In this “Single at Heart” blog, I will often challenge the myths about people who are single. Before I started studying single people and their place in society, I did not realize that most of the conventional wisdom about single people is grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.
Then I started reading articles published in the academic journals. I was just stunned by the disconnect between the headlines I saw so often in the media (along the lines of, “Get married and you will become happier, healthier, and less self-centered”) and what the research really did show.
For my first book about singles, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, I devoted 10 of the chapters to debunking the myths about single people. Here are the titles of those chapters:
Myth #1. The Wonder of Couples:
Marrieds know best.
Myth #2. Single-Minded:
You are interested in just one thing – getting coupled.
Myth #3. The Dark Aura of Singlehood:
You are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic.
Myth #4. It Is All About You:
Like a child, you are self-centered and immature and your time isn’t worth anything since you have nothing to do but play.
Myth #5. Attention Single Women:
Your work won’t love you back and your eggs will dry up. Also, you don’t get any and you’re promiscuous.
Myth #6. Attention Single Men:
You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible, and you are the scary criminals. Or, you are sexy, fastidious, frivolous, and gay.
Myth #7. Attention Single Parents:
Your kids are doomed.
Myth #8. Too Bad You’re Incomplete:
You don’t have anyone and you don’t have a life.
Myth #9. Poor Soul:
You will grow old alone and you will die in a room by yourself where no one will find you for weeks.
Myth #10. Family Values:
Let’s give all of the perks, benefits, gifts, and cash to couples and call it family values.
I like to read the myths out loud at book signings and other gatherings. When I do, two of them tend to get the most laughs – and nods of recognition. They are the ones about the single women and the single men.
The myths about single women are: Your work won’t love you back and your eggs will dry up. Also, you don’t get any and you’re promiscuous. The myths are ways of undermining the choices that single women make. They are also ways of scaring single women.
So, if you are a single woman who loves your job, you are at risk of getting told that your job won’t love you back. If having kids is something that interests you and you haven’t done that yet, then you will be sternly warned that while you are joyfully living your single life, your eggs are drying up.
The last sentence of the myths about single women is my personal favorite: You don’t get any and you’re promiscuous. What I’m conveying by putting it that way is that no matter how you live your life as a single person, there will be a way for other people to try to undermine you. Maybe they will suggest that as a single woman, you must be oversexed and promiscuous. If that doesn’t work, then they can flip to just the opposite charge: “Oh, you poor thing, you don’t get any.”
Same for the stereotypes about single men. The first assumption might be: You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible, and you are the scary criminals. If that characterization of you is blatantly untrue, there’s a ready alternative:
You are sexy, fastidious, frivolous, and gay, as said by people who think there’s something wrong with being gay.
At first, I thought it was exasperating to find that when you are single, other people can get you coming and going. (Well, some other people. Fortunately, not everyone buys the stereotypes.) Now I instead see that as liberating. Don’t try to live your life so as to please other people or avoid their disapproval. Live the life that is most meaningful to you.
Here at “Single at Heart,” I hope you will eventually find a community of like-minded readers who also enjoy their single lives, or who appreciate others who do.
Photo by Adam Jones, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 8 Oct 2011