Many state institutions protect women — in the US, for example, children are entrusted to the custody of the mother in almost 90 per cent of cases of divorce. The icing on the cake is schools, especially universities. They have established various dubious departments, such as gender studies, whose graduates are spreading this, dare I say it, already distorted ideology further. Many graduates end up as bloggers or journalists, writing articles that are read by huge masses of people. Or they write scripts for films and TV shows…

New James Bond fights "toxic masculinity"
And the new Indiana Jones does too.

Ordinary people have also already noticed that those movies and TV shows are pushing a certain agenda. But they don’t realize that it affects them. Even if perhaps only subconsciously. People adopt the patterns of behavior they see around them.

Even though this paragraph seems a bit pessimistic, I’ll try to inject a bit of positivity into it. I see these extremes especially in the US. I think that even though these trends are gradually coming to Europe, we still function relatively fine as a society. It’s still easier to meet someone with a healthy view of the world here in Slovakia. If I didn’t see it this way, I wouldn’t be writing this text.

A time of enjoying life

While in the past it was common to start families in your twenties, today somehow most people wait to do it at a later stage in their life. After all, you have to enjoy life first, we are being told. Casual relationships, lots of travel, Erasmus, fun. I’m not like that. I think I can lead a good life with my family by my side. It’s all just a matter of priorities and planning. I believe it’s not just me who sees it this way, but I feel like I’m in the minority.

Where to meet someone?

We don’t have bonfires anymore, we don’t have discos (I guess) either. Last time a friend of mine was told to go to a disco, he’d meet someone there… He also confirmed to me that today it’s different.

I didn’t go to discos, but I was in music clubs sometimes twice a week. The music is so loud there nowadays that I had to buy earplugs that the musicians wear. I’m not going to ruin my hearing. So the first problem is that you can’t talk in that noise. The second problem is that nowadays people don’t go to clubs to make friends. A lot of times couples go there. Occasionally groups of friends, but no one thinks about dating at a concert.

Search based on common interests

I’ve avoided online dating so far. I’ll tell you why below… I like that people just get to know each other organically. They meet, they get to know each other, they fall in love… I realize that having common interests is also important for a long term relationship. So I tried it like this: if I’m looking for a lady who has similar interests as me, she’ll go to similar places as me. So if I enjoy cooking, I’ll go to a cooking class, and chances are I’ll meet a lady there too. This approach works. The proof is that I met my ex-girlfriend, Nely, at Toastmasters. However, if you’re too interested in marginal hobbies, even the people you get to know this way are relatively few and far between.

Online dating

Imagine an endless list of Facebook posts. That’s kind of how I see dating. A large database of people and a natural tendency to be picky and look for better and better ones. If you have other experiences, I’d love to hear about them. But it occurs to me that the primary filter on a dating site is the photo. So without ever having had a chance to read anything about the person, we keep looking. This is true for both men and women. It’s gone so far that today you can find articles on how to take a picture on a dating site to get attention. The glitz, not the content. At the same time, you are literally looking for a needle in a needlestack. Some dating sites write that they match people together according to some sort of compatibility test, but in practice it doesn’t always work. A friend of mine mentioned how one paid dating site only offered him strange matches, and when he had a filter for women from the area around Prešov and Košice, there were very few based in that area.

So Syncd
So Syncd Dating Site

I have a similar experience. I registered in the dating site So Syncd. They match people by personality type. I thought, why not? It made sense to me. Anyway, I was probably the only client in the whole of Europe. It was offering me ladies from Canada and the US. It’s a good idea, but it comes to nothing without people that you can meet in a real life.

A blind date

Recently my cousin tried a blind date. He said it was an interesting experience. You don’t know beforehand what to expect, whether you’ll get along and so… I guess it’s just habit though. (Note: Today, at the end of June, we already know how it turned out. He and his girlfriend, Lenka, get along very well and he tells me he feels like they’ve known each other a lot longer. I’m rooting for their relationship, too.)

Also, thanks to Toastmasters, I’ve become so comfortable with people that I would dare to go on a blind date too. I just have no idea how to go about it. Especially now that we’re isolating ourselves a lot more because of COVID-19.

Relationship coaches

This is only underscored these days by the advent of various coaches giving advice on how to date. And also coaches who advise men how to approach women. We’ve all done it… There are also books emerging, for example, on how to regard the approaching of women as a game so that we don’t take potential rejection too personally. We didn’t need any coaches back in the day because no one took relationships that seriously and no one had such insanely high, sometimes unrealistic, standards.

COVID-19 and the never-ending lockdown

If I thought getting to know each other was hard before COVID-19, it’s only worse now. People have crawled into their homes. When we walk around outside with our friends, we often feel like we’re on some deserted island. Except for a few joggers and dog walkers, there’s no one anywhere. We can only hope that things will return at least a tiny bit to what they used to be a year ago. The consequences are already terrible. People are suffering from depression, and psych meds prescriptions are on the rise.

Let's help ghostwriters and respiratory therapists cure FEAR in the soul (in Slovak)

Consequences

While so far I have been describing how I perceive the problem of finding a meaningful relationship, now I would like to mention what the consequences are. Imagine scissors that are opening, more and more. At one end are women, at the other are men. We are moving away from each other.

We are already beginning to see the consequences. In Slovakia, more people have died in the past year than have been born. In the Western world it is similar. And as a result of this ambivalence, new ideological trends are beginning to emerge. I will introduce one now in more detail.

Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW)

Some articles I’ve read describe the above phenomenon to be a movement. However, I know something about it myself. In my opinion, it is an ideology. The gist of it is this: men are beginning to realize what an unequal game they are supposed to be playing. With 80 percent of women desiring the top 20 percent of men, many women have unrealistic ideas about a partner. To find partners, they need to look good, earn good money, dress well, have interesting hobbies… And if they’re lucky, they’ll find a girlfriend. People from the MGTOW community are very good at statistics and at justifying how something (doesn’t) work. They know that if they want to find a partner, they have to do relatively enough to do so. And they legitimately wonder what they gain by doing so… Sex? Friendship? Companionship? They figure that they can provide for most of their needs without a partner and live a happy life. Instead of a woman, they find friends, hobbies, get a dog… They just need a lot less money because they live alone. So they work much less, they are financially secure, and they are not left to do work they don’t enjoy. With a wife and kids, it’s a lot harder, although where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Many of the men who end up in MGTOW are divorced. They have lost everything. Wife, children, house, finances. And they resort to this solution. They just want to live their lives.

Personally, I see MGTOW as a consequence of what is happening, not the cause. These men were pushed to do this by society. I don’t think it’s a completely healthy approach. And you know what’s interesting? Neither do they. They know that MGTOW is harmful to society as a whole, but what matters to them is that they enjoy their lives as best they can. And on that, I am in agreement with them. Not all MGTOW men have cut themselves off from society. Some are still dating, but none of them want to enter into a long-term relationship or marriage.

However, I do like the fact that they don’t make it their goal to find a mate at any cost, and that all their efforts are not focused on that. Rather, they use the time to better themselves. They exercise, read a lot, build careers, run businesses, share their thoughts with others, for example via YouTube and so on. And I agree with them on this as well. Recently, I’ve been re-evaluating how I envision my relationship in the future. I’ve begun to adopt the belief that one should stand firmly on more than one foot. As long as there is only a man, a woman and possibly children in the relationship, if the relationship breaks down, they both go through tremendous trauma because they have lost one of their main pillars.

The way I’ve functioned for a long time is that I have a lot of friends, a big family, and most importantly, a lot of activities. I know what I want, I have my path, my vision, and I dedicate my efforts to implementing it. If I manage to woo a lady with this set of beliefs and she likes to share her life with me, I will be happy. Let’s compare it to a train… I am a train, heading towards my goals. If I find a girlfriend who is intrigued by those goals, she will get on my train. And if it turns out we are not meant for other, she’ll get off the train later. But I still have my goal, my vision, my background, my friends and family. If I changed my goals and subordinated them to someone else’s, my world would come crashing down if we happened to break up.

(Note: My cousin says that when you find yourself in a relationship, many of your priorities change. He may be partially right, but I know that even then I will have my vision and I will want to pursue it. It’s inside of me, it’s simply who I am.)

I think it’s right for people to have a firm vision in their lives. And I believe I can find someone who will share mine with me. And that I will share my partner’s vision too. You’re looking for a relationship for life, after all. That’s where you need to understand each other.

Cat Ladies

At the opposite end of MGTOW are the women who have been nicknamed “cat ladies.” That’s because they initially enjoyed life, and sometimes, when they were approached being forty, they thought it would be nice to settle down, too. However, at that age, it’s hard to find a mate, especially for a woman. Influenced by what I have described above, some of them, even at this age, still have too high expectations of their partners. As a result, they live alone or with their cats. Hence the label.

What to do about it?

No extremes are good. Unfortunately, we see them everywhere we look today. I don’t see a global solution to this problem at the moment. I’m too small of a cog for that. As for me, I’ll try to use the knowledge I have and at least try to find someone I get along with and start a family with. I realize that happiness comes mostly from within me, but a woman can bring something new and unique into my world. And I believe that I can offer her a lot too. Tough times are coming and I’d like to go through them with someone. However, when that doesn’t happen, life goes on. For now, I’ll try to keep my eyes open and see if I can find some opportunities to start an intimate relationship. And I will continue to work on myself and my vision. That’s what defines me, what fulfills me, and most of all, what I enjoy doing.

While this text may have sounded a bit pessimistic, let’s not forget that the future is still unwritten. We can still change everything. For example, let’s start by rethinking our own behavior and values. I’m already clear on this and I know I’ve inspired a few people close to me to do the same. I will be happy to debate this with you and I can even provide you with relevant resources if you want me to.

I wish us a bright future with someone we get along with. We only have one life.

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