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Being an "only"

On Saturday, we booked a table to eat paella in my favorite restaurant with a bunch of friends. The walls are made of glass so you can enjoy the stunning seaside view from pretty much everywhere. Correction: if your seat is facing the windows. Well, I zig zagged the group of people and jumped a couple of steps at once to be able to get a good seat. The best seat, actually. As I set up camp with my belongings I wondered: Was that the only child in me?

Yes, I am part of the “onlies”, often cataloged as spoiled, selfish, irrational and hypersensitive. I have a love-hate relationship with solitude and sharing is not my strong suit. I won’t give you the last fry in my dish, but most probably I’ll take yours.

All fuss about only children started back in 1896 when a man called E. W. Bohannon conducted the Study of Peculiar and Exceptional Children (your daily dose of history, you’re welcome). The results were categorical: 196 out of 200 questionnaire respondents agreed that ''onlies'' were excessively spoiled. Bohannon's scientific colleagues nodded and the idea took hold. If that wasn’t enough, the first president of the American Psychological Association (who you would expect to be wise and unbiased - spoiler, he’s not), oversaw the study and said that “to be an only child is a disease in itself”. Magnificent.

Although I can admit there’s some behavioral disparity between kids with and without siblings, I condemn the radicality of these prejudices. Like everything in life, bad is compensated by good and only children are just the living representation of the yin and yang. Stand still because I have solid evidence. Take Hermione Granger or Rory Gilmore, they are both little know-it-alls with emphasized encyclopedic knowledge. But their wit turns out to be an essential life hack. Yes, they are overachievers, highly susceptible kiddos, but as Schopenhauer pointed out: “the man (or teenage star) who is gifted with genius suffers most of all”.

Another good old prejudice is that the one thing “onlies” ever shared is the opinion that sharing is crap. Well I can’t really argue against that, my Barbies were only mine. But is this an inherent singleton’s trait? The sense of ownership comes with being a human being, doesn’t it? (although it is true society has become quite lax on sharing sexual partners). But honestly, raise your hand if you’d choose to share your salary when you could keep it for yourself. There you go.

I’ve always been awed by the constant fighting between siblings. There’s this mother who bought identical backpacks for their two kids and they fought over who got each one. There’s a story about siblings fighting over an invisible trophy. One of my closest friends still battles with her sister to get the seat behind the passenger seat. Wait for the brilliant basics: younger sister steals older sister’s clothes, older brother steals the youngest one’s food, kung fu fights that end up with matching black eyes, intense confrontations ending with “you’re a bitch” and so on. This is certified data witnessed by people with relatives. The weirdest part is they tell all these stories as if they couldn’t live without them, they must love the torment, the suffering, the unshakable bond. And while I listen carefully, containing the horror with my eyes wide open, they give me that pity look and add:

“bet you wished you had a sibling”.



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