'Solo,' by Peter McGraw: An Excerpt
Peter McGraw is a marketing professor, behavioral economist, author — and card-carrying bachelor. Drawing from academic studies and from his own personal insights, McGraw provides a refreshing guide to relationships based on the "solo" movement, which is the belief in pursuing a satisfying life with fulfilling relationships when marriage is NOT the end game. This excerpt from his new book, Solo, is a sample of his lively narrative voice and sense of humor.
I’m Peter McGraw. Twenty years ago, I celebrated my bachelor party. Fifteen friends visited my new home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to wish me hearty congratulations. I was a thiry-four year old behavioral scientist and new professor at University of Colorado Boulder. It was Family Weekend at the university and hotel rooms were scarce, so I rented out my neighbors’ apartments for a weekend of hiking, tailgating, poker, Wiffle ball, and the obligatory bar crawl. Speeches were given. Glasses clinked. Backs were slapped.
There was just one hitch. I wasn’t getting hitched. With no fiancée or love interest to speak of, I threw myself a bachelor party.
Married people celebrate their relationship in numerous ways: engagement parties, wedding showers, rehearsal dinners, weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries, and, of course, bachelor parties. I thought, Who made the rule that you need to marry to celebrate your singlehood?
The invitation promised my friends they could “skip my real bachelor party—should I ever have one.”
The attendees made the right choice. I never married. Never will.
At the time of the party, I had harbored doubts about matri- mony for more than half my life. The question came up at my high school lunch table one day: “When will you get married?”
When, not if.
My pimply friends tasked with determining our destiny were in consensus: “Soon after college.” Their answers were in line with the norms of the day. The average age of first marriage was twenty-five, our parents became parents by thirty, and the only bachelor I knew in my New Jersey neighborhood was George, a thirty-something neighbor who grew weed and drove a Trans Am.
I wanted to tell the table that we were getting way ahead of ourselves. “Rather than thinking about finding a wife, maybe you fools should try a little harder in home economics? Besides, none of us have even touched a boob.” Instead, I chickened out and answered, “Not 'til after I’m thirty.”
At sixteen, my less-than-enthusiastic response about marriage was justified given my less-than-stellar childhood. My parents failed to find the “happily ever after” promoted by the number one television show of the day: The Cosby Show. Dad was no Heathcliff; he was absent and struggling with alcoholism. Mom was far from Clair; she was angry and struggling to keep the lights on. They divorced when I was nine and my sister was seven.
With your friends, family members, and colleagues coupling up and settling down, you may sometimes feel like the only single person you know. An outcast. However, demographers are paying keen attention to the rise in the number of people staying single across the globe. One hundred twenty-seven million adults in the United States are single. That’s nearly one in two adults. If singles are outcasts, they are the new in-group.
Am I the ideal guide for this rather personal, even controversial, journey? Nope. I have had sloppy one-night stands and bad breakups that I regret. My personality and opinions are not for everyone. My friend Julie tells her friends who are about to meet me, “My friend Peter is going to be there. He’s not for everyone.” Despite my own personal growth and professional perspective, I still have the limited experience of being a straight, white, middle-aged American male who went to college, grad school, and works in the insular world of academia.
Fortunately, I have an amazing, diverse group of friends, experts, lovers, colleagues, and Solo community members who contribute to my perspective. They challenged me to grow. You will meet some of them—some in the form of Solo Love Letters throughout the book. I thank them for their generosity.
Despite my flaws and rough edges, I am here to guide you along your journey—from single to remarkable Solo.
Let’s get started!
Excerpted from Solo: Building a Remarkable Life Of Your Own by Peter McGraw, available now wherever books are sold. Copyright © 2024 Peter McGraw. Printed with permission of the publisher, Diversion Books. All rights reserved.