Celibacy: Everyday Presentations

Mon, 18 Dec 1995 09:15:58 CST

Donna Lanclos points to the potentially insulting nature of my typology.
The topic is an inherently sensitive one, which is why we don't
ordinarily ask people directly why they are not married (or, for that
matter, why they *are* married). From the standpoint of a homosexual
individual in--or seeking--a serious relationship, I can see how
defining "spouse" as a legally wedded partner of the opposite sex would
be insulting. Yet the method of allowing one's subjects to define the
terms of one's study is a poor alternative (unless of course the goal is
simply to discover the range of variability in folk definitions). I
just realized that there is another very common everyday explanation:
divorce or death. An example: "Why is Mr X single?" "Didn't you know?
His wife passed away last year." Or, "He and his wife broke up last
year." Note that there is a vague time limit on such explanations;
probably few listeners would find these answers acceptable, without
elaboration, if the time specified were "ten years ago" instead of "last
year." --Bob Graber