[Bella's intro: There are some events I would never want to attend, such as ones that pose the question, "Why is everyone still single," as if that's a bad thing. Fortunately, the wonderful Kim Calvert went to one iteration of "The Great Love Debate" so we don't have to. Even more fortunately, Kim brings her much more enlightened attitude to the task of reporting back to us. Thanks, Kim! Readers, you can find out more about Kim in the "About the Author" section at the end. And one more thing: If you want to know the real reasons for living single, check this out.]
Starting in the early 1800s, some of the young women in the Guangdong section of China made a most unusual decision – they committed to staying single for the rest of their lives. They are called zishunu — self-combed women. When they left their parents’ home, it was to work, not marry.
Writings about single life – both popular and academic – focus overwhelmingly on women. Because marriage, traditionally, is supposed to be more important to women than to men, in theory more central to their identities and their happiness, single life should be especially problematic for women. Research begs to disagree about the happiness presumption, but no matter. Angst-filled writings about women living single continue to proliferate.
Alongside the tired old tales of those “poor” single women is a counter-narrative. It is one of strength, fulfillment, and independence. That story is often told of single women who live alone.
[Bella's intro: Probably about once a year, someone asks me what I think of the idea of marrying yourself. I've never written about the topic. Happily, the very insightful Terri Trespicio has some smart ideas on the matter, and I was delighted that she was willing to share them with "Single at Heart" readers. Thanks, Terri! By the way, Terri was featured on the cover of a Boston Magazine story, "Single by choice: Why more of us than ever before are happy to never get married."]
How many times have you read a story in the media claiming that the children of married parents do better than the children of single parents, and therefore people should get married before they have kids, or they should refrain from divorcing? The claim about the children of married parents doing better is often exaggerated, a misrepresentation of the actual findings, or just plain wrong, as I have shown repeatedly. Nonetheless, the myths continue to get perpetuated, along with the self-righteous advice.
During difficult economic times, many people are stressed about money, but single people are likely to be especially so. For well over a decade, I’ve been trying to promote consciousness-raising about single people and their lives. It is a challenge, trying to nudge a matrimaniacal society into recognizing that not everyone is part of a couple or even wants to be. But as the number of single people continues to grow, closing in on half of all of the adult population, that will change.
One way it changes is when writers and pundits and opinion-leaders have single people in their lives who are so important to them and so close to them that they just can’t ignore their issues anymore. So it was over at Forbes, when Nancy Anderson, in the second paragraph of her article, acknowledged that all of her adult sons were single.
For years, I have been railing about the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against single people that I call singlism. What bothers me is not just that it happens, but that the people who practice singlism do so without apology and often without any awareness that what they are doing is offensive.
Occasionally, though, those who try to stigmatize, stereotype, or shame single people actually get called on it. Here are two recent examples from the world of politics, one from Japan and the other from the U.S.
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.”
When I get phone calls from strangers, especially those particularly annoying ones from marketers who never should have called my number in the first place, I am often addressed as “Mrs. DePaulo.” I never let it slide. I always correct the caller, telling the person that I am not a “Mrs.” Sometimes I don’t stop there. I add that I’m single and I always have been and always will be and I like it that way.
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.