Love for sale

Who’s prepared to pay the price,
For a trip to paradise? …
Every love but true love
Love for sale.
—“Love for Sale” by Cole Porter

For this week’s cover story, “Live nude girls,” R.V. Scheide ventured into a half-dozen local strip clubs thinking he’d be telling an entirely different story from the one that begins on page 20. Turns out, the experience is more about lap dancing than stripping; less about sex than the illusion of intimacy. And if one man who’s spent $8,000 over two years on lap dances is to be believed, what it’s really all about is love.

It’s a valuable service in this increasingly lonely world, Scheide concludes. To me, it’s a lonely business all the way around.

Americans are a lonely lot. One social scientist suggests it’s in the nature of our peculiarly individualist society. Others recently have raised alarms over our growing social isolation. Work, commuting and television are all blamed. So, too, are mobility and the Internet.

While a person’s ties may have skyrocketed through e-mail, MySpace and other social Web sites, these virtual relationships are replacing face-to-face interaction, but without the same benefits. Internet users spend 70 minutes less each day interacting with their families, 25 minutes less sleeping and 30 minutes less watching television.

Whatever the causes, a full 25 percent of Americans say they don’t have a single person to confide in—double the rate in 1985. Plus, the percentage of people who say they have only their spouses to confide in has risen over the past two decades by 50 percent.

In Sacramento County, about half the adult population is single—either never married, separated, widowed or divorced. Thirty-four percent of all households here are non-family households, occupied mostly by single people living alone.

I love Billie Holiday’s rendition of the Cole Porter classic, but I’d rather take to heart Kurt Vonnegut’s commencement advice to young people about what to do with their lives: “The most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”