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!]
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!]
Singlism, the ways in which single people are stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, is evident in many different domains, as well as in the ordinary interactions of everyday life. It can be especially hurtful when singlism occurs in places that are supposed to be all about love and caring and healing and wide open arms. I’m talking about churches and other places of worship.
I don’t know when we first started referring to a spouse or a serious romantic partner as a “significant other,” but I do know that the once-narrow criterion for who counts as a significant other has expanded. In contemporary American society (and beyond), we get to decide for ourselves who counts as significant to us. It no longer has to be just one person, and it does not need to be someone we are having sex with.
One of the costs of matrimania – the over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings and couples – is that so many other profoundly significant relationships and aspects of our lives get underappreciated. That’s why I like to provide forums for discussions of so many of the other valued people and pursuits in all of our lives. It is important to push back against the cultural intoxication that leaves us staggering and stupid when it comes to recognizing everyone and everything that might be significant to us other than romantic partners and bridezilla weddings.
Biophilia is one of those things. I admit that when I first encountered the word I thought it sounded like a disease. It is not. It is instead a truly wonderful thing. The sociobiologist E. O. Wilson wrote a book by that name. He describes biophilia as humans’ “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.” It includes a love of nature and of animals. Wilson provides an evolutionary explanation for biophilia. What interests me more as a social psychologist are the empirical studies of the ways in which living things such as trees and plants and pets make a positive difference in our lives.