MCs Enrich The Lives Of Singles
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Number of families: 8
Total number of children: 0
Number of adults: 12
Total number of individuals: 12
b. 29m, 28f
d. 27m, 27m, 25m
e. 26m, 26f
Economic factors: lower middle
I'm Joe. I'm 29. I'm single and I live alone in an apartment in this medium-sized city. I've lived here for several years, including while I went to college and while I put in two years of work. Then I travelled for a year and came back here to live here because I like it better than most places I've been.
My parents and older sister and brothers all live about 100 miles north in the big city where I grew up. Here, I'm far enough away from them to not feel too obligated to see them much, but near enough so I can be there at holidays and other family gatherings, or if I just feel like it.
I have a pretty good job working in the technical department of a computer store. I've fixed my apartment up pretty nicely—it's not fancy or big. But I'm comfortable. I have a few friends in town. Some of them are old college buddies. I've also met a few people I like at work. I date a couple of different girls. As for my girlfriends and most of my friends, most of us feel too uncertain to settle down into any committed relationships. We're all trying to figure out what we want to do about our own lives. So we get together and party or go to a game or watch one on TV. Sometimes we go to movies.
I do spend a lot of time alone. . And with a pretty full work week, the only time I have to be with other people is evenings and weekends. And it seems like a lot of that time is taken up with miscellaneous household projects, working out, or just plain spacing out in front of the TV because I'm tired from a day at work. Sometimes I dink around with Facebook or other social networks. But I find that virtual relating isn’t really relating, so it gets old pretty fast. It seems that most of the people I'd like to be with are busy with their own plans. We play a lot of telephone tag, missing communications with each other because of skewed schedules, or just missing getting together because of the way everyone makes plans—most of which are not very well thought out, even with trying to announce plan desires on social networks, most of the opportunities are missed.
Also, none of my friends live very near me, so when we do get together, there's always one-half hour or more devoted to getting there and getting back. Even in a medium-sized city like this, there's still plenty of commute time.
I don't know anyone in my apartment building. Sure, I see them around, at the laundry, or in the halls. But no one seems to be very interested in getting to know their neighbors. Does everyone think that no one is interested in knowing them? Or are they truly without interest in anyone else? Whichever it is, the end result is the same: No one gets to know anyone.
I have a couple of married friends who have kids. And boy, are they busy! We can get together only on a rare Saturday night. Other times they're busy feeding kids, bathing kids, taking kids here or there, staying home with sick kids, doing things with their extended family—you name it. I truly believe that unless I do the same marriage-and-family-and-settle-down-thing, that I will continue to have less and less in common with some of these friends, and will eventually have no interest whatsoever in being with them. It gets really old hearing about their kids over and over. It's not that I don't like kids, but it seems that since my friends have had kids, they don't exist any more. Their lives aren't their own. Everything centers on the kids. If I did the family thing, it's not that I'd be able to spend any more time with these friends—less if anything—but we'd have more in common, and I could relate better to what's going on with them. But it wouldn't enhance our friendship. Sometimes they sound so depressed. And I don't know what to say. And I think they resent what they call my "freedom."
But I wouldn't exactly call it freedom. Sure, I don't have any ongoing personal obligations to other individuals in my life. I can do as I please. But I don't feel terribly free. Although I can theoretically get together with anyone I want to, it's not all that easy. Everyone that I already know is into their own little world and their own little soap operas; and it's tough to get together for any more than superficial relating. It's really hard to meet new people. Where does one go? I don't like to hang out in bars or take classes that I'm not really interested in. And even so, there's too much pot luck in such efforts. What are the chances that I'd meet someone in a bar or in a class, or at the grocery store, for that matter, that I'd really be able to cultivate a great relationship with?
So I plod along, and hang out with my friends when we can manage to get together. I spend lots of time alone. I read a lot, fool around on the computer. And I don't often feel lonely, although I am alone a great deal of the time. I guess I'd like to feel more connected to more people—connected in a way that was meaningful. I'm not looking for sex or romance—although I like those too. I'm looking for something that can last, can cross the barriers of family and individual, and can be fun, too.
Life seems out of balance. I'm a capable individual. I have a reasonable amount to offer other people. But can I only do that if I get married and make babies? (And, if my married friends are any sort of example, that would only lead to being overly busy and exhausted, but discontent.) Am I only allowed to select one other being out of the whole world to relate to, and if I want to relate to any others, do I need to create them in the form of babies? No wonder the world is so overpopulated!
Well, you've heard my story, which is really more my history. Because my story has changed a LOT in the last three years. I've lived in an MC for about three years now, and if my life was kind of grey and dismal before, it's white and shining now!
I'll describe my lifestyle. I live in an apartment-style MC. There are twelve people in the MC and all are (what I would call) young adults. We're from 24 to 29 years old, and there are no children. I guess it's kind of a small MC. I know people who have 35-people MCs and I've heard of one that has 65 people! For the 12 of us, there are eight households. Five of us live alone (4 females, 1 male [me]), there are two couples, and one apartment has three male roommates. We all live on one floor of an apartment building. There is one extra apartment on the floor which we all share the rent and responsibility for, and we use it for our common area. It's become a favorite spot because a lot of creative activities go on there. We play music, have MC meetings, learn P.E.T. communication, and invent intriguing ways to interest other people in MC-enhanced lifestyles.
So let me tell you how we all got here. Well, my friend Joanne, who was a pretty good friend whom I'd known from college, called me one day and told me I had to see this movie about MCs. Well, I'd heard of that movie, and in fact, I had just picked up the novel that afternoon. So I told her I'd be reading it (I was thinking to myself that I didn't really want to go to the movie alone; and she'd already gone—and all the hassle it would be to find someone else to go with, etc., etc.—so I would just read it). But as I made my excuses, she said that it was the best movie that she'd seen in her whole life, and she planned to see it many times, and would go with me. In fact, she was trying to get several of us together to go right away. She said it was very important.
Well, I like a good movie. But this one was something else. And as we walked out of the theater, I suddenly understood why so many people were moving these days. The real estate market was crazy. Tons of houses were for sale, and people were trading apartments for some reason that was unfathomable to me—until after the movie. Well, the movie (and of course, I immediately devoured the novel) changed my life, and within months I was living in an MC-enhanced lifestyle.
It turns out that our MC formed in a slightly different way than some others I know about. Although I registered in the MC database and got in contact with some local MC aspiring people, and had filled out the questionnaire in the database and all, I kept talking with several of my friends about it. We'd end up getting together, and we'd keep saying, "we really ought to meet some new people so we can start an MC . . . " Well, suddenly one of us realized that we already had the people for a small MC, and we laughed a lot about that. So then our experiences changed entirely; we got serious. We talked and figured out how we were going to put ourselves into the same apartment building and start our MC.
Some of us had lived in proximity during college, so it was like going back to something we had once thought of as only temporary, improving on it, and making it permanent. I think the movie and everything that was happening with so many people in our community simply gave us permission to do what we really wanted: live near each other, have connected, solid, meaningful relationships, and yet still maintain our individuality and independence.
So we started getting serious about moving into the same apartment building. In fact, we didn't even do the long-distance, PSB-communication, pre-moving trial that was recommended. We were all eager to go right ahead with the new lifestyle enhancement, and since we had all known each other for such a long time, we felt that we didn't need a long-distance trial MC.
Since so many people were moving around, it wasn't hard to find an apartment building that we liked, with one floor the right size, that we could call our own. We were all pretty open about living arrangements while we hunted down a place. The two couples wanted to have their own apartments, of course. But most of the rest of us were willing to be roommates or live alone, AS LONG AS WE EACH HAD our all-important INDIVIDUAL SPACE. So we found our new place. Nine apartments, one for our "hub," one huge one that was big, even for three guys, and perfect ones for the rest of us. It didn't take too long for all of us to move in. The people in the building were eager to sublet or give up their leases (if they had them) so that they could move to their own MCs.
It seemed the whole city was in a state of shuffle. But people were excited. People were helping people, helping others move truckloads of their stuff, even when they didn't know them. This whole city felt, to those of us who were in the midst of it, like the world was transforming. It was amazing.
The first thing we did after we were all individually settled was set up our custom PSBs so we could access them from our computers, tablets and smart phones. PSBs are so great, so simple. As I look back, even without an MC, if I had been connected to just a few friends by a PSB, my life would have been a lot nicer. I think that most single people would often like to get together with others, but they often get the desire at the last minute, and assume that everyone is already busy with previous plans. So they don't even try. Back to the TV wasteland instead.
Just to look at a PSB status board and learn that someone's open, or wants to go for a walk or shop makes me feel connected to them. I can almost get to know someone by watching how their status changes over a period of time. I learn about their interests, how often they want to be alone, when they are out working, how often they want to get together with others for various reasons. And they're learning about me, too. And that feels nice.
I'd like to tell you about one of the most eye-opening PSB-related experiences I've had here. I asked Melissa's permission to relate this story, and she's happy to have me tell it.
Melissa is someone that I've known since college. But I didn't really know her well. We never dated or anything, but we would often end up at the same parties or social functions. We had a lot of the same friends. So we just kind of knew each other that way. Melissa is a beauty. She's got a great body, and a beautiful face framed by gorgeous blond hair. When she dresses up, she looks like she must be a movie star or model; she's just that attractive. She turns heads when she walks down the street.
Although those types of attributes are awarded high value in our culture, they often create serious identity problems for the individual who possesses them, and they tend to act as barriers between the possessor and those she would cultivate as her friends or boyfriends. And Melissa had a lot of those barriers.
In fact, initially when Melissa was part of our MC, she was pretty much part of it in name only. She would work during the day and have dates all the rest of the time. I mean it—every weeknight, both weekend days, and every other minute she wasn't working. She'd come to MC meetings, but she really wasn't a part of anything else around here. She did keep the basic MC agreements, and keep up with whatever MC responsibilities she had agreed to take on. But that was about it.
I never thought of dating Melissa. All those years I knew her, she was simply "out of my league"—whatever that means. She's the type you watch and wonder about. But not the type you approach. And you would envy the guys she went out with because you still wondered what she was really like, and you figured that they knew.
Well, after several months of watching Melissa's whirlwind lifestyle, I noticed something different about her PSB status (which usually indicated "out on date"): For about two months straight, her status said "alone." I watched this with interest. I'd see her at the MC meetings, and she was her usual friendly self. But the rest of the time she was "at work" or "alone." I found this fascinating, and was curious as hell about what was going on. I guess that's what it was about Melissa. She was intriguing no matter what she was doing. She was intriguing because she was unapproachable socially. And now she was intriguing because she stayed alone most of the time (still unapproachable). I was guessing all over the place what might be going on: I figured that someone she'd been dating had asked her to marry him, and she was trying to decide; I also figured that she'd broken up with someone that she really liked and was upset about that; I thought maybe someone had died that she was really close to. I made a lot of guesses, and none of them came close to what was really going on.
One evening I found out. Melissa's code said: "feelings, need help." Now remember, I had had 11 months of MC life by this time. Melissa really hadn't had any. I was used to getting together with people and talking about really important stuff. I already had really meaningful relationships with just about everyone in my MC, except Melissa, and I was quite used to being there when someone needed help with feelings. We were all very close, except with her. So I was comfortable with the idea of being there for her and at the same time, quite eager to go to her. But as much as I was in an MC mode (or mood), my "normal" heart was thumping with "maybe it's my turn." (I really laugh when I read this, because it seems so absolutely hysterically funny, given what my relationship is with Melissa now. Melissa thinks it's funny, too.)
So, I sauntered over to Melissa's apartment and knocked. (Her alone sign was down.) After adjusting both of our codes, we sat down and started talking and I met a new person. Actually, I met Melissa, for the first time. And my "maybe it's my turn" feelings flew out the window after a few minutes of listening to her (not without a bit of a struggle, I must admit). I learned how Melissa's life had been—really been for her—not what she did, not how she looked, not how many boyfriends were pursuing her, but how it felt to be the "ice queen" (her definition), attracting everyone, but getting close to no one. She was always bored with everyone because she couldn't open up, and no one dared be vulnerable around her. The ice-olated ice queen had no friends. Men couldn't get close to her, and all the females she knew would mostly gawk at her and never open up or be a friend to her either. They were so jealous of how she looked. They'd do anything just to hang out with her, including pretending to be her friend. Because they'd do anything for their own reputations—it wasn't because they liked her or liked being with her.
So Melissa's life was vacuous. She was a smart person, but spent so much energy attracting every Tom, Dick, and Harry that she didn't leave any time for anything that really interested her. She didn't even have time to THINK about what interested her. And the worst thing about it all was that the woman didn't even really know herself.
She knew the MC was the right lifestyle change to make. But she didn't know what to do once she got into it. She told me that she didn't know how to be friends with people, and that she was really scared, and that's why she had been having more dates than ever since she moved into the MC.
But she'd been watching the rest of us in the MC. Even the little time that she was around us, unbeknownst to the rest of us, she carefully observed the transformation of our relationships. How we were playful together, and caring; serious about each other, and the world. She liked what she saw, but she felt awful. She felt horribly left out, and didn't know how to be in. In fact, she admitted, she'd felt left out all of her life. She felt like she'd been born frozen in an ice cube and lived inside it; she saw everyone through it; no one could touch her, and she couldn't touch anyone either.
Mostly I just listened to Melissa that night. I held her a couple of times while she cried and felt like I had a fragile child in my arms. I don't think (and she later confirmed this) that she had ever talked to anyone in her entire life about how she really felt about herself and her life. She admitted that she had never really had a friend. I told her that I was her friend, and that everyone in the MC was ready to be her friend. We were all patiently waiting until she was ready. I also told her that we had often talked about her and concerned ourselves about how to reach out to her, and had realized that we had to wait until she was ready. Well, this brought another flood of tears. I guess Melissa never had actually thought about whether we cared about her or not. We later invited everyone who was still awake over to her place to be with the new Melissa.
To sum up the Melissa episode, the advent of the MC has allowed a fine—but lonely—woman to find closeness, openness, and friendship, and the PSB facilitated the breakthrough process greatly by allowing her to express her feelings in general without forcing her to confront forming a real relationship first as a prerequisite to expressing real feelings.
Needless to say, we use our status board a LOT in our MC. In most families, I think that people wouldn't be using the PSB as much or in the same way as we do because everyone in that family is in the same house or apartment. But because several of us have our own apartments, the PSB is even more important. For example, if you live in a "normal" family, you come home from work and you see what people are into. Someone might be fixing dinner (and you already know there will be some for you); someone else might be working on a project; someone else might want to do some errands in the late afternoon, and is about to leave. In my MC, I use my PSB to learn all those things because I live alone. So, if I want to run errands with someone, or share dinner with someone, I can do it, but I learn of the possibilities from the PSB, not by knocking on doors, or something silly like that.
So we've customized our PSB codes to be appropriate to how we want to relate to each other, and generally to what our interests are. With so many possibilities (in addition to the standard ones), we've still got a lot of blanks. We want to leave some space for new ideas. For example, several of us like to run. So we have two "Run" statuses: "morning run" and "after-work run." That way we can run with company if we want to, which is more safe and secure for all of us, and more fun. It sure helps me on those days when I might skip my run if I didn't know I'd also be with my friends.
I see our type of MC as different from family-oriented MCs in a few ways. For example, since several of us live alone, it wouldn't make sense for one person to have a "family" meeting (his or her household only) when there are issues or problems to deal with. So, our primary relationships are among our MC friends and most of our meetings are with the whole MC. In a family-oriented MC you have several families forming the MC, so if, for example, there are communication problems in a family, the family would have a meeting and work it out; it wouldn't involve the whole MC. If we have a communication problem, it's going to be an MC matter because the MC is our family. I guess what I'm saying is that in family-oriented MCs there are usually two levels of relationships: family relationships and MC relationships. In our MC the two types of relationships are really the same.
Now, before you start getting the idea that we're a "commune" or something, let me assure you that we're far from it. As much as I am describing the solidarity and new connectedness, and family-like communications, on the other side of that are a lot of differences among all of us. Most of the time we go our separate ways doing our various jobs or going to school. We all have friends and other interests outside our MC. But we do have a whole new way of being "at home" even though "at home," if you're inside my apartment, looks exactly the same as it did before I joined an MC. The bottom line? Since I moved into my MC, I'm no longer isolated.
It's been three years, and for most of that our MC has felt like a family. We have learned to really be there for each other, nurture each other in ways we were never nurtured by our own parents. And it works because we have lots of resources for each other. Not one answer, but 11 answers to any one individual's needs. It feels like we've raised ourselves like we should have been raised as children, and have learned to help fill each other's needs. In fact, just in the last couple of months we have been discussing forming traditional families centered upon married couples, and having children in our MC. I think we are all secure enough; we have learned what true intimacy is, and we know what's personally important in our lives. As a result of our closeness, emotional maturity, and the wonderful success of our P.E.T.-styled relating, we are ready to start raising new beings, and we are doing more than ever to bring MC lifestyles to more places in the world.