Archives for February, 2012
I have always been single, but until the late 90s, I never studied single life from the perspective of a social scientist. When I saw headlines proclaiming that if only you would get married, your life would be so much better, I had no reason to doubt them – even though I loved my single life (except for all of the singlism). Then I started doing research on the topic, and reading the relevant articles in the scientific journals. I was shocked to discover that many of the media declarations about the transformative power of marriage were grossly exaggerated or just plain false. Now I like to collect misleading headlines, critique them, and make fun of them. On the topic of whether getting married will make you less depressed, my “favorite” headline was on MSNBC, and it was their proposed treatment for depression. Their exact claim was, “New treatment for depression – marriage.”
Now that so many Americans are living alone and the topic is all over the media, you just had to know that trend stories on the quirks of those solo dwellers were about to appear. The New York Times published one of them today, “One is the quirkiest number.” Reporter Steven Kurutz interviewed several people who live alone and describes examples of what he considers their quirkiness. Check out this list and see what you think:
Do you think you can predict what your regrets would be if you got to a point in your life when you knew you were going to die soon? A nurse who has been caring for years for people in their last weeks of life has kept notes on their regrets and published them in the book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. I learned about the book from Susie, a UK reader of my writings, who referred me to this story about the book in the UK newspaper, the Guardian. I’ve also been reading more about The Top 5 Regrets elsewhere. (I don’t have a copy of the book yet.) If you want to take a moment to make your predictions about the Top 5 Regrets before reading what they are, you can do that now.
There are so many ways to live and love. The sentimentalized image of Mom, Dad and the kids gathered around the hearth has had its day. A new American experiment has begun. We’re not all going nuclear anymore. Among the innovators are people of all ages who are single at heart. They are not single because they have issues or because they have not yet found a partner. They are not looking. Single is who they really are. Many are in the market for places of their own. So, too, are plenty of divorced and widowed people and single parents whose children have grown. An unlikely demographic has also joined the quest for solo living – committed couples. In a trend dubbed “living apart together,” the two people maintain homes of their own not because far-flung jobs demand that but because they want it. A study of married couples at two different points in time showed that even living together under the same roof is not what it used to be. In 2000, the couples were less likely to eat together or work on projects together than they were in 1980. They also had fewer friends in common.
Have you heard the expression, “May you live in interesting times”? Well, we sure do, especially when it comes to the experience of living single and the many different takes on what it means to stay single instead of marrying. The recent Washington Post Magazine cover story that I talked about in my last post is just one of many feature stories on single life getting tons of attention. In this post, I’ll stick with the Washington Post story and the interest it generated. The story appeared online last Friday, February 10th, and in print on Sunday. Already, more than 1000 comments have been written. I typed some key words into Google to see where the story is being discussed, but got so many results that I gave up trying to tally them.
I am single at heart. I love my single life. There is not a day in my life when I wished I were married – though there are many days when I wish I had all of the perks and protections of married people, or that I wouldn’t be excluded from events simply because I am single. Other singles, though, do want to marry, including some who are in their 40s and beyond and have been single the whole time. How do they feel about their lives? That’s the topic of a cover story in this Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine. You might think that people willing to tell a reporter for a national newspaper that they wanted to be married and they are still single, would tell life stories full of sorrow and loneliness and woe. That’s not at all how they described their lives. I quoted some of them elsewhere, so here I’ll just mention one more person from the article – James, who is 48. James has dated often throughout his adult life. For a long time, he was “certain his time would come.” Here’s how the story continues:
If you are single, do you think that you are a target of discrimination? Regardless of whether you are single or coupled or something else, do you think that single people are discriminated against? I have been documenting singlism – the stereotyping of singles and discrimination against them – for years. I’ve published studies of singlism in social science journals, showing, for example, evidence of housing discrimination. I reviewed various categories of discrimination against singles in Singled Out, and in Singlism, several dozen other thinkers and activists joined me in writing about the many ways in which singles are shortchanged just because they are single. Sometimes single people declare that they have never been targets of discrimination, but in the United States, that is not possible. Discrimination is written right into our federal and state laws.
Valentine’s Day can be such a cliché. Flowers, chocolates, and love-struck couples, year after year. Not that I have anything against flowers or chocolates, and love-struck couples can be unwittingly entertaining. The holiday, though, is just so narrow-minded and unimaginative in the kinds of love it deems worthy of celebrating. Just the sex-based couple. If you are single, you are invisible at best or pitied at worst. Not this year.
Think you know what it means to live alone? Even if you are have your own personal experiences living solo, and know lots of other people who do, too, chances are that you have been misled by the media and other myth-makers about what solo life is really like. The most significant, intensive, and far-reaching study of solo living is described in Eric Klinenberg’s book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. Due out tomorrow (February 2, 2012), it is a thoughtful and engaging book, and I highly recommend that you read every word. Here, I’ve plucked out just a dozen of the many revelations about solo living that you can find in the book. Enjoy!