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.
Sometimes people give me gift cards. I know some people think that’s impersonal, but I love it. I get to browse though all the possibilities, fantasize, then get what I want without paying a penny. Recently, I thought I’d pay some of it forward, by giving a gift card to someone else. But the site wouldn’t let me! I had to spend it on myself.
That’s too bad. If I could have spent that money on someone else, I would have been even happier than if I spent it on myself. That’s what a whole series of studies has shown. Here I’ll tell you about a review of that research that just appeared in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The book Happy Money is probably a great source, too, though I haven’t read it yet.
[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.
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.
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.
[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!]