As a scholar and practitioner of single life, I should probably be collecting great quips and quotes about singlehood and solitude. There are some classics, such as Mae West’s “Marriage is a fine institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.”
Starting later this year, if you want to get a divorce in Oklahoma and you have kids younger than 18, you are going to have to take a course first, and pay for it yourself. Among the topics to be included in the course is “the effects divorce has on a child’s well-being.”
My guess is that Oklahomans are being forced to pay for propaganda. For many years, I have been scrutinizing claims about the supposed effects of divorce on children, and the implications for children of single parenting. Wildly exaggerated claims and misrepresentations of the actual data are rampant.
Earlier this week, a top political leader in Finland declared that people who live alone are targets of unfair taxes, fees, and housing costs. The laws, she noted, are unjust.
To all of the millions and millions of solo-dwellers living somewhere other than Finland, take a moment and allow yourself some vicarious savoring. Imagine that in other countries, too, political leaders might begin to take seriously the financial challenges of people who are single, especially those singles who are living alone.
[Bella’s intro: I recently discovered UK singles blogger and author Paula Coston. One of her posts included a set of pros and cons about single life that I found particularly clever, so I asked if I could share some of them here. Happily, she agreed. Thanks, Paula! Readers, please contribute your witty pairs of pros and cons.]
From Paula Coston: I’m a British female singleton, 59 and childless.
Some cons and pros of singledom, as I see them.
Con: I talk to myself.
Pro: I make more sense than most people.
“Make Room for Singles in Teaching and Research” (also available here) was the title of an article I wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education, together with sociologist Kay Trimberger and law professor (and now Dean of UCLA Law School) Rachel Moran. When the Chronicle published the article, it was in a special issue on diversity.
I think that was apt. We need a singles perspective in academia in the same way we need the perspectives of other groups such as women and people of color. Without these different points of view, we end up asking a limited set of questions and coming up with a narrow set of predictable answers. We miss some things entirely and see too much of other things.
When writers of movies and TV shows want to reach for an easy plot line, they all come up with the same sort of answer – a marriage proposal, a wedding, or some other tired old form of matrimania. It doesn’t matter what the genre is – comedies, dramas, crime procedurals, even sporting events and newscasts, not to even mention the reality shows that at least have the decency to announce that they are about marriage proposals; somehow matrimania will rear its boring, predictable head.
Now something else is happening.
There’s good news and bad news about dining alone. The bad news is that many people are intimidated by the mere thought of dining solo. They think that other people will see them as lonely, pathetic – as people who do not have a friend in the world. The good news is that they are wrong. In research my colleagues and I did, we found that on average, other people were no more likely to think ill of a solo diner than of the same person dining as part of a couple, a group, or any other arrangement.
From all of the stereotyping, stigmatizing and discrimination against single people that I call singlism, you probably already realize that many people have a problem with people who are single. What really surprised me at first is that some people seem even more upset at single people who are happily single and choose to stay single than at sad singles. Now there is research documenting what was at first just a feeling. Other people really do feel angrier at single people who choose to be single. Happy single people ruin their views of how the world works.
Maybe that’s why there seem to be so many ways to undermine single people’s contentment with their lives – or at least try to. Rebecca Adams wrote about this in, “If you feel bad about being single, it’s not because you’re single.” Among the pressures that can cause single people to doubt their own happiness with their single lives are:
On the Travel page of the magazine, The Week, was a one-paragraph excerpt from a story about a visit to America’s “happiest seaside town.” Read it and see what you think. Then keep reading if you want to know what I thought.
For the second time in just a few months, a reporter asked me if there are scientifically-documented ways in which single people are not just doing as well as married people, but better. It was time for me to start my list, and so far, I came up with 23 ways in which single people are doing better than married people.
What do these results tell us about single life and married life and the differences between them?