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Do you like your single life? Settle into it. Research suggests that it can be rewarding in ways you rarely hear about. There's a lot of angst these days about the growing numbers of people living single, and especially about young adults who routinely reach the age of 30 without ever having married. By one respectable estimate, one out of every four of today's young adults will reach 50 as a lifelong single person. Many of their parents are freaking out. Some of the young adults who want to marry are also on edge. My hope for all of us is that we get to pursue the life paths we want, whatever they may be. But I think we have an overly anxious and pessimistic view of lifelong singlehood, and I say that based on data. There is not nearly as much research as there should be on single life, and not all of it is as up-to-date as I would like, but there are some telling findings.
If you are single and you dare to write about marriage and single life, there is a criticism that will be flung at you over and over again. As a single person, it is yours alone. Married people can write about the same topics and get a free pass. Here's an example of what I'm talking about.
Time magazine, it seems, cannot get enough of telling single people and their children that they are just not as good as married people and theirs. Sometimes Time seems to be in the marriage-promotion business, peddling ideology rather than reporting. Most disturbingly, it does so under the guise of telling us what science has supposedly shown. On those rare occasions when a Time article on marriage lets in a dissenting voice, that voice gets trampled by the end. Time is on the side of married people and their families. I think it always has been.
Chieh Huang has been called the "real-life dream boss." He is CEO of Boxed, a company that delivers groceries and household goods in bulk. His employees get workplace perks that are the envy of many who toil unappreciated for other companies. He's generous, respectful, and loved. But I think he practices big-time discrimination.
I like to think of myself as a media-savvy person. I don't just buy whatever stories or sentiments the media is selling. I have a critical perspective. Recently, I was reminded that my sense of skepticism isn't always there when it should be. I interviewed people who were adopted for How We Live Now, and even included a whole section on an amazingly innovative community of adoptive families called Hope Meadows. Yet after all that, I still continued to be a sucker for all those tear-jerker stories in the media of people adopted as young children who meet their biological parents for the first time when they are adults. The meetings are always joyful and intensely emotional, as if these are the most positive and most consequential experiences imaginable. So what's wrong with that story?
Thirty years ago, in June of 1986, Newsweek published that infamous article that lit up the media and conversations everywhere, even before social media was there to help. It was about how women who had reached the age of 40 and were still single were more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to ever marry. Twenty years later, Newsweek retracted their scare story. In doing so, they engaged in even more stereotyping and stigmatizing of single women, telling them with one example after another that no matter what they had achieved or how meaningful they thought their life was, it just wasn't as worthy as it would have been if they just got married.
For the first time ever, the President of Taiwan is a woman. The 59-year old Tsai Ing-wen is also single. That did not sit well with a Chinese military official, who believed that her single status rendered her "erratic": "As a single female politician, Tsai Ing-wen does not have the emotional burden of love of 'family' or children, so her political style and strategies are displayed to be more emotional, personal and extreme."
Perhaps you've seen the headlines from the latest Pew Report. For the first time since at least as far back as 1880, more young adults are living with their parents than in any other arrangement. For well over a century, up until now, the most popular way to live among 18- to 34-year olds had been to live with a spouse or partner.
The report highlights data from 1880, 1940,...
The report highlights data from 1880, 1940,...
Getting mental illnesses taken as seriously as physical ones has been a long-lasting struggle. Medical insurance hasn't always covered mental health treatments the way it routinely covers treatments for physical problems. And too often, uninformed laypersons assume that seriously depressed people, for example, should be able to just snap out of it. In part because of the assumption that mental health is under our conscious control in a way that physical health is not, people suffering from mental health problems are more likely to be stigmatized. And that stigma, in turn, can stand in the way of seeking the help that is needed.
What's really important to you? What goals have you set for yourself that mean a lot, so that when you achieve them, you might be tempted to gather round you all the important people in your life to celebrate with you?