When I was writing Singled Out, I came up with an acronym that seemed to capture common misperceptions of people who are single: B. L. A. M. E.-Worthy. Once people learn that you are single, they jump to the conclusion that you must also be:
Envious of couples
Earlier this year, the magazine Marie Claire invited four women to contribute essays on the topic, “Love and the Single Girl,” teased as “Single Girl Trend – Women Staying Single.” Three of the essays were insightful and fresh.
Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don’t Cry, wrote the opening essay, “The single girl revolution.” Quickly reviewing the many buzzy books and magazine articles about single people that have grabbed headlines for the past year or so, she notes that “We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood.” Single women, she observed, are now
“being recognized as an independent person rather than as someone’s daughter, wife, or mother is a new, shiny kind of liberty for women, one that has unlocked all sorts of doors. Just 50 years ago, most women needed their husband’s signature to open a bank account.”
American culture is saturated with matrimania – the over-the-top hyping of marriage, weddings, and coupling. It’s all over the place – media, religion, the workplace, everyday conversations, and even our nation’s laws. So it got my attention when three separate essays I recently read suggested a more cautious approach to pushing marriage on single people. Not one of the essays was written by someone out to mock or undermine marriage.
What does the profile of single Americans look like, and how has it changed over the past seven years? That’s a question I can answer, thanks to the annual demographic data reported by the Census Bureau in its “Facts for Features” press release for Unmarried and Single Americans Week (the third full week of September).
In my last post, I showed how the number and percentage of single Americans (always-single, divorced, and widowed) has grown from 89.9 million (41%) in 2005 to 102 million (44.1%) in 2011. I also showed that only a relatively small number of those single people were actually cohabiting with opposite-sex romantic partners (between 9.8 million in 2005 to 13.6 million in 2011).
Here are some more components of the 7-year profile of Americans 18 and older who are single:
The third full week of September marks the beginning of National Singles Week, or more formally, Unmarried and Single Americans Week. In 2012, the official dates are Sunday September 16 through Saturday September 22.
For a while now, the Census Bureau has been marking the event by issuing an annual “Facts for Features” press release with the most recent statistics. I have been collecting these press releases since 2006, so I thought I’d kick off the week by showing you some of the single-person trends over the seven years. Each press release reports data from the year before, so the relevant years are 2005 through 2011.
The first finding is that there were several million more single people (always-single, divorced, or widowed) in 2011 than 2010. If you look at the numbers below, you will see that just about every fresh report shows that another couple of million single people have been added to the population. (The year 2007 appears to be an exception, but that year, the press release used the same data as the year before.)
Michael Cobb, author of the academic book, Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled, has discovered what so many other people have when they say something positive about single life – they get a lot of pushback. I have found that, too, as an author, but you can get the singles treatment just by going about your everyday life and daring to suggest that you are enjoying your single life.
Professor Cobb told Salon.com: “People attack me for being bitter or not being mature enough to truly commit.” If you are single and like your single life, you probably have your own stories about people telling you that you don’t really like it deep down inside, you are just fooling yourself, and all the rest.
Here’s what Michael Cobb said that his book is really about:
“This book is not against couples — it’s really against the primacy of the couple, the anxious over-importance of the couple that actually makes couples fail because you can’t by definition make a whole world out of one other person.”
When people wag their finger at you and warn that you had better get married or else you are going to die alone, they are trying to scare you into coupling. That’s what English Professor Michael Cobb told Salon.com in an interview about his new academic book, Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled. I will write about the book in some future post. First, in this post and the next, I want to talk about some of the themes that have come up in the Salon interview and in other discussions of the book in the media.
There are two key parts (and one missing part) to the strategy of bullying single people into coupling. The first is to paint singles as miserable and lonely (a myth I debunked in Singled Out). As Professor Cobb told Salon, “…the language of singleness is really the language of couples who are pitying single people.”
In my previous post, I described the first set of results from the RAND report about the Wounded Warriors Project. Those findings showed that on all sorts of measures of emotional and physical health, the veterans who had always been single were the healthiest. In this second part, I will summarize the other data from the report. Those results answer the questions of whether the vets of different marital statuses differed in their levels of education, their employment status, or whether they own homes.
Do you know the cliché about “the rock”? That’s what married people often call their spouse, especially in times of difficulty. In the media, the same sort of story is popular: When one person in a couple seems to be there for their partner, the first person is called “the rock.”
Supposedly, the social support that one spouse can give to another is supposed to result in married people being mentally and physically healthier than single people. I have debunked the myth that if you get married, you will get healthier, in Singled Out.
Now there are some brand new data, thanks to a RAND report on the Wounded Warrior Project.