The hand that rocks the ladle
I’m a 57-year-old twice-divorced man. Though I never wanted to get to a point where romance wouldn’t be in my big picture, I’m feeling done with it. I’ve replaced dating and getting married again with gourmet cooking for one. I’m really enjoying it, but it worries me. Is it okay to be done? -- Single and Culinary
Well, according to some research, married people do live longer. However, that’s sometimes just because they were unsuccessful at killing each other.
There’s this notion that your life is pretty much a black chasm of nothingness if you’re without a “significant other.” Psychologist Bella DePaulo blames this thinking on what she calls “the cult of the couple.” DePaulo, who researches the elements of being satisfyingly single, marvels at “the strange implication” (in a paper by noted marriage researchers) “that people without a stable sexual relationship are wandering adrift with open wounds and shivering in their sleep.”
Though we humans evolved to be interdependent -- people who need people -- we don’t have to be sleeping with those people on the reg for them to count. In fact, having good friends and close acquaintances you can rely on is associated with a whole bunch of physical and mental health benefits, including better cardiovascular health, increased happiness and decreased stress and depression.
Interestingly, research increasingly suggests that providing social support may be even better for you than getting it -- psychologically and physically. A study co-authored by psychiatrist Randolph Nesse on elderly people who regularly did generous acts for others in their lives is one of a number that find an association between being a “giver” and increased life expectancy. Conversely, Nesse theorizes that the rising tide of depression in our society has roots in how disconnected many of us are, leading to a deficit in the level of kindness we evolved to give and receive.
Well, you’re set up perfectly to extend yourself for others -- like by handing them a plate of your gourmet chow. Consider using your newfound love of cooking to bring a social circle together around your dining room table. Invite friends over every Friday or so to dine or even help you make dinner. The cool thing is, before they arrive, nothing’s stopping you from whispering the same seductive thing you would to a woman: “So ... what are you wearing?” The turkey: “The same little paper socks you put on me an hour ago, stupid.”