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Solo: Building a Remarkable Life of Your Own by Peter McGraw

A Book Review.

By Cathy (Christine Acheini) Ben-Ameh Published 2 months ago 5 min read

My introduction to Peter McGraw came a few days before Valentine's Day one evening while eating dinner in front of my laptop and, searching through Spotify for "podcasts for single people". I know it may sound kind of pathetic when I present it like this, but the decision to own up to the vulnerability I felt at that moment in a world that seemed to be celebrating those who were coupled, led me to seek a tribe that shared these feelings too.

After attempting to listen to a couple of other podcasts I settled on Solo-The Single Person's Guide to Living a Remarkable Life" and the episode that drew my attention was "Being Single With Cancer" where he interviewed Tracy Maxwell (Another author I look forward to telling you about").

Don't you just love it when you accidentally run into something you didn't even realize you might have been afraid to search for? Well, this episode led to another and after about four episodes I decided to buy Peter McGraw's book, "Solo- Building a Remarkable Life Of Your Own".

What is "Solo: Building a Remarkable Life of Your Own" about?

Being solo transcends our relationship status. You can be in a relationship and still have a solo mindset. Peter McGraw's "Solo: Building a Remarkable Life Of Your Own" is a thought-provoking look at living life authentically and purposefully without the constraints of conventional love labels. This thirteen-chapter book breezes by quickly and leaves one with tonnes of questions to ponder concerning the attributes that make for a remarkable life and whether the current portrayal we see in trends and media tells us the truth enough.

It all begins with an introduction, where Peter McGraw initiates us into the subject and himself as our "guide" through this journey. His openness and vulnerability displayed in this first instance effortlessly sucks one in. His constant reference to statistics and literature makes a strong case for this movement and why this book and its thoughts should be taken seriously not just by lay people but businesses and industries who have missed a large demographic of people with huge potential that sadly continues to be ignored or dismissed. Each chapter has a "Solo Love Letter" or more at the end where contributors write in to briefly talk of their personal experiences in this journey. It's a bit like sitting in a living room with thirty or so people being their most comfortable selves in an effortless party of sharing and being free.

Chapter 1- Human Domestication:

How did marriage come about, and how did society's social constructs contribute to its development? This chapter explores how the world came to be "built for two- and a particular type of 2." The author goes back a few million years to meet Lucy and forward another three million years when we, Homo Sapiens, documented the first marriage in Mesopotamia some 4, 377 years ago. The human nature of cooperation to survive led to bigger brains and the consequent creation of a culture that "has allowed humans to develop other ways to stand out besides hunting or foraging which is good." Our ability to create order from chaos has led to rule-making where we create laws, norms, and customs. The evolution of these led to human domestication. In this chapter, McGraw explores the different ages of civilization and the role their dynamics play in the development of social constructs around marriage, dating, raising children, and divorce. His presentation of the evolution and iterations of marriage gives the reader the option of questioning whether society's prescriptions align with their aspirations and values.

Chapter 2- A World Built for Two:

In this chapter, the author shows us how he meanders understanding "the relationship escalator" which involves the stages of,

- Contact and initiation

- Settling in and commitment

- Claiming and defining

- Merging and conclusion

- Legacy.

As McGraw explores the many scenarios that exist between couples in reaction to societal expectations on the relationship escalator, he draws insight from Amy Gahrans' "Stepping Off The Relationship Escalator. Uncommon Love and Life."

"The escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a relationship is serious, committed, moral and worth pursuing." We see how as children we learn about the escalator through socialization processes at home and school, and how that tends to frame our social constructs.

In this chapter, "The Price of Being Sick and Single" by Christian Campbell is featured. In this account, the statement that hit home for me is, "The problem is, both relationship and health are inherently random processes. You can't tie the benefits to random processes. It's like trying to legislate the weather."

McGraw explores financial benefits as a key area where it is proven that the world is built for two, using studies and real-life examples in the USA and UK. As he begins to build a case for why marriage is not the only option, he successfully shows that the escalator is society's default option and that is very much by design. My best quote from a solo love letter in this chapter from Kerri, a Librarian in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is," Being a single middle-aged woman in society is clearly an object of pity. But being a Solo woman, well, is awesome!"

And the only way to know the difference is to read the book.

Chapter Three-Someday:

"Somedays are the hopeful romantics on the lookout for 'the one' with whom they can build a future" pg. 65

In this chapter, McGraw presents potential drawbacks for singles who have the goal of riding the relationship escalator, namely:

1. Less Than- "The message is clear-ride the escalator and move from the right column to the left. No longer be "Less than".

2. Liminal-Also known as "Don't waste my time". "Liminality is the in- between moment where people are neither in their previous state nor a new one....Weddings are liminal moments, and chapels are liminal places." (pg 68 and 69)

3. What are you waiting for? - The author admits that marriage is often wonderful and meaningful however, "even if the escalator aligns with a person's temperament, values and lifestyle, there is no guarantee that their partner will remain the right fit."

He addresses these drawbacks with proven facts based on studies and real-life examples. My favourite takeaway from this chapter was Bella DePaulo's discovery in an advice column that declared, "One is a whole number".

"Some people find it hard to believe that getting married does not create bliss because when married people say they are happy, people believe them. However, when single people say they are happy, people don't."(pg 79)

These first three chapters create a steady momentum that builds as the book goes along, and they are a great incentive to carry on reading right until the very last page. It isn't an experience that readers are likely to forget very easily, and has huge potential to revolutionize our world as we know it.

ReviewRecommendationDiscussionBook of the YearBook of the Month

About the Creator

Cathy (Christine Acheini) Ben-Ameh


Cathy Ben-Ameh has published two books; "The Impact of Music Streaming on The Music Industry: Case study-Spotify" and "'13- A Chapbook of 13 Short Poems".

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