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.
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.)
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.
Liberty and justice for all! What a great aspiration. Too bad it didn’t apply to single people in the American colonies.
Stanford sociologist Michael J. Rosenfeld, author of The Age of Independence, has a thing or two to say about singlism in early American history. Here are just a few historical gems (from this review) that make me happy to be living in the 21st century:
I’m going off-topic today to talk about some just-published research on a topic that is particularly timely during this season of heightened concerns about post-holiday weight.
Americans are obsessed about weight and the media is filled with articles about the infamous obesity epidemic. You know the ones – they tell you all the ways in which it is bad for your health to be fat. Maybe they also throw in some admonitions about how employers are cracking down on the overweight, by either firing them or refusing to hire them in the first place.
So what is the effect of reading articles like those? Does it motivate people – especially overweight people – to stop eating so much? A colleague at UCSB, Brenda Major, and her coauthors conducted an experiment to find out.
If you printed every article ever written about loneliness, you would probably need a whole room full of file cabinets to house them. Maybe several rooms. Loneliness research seems to be its own industry.
Most of the research focuses on you. What is it about you that is making you lonely? Are you taking the right steps to excise your loneliness?
Now, an entirely different approach is becoming popular. It is about the architecture and design of happiness and sociability. By this way of thinking, the ways our dorms and houses and cities and towns are designed may well have a lot to do with how successful we are at forming meaningful connections with other people.
It is almost unfathomable that such a thing could happen here in the matrimaniacal United States, but in Japan, it is the new normal: Young and youngish single people just are not all that interested in sex, romance, or marriage.
I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy from the very first season. With regard to its treatment of issues around single life and marriage, it has been a mixed bag. I thought the early shows were the strongest in that regard. Two themes were central – the characters’ friendships with one another, and their total, utter devotion to and love of their work.
You can probably recognize those people, though if you are reading this, you are probably not one of them. I’m talking about people who are afraid to be single. They are rushing into romantic relationships – and staying in bad ones – because they are so scared of living single.
For the entire history of theorizing about single life and some people’s eagerness to escape it, what I just said was merely a guess. But now we know for sure. Stephanie Spielmann and six of her colleagues at the University of Toronto have just developed a “Fear of Being Single Scale” and then conducted a series of studies to see how it matters if you are fearful, vs. fearless, about living single. The title of their journal article says it all: “Settling for Less Out of Fear of Being Single.”
Finland has a population of about 5.4 million. The US population is about 317 million. Yet at the end of September, Finland hosted an event that, so far as I know, the US has never had: a day-long conference on the topic of single people living alone.