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:
Just about every time a new Census Report comes out, it shows that the age at which Americans first marry – among those who do marry – has reached a new record high. In 2013, the age for men reached 29 for the first time ever. For women, it was 26.6.
I’m interested in the age at which Americans first marry because the increase in that number is one of many factors contributing to the ever-growing number of Americans who are single. For others, though, it is a source of angst. Omigosh, the older generations are exclaiming, the millennials are just never going to grow up! Omigosh, the millennials who want to marry are saying as they berate themselves, am I ever going to make it into the Married Couples Club? (The single-at-heart are blissfully free of such concerns.)
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.
[Bella’s intro: This is the second and last part of my Q & A with Karen Reed, who in a very short time created a very successful first-ever Singles Day celebration. Part 1 is here. You can find more pictures from the event here.]
Bella: How did the Singles Day kickoff celebration go?
Karen Reed: Come January 11th, we had built what would turn out to be a day to remember. According to managers at the kickoff event venue, we brought in over 100 people to their typically low-key afternoon time slot. According to our informal “sticker count” of Singles Day stickers before and after the event, over 160 were given out to enthusiastic event-goers looking to display them at local businesses for specials and discounts.
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.
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:
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.]