To be single-at-heart is to feel that single life is, for you, the most meaningful way to live. People who embrace their single-at-heart status pursue the life that fits them best as individuals. That might mean spending lots of time alone or lots of time with friends or family. It might mean pursuing some passion, such as art or science or sports or social justice. Or it may mean feeling totally comfortable in a routine of your own making.
Being single-at-heart can mean lots of things, but what it does not mean is becoming a sappy, matrimaniac when many in the rest of the nation lose their collective minds over the 14th of February. I am so used to dealing with – or ignoring – hype about coupling every other day of the year that I would be happy to just continue rolling my eyes on Valentine’s Day. The problem is, February is peak season for people who just cannot believe that other people do not share their obsession with coupling.
With the War on Poverty marking its 50th anniversary, the scolds are out in force. Their target? Single mothers – especially the poor ones. The preachy ones are reviving an old argument – that if you are a single mother and you are poor, there is a clear solution for you – just get married. There is a blaming quality to the argument, an implication that if you are poor it is your own fault.
To bolster their argument, the just-get-married crowd says that two can live more cheaply than one and that married people have more money than single people do. It is important to recognize the ways in which these claims are true and the ways in which they are misleading.
[Bella’s intro: I have been writing now and then about couples who are committed to each other but live apart – not because they have to but because they want to. Usually, I draw from published research. It is also good to hear first-hand accounts from people who have actually experienced this way of living, and I’m happy to have this two-part essay from Diane Marty. It is a bit longer than most blog posts, but I think you will find it to be a good read. Thanks, Diane!]
Liberty and justice for all! What a great aspiration. Too bad it didn’t apply to single people in the American colonies.
Stanford sociologist Michael J. Rosenfeld, author of The Age of Independence, has a thing or two to say about singlism in early American history. Here are just a few historical gems (from this review) that make me happy to be living in the 21st century:
Every year, starting in 1972, a representative sample of American adults (different people each year) has been asked to describe their overall health. Researchers have reported on how health has changed over time, depending on whether the people answering are currently married, divorced, widowed, or have always been single. One report looked at trends across about three decades, from 1972 to 2003.
My favorite listicle – and also my nomination for the saddest and most discouraging one – has been making the rounds lately. Shani Silver’s 10 things NOT to say to your single friends started out at xoJane and was picked up by Alternet and probably lots of other places as well.
I know that I’m supposed to feel self-conscious around the holidays, walking into all those holiday parties on my own when so many others are coupled-up. But I don’t. In fact, I feel both happy and proud. Happy, because I’m a sociable person and I like some of these gatherings; and happy because I also love my solitude, and after the party is over, I can go home to some.
The proud part is more interesting: I like it that I don’t grab onto someone just to try to fit in at a time of such relentless coupling.
I like to talk about how the United States is increasingly becoming a nation of single people, with 103 million of us, or more than 44%, currently not married (i.e., we are divorced or widowed or have always been single). Americans spend more years of their adult lives not married than married – something that has been true for years.
Yet it doesn’t always seem like we are a nation of singles. One of the reasons for that is that we are such a matrimanical society, always celebrating marriage and coupling and throwing over-the-top weddings, that single people can seem invisible and single life inconsequential.
[Bella’s intro: The previous article here at “Single at Heart” was a guest post by scholar Laura Dales, “Single Women in Japan, Part I: Getting Called Loser Dogs and Parasites.” This is Part 2.]
Guest Post by Laura Dales
[Bella’s intro: There has been so much in the media lately about single people in Japan, much of it sensational. Have they given up on sex? Do they hide out in their rooms and never come out? When I read stories about single people in Japan, I always wonder what people who actually study single people in Japan have to say. So I was delighted when the very smart and thoughtful scholar Professor Laura Dales agreed to tell us what she has learned about single women in Japan. This is Part 1. Thanks, Laura!]