Unless you were born a twin, you came into this world alone. And maybe that’s the right way to continue living in it. For these two writers, once the umbilical cord was cut, we never went back.
Luckily for those among us flying solo, a relatively new holiday called Singles Day has emerged as a codified anti-Valentine’s Day. Set on November 11th, the holiday’s date itself (11/11) is replete with the digit unfairly termed “the loneliest number.” The holiday’s Chinese name Guang Gun Jie, or “Bare Branch Day,” intends to frankly insinuate that people of single status will – put quite morbidly – be forever alone as “a bare branch” that fails to produce a family tree. Singles Day was conceived by Chinese university students in 1993 and has since inspired sparse bastions of youthful followers the world over to be proud of their single status, to celebrate rather than lament it.
We set out on the eve of Singles Day 2014 (and close to the imminent First Chance dance) to discover the value of being single on campus. For our research, we began where any good scientists would: on Yik Yak. We even attempted to do research on a neighboring market, but unfortunately MCLA’s Yik Yak feed was overflowing with posts about the recent closing of Friendly’s restaurant in North Adams. We asked, “Would you rather be single or dating someone at Williams? Why?” Responses included declarations that, “Long distance relationships are the bomb!” and profound insights, such as, “It mostly depends on the person you’re dating and how needy they are in terms of time.” This person strikes us as someone who would choose to take Psych 101 as a course because of the minimal time requirements. This person also strikes us as the type of person who would fail Psych 101. Given this person’s preference for minimal effort, we would recommend a body pillow.
To further understand the nature of romantic entanglements at the College, we then asked what the most important quality in a relationship is. Some responded legitimately, posting “trust,” “communication” and “faith” (quickly down-voted within four minutes), while cruder preferences for certain bodily proportions inevitably surfaced and were up-voted. It seems evident from our research that the student body’s confidence in any relationship status – single or otherwise – is insecure. Nonetheless, a few select students and even professors take this holiday and its message seriously.
Professor of Chinese Man He stated that it is important to emphasize that the holiday should not only be for people who are single. Rather, festive activities should include those who merely want to celebrate their independence. “You can have three different attitudes or ways of celebrating,” she said, “First, one could wholeheartedly celebrate alone and enjoy genuine alone time! Second, one could prepare to say ‘adieu’ to singledom by embarking on a new love life. Third, one could spend the day with friends, enjoying each other’s company and the excuse the holiday provides for some fun.” According to He, some common sights on 11:11 a.m. on Singles Day in China are students publicly announcing their single status via Facebook or confessing their love to those on whom they have secret crushes, and, at 11:11 p.m., going out to karaoke bars with friends or flooding out of the library at the stroke of 11 seconds past.
Contrary to what some may assume, appreciation of Singles Day and Valentine’s Day are not mutually exclusive. As Elowyn Pfeiffer ’18 expressed, she is elated there are now socially accepted, even designated opportunities not only to indulge in romantic sappiness, but also to be the one-woman-wolf-pack she was meant to be. “Ain’t gonna tie me down,” Pfeiffer said triumphantly, (referring to a potential Singles Day powerhouse anthem, “Tie Me Down,” by New Boyz). Pfeiffer continued, “I love Valentine’s Day because I love love. And Singles Day? Actually, now that I think about it, Singles Day doesn’t do that much for me, but more so just describes my current state. Well, Singles Day is a great reminder that I have exactly three months and three days to start laying the groundwork for Valentine’s Day.” Pfeiffer would like these writers to include that she is on the Facebook, Twitter and Williams Students Online. (Her request for us to include her number was denied.)
Observance of the occasion manifests in diverse and varied ways. Like mainstream Hallmark-ed holidays in the United States, Singles Day has become extremely commercialized in Mainland China; it has become the world’s most lucrative day of online shopping, even outpacing Black Friday. This year, Alibaba, the Chinese version of Amazon, grossed over two billion dollars in sales volume over the first hour and 11 seconds of the holiday. The online company expects to sell over 8.2 billion dollars total.
But let us at the College get back to the roots of this holiday and shun the corporate corrosion of the meaning behind Singles Day! All the single ladies and gents out there indeed should treat themselves; yet simultaneously consider the less superficial, consumer-based meaning of “treat yo’self.”
Perhaps students will take this opportunity to explore who they are and realize the benefits of being single are equally legitimate to those of being in a relationship. (The fact that you don’t have to wear deodorant is definitely among them.) For starters, you learn how to be self-sufficient. Not being able to conveniently depend on someone else challenges you to either look within or reach out to others, who can expand who you are in many unexpected ways. Sure, sometimes that means going to Tunnel City (or even Public) alone, but it gives you a unique opportunity to be observant and appreciative of things and people in this community of which you may not have previously.
The crux of Singles Day is the realization that being single does not denote any sense of absence or lacking. People should be equally happy to choose a life of singledom instead of seeing it as a purgatory. Far too often on this campus, the goal of a night out is to track down a paramour, and a night of simply meeting new people is considered incomplete. Singles Day asserts that significant others should be complements of individual happiness and not its constituents.
Is it a coincidence that First Chance is scheduled right after this sobering holiday? Who’s to say? The College is an incredible place to meet awesome people. It is times like First Chance when you get to take advantage of the opportunity presented, get to know more of those awesome people and dance like those people aren’t watching. Happy Singles Day, Williams College. Celebrate as you – and you alone – wish.