Archives for Marriage
Most stereotypes of single people are negative. But there is one way single people are consistently viewed differently than married people that seems mostly positive: Single people – especially if they do not have children – are seen as more independent. In the workplace, when people think of singles as independent, they may also think something else: that single people with no children are not tied to a job the way that a breadwinning parent is. So, if something goes wrong at work, the single person can simply leave.
What do you think life is like for women who are in their mid-70s and have never married or had children? Do you think they are isolated and alone, poorly educated and just plain poor, unhealthy physically and mentally, needing more help than other women but giving less? That’s the stereotype, but a study of more than 10,000 Australian women of all marital and parental statuses shows that the reality is quite different.
The very wise and savvy advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, responded to a single person who was experiencing something all too commonplace in the lives of single people: Her friends were disappearing. Increasingly, the advice-seeker said, they have “different priorities.” My guess is that many of them were marrying and having children, though she didn’t say so explicitly. The person who wrote the letter was really missing her friends. She wanted that deep and enduring friendship connection again, not just quick catch-up events that happen less and less often. She asked Carolyn Hax if finding her “one true love” was the only answer.
What would happen if you invited single people to join an online community all about living single life fully, joyfully, and unapologetically, with no discussions whatsoever about dating or mating or other attempts to become unsingle? Would anyone even join? If people did join, would the group last? I issued just such an invitation a year ago (on July 9, 2015), right here at my “Single at Heart” blog.
The beginning of summer is just one of those times of year when it seems that everyone is celebrating. It is wedding season, so friends and family are celebrating their marriages (and, if you are old enough, the grown kids of your friends and family members are also celebrating). It is graduation season, so again, all the graduates you know (or parents of graduates) are celebrating, too. If you’ve never married or had kids, do you feel left out and a little down in the midst of all this merry-making? I think it depends a bit on what you wanted from your life. If you really wanted to marry, if you really wanted to have kids and celebrate all their accomplishments with them, then this season must really hurt.
Are 30-year olds all that different now than they were nearly half a century ago? In some ways, they really are. That’s what the Census Bureau just told us in a report comparing 30-year-olds in 1975 vs. 2015. The characteristics assessed in the report were education, job status, income, homeownership, marital status, parental status, living arrangements, and enrollment in school. If you want to test your own knowledge or intuition about these matters, don’t read any further until you’ve thought about your answers: How do the 30-year-olds from 1975 and 2015 differ the most and how do they differ the least?
When Kimberly Seals Allers became a single mother, she discovered that not all single mothers are alike. Instead, there is a hierarchy. Some single mothers are more respected and more valued than others. They are also treated better, and their children are, too. I especially appreciated her essay, because the points she made mapped so closely onto the ones I had made in Singled Out about single people more generally. The hierarchy also encompasses single people who are not parents.
Getting married, we are told, will cure what ails us. Not happy enough? Get married and you will get happier. Want to be healthier? Getting married makes that magically happen, too. Getting married, the prevailing narrative insists, will integrate us into society like single life never could. It will lengthen our lives, too. The act of marrying is presented as some sort of magic potion of yore, one of those mysterious cure-all concoctions with unknown ingredients. It still stuns me, that in this age of skepticism and sophistication, these kinds of claims are so widely disseminated and uncritically accepted. But they are. I’ve debunked the claims about the supposedly transformative power of getting married so many times before that I won’t belabor the issues here. I’ll just mention a few key problems, refer you to more extended discussions elsewhere, then get to the point I want to make here, about why we are pelted so incessantly with such misleading claims. About what is says about the real place of marriage in our lives.
Do you like your single life? Settle into it. Research suggests that it can be rewarding in ways you rarely hear about. There's a lot of angst these days about the growing numbers of people living single, and especially about young adults who routinely reach the age of 30 without ever having married. By one respectable estimate, one out of every four of today's young adults will reach 50 as a lifelong single person. Many of their parents are freaking out. Some of the young adults who want to marry are also on edge. My hope for all of us is that we get to pursue the life paths we want, whatever they may be. But I think we have an overly anxious and pessimistic view of lifelong singlehood, and I say that based on data. There is not nearly as much research as there should be on single life, and not all of it is as up-to-date as I would like, but there are some telling findings.
"I'm a proud husband, father," declared a local candidate for office. After his name, it was the first thing he said about himself in his official statement published in the Voter Information Pamphlet I was studying. His website and television ads are filled with marriage and family iconography. There he is with his wife. Here he is with his kids. There he is with his wife and kids. What is he trying to tell me with this information and this imagery? Is it just a basic statement of something about him? That sounds reasonable enough, but then why does it have such a salient place in his campaign materials?