July 20, 2019

The Not So Lonely Life of a Single Person

“To love is no easy task. An abundance of literature and pop culture warns us of its trickiness, and often, personal experience emphasizes the point. We love, when people are disagreeable and obnoxious; when our feelings are unrequited; and when our affections are diminished, or worse, scorned as criminal. We love, when doing so drags us to the very edges of ourselves, leaving us ragged and wrung out like old cloth. Loving is hard, and perhaps what makes it hardest is its fundamental paradox: that it is also easy, so easy that we struggle to stop, even when we are desperate to do so, and even when it’s in our best interest.

Throughout the course of her debut essay collection, Hard to Love, Briallen Hopper contemplates this thorny and capacious emotion from the position of someone whose love life defies traditional conceptions of the term: It is nourishing, brimming, but wholly untethered to sexual romance. These essays trace the specifically knotted, yet exuberant experience of living in the world as a single woman, whose intellectual passions both brought her into the fold of the Ivy League and then, for years, entangled her within academia’s particular variety of elite financial and professional precarity. She proudly wears the mantle of “spinster”—“It’s the spinsters who made me,” she proclaims—and ushers us, sometimes dreamily, other times with searing attention, into a personal narrative about her life amid a mutually supportive “found family” and intimate friends.

Although Hard to Love covers diverse territory, Hopper’s primary concern is to understand what it means to be a single woman who has built a life, predominantly, through close friendships with other women. Her history and milieu, we learn, is deeply feminine: She was raised among five siblings, four of them sisters, collectively the “formerly homeschooled children of religious hippies.” Although Hopper lovingly sustains these familial bonds, she moves from the Pacific Northwest, where she was raised, to the East Coast, in search of some distance from her snug but fraught home. After breaking up with her graduate school boyfriend, she stopped actively dating and began to seek out other possibilities for mutual care.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."

"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."

"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."

"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."

"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."

"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."

"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."

"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."

"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."

"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."