Contemporary society is full of matrimania – the over-the-top hyping of marriage, couples and weddings. There is so much marketing of romantic love, and celebration of marriage-minded lovers, that it can be difficult for people who are single at heart to realize that single life really is the most meaningful and authentic life for them. Doesn’t everyone really want to be married?
When I study single life, I do it from the perspective of a social psychologist – that’s my training. I also read a lot from sociology and women’s studies, and learn a great deal from those disciplines.
Anthropology may not seem like the obvious place to look for insights about singles in the U.S., but to anthropologist Leanna Wolfe, some of the practices of single women in Los Angeles did seem like odd rituals: Going to workshops to learn how to please a man? Transforming your body with fad diets and surgery, and your mind with therapy? What’s all that about?
One thing all of those efforts often was not about, Wolfe found, was actually getting married. Many single women went through the motions but did not abandon their single lives. Others stayed busy, not with the mate-bait industry, but with their careers or network of friends or travel or other passions.
“It’s not socially acceptable for women to admit they don’t care to be in a relationship,” Leanna Wolfe told the Los Angeles Times. Maybe, she suggested, some women have not even admitted to themselves that single is who they really are and who they want to be.
The story continued:
“Wolfe said that rather than trying to change their lifestyle, these women should embrace it. ‘Who’s to say that it’s more mature to be married than anything else?’ she said. ‘Don’t presume that where you are is not where you want to be. Presume that where you are is exactly where you want to be.’”
Now here’s what really gets me about this LA Times story – it was published nearly 20 years ago, in 1993! It was inspired by the publication, that same year, of Wolfe’s book, Women Who May Never Marry. Now, in 2012, the story is much the same. It is still hard for single women (and men) to realize that marriage and romantic coupling are not for everyone; that for some, your best life is your single life.
Maybe that’s beginning to change. After all, the name of this blog is “Single at Heart.” People are still flocking to my online survey, Are you single at heart? (Thanks, everyone. Participants are still welcome, regardless of whether you think you are single at heart. The New Ways of Living survey is still ongoing, too.)
Perhaps in a few more years, more and more single people who love their single lives will just skip all the strange rituals and proclaim, “I’m single at heart. Single is who I really am.”
Runaway bride photo available from Shutterstock,
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Last reviewed: 10 May 2012