Archives for Psychology
“Flower Hunters,” Lauren Groff’s short story in the New Yorker, includes this passage: “She picks up her cell – she wants to tell her best friend, Meg, about her sudden overwhelming love for the ghost of a Quaker naturalist – but then she remembers that Meg doesn’t want to be her best friend anymore. “A week ago, Meg said very gently, I’m sorry, I just need to take a break.”
Since the election, I have been getting asked a question I hesitate to answer in this space since this is not a political blog, so I will address a different question instead. The question I’ve been asked is some version of: What are the implications of the next four years for people who are single in the U.S.? There are some ominous signs. But rather than dwelling on those, I have been thinking about a different question. What can we single people do for ourselves to make our lives better?
What is the key difference between romantic relationships – which are valued and respected and pondered and studied and celebrated and, well, romanticized – and all of the other close and meaningful relationships in our lives? Relationships with our closest friends, that may have outlasted most marriages. Relationships with parents and children, and the kin and chosen kin we hold most dear. They key difference is sex – or at least the potential for sex to have an important place in the relationship.
[Bella’s intro: For decades, I have been yearning to find books about single people who live their lives fully and joyfully. Books that do not make some tired old romantic plot the centerpiece, but instead showcase the kinds of experiences that can make single life so meaningful and so fulfilling. Fiction would be great. Nonfiction, as in memoirs of real single people, maybe even better. Sadly, those kinds of books are hard to find. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover Edie Jarolim’s new memoir about her life as a writer, Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All. I told the author that if an endorsement from me would ever be of value, she was free to use this: “Edie Jarolim is a single woman leading a rich, complicated, exasperating, inspiring, and adventurous life of a writer. Fortunately for all of us, her insights, wit, and story-telling skills are superb. More, please!”
Do you have people in your life who feel like family even though you are not related them through legal or biological ties? Do you also have ties with biological or legal family members, such as parents, grandparents, children, a spouse, in-laws, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and other family members? If you answered yes to both questions, then the next question is: How do your two kinds of families relate to each other? Is there one best way for them to relate to each other – the way you should aspire to achieve?
Never before in recent American history have friends been so important to our everyday lives. They are important because they embody American values of equality, choice, self-expression, individualism, freedom, fluidity, and flexibility. They are important because our families have never been smaller than they are now, because fewer people are marrying, and those who do marry are getting to it later in life than they once did. And rates of remarriage are dropping. With fewer brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and all the other relatives who used to gather around during holidays and other days, Americans increasingly look to the people they choose to have in their lives, rather than the people assigned to them through family ties.
In 1960, more than a half-century ago, only 8 percent of all children lived only with their mother. By 2016, that number had surged to 23 percent. That’s one of the most striking differences in how children are living, according to a new report from the Census Bureau.
To most Americans – and probably most Westerners – romantic love is the greatest love of all. In fact, romantic love is sometimes considered the very definition of love. We often use “love” as a shorthand for romantic love, just as we use the word “relationship” without even thinking that we need to specify that we mean “romantic relationship.” Before I started studying single life, I had no idea that contemporary American views of love and intimacy were so narrow. Then I spent a long time reading.
One of the sticky stereotypes of single people is that they are selfish and self-centered. Supposedly, they are not the ones volunteering in their communities – married people are. But is that really so? The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects systematic data on eight major categories of volunteer work (and two miscellaneous categories). The most recent report shows that the perception of single people as self-centered is just a myth. When it comes to volunteering, single people contribute to every kind of organization as often or more often than married people do, with just one exception.
Romantic Photos, Texts with Boyfriends, and Other Everyday Ways of Undermining Women’s Career Aspirations
It all seems so innocent. The romantic photographs. The enthusiastic conversations about great dates. Texting a boyfriend. Thinking about a boyfriend as Prince Charming. Yet research shows that all these everyday life experiences may have the potential to undermine women’s interest in serious careers, perhaps especially careers in math and science.