Every month, 60,500 people go to their Google search bar and type the question, “Is Santa real?” That’s from a study by Search Factory, an Australian optimization agency. I like to read the original versions of studies, but I can’t find this one, so I’m relying here on press reports. Risky, I know.
In articles discussing the results of the research, the question about Santa was the only one that was asked more often than this one:
[Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on why it matters when misleading reports about marriage and single life are perpetrated in the media. Part 1 is here.]
All of the media reports claiming that getting married will make you lastingly happier or healthier or better in some other psychological, emotional, or physical way – they are all wrong. Every single one of them. (There is one way that getting married does help – it makes you wealthier. That’s because of discriminatory practices of singlism built right into our laws and practices. But you can lose a lot in a flash if you get divorced.)
In 1986, Newsweek published a cover story with the sensational claim that a 40-year old woman who had never married was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than to ever get married. Even thought the viral powers of social media were decades in the future, the story took off. It was discussed everywhere, mostly unquestioningly. Finally, Susan Faludi took it apart in her brilliant Backlash book, but by then, the damage was done. Decades later, even Newsweek copped to getting it wrong, though they did so in a story that itself was matrimanical.
With that Malaysian Airlines flight still missing, I have been thinking about another flight that could have been catastrophic but wasn’t. It was five years ago when Captain Sully Sullenberger heroically achieved a dramatic landing of a plane that was in serious trouble. As the aftermath unfolded, we learned more about how various people reacted when the dramatic events were in progress.
One of the most frustrating things about singlism – the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against people who are single – is that it is not just practiced by select portions of the population, say, those who practice racism or sexism or ageism or heterosexism or any of the other more familiar isms. Sadly, the sin of singlism knows no bounds. Smart, progressive people, cutting-edge publications, successful businesses – all of them, and more, practice singlism, usually without apology or even any awareness that there is anything to apologize for.
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.
[Bella’s intro: Well over 100 million Americans are single, yet as a group, they are not really taken all that seriously. What they contribute to society is mostly overlooked, and the ways in which they are stereotyped, stigmatized, discriminated against, and ignored (what I call singlism) is mostly, well, ignored. There is a week devoted to changing that, a national Singles Week, in late September. I always blog about it when it comes around. Others do, too. Yet the occasion has never really taken off.
Karen Reed (you can read more about her at the end of this post) thought there should be a Singles Day, like the wildly successful one in China, only without all the awful matrimanical mate-seeking themes. I have to admit that I was skeptical – Singles Week has never made a splash and it has been promoted since 2001, and around even longer than that. Karen, though, was undeterred. In a short time, she managed to create a very successful Singles Day celebration.