129 Ways To Get a Life
129 Ways To Get a Life (The Podcast!)
16. "The Death Rate of Single Men is Twice That of Married Men."

16. "The Death Rate of Single Men is Twice That of Married Men."

Marriage, mortality, and masculinity - with Kyle Prue!
Welcome to 129 Ways to Get a Life! This is a series where I work my way through a dating list from 1958 to explore modern love and life. Read more here.

More often than not, this project is an experiment in doing something. It has taken me to the fishmonger, to the dog park, to the golf course, to the side of the road with a flat tire. But even larger than doing, it is about learning. As I thought about list item #16, “Point Out That The Death Rate of Single Men is Twice That of Married Men,” I knew I had some options. I could go on a date and see what the reaction was. I could put this stat on a flier and paste it around town. I could shout it from the rooftops. I could send it to an ex. But what intrigued me the most was the actual statistic and what it said about marriage, mortality, and loneliness. And I was nervous to share this fact because it seems like something that, unprompted, might make someone angry.

In considering who to interview, I decided to consult an expert. An expert, specifically, in pissing off men. Without further ado… Kyle Prue

EMILY: Welcome!

KYLE: Thank you for having me. I am an author and a content creator. My metric used to be when I was dating is that I would tell people that I was a “multimedia artist,” and if they laughed at me, that was a really good sign. If someone was like that's really cool and took it seriously… you can't take me as seriously as I take me or this is never going to work.

EMILY: Yeah, you're like, I have to go through a tunnel and never come back. Kyle, among many other things, you are a writer, a smart person, you've existed in the world… you also are very good at pissing off men. Kind of famously so.

KYLE: I have an early copy of my manual, How to Piss Off Men.

EMILY: Oh my god!

Live shot of seeing Kyle in print.

KYLE: So yes, I am a little bit of a male anger anthropologist. I have gotten my ass kicked for the last three years weekly and now I know all about it.

EMILY: You literally have written the book on pissing off men. For the record, you've also written YA fiction.

KYLE: Every once in a while, I'll mention being an author from before this, and people are like, what? And I'm like, it doesn't matter.

EMILY: In college that was the most random and amazing fact about you. Oh, for everyone who doesn't know, Kyle and I were in the same improv troupe together.

KYLE: Yeah, there was a university-supported improv group that had really big shows, and we had tinier, cooler shows. The other group was like McDonald's, and we were like a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that gives you food poisoning one out of ten times, but you can't stop going.

EMILY: Because the other nine times, it's the best food you've had in your life. They probably have a C rating in terms of health code. But we did good improv, and now we're all here, and the funny thing about our improv troupe is they've done quite well for themselves in the real world.

KYLE: I also think that that group made everybody who was in it a lot cooler.

EMILY: To segue back to the book, everyone in our college troupe had weird niches. I don't know if I would have predicted that you’d go on to write a book on pissing off men, but it was a cool thing that you had in college.

KYLE: A little nugget of lore was that I had written this young adult fantasy trilogy, and the other lore that I had was that I was actively passing away from Lyme disease. Just like slowly 150 pounds and withering away, living too fast to die old. I was having seizures and stuff, and I was like, listen, I got two years, and I want to spend them on improv.

EMILY: Let's circle back to Lyme disease because we're here to talk about the death rate of men.

KYLE: Nobody knows more about it than I do. 

EMILY: As I've explained, I'm doing my list — 129 Ways to Get a Life and one of the ones was to “Point Out That The Death Rate of Single Men is Twice That of Married Men.” First of all, it’s true, but before I even ask any questions… gut reactions to that statement?

KYLE: Absolutely, I understand why it is. I've had multiple brushes with death, like this all ties in really nicely. As a person who takes like a hundred pills a day — half of them are medical, but most of them are vitamins. Once every couple of days, one gets caught in my throat, and I'm like, if I can't pass this shit, it's over, man. At the same time too, if you’re not taking vitamins, you’re going to die a lot sooner.

EMILY: I was telling someone this yesterday — I don't know if you know this — but for men between 25 and 55, there's some statistic that they only go to the doctor if they have an STI. I was researching it, and one doctor said, “As a primary care doctor, I think the number one reason men avoid the doctor is fear.” They don't want to be vulnerable, so they don't go unless they have an STI, and then they show up at age 55, and if no one's been pushing them… 

KYLE: I think there's a two-pronged way in which you could sort of fit into this, listener and/or Emily Bice. Number one is if you enter into a relationship with me, you are less likely to get STIs if you're good and don't cheat on me, and therefore, you won't have to go see the scary doctor. But level that up one degree — if you and I have intimate conversations about our shit and everything that's going on, you're going to go to the doctor, you're going to say this is no worries, actually. I feel very comfortable talking to you because I have to talk to my partner all the time about whether or not we believe this is going anywhere and should we get a dog?

EMILY: Yeah, and should we be around for it? Someone else pointed out to me where they were like, Emily, everyone dies, eventually —

KYLE: So true. 

EMILY: Yeah, I was, like, fair, but I think the reason this stat exists is because of the benefits you get, and it's someone pushing you to take better care of yourself. So it's those conversations where someone would be like, also, are you eating a vegetable?

KYLE: There's so many habits that I have picked up when my partner comes over, those things are in the shoebox in the closet, you know what I mean?

EMILY: Can we get an example? 

KYLE: Totally. So I'm filming a season of my show (Rabbit) in a couple of weeks, and because of that, I've quit everything — I've quit drinking, I've quit sugar, I really lock in because I need the necessary mental health and focus. But the one thing I do rock with is stimulants. So I mainline probably 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, either through Celsius or Yerba Mate (Celsius brand partner hashtag hashtag hashtag), but I would never do this in front of a human person who loved me.

EMILY: When you're not alone, someone else is watching out for you, and also someone else is watching you.

KYLE: Every once in a while, my partner will be like, “Hey did you eat today?” And I'm like, “I don't think so.” She's like, “It's 7 p.m. you gotta get on that.”

EMILY: And that's going to keep you alive for a decade longer than others.

KYLE: Here's what I will say: I am in the doctor. I got rid of Lyme disease, and then I was like, let's see what other shit we can get on. I go just for vibes sometimes.

EMILY: Who doesn't love the doctor? But I think you're the outlier — because one question I had was, do people go to the doctor? What's interesting about the 1950s version of this list versus now, is it's the same rate. So much of this list has changed; if you look at what they suggested in the 50s and then you translate it to 2024, it's completely dated — but the death rate continues to be twice as much. So I'm curious… as a generation, we care more about our health, right? We care about mental health, physical health —  

KYLE: There's something so masculine about destroying your body. You know what I mean? There is such a feeling of bombasity. It's very epic to whittle away at yourself and ruin your body. 

EMILY: So, do you think when you enter into a partnership, that need goes away?

KYLE: I think it changes the perspective. If you're a single person, you're like, I will destroy my body for what I want. But when you are with somebody, or you have a family, or you have a dog or a succulent or whatever you're like… it's actually loser-ish to destroy myself.

EMILY: Part of this whole scenario is that when I think about these, I go down a rabbit hole. It started with mortality and marriage and then led me to what we've seen all over: this epidemic of loneliness. It brings me back to the idea that if you're feeling lonely, you're not wondering, “Is there someone that’s watching out for me?”

KYLE: Part of the epidemic of loneliness and part of being a person affected by that is a lot of these people really wish to be witnessed in their pain. I think that also feeds into the idea of destroying the body when you're alone. You're in pain, and you have the need or desire for people to see how bad it is.

EMILY: But then I wonder… agree, I think some of it is you need to feel seen in your loneliness. Especially because so much of what our world is right now is separated by screens, and it's a fake representation of someone else's reality, so a lot of it could be digital and not real, but then you look at something like this actual statistic where someone that is on their own their whole life is statistically predestined to die earlier because they're alone essentially.

KYLE: I think when you're with a group of people, you just make better decisions. If no one's around to care about what happens to you, then I think you also stop caring about it as well. If you eat fast food five days in a week and you're alone, no one's gonna call you on that, no one's gonna care. But if you're in a relationship and you eat fast food five times in a week someone's probably gonna be like, “Yo, that's crazy.” There's so much behavior that feels completely rational and normal when you're alone, but if you're in the house with somebody, it's embarrassing.

EMILY: The other point of this project is to think about how we view love in modern times, but also life, and friendship, and companionship. So I think with friendship, I'd be so curious if someone studied what the life cycle of someone with a really robust social circle looks like even if they didn't find their partner.

KYLE: Totally. I once was trying to schedule a date with a girl. We had two bars in mind, one that we'd both been to and knew we liked and one we'd never been to. And I said, “We should go to the one that we've never been to” because your brain will compress information it's received before. So if you're in a place you've never been, the experience feels longer than if you're in a place you've been before. It's the same thing if you drive to work every day, the drive feels like 10 minutes even though it's 20. But if you drive somewhere you've never been before it feels like an hour even though it's 45 minutes. Your brain sees stuff it's seen before and it crushes it all. So I was like, if we go somewhere new, this will be a new experience. It'll make our lives feel longer, and she was like, “If you become a regular somewhere, it breeds community, and people in communities actually live longer.”

And I was like, I don't think there's a difference, but we were planning a date we're sixteen DMs in… is there any difference between your life feeling longer and your life actually being longer? I don't think so. I always thought about that from that day on. If you live in a community, your lifespan goes up because people check on you. 

It's interesting with lifespans especially with these kinds of statistics you're looking at. We've been really misled as a culture for so many years because there are so many things that they say are indicators of good health, but they're actually indicators of high net worth. So if you say, like this is the statistic forever, one glass of red wine a night is actually healthy. People who do that live longer. And it's like, no, people who drink red wine every night can probably afford to go to the doctor.

People who own horses live 15 years longer, and you say to yourself, man, riding horses must be great exercise, and the answer is no, if you can afford a horse, you can afford to go get your heart looked at. I'm wondering if community, in a certain sense means, do you mean being able to afford to live in a suburb? Is that how you're qualifying community? I'm always trying to sparse out whenever I hear years of life statistics. Where are we fitting economic status into this?


EMILY: Absolutely. I think it's the outliers. We're not seeing a full story. Even the marriage thing —I think the better version of this is living within people that check on you probably expands your life because what if you're in the worst marriage? What if you're in an unhappy marriage your whole life or you're with a person who doesn't take care of you? That statistic doesn't encompass all of it, and it just has this one raw number.

KYLE: I also think that men are inherently competitive with each other, and some men are competitive with their partners, but that's a little less likely. It's possible that if your partner says to you, “Have you eaten today,” you're like oh, I haven't eaten today. If one of your guy friends says to you, “Have you eaten today?” you're like, “You're not my boss, don't critique me; I've been grinding, I've been locking in.” The issue with male friendships is I think they rarely extend to care. They rarely extend to what do you need, wherein I think partnerships always go there. That's an interesting tenet of male relationships that I think women do check on each other and try and determine what everybody needs at the end of the day.

EMILY: I tried to look up the woman statistic, and again, this is all broad strokes of me finding what I find. There is still a statistic that exists for an unmarried woman versus a married woman, but by and large, women live healthier lives whether or not they're with someone because they practice care in a different way.

The other thing about men and what you just said… I was at a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago, and I saw this guy sitting on his laptop reading a Medium article that says, “Men Are Suffering From Hug Starvation.” There was a part of me that was like, should I offer to hug this guy and then that felt even weirder… but it is another part of it? The way men are trained to display affection is not with physical touch.

KYLE: Guys do hugs, but it's the kind of thing where you clap each other's back hard almost to diffuse intimacy. There's a real big difference between, like, a soft hug where you feel the other person and you hear their breathing, and how I hug my guy friends, like dap up into a kind of hug or whatever. But that's been the standard for centuries. A lot of things that we have currently — handshakes and common courteous gestures — are from a time in which they're basically meant to show I don't have a weapon. The reason you used to shake hands above the wrist was because you were feeling inside their sleeve for a knife. I'm trying to remember the other gestures created basically just to be like, “I'm unarmed.”

EMILY: I wonder if the, is it a cowboy where you, um —  

KYLE: A salute?

EMILY: Is that to show you don't have a gun?

KYLE: I don't know. I just remember seeing something recently, people talking about how many different gestures and little tidbits of common courtesy we have that are basically like old holdovers… oh! Clinking glasses was to share liquid, to be like, I didn't poison you. Humans come from such a brutal and terrible history of murder and violence, and now we're all in this moment of ease, and we're all just in so much pain trying to figure out how to find kinship in each other.

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EMILY: The other thing I just want to say is that all of these statistics and this information is just for heterosexual partnerships. So, we've no idea what those rates are for any relationship that isn't a man and a woman. Again, thinking about community and this sense of looking for kinship, exactly, it's just this larger dearth of… we don't have a sense of togetherness right now, and I feel like people are scrambling trying to figure out how to get it. And partnership and living within communities, even if it is an economic thing, at whatever economic level you're in, we’ve been in a community since the beginning of time.

KYLE: Totally. I also think big tech exists primarily, like the primary function of it in a lot of ways, is to estrange you from communities because individual people are better buyers. Like they're better capitalists than people who live in communities. In communities, you cook for each other and don't buy as much stuff, but if you live alone, you order food, and you blank.

There's this Leonard Cohen poem called S.O.S. 1995. He has this line in it that stuck with me forever. “You are being bred for pain.” He's trying to reveal to, I think, the people of the world. Yeah, like these people, whoever they are, capitalist government, they're breeding you for pain.

He says, “You are clamped down. You are being bred for pain.” 

EMILY: It's even the thing about big tech and how it has completely gotten rid of community and is breeding us for this sense of loneliness. And I could talk about this for years: what dating apps have done to the way we view partnership. They have commodified it to a place where people just don't engage in the way they used to. And I think creates this gamification of how you view looking for a person and a partner in the world.

KYLE: If you talk to people in bars now, they're like, what are you doing? You just do not go out and meet people in bars anymore. Big tech, like seeks in a lot of ways to make everything sleeker and more convenient and faster. And I think that's a horrible algorithm to apply to falling in love because it's horrible, and it's messy, and it's really strange. It's not supposed to be easy or clean. If an algorithm matched me up with someone, I don't want them. It's supposed to be complicated. So often, so many things feel empty because if I didn't have my phone and I didn't have the Internet, I'd be leaving my house for most of the day every day. Getting things and meeting people. Every time I ever talk to a stranger, it's never gone poorly. People are happy to talk to you out in the world, and I'm like, why am I terrified to do it? 

EMILY: Kyle, you are in L.A. I'm not. But when I left L.A., part of it was that I felt so alone. That's why I love New York: there's this constant sense of community here, and I meet strangers all the time. 

KYLE: New York, you're all bound together by New York in the sense where you are all fighting New York. The weather is always hotter or colder. You're walking up, it's smaller, it's cramped. You're fighting all the time. And so, it's all New Yorkers versus New York. That's the solidarity, and we don't have any of that here because we don't ride any public transport. We're all alone in our cars. The existential struggle of Los Angeles is like loneliness and do I matter? Where in New York, I feel like the struggle is mainly material. How am I going to make rent for this hallway that I live in?

EMILY: And it's an expensive hallway. We live in this society that has made it so you kind of have to have a person if you're going to have the same shot at life, it feels like sometimes, it is also economic.

KYLE: I do not believe monogamy is inherent to people. A lot of people are like, well, a lot of animals mate for life. And yeah, but when humans were animals, they did not. That's a good thing to remember. But I do not believe that any other system besides monogamy would really work as a core function in America because it is so heavily incentivized. I have the same feeling, I'm like, do I have to get married at some point to be able to afford things or buy a house? It's really strange.

EMILY: Have you heard of the friendship marriages in Japan? So, there's a trend in Japan since 2015. I think there's been 500 marriages. Some people are entering “friendship marriages,” which is a literal marriage where they agree they don't want anything romantic with each other. They just want to get married for the societal benefits and acceptance. Even think about an arranged marriage or a matchmaker. Sometimes people fall in love with that person, or they don't, but they're like, it's beneficial. 

KYLE: The reason people in arranged marriages, I think, are happier in a lot of ways… they are happier. Check the statistics; they report higher signs of happiness to people who get to choose their spouses because you don't really give them a chance to question it. Where, and I think you choose from a million people, you have so many options now because of the apps, because of technology, and you get married, and you spend your whole life being like, should I have picked one of the other 999,000 people? It's so hard to make a decision and stick with it when you have infinite decisions.

EMILY: The funny thing about apps right now is we're kind of in between the two where you're algorithmically being arranged, but it's not one option. And I do wonder if, with big AI in ten years, there will be that sci-fi version of you are just assigned a person that makes sense to you, and you go with it.

KYLE: The thing that I think is complicated about matching up and all that, in the whole dating app thing or whatever, is there is an aspect of dating and of relationships that is completely ignored by all of these algorithms and setups and everything. Like I'm looking for a person who's blank, because pheromones are real. That's like an actually studied phenomenon. You could meet someone who is, quote-unquote, perfect for you. They have everything that's on your checklist. They come from the right socioeconomic background. You have enough similar experiences to vibe, but you get together, and you are not genetically compatible. I think that's the thing that's always going to make it really complicated. No matter how good we get at this technology thing. We're always going to be attracted to people we shouldn't be.

EMILY: We're always going to be human. Even with all of these weird constraints that make situations like this seem like this is the only logical option. You're always going to want what you're going to want, even if you lie to yourself and think. Okay, we could talk forever, but the other thing I wanted to ask you about is pissing off men with this prompt.

So, my question: At what point would it be okay to say this to somebody on a date?

KYLE: At what point would it be okay to say, “Men in relationships live way longer than men who aren't.”

EMILY: Imagine you're on a first date with someone, and it's not going well. And then all of a sudden, this person turns to you, and they're like, “Just so you know, the death rate of single men is twice that of married men.”

KYLE: Yeah. I think you could say that to a guy who's being really dodgy about defining the relationship. Being really dodgy about the DTR. He's like, I'm still finding myself. I'm not sure if I'm in a good place to jump into a relationship. I think that's when you pull out, well, you know, the death rate for a single man is twice as high as married men. So just knock that around in the old noggin and get back to me. You leave, and he's sitting in his apartment like… did she just curse me? He starts choking on a pill. He spits it out. He’s like, I've got to call her and lock that down right now.

EMILY: You're trying to break up with someone, and they say that.

KYLE: This is the most baller thing is like, I've had this experience maybe once where I'm breaking up with someone, and they're like, “Oh, it's a shame. I'm moving on now.” And I'm like, wow, like it's baller. It's really cool. Even if you don't feel that way, you should endeavor to try it sometime, like getting broken up with and just being like, “I understand. You were, you've been great. I'm going to send for my things.” And then, as you're leaving, just drop, like, “Just for your sake, I do hope you understand that single men do die twice the rate of married men. Goodbye.” He'll never forget you for the rest of his goddamn life.

EMILY: And every time he goes on a bad date or something doesn't work out, that's going to come back to him. And it's just a ticking clock of, I'm going to die.

KYLE: It's going to give him the yips, and then he's never going to be able to date effectively ever again because it'll become this self-fulfilling prophecy because there's so much at stake.

EMILY: The other thing I was thinking about is to maybe try and manipulate someone into dating you by just putting this statistic in every vein that they can see it, like sending them an email that has it and it's on a billboard and, like all they can think about is their impending mortality.

KYLE: You make your own newspaper and start delivering it to their door. I actually have a billboard right outside my window, and I'm the only person in the world who can see it because it's blocked by my building from the street. So, everything that goes up on there, I'm like, this is just for me. So, if that popped up on there, I'd be like, somebody did this. 

EMILY: All right. We're going to end this with a little activity. So, I've sent you the list, and I want you to look through it. If we wrap it back into why you're an expert in this, you're great at finding the things that are just out-of-pocket shit. Which of these list items are you like, this would be the thing that would work the most or be the absolute worst?

KYLE: Be friendly to ugly men is very funny. The funniest thing about it to me is the idea that it's like this guy finding out that you're being nice to him or friendly to him because you read on a list I should be nicer to ugly men. You've been dating a guy for like two years, and you're like, “It's funny. I just remembered I actually started being nice to you because I had read that if you're friendly to ugly men, it could lead to love. And look, it did. Isn't that beautiful?” He's like, what?

EMILY: Do I stay or do I go? I don't know. Because you pointed out that the death rate is higher.

KYLE: Yeah, exactly. This one says, don't take a job in a company run largely by women. That's like tips to get sexually harassed forever. Ask your mother to take in male boarders.

EMILY: There's a couple of them also that feel like ways to get potentially murdered or in quite dangerous situations. There's one where it says to tell him his money intrigues you. What if someone told you that?

KYLE: Your money intrigues me. I'd be like, what money? They're like, “Your one-bedroom apartment is very sexual to me.” I'm like, huh? Wow. Times are tough.

EMILY: In this modern world, they are. Kyle, this has been great. Do you have any parting thoughts before we go?

KYLE: Yes, I think. This is a little bit like what you're doing, but I think everybody should get in the habit of having experiences that they can't qualify or monetize, or explain to anyone. I think so much of social media is “make yourself into one page.” Instead, go and try and go out and have all the weirdest experiences you possibly can, because life is not supposed to be simple. Things are complicated, and don't lean out of that; lean into that.

EMILY: Beautiful. You should write a book. When does your book come out?

KYLE: My book (How to Piss Off Men) comes out September 17th. And I want everybody to read it and buy it. Buy it from an indie bookstore if you can. Barnes & Noble, wherever books are sold. And then take it on the go. Piss off a man, and maybe, maybe that'll spark something. Maybe that’s the way to get a husband.

Start pissing ‘em off.

EMILY: Thank you Kyle!

Before we wrap up: as we talk about loneliness and partnership and community and mortality, it feels important to note that all jokes aside, this is a real thing. Whether you’re single, partnered, or somewhere in between, maybe use this as a reminder to check in on somebody that you love. Make sure they’ve eaten today. Make sure they didn’t have ten Yerba Mates. Give them a hug (Or don’t, if they don’t like hugs, but see if they need a hug, and if they do, give it to them).

Do what you can to make someone feel less alone — you could be adding years to their life.


129 Ways To Get a Life
129 Ways To Get a Life (The Podcast!)
A series in which a 20-something exclusively follows the advice of a dating column published in 1958 to explore modern love and life.