04/09/2012 04:34 pm ET

Why Are So Many Americans Single?

As reliably as autumn brings Orion to the night sky, spring each year sends a curious constellation to the multiplex: a minor cluster of romantic comedies and the couples who traipse through them, searching for love. These tend not to be people who have normal problems. She is poised, wildly successful in an ulcer-making job, lonely. He is sensitive, creative, equipped with a mysteriously vast apartment, unattached. For all these resources, nothing can allay their solitude. He tries to cook. She collects old LPs. He seeks love in the arms of chatty narcissists. She pulls all-nighters in her office. Eventually, her best friend, who may also be her divorced mother, tells her that something needs to change: she's squandering her golden years; she'll end up forlorn and alone. Across town, his stout buddy, who is married to someone named Debbee, rhapsodizes about the pleasures of cohabitation. None of this is helpful. As the movie's first act nears its end point, we spy our heroine in the primal scene of rom-com solitude: curled up on her couch, wearing lounge pants, quaffing her third glass of wine, and excavating an enormous box of Dreyer's. She is watching the same TV show that he is (whiskey half drained on his coffee table, Chinese takeout in his lap), and although this fact assures us of a destined romance, it is not so useful for the people on the screen. They are alone; their lives are grim. The show they're watching seems, from the explosive flickering, to be about the invasion of Poland.


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