In 1993, the brilliant Nalini Ambady, together with Robert Rosenthal (my advisor at Harvard, most famous for his research showing how teacher’s expectations influence students’ performance), published a startling finding: Students seem to be able to size up a professor in 2 seconds.
When I moved to California in 2000, thinking I would be here for just a one-year sabbatical, I rented a beautiful home. When I loved my whole Southern California experience so much that I decided never to return to Virginia, I sold the home I owned in Virginia and stayed in the rental place in California. One thing I don’t like out here is the real estate market – buying is beyond my means.
After nearly 14 years, my rent has gone up but my income has not, so I have been looking for a new place. One of the homes I inquired about had three bedrooms. I asked if I could make an appointment to see it. The owner wanted me to answer a question before she would show me the place: Why, as a single person, did I need three bedrooms?
People spend their time differently at different ages. For instance, young adults spend more time on sports and exercise than older adults do. Another example: On the average, people from 25 through 34 spend more time than others caring for children.
We know all of these kinds of things because the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been conducting the American Time Use Survey since 2003. It samples people 15 and older from representative households across the country. In this post, I’m drawing from the results from 2012.
Guest Post by Louise Sundararajan
[Bella’s intro: Last month, I wrote two posts about my favorite chapter from the new Handbook of Solitude, “Experiences of Solitude,” by James Averill and Louise Sundararajan. The posts were “6 psychological insights about solitude” and “20 varieties of solitude;” judging from the page views, readers seemed to greatly appreciate the topic. One reader, Alan, had an important observation: “I found it interesting that they included “intimacy”, I would never have thought of that as being a quality of solitude.” How can intimacy be a quality of solitude? I asked one of the chapter co-authors, Louise Sundararajan, if she would write a guest post on the topic, and I am delighted that she agreed. Thanks, Louise! Below is what she wrote. At the end, you can read more about her.]
Over the course of my research on innovative ways of living, one of the people I set my sights on interviewing was Karen Hester. I knew that she was one of those people called a “burning soul,” who was so passionate about living in a real, caring, committed community that she was one of the motivating forces in creating such a community. Together with several other single friends and some families, she did the years of work involved in making the Temescal Creek cohousing community happen.
When I was living on the East Coast and looking to buy a home, one of the places I visited needed some work. “Oh, that should be no problem,” the person showing the home insisted – I could just stay home while the contractors and repair people came in and out during the day.
Well actually, no, I could not stay home. I had a job, including sometimes teaching an entire lecture hall full of students. I ran studies in my lab, attended faculty meetings, and did all of the other routine tasks that are part of the life of a college professor and that take place at the university, not in my personal living room.
As a single person living alone, I did not have a spouse or a roommate who could stay home and wait for repair people to show up, or to trade off with me in taking time away from the job.
So what are we supposed to do?
In my previous post, I shared 6 psychological insights about solitude from the chapter, “Experiences of solitude,” by James Averill and Louise Sundararajan. It was one of my favorite chapters in the just-published collection, The Handbook of Solitude.
I have thought a lot about solitude, but I didn’t fully realize just how many different experiences of solitude there are until reading the chapter. Twenty of them are listed and described below. Statistical analyses showed that the experiences clustered into five groups, with a few of the experiences not fitting clearly into just one of the groups. (Those are listed under “other experiences of solitude.”)
I had planned to follow up my previous post, 6 psychological insights about solitude, with a related article about the 20 varieties of solitude. With the big jackpot in the news, though, I will instead make that my next post. I just looked up the available research and whether any of it could help us understand the psychology of lottery winners, and whether marital status matters. The most relevant study I could find does not include everything I would have liked, but it is based on quite a lot of data.
People who are single-at-heart love the time they have to themselves. In fact, when thinking about spending time alone, just about all of them react with something like, “Ah, sweet solitude,” and almost none of them react with, “Oh, no, I might be lonely!”
With more and more people living single, and more and more people living alone, a better understanding of solitude is becoming increasingly important. Just recently, The Handbook of Solitude was published. I have a chapter in it, but in this post and the next I want to tell you about one of my favorite chapters, “Experiences of Solitude,” by James Averill and Louise Sundararajan. It is a chapter that acknowledges the potential negative experiences of solitude, such as loneliness and boredom, but has far more to say about what can make solitude so sweet.
I love chocolate, but do you know what I love even more? Smart, enlightening writings about single people and single life! Yesterday, to my surprise and delight, one story after another set aside the tired old Valentine’s Day stories about gooey-eyed couples and myths about the transformative powers of marriage and coupling, and instead told some truths – or, in some cases, they at least got close to some truths.
Considering that this is not the first time that the matrimaniacal holiday was inflected with a bit of singles savvy (here, for example), maybe we can start expecting something like this to continue into the future.
Here are some of the sweetest things I found online, or in my email inbox, over the past day or so: