Living in Interesting Times

Friday, May 27, 2005

On Einstein Mathematics

I just got back from the wedding of two very close friends. They got married in Tiberius on Lag BaOmer. The wedding was both beautiful and fun. I caught up with many friends that I haven’t seen for ages. Generally a great event and I couldn’t be happier for M and D. Mazal Tov to them both. There was just one thing that niggled at me. In his speech the groom quoted Albert Einstein “One plus one equals one, two minus one is nothing”. Now this is a lovely sentiment of partnership for a newly married couple, but what does it say to those of us who are single? That we are nothing? I know this was not what the groom intended (M and D couldn’t be further from Bridget Jones’ ‘smug marrieds’) but it is out there.

Single people – not all, but many – live with this sense of incompleteness – that they are somehow not really worth anything as long as they are single. Often we blame the ‘smug marrieds’, our parents, or society in general for placing this pressure upon us. But I think in truth that many of us collude in it. It isn’t others who say we are not worth anything – we believe it ourselves. In my case I have fulfilled my ambition in moving away from my home and family to Israel, and making my life here. Making a good life here. This is no small thing. I put myself through a demanding professional course, paying my own way and now I have a job that I love and that I am good at. A job that fulfils me. I work in my chosen field and am a professional success. I have a good home situation, an apartment I love, and good friends…and yet…and yet…

There is something missing. When I compare myself to old school friends who have got married I feel in some ways like a failure. I know not all singles feel this way – but I also don’t think I am alone. I am proud of what I have achieved but I am also lonely and – well lets face it – incomplete.

I guess I resent M’s statement in his wedding speech because it taps into a fear that I have about myself. As long as I am single am I really nothing? I know that isn’t true but the fear is always there. On the way up to the wedding a friend and I were discussing Yehuda Amichai’s famous poem ‘Tourists’. In it he criticises the insensitive tourists who see stones and not people. Her comment was that despite this Amichai somehow colludes with them. His criticism masks his envy.
Like many single people I deeply resent comments like ‘two minus one is nothing’ because I am not nothing – and yet I can’t help colluding with the sentiment. I too want to be a ‘two’ - and being a ‘one’ doesn’t seem to be enough.


  • You make a very good and brave point. I wish that you become a "2" very soon if it is what will make you happy. It sounds as if you are making the most of your single life in the interim- remember to enjoy yourself!

    By Blogger Dark Horse, at 4:19 PM  

  • I am the "M" of "M and D" - just to clarify: Einstein's quote was "In the arithmetic of Love, One plus one = one and two minus one is nothing." I think that the addition of the "in the arithmetic of love" changes it. Einstein (and therefore I) was talking about a particular context - when two people are in love, and was talking about a purely emotional state, not one in which someone's worth is valued. As a close friend of the author of the blog, I know that she does not for one moment think that I value her contribution to our interesting society in interesting times any less because she is uncoupled!

    By Anonymous M, at 8:56 PM  

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