Over the course of my research on innovative ways of living, one of the people I set my sights on interviewing was Karen Hester. I knew that she was one of those people called a “burning soul,” who was so passionate about living in a real, caring, committed community that she was one of the motivating forces in creating such a community. Together with several other single friends and some families, she did the years of work involved in making the Temescal Creek cohousing community happen.
I had planned to follow up my previous post, 6 psychological insights about solitude, with a related article about the 20 varieties of solitude. With the big jackpot in the news, though, I will instead make that my next post. I just looked up the available research and whether any of it could help us understand the psychology of lottery winners, and whether marital status matters. The most relevant study I could find does not include everything I would have liked, but it is based on quite a lot of data.
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.
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.
It sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? A single woman is offered a job as a college president, where she will live in the college’s presidential home, but her contract forbids any cohabitation with a romantic partner. Maybe this would be plausible if it had happened in the last century?
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.