Archives for Marriage

General

Hector’s Search for Happiness Ends with a Cliché

Fair warning: This post includes a spoiler and the spoiler (about the end of the movie) is the whole point. I'm talking about "Hector and the Search for Happiness."

I stumbled upon the movie when I was browsing Netflix for something to watch. I didn't know that before the story became a movie, it was an "international bestseller with more than two million copies sold." I had never heard of the book or the movie before. I don't know if the movie is faithful to the book. I sure hope not.

Continue Reading

General

Amidst All the Matrimania, the Power of Friendship Endures

We've heard a lot of flowery prose about marriage lately, both within the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide and in the ensuing commentaries. I don't think marriage is the key relationship of the 21st century, though – I believe it is friendship.

Somewhere around half of all American adults are single. Many who do marry cycle in and out of coupled life (as, for example, when they get married and then divorced). This is the big picture of our lives today: Americans now spend more years of their adult life unmarried than married – and that's been true for years.

Continue Reading

General

SCOTUS Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage: Wiser Views Than Those of the Justices

"We need to have a conversation." How often have we heard these words when some controversial issue is broached? The Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal across the nation has launched countless conversations.

Many of the conversations are celebratory. To activists, the ruling is a huge step forward on a long path to social justice. I'm all for social justice and civil rights. But the ruling lets more people into marriage while all single people are still unjustly left out of all of the benefits and protections awarded only to those who are legally married. It is a broader conceptualization than we had before the ruling, but it is still a very narrow view of the people and relationships and life pursuits that matter.

Continue Reading

General

Kate, Kay, and the Single Ladies, Part 2: Experiments in Living Outside of a Nuclear Family Household

[From Bella: This is Part 2 of E. Kay Trimberger's two-part guest essay. Part 1 is here.]

Kate, Kay and the Single Ladies, Part 2: Experiments in Living Outside of a Nuclear Family Household

Guest post by E. Kay Trimberger

In our late 20s, Kate and I both lived in New York City, worked hard, and had few women friends. In my early 30s, however, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, a place that had beckoned me since I was a teenager, when I’d learned about the Beats and seen San Francisco for the first time. Attracted by the proximity of urban culture and natural beauty, and by its reputation for unconventional life styles, I had always wanted to live there. The communal living experiments I found in the Bay Area in the 1970s differentiated my life from Kate’s.

Three years after completing my PhD, I gave up a tenure-track job in the City University of New York for a temporary lectureship at a state university an hour’s drive from San Francisco and then found a permanent position in another state institution the same distance away. Colleagues in the East criticized me for not searching for a more prestigious academic appointment, but I wanted to find a personal life that would anchor me. As a feminist, I now believed I could have satisfying work and a family life, but both the impact of the 1970s counterculture and my continuing fear of being swallowed by the nuclear family, led me to look for alternatives to living as a couple. I was lucky that academic jobs were still plentiful in the 1970s and housing was inexpensive. Thirty years later, Kate and other young women would not be so fortunate. I soon moved to Berkeley to join a group of academics some of whom taught at the famous university there, but more of whom commuted to teach in less prestigious colleges. Berkeley too attracted all kinds of left, feminist and counter cultural activists. I was soon ensconced in a community of leftist and feminist intellectuals, a community that I never had in New York.

Continue Reading

General

Kate, Kay, and the Single Ladies, Part 1: Different Experiences of Single Life Across the Generations

Guest post by E. Kay Trimberger

[Bella's intro: Many writings about single life have been inspired by Kate Bolick's Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own. In this two-part guest post, E. Kay Trimberger offers an important perspective I have not seen anywhere else – a cultural and historical analysis, told through the lens of personal experiences, of someone born more than three decades before Bolick, and even a few years before Bolick's mother. Cultural sensibilities around marriage and single life were strikingly different during Trimberger's early and middle adult years, and perhaps not in the ways you might presume. I'm so grateful to Kay for sharing her observations with us. Here is Part 1.]

Continue Reading

General

Are You Going to Be an Elder Orphan? Part 1: The Odds

Single people are accustomed to the scare story that they are going to die alone. Most have heard it so often that they have long ago realized its ridiculousness – marriage can't protect both spouses from dying alone unless they both die at the same time. So I guess it is time for a new threat to supplant the old one. It has arrived: We single people – especially those of us with no kids – are doomed to become "elder orphans" with no one to care for us when we grow old. According to this new variation, we are not just going to die alone, we are also going to age alone.

There are some serious issues here, so I don't just want to engage in mockery. But I do want to put the concerns in perspective, so that single people and people with no children are not needlessly put on the defensive once again, while those who are married with children feel reassured that they are just fine. And I also want to push back on those judgmental headlines, such as the one from Consumer Affairs declaring, "Free-living Baby Boomers at risk of becoming 'elderly orphans'".

Continue Reading

General

Beyond Happiness: What Single People Really Need

We are in the midst of one of those cultural moments when people who are happily single are getting some attention, and it is not all skeptical or mocking or grudging. In Spinster, Kate Bolick urged women to embrace "that in you which is independent and self-sufficient," even if you are not technically single. (I'd add that positive messages about single life should apply to men, too.)

Many an essay has leapt from the keyboards of readers of Spinster. I appreciate all those reverberating voices telling single people to embrace their singlehood. I've long been making the case that a single life can be a very happy and deeply meaningful life. I've also addressed, over and over again, the claims that getting married makes people happier. They are based on embarrassingly flawed studies and assumptions.

Yet I also value the notes of caution, such as Samhita Mukhopadhyay's article in the Nation warning that "celebrating your inner spinster" is not nearly sufficient if single people are to have the same opportunities for a good life as married people already do. Here, with some of my own embellishments, are some of the impediments she describes and some of the ways she thinks they can be transcended:

Continue Reading

Love & Affection

What If You Don’t Like Being Single? Guest Post by Kim Calvert

[Note from Bella: Sometimes I find that a topic I have been thinking about has already been addressed by someone else, in a particularly compelling way. That just happened with the ever-brilliant and insightful Kim Calvert. I've featured Kim's writing here previously, and I think readers will enjoy this contribution – which originally appeared at Singular City – just as much. Thanks, Kim!]
Taking Pleasure in the Pain of Being Single
Guest Post by Kim Calvert

Ever have the feeling that sometimes single people, particularly single women, get a little too much pleasure from the pain of being single?

Continue Reading

General

Is Single Motherhood Bad for Your Health? Why You Should Be Skeptical

In Singled Out, I debunked myths about single people. Many of my chapter titles make fun of specific myths and scare stories, such as this one: "Attention, Single Parents: Your Kids are Doomed." When it comes to single parenting, a lot of the singlist bashing is wrapped in a faux concern for the children. Poor things. They are being raised by single parents. They don't have that magical marriage in their lives.

The latest research is targeting single mothers. We are now told that they are doomed, too – to poorer health than those far superior mothers who are married. The basis of the claim seems, on the face of it, rather impressive – a study of more than 25,000 women from 15 different nations. The researchers documented who among the women had been a single mother before the age of 50 and then looked at their current health and functional abilities later, when they were over the age of 50. The first sentence of their conclusions, on the first page of their article, was used as the basis of headlines in stories that blanketed the media: "Single motherhood during early adulthood or mid-adulthood is associated with poorer health in later life."

The Today Show picked up on it, and if you read to the end of the article they posted on their website, you will find out just what they tell single mothers to do. Can you guess what it is? Oh, yeah – get married!

I'm here to tell you what you did not read in any (well, hardly any) other article or media spot about this study: (1) The sweeping conclusion – single moms have worse health later in life! – is not so sweeping at all. There are entire regions in which it is not true at all. (2) There are many factors, other than single parenting, that could account for the results. (3) The study did not – and could not – demonstrate that single parenting caused poorer health. Even when there does seem to be a statistical relationship between single parenting and worse health later on, single parenting may not actually be the key driving factor in the poorer health.

Continue Reading

General

What Do You Really Know About the Experience of Traveling Solo?

More than a decade ago, when I first started to study single life in earnest and not just live it, I took a look at how different groups and markets seemed to view single people. One of them was the travel industry, and wow, was I appalled. I found appeals written for the single traveler, but they all seemed to assume that people traveling on their own had just one goal – to come home coupled. Marketers touted all the eligible suitors the solo travelers might meet and all the wonderful social events on the schedule to bring them together. And if singles were charged far more for their reservations than couples, well too bad.

Today, much has changed for the better. There is no better chronicler of solo sojourners and their place in the contemporary travel industry than New York Times writer Stephanie Rosenbloom (also mentioned in previous posts here and here and here). In "Travel Industry Responds to Rise in Solo Sojourners," I found 5 fun facts that either surprised or delighted me. I'm presenting them in the form of quiz items. See how many you can get correct:

Continue Reading