Archives for December, 2012
If living single is your first choice, if it is how you live your most authentic and meaningful life, you are probably single at heart. People who are single-at-heart are not single because they have not found The One, because they are unlucky in love, or because they have issues. They are single because single suits them. It is who they really are. You may be single-at-heart even if you are in a long-term romantic relationship, and even if you are married. Maybe you got into the relationship because it was what you thought you were supposed to do. (Who ever heard of single-at-heart anyway? It is just recently getting recognition.) Or maybe there is enough about your relationship that you find truly appealing, and yet you have your single-at-heart inclinations at the same time.
Of all of the posts I wrote during 2012, the following 10 were the most popular ones, judging by the number of page views: 10. Do married people neglect their friends because they are so busy with their kids? 9. Are singles discriminated against? Let me count the ways
TV shows such as Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver have such iconic status that even if you are too young to have watched them when they first aired, you know all about them. The shows modeled one particular way to live – in a nuclear family household, with mom, dad, and the kids, and no one else. I don’t know if there were other shows at the time that featured other ways of living – such as living alone, living with an extended family, or living with friends. (Do you?) If there were, they did not become the cultural touchstones that the Beaver did. Now, in the 21st century, much has changed, both in how we actually live our lives, and in the models of living we see on TV. All sorts of ways of living are shown on television. Sure, sometimes the situations are played for laughs, but even in those instances, the shows invite viewers to contemplate a different way of living other than with only nuclear family members.
One of the true joys of blogging is getting to know your readers. Some participate in discussions of blog posts and others send me their stories. Karl Wiebe has done both. In fact, something he wrote to me a while back was an inspiration for a previous post about making friends when you are single that has been viewed thousands of times. Karl recently shared with me some of his experiences living single for nearly five years after more than twice that long living married. My interview with him is below. Karl has also written a book called First and Life. I haven’t read it yet but I’m looking forward to it. My guess after interviewing Karl is that the book will be quite witty! You can also learn more about Karl Wiebe from his website. Bella: I’m always curious about how people start reading about single life from the perspective of living that life fully rather than just trying to become unsingle. So if you will humor me, will you tell me how someone who was married for more than a decade discovered blogs and books about single life? Karl Wiebe: Well, I’m a guy in my mid-thirties (okay, okay, almost forty). I found myself suddenly single in 2008 after a decade or so of being married. I was struggling to find my own identity – I had spent my entire adult life being part of a couple. It was like the guy from North Korea sneaking across the border and discovering that other people in the world have meat in their soup. It was a bit of culture shock. I bought your book and loved it. My mom is also single and lives in the Yukon (near Alaska). It’s actually near Santa’s workshop because it is -20 all the time and I’m convinced the only reason someone would live up there is to actually build toys for poor kids. Anyway, you (and the readers) provided some different ways for my mom to meet people and do fun stuff. It was really refreshing to have a blog that acknowledges both the positives and the (sometimes) negatives of being single. Being single can be liberating but sometimes it can get lonely too, and it is OK to talk about that without discounting that this is the right life choice for a lot of people.
If you are single, do you feel that you are judged for that reason alone? Do people make assumptions about you that they might not make if you were coupled? Do you think it is worse if you are single beyond the age at which people expect you to be married?
I’m interested in the many creative ways people are choosing to live now that we have more opportunities than we ever have had before to choose our places, our spaces, and our people. There are charming pocket neighborhoods, creative cohousing communities, and many more innovative ways to live that are relatively new to the American landscape. Still, though, there is tons of uniformity – miles and miles of look-alike suburban sprawl, and the same chain store restaurants and big box stores popping up just about everywhere. What’s with that? Isn’t America supposed to be the land of rugged individualism, a place where we like to think of ourselves and our preferences as oh so very unique? How does our affinity for so much uniformity square with that? Lots of perspectives offer answers to these questions. Economic factors, historical considerations, and policy incentives and disincentives all provide important insights. But what does psychology have to offer?
Did you move around a lot as a child or did you mostly stay put? Now that you are an adult, do you think your childhood experiences of living in one place or several places still matter? Do those experiences have anything to do with how happy you are or how satisfied you are with your current life? Could they have anything to do with how long you live? There is a growing field of research on the psychology of residential mobility. In one particularly noteworthy study, more than 7,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 20 and 75 were recruited to participate in the research. They were contacted again, if possible, 10 years later.
If I had started writing a “single at heart” column in the 1950s, I would have had almost no natural audience. Hardly anyone stayed single through their 30s, much less for life, and there was little discussion of the joys of singlehood. All that has steadily changed, decade by decade, and now year by year. The age at which people first marry – among those who do marry – continues to climb. More and more people stay single for life, and by choice. Something new has hit the marital scene. Newlyweds who are in their 40s or 50s – and who are marrying for the first time – are no longer unheard of. What happens when you are master of your own life for decades, and then you marry? I like answering questions with reams of data, but I also see the value of individual life stories. Over at Salon.com, Tim Gihring told his story of marrying at 40.
There are all sorts of beliefs floating around about what contributes to your success in a career. Some of these urban legends are about characteristics that are not exactly relevant to your ability to do your job. Is it true that they really do matter? In U. S. News & World Report, Jada Graves investigated three examples of the conventional wisdom around lifestyles and career advantages. Two are sort of interesting, but the third is a myth I have been whacking at for years – that married workers deserve higher pay.