Why many: Don’t marry, live alone and decide not to have children
A veteran Bachelor at Heart
Tokai is fifty-two, and has never been married, or even lived with a woman. He lives in a two-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor of an elegant building in Tokyo. He takes cares of most household chores himself—cooking, laundry, ironing, cleaning—and the rest are handled by professional house cleaners who come twice a month. He’s basically a tidy person, so it’s not hard to keep his house clean. When necessary, he can cook up delicious cocktails, and manages to cook most dishes. Like most people who enjoy cooking, he spares no expense, so the dishes he prepares use the best ingredients and are always delicious.
He never felt he needed a woman around the house, never felt bored spending time alone, and hardly ever felt lonely sleeping by himself. Up to a certain point, that is. He’s a cosmetic plastic surgeon and runs the Tokai Beauty Clinic in Roppongi, which he inherited from his father. Naturally he has lots of opportunities to meet women. He isn’t what you would call handsome, but has decent features—he never once considered getting plastic surgery himself—and, as the clinic does very well, he receives a high salary. He is well brought up, with good manners and a keen interest in culture, never at a loss for conversational topics. He still has a full head of hair (though some gray is starting to show), and though he’s starting to put on weight, regular workouts at the gym help him maintain a youthful physique.
For some reason, ever since he was young, Tokai never wanted to get married and have a family. He was quite positive he wasn’t suited for married life. So, no matter how appealing the woman, if she was on the lookout for a permanent mate he kept his distance. As a result, most of the women he chose as girlfriends were either already married or had another primary boyfriend. As long as he maintained this arrangement, none of his partners had the desire to marry him. To put a finer point on it, Tokai was always a casual number-two lover, a convenient rainy-day boyfriend, or else a spare tire for a casual relationship. And truthfully, Tokai was in his element in this kind of relationship, which for him was the most comfortable way to be with women. Any other arrangement—the kind where the woman sought a real partner—made him uncomfortable.
It didn’t particularly bother him that these women made love to men other than him. Physical relations were, after all, just physical. As a doctor, this is what Tokai believed, and the women he dated felt the same. Tokai just hoped that when he was with a woman, she thought only of him. What she did or thought outside of their time together was her own business, not something for him to speculate about. Meddling in their lives outside the confines of their affair was out of the question. For Tokai, having dinner with these women, drinking wine with them, and talking together was a distinct pleasure. Sex was merely an added pleasure, but never the ultimate goal. What he sought most was an intimate, intellectual connection with a number of attractive women. What came after that just happened. Because of this, women found themselves naturally attracted to him, enjoyed spending time with him, and often took the initiative. Tokai sometimes thought he should have kept track of how many women he’d had this sort of relationship with over the course of nearly thirty years. But he was never all that interested in quantity. Quality of experience was the goal. And he wasn’t that particular about a woman’s physical appearance. As long as there wasn’t some major flaw that aroused his professional interest, and as long as her looks weren’t so boring as to make him yawn, that was enough. If you were worried about your looks, and had enough money saved up, you could alter your appearance pretty much any way you liked (as a specialist in that field, he knew of numerous remarkable examples). What he valued instead were bright, quick-witted women with a sense of humour. If a woman was very beautiful but had nothing to say, or no opinions of her own, Tokai became discouraged. No operation could ever improve a woman’s intellectual skills. Having a pleasant conversation over dinner with an intelligent woman, or lingering over small talk while holding one another in bed—these were the moments he treasured. But living alone after that and living it on his terms was what he enjoyed better —free from the burdens that accountable to a wife or family.
At the beginning of the Old Testament ─the beginning of the world─ God created the world one day at a time: First, the heavens and the earth; then, Water; then, Light; then, the Day and Night; Finally, Animals and Living species of every kind. After each creation, God declared: “It is good.” But this tone changed after one of God’s creation: Man (Adam). And for the first time, God pronounced the words “Not good”. He said: “It is ‘not good’ that the man should be alone”. To which He made Eve, and Adam was no longer on his own.
Then onwards, an invisible social agreement against living alone became norm to all men─ travelling from theology to philosophy to literature. But during the mid-20th Century everything changed.
The Living alone phenomena
Since the 1950’s, a large amount of people ─of different gender, age, religion and geographical settings have embarked on a journey of happy solo living. The main cause is yet to be discovered, but one that is palpable is
Broken marriage norms
In the past the chronology of one’s love life was well determined: You grow, marry young and part only at death. If death came early, you remarried; if it came late, you moved in with your family. Nowadays, we marry late. Then we divorce. And don’t remarry but stay single for as long as we live. Others live in cycles like: alone, together, together, alone again. Others just love being alone in perpetuity just like Tokai.
With the modern configuration of society and the way we are adapting to it, we are learning how to lead solo lives. In France for example, back in the 1950’s, only 22 % of French adults were single. Today, 50% of French adults are single. In Cameroonian most adults are single, or involved in serial dating. Or better still, unmarried until their late thirties. Solo dwellers have been noted to be mostly women. And this phenomenon of solo dwelling is mostly rife in urban areas.
Last year, I attended a wedding wherein the groom was 29 and bride 26 and the first comment from the priest was that they were a rare set of young couple. My mind was like: either this priest is new to the business officiating weddings, or people don’t marry in his church. Imagine living in a world where 29 and 26 are considered a young couple!
Moving back to Tokai, we might be wondering how he lived this life that we saw in the beginning; how did he survive the serial casual dating without getting his feelings hurt or being caught?
Never once did Tokai have any serious troubles with women, which was a good thing, because sticky emotional conflicts were definitely not for him. If, for some reason, the ominous dark clouds of impending friction appeared on the horizon, he knew how to skilfully back out of the relationship, careful not to aggravate things, and also careful not to hurt the woman. As a veteran bachelor he was well acquainted with the essential techniques. He broke off relations with his girlfriends on a pretty regular basis. Most of the women with other boyfriends would, at a certain point in the relationship, say, “I’m very sorry, but I can’t see you anymore. I’m getting married soon.” In most cases the decision to get married came just before they were about to turn thirty, or forty. Just like calendars that sell well at the end of the year. Tokai always took the news calmly, with a suitably rueful smile. It was a shame, but what could you do? Matrimony wasn’t for him, yet it was, in its way, a sacred institution, one that had to be respected. At those times he would buy the woman an expensive wedding present. “Congratulations on your marriage,” he’d tell her. “You’re such an intelligent, charming, lovely woman. I hope you are truly happy—you deserve to be.” And he really felt this way. These women had shared a precious portion of their lives with him and, out of what he hoped was genuine affection, provided him with some warm and wonderful times. For that alone he was grateful. What more could he ask of them? But nearly a third of these women who went off to tie the sacred matrimonial knot ended up, some years later, phoning Tokai and asking to see him again. And he was always happy enough to have a pleasant—and certainly not very sacred—relationship with them. They transitioned from a casual relationship between two singles to the more complex relationship between a single man and a married woman—which made it all the more enjoyable. What they actually did together was pretty much the same as before, although a bit more competently. The remaining two-thirds of the women who got married never got in touch, and he never saw them again. They were, he surmised, living happy, fulfilling married lives, as wonderful wives and, he imagined, with a couple of children. If that was the case, Tokai was happy for them. Fortunately, the husbands and lovers of his girlfriends never once discovered Tokai’s relationship with them, so he’d never experienced any major problems, nor was he put in awkward situations. He was a cautious, careful person and he warned his girlfriends to be equally discrete. He issues three key pieces of advice: take your time and don’t force things; don’t fall into predictable patterns; and when you do have to lie, make sure to keep it simple. That’s the secret to leading a solo life with multiple relationships. Unfortunately for Tokai, he fell in love with one of his multiple girls and his life took a different turn.
I think it is safe to conjecture that education, modernism and the pursuit of passion have a hand in solo dwelling. Dave Chappelle recently pointed out that: “people who live alone are more likely to stay that way”. But Sarah Silverman went a little further in her confession. Sarah made a very important confession on her Comedy Special: Hilarity for Charity, on the day of her 50th birthday, when she said, “I’m really gonna do it guys, I’m really gonna have no kids… I’m baby crazy, I love kids. But the only thing I love more than kids is doing what I love at all times”.
Guess what? She isn’t the only one to think that way. The pursuit of passion most times trump the burden of childbearing. Added to that, it’s a new trend that goes by the name intentionally childless.
The growth of Intentional childlessness
It is increasingly common to hear not only singles, but couples say, “We are married and choose not to have children”. In Genesis, God told the first couple to be fruitful and multiply. To increase greatly on earth. Well, today many people, sometimes married and capable of having children, choose not to. Corinne Maier, a strong advocate for intentional childlessness, and the French author of No Kids: 40 reasons for Not Having Children cited among the reasons for voluntary childlessness:
- Fears about being bad parents,
- Antinatalism: the belief that it is inherently immoral to bring people into the world. First, you don’t have the child’s consent to bring him/her to the world. Secondly, one should aspire to spare one’s child from the suffering of this world.
- Unwillingness to sacrifice one’s own spare time and freedom of movement to raising and looking after kids (E.g. Sarah Silverman)
- You lose your identity and become just “mum and “dad”
- Your sex life will be over
- Fear that one will not be able to love one’s child
- Belief that it is wrong to intentionally have a child when there are so many children available for adoption.
- Climate change and human overpopulation.
I found it quite comical that Corinne Maier a wife and mother of two authored such a book.
While researching this topic of solo living, my initial impulse was that: This is a thing of the West. I didn’t think Africans are part of the movement. Well, I was wrong. I’ve spoken to many a friend who aspire to lead solo lives. Ideologies have a funny way of creeping into our world, especially when we aren’t paying attention. Our world is changing and keeping up with the trends isn’t possible. Nonetheless, among those who live such a life, there are those who end up in regrets. One of which was Dr Tokai
Love the antidote to solo-life
Tokai’s so-called lucky life ran for thirty years. A long time, when you think about it. But one day, quite unexpectedly, he fell deeply in love. Like a clever fox suddenly finds itself caught in a trap. The woman he fell in love with was sixteen years younger than him, and married. Her husband, two years her senior, worked for a foreign IT company, and they had one child. A five-year-old girl. She and Tokai had been seeing each other for a year and a half.
Dr Tokai at dinner once asked his friend: “Have you ever tried really hard not to love somebody too much?”. “I don’t think I have,” his friend replied.
Tokai’s strategy —to fall out of love, or less deep in love— was to intentionally think negative thoughts about her as much as he could. He mentally listed as many of her defects as he could come up with—her imperfections. And he repeated these over and over in his head like a mantra, convincing himself not to love this woman more than he should. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working. First of all, he couldn’t come up with many negative things about her. And there’s the fact that he found even those negative qualities attractive. This was the first time in his life that he had ever had these kind of senseless feelings. Dr Tokai went in to tell his friend, “One huge problem is that the more I get to know her, the more I love her. We’ve gone out for a year and a half, but right now I’m even more entranced than I was at the beginning. It feels like our hearts have become intertwined. Like when she feels something, my heart moves in tandem. Like we’re two boats tied together with rope. Even if you want to cut the rope, there’s no knife sharp enough to do it. I’ve never experienced this—ever. And it scares me. If my feelings for her get even stronger, what in the world’s going to happen to me?”.
Not long after that something strange happened. What happened can only be explained by his secretary, who was the one in charge of his every plan and responsible for scheduling his dates. What happened to Tokai goes thus
“The first thing I noticed was that he stopped eating lunch. Before that he always ate something, every day, even something simple. He was very particular about making sure he ate, no matter how busy work was. But at a certain point he stopped eating lunch altogether. ‘Won’t you have something?’ I’d urge him, and he’d say, ‘Don’t worry, I’m just not hungry.’ This change concerned me. He was not the kind of person who liked to alter his day-to- day habits. He valued regularity above all. Before I realized it, he stopped going to the gym, too. He always went three times a week to swim, and do strength training, but suddenly he seemed to have lost interest. And he stopped paying attention to his appearance. He’d always been a neat, stylish man, but he became a sloppy dresser. He started wearing the same clothes day after day. And he seemed lost in thought and grew quiet. At a certain point, he hardly said a word, and half the time it was as though he was in a daze. When I spoke to him he didn’t seem to hear me. And he stopped seeing women in his free time. Seeing these ladies was an important daily event. The source of his energy. Cutting them out all of sudden wasn’t normal. Fifty-two isn’t too old for that.
As for the lady he had fallen in love with, it got deeper. He had gotten deeply involved with her. It was no longer a casual affair. Something very serious had happened between the two of them, and whatever it was caused him to lose the will to live. I tried phoning that woman’s home. Her husband answered. I told him I needed to talk with her about an appointment she’d made at our clinic, but he said she no longer lived there. Where should I phone to get in touch with her? I asked, and he said, very coldly, that he had no idea. And he hung up. Long story short, I was able to track her down. She had left her husband and child, and was living with another man. She had a third man. I don’t know all the particulars, but he seems to have been younger than her. This is just my own opinion, but I got the sense that he wasn’t exactly the kind of man you’d admire. She’d run away from home to elope with him. Dr. Tokai turned out to be just a convenient stepping stone and nothing more. She used him. There’s evidence he spent quite a lot of money on her. I got lawyers involved and they checked his bank balances and credit card accounts, and this became clear. He probably spent all that money buying expensive gifts for her. Or maybe he loaned her money. There’s no clear evidence that shows exactly how the funds were used, and the details remain unclear, but what we know is that he withdrew a significant amount of money over a short period of time. If that woman had told him ‘I decided I can’t leave my husband and child, so I have to break up with you,’ then I think he could have stood it. He loved her more than he had ever loved anybody before, so of course he would have been devastated, but I doubt it would have driven him to death. As long as it all makes sense, no matter how deep you fall, you should be able to pull yourself together again. But the appearance of a third man, and the realization that he’d been used, was a shock he couldn’t recover from.
As the saying goes he who lives by the sword, will die by the sword. Well, he who lives through cheating will die through cheating or by being cheated on.
The rise of living alone has changed the way we understand ourselves and our most intimate relationships. It shapes the way we build our cities and develop our economies. It alters the way we become adults, as well as how we age and the way we die. It touches every social group and nearly every family, no matter who we are or whether we live with others today.
If the piece seems convoluted, sorry. I just wish it serves as a cautionary tale for the seductive nature of solo living.
Thanks for reading.
Verberi Leslie Micheal