All parents can be embarrassing, but perhaps none more of late than Ike Lochte, mother of Olympian swimmer Ryan Lochte. Poor Ike set off a media firestorm last week when, while trying to explain that her 28-year-old son is too busy to have a girlfriend, said that he “goes out on one-night stands.”
Well, that’s not quite what she meant, Ike and her son later clarified — he dates, but he doesn’t sleep around. But the fuss over her comment and its underlying assumption — that there must be something wrong with him because, busy or not, he “should” have a girlfriend — got me thinking about the work of Bella DePaulo, author of numerous books on the single life, including Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.
Not only did the stink over his alleged one-night stands deem him a player and perhaps someone unable to commit, but it also spoke to a deeper societal belief — that casual sex isn’t really OK, something’s wrong with you if you don’t want a boy/girlfriend, and only relationships are “normal,” and thus “better,” than being single and just casually dating.
Girlfriend, good. Casual sex, bad.
It reminds me of what DePaulo calls matrimania, our current over-the-top hyping of marriage and coupling (and let’s not forget the baby bump insanity that can either come before or after the Big Day). Society appears to be uncomfortable with people who prefer to go solo, whether permanently or temporarily, even if it works well in their life like while, say, they’re training for the Olympics. I guess the thinking is, why would anyone chose to be alone? >
At 28, when many Millennial men are choosing to marry, Lochte is instead choosing to focus on his swimming — his career — which will guarantee him big bucks in the future and that will no doubt make him much more attractive to a woman who wants to marry a successful man (read: rich).
Some news stories focused on the fact that, although single at this year’s Olympics, Lochte had a girlfriend the last time he went to the Olympics, as if trying to prove to us that, yes, he can commit!
Of course his statement about having a girlfriend at the Beijing Olympics probably didn’t win him any fans: “My last Olympics, I had a girlfriend — big mistake. Now I’m single, so London should be really good. I’m excited.” Did he mean he that his girlfriend at the time was jealous and there was drama, or did he mean that he would have rather have been banging other hot chicks? No one’s stopped to ask him because we’d rather just spin it so he fits in whatever box we want to squeeze him into — player, douchebag, a commitaphobe, or perhaps just a guy who doesn’t have the time to commit to a girlfriend right now (I’m guessing few will chose the latter category).
The focus on Lochte’s relationship status seems bizarre especially since the nonstop training it takes to get to the Olympics would certainly not make anybody good boy/girlfriend material. As his mom says, “He’s not able to give fully to a relationship because he’s always on the go.” As my older son once said, “Girlfriends are high maintenance.”
We are? Hmmm …
Isn’t it more honest to say you’re not looking for a serious relationship right now than being a pseudo-boyfriend?
Even though Lotche insists he’s not into one-night stands, what if he were? What’s wrong with one-night stands as long as both parties understand what they’re getting into? (And for every alleged one-night stand he had, there would have to be an equally eager female participant.) Should singles be forced into celibacy just because they’re not interested in, willing or able to be part of a committed, monogamous relationship? Is it better to hang in for third-date sex and then dump someone?
But in this couple-obsessed society, it appears that being happily single and casually dating is problematic, prompting Jezebel to label Lochte as a douchebag and forcing Lochte to insist, yes, yes, yes, I do want to get married someday!
Since no former one-night stand of his has cashed in and spoken to the media about just how much of a douchebag he is, maybe he isn’t.
Still, there are plenty of young women who are lusting after him (and a few gay guys, too) and who are all too willing to throw themselves at him for no other reason than he’s hunky, douchebag behavior be damned. It’s obvious many of those women aren’t interested in having a meaningful relationship with him; they just want to have sex with him. I get it: He has a nice bod, he has dreamy blue eyes, he’s famous and he’s wealthy — that’s all you need to get laid if you’re a guy. Actually, sometimes just being good looking or wealthy is enough.
Which, of course, gets us back to the one-night stand, casual dating issue. Even if Lochte were engaging in one-night stands until he’s ready to be in a relationship (and it’s clear from what he says that he wants a relationship as well as marriage and kids one day), why does that bother us? If someone’s not married or in some sort of a committed monogamous relationship, must he or she be celibate?