Do you ever wonder how everyone else is living? For example, if you live alone, do you wonder how many other people are living alone and what that’s like for them? And what about everyone else who is not living alone – who is in their households?
“You radiate this internal happiness and joy for life… Where do you think your happiness comes from?” I never met the person who asked me that question, but she had watched my TEDx talk, “What no one ever told you about people who are single,” and that was one of her questions.
Once people start living alone, how likely are they to continue living alone? Sometimes people think that having a place of your own is something temporary, a way to live until you find a partner with whom you can share a home.
When I first started studying single people, one thing that was immediately obvious was how relentlessly they were stereotyped. Eventually, my colleagues and I would conduct scientific tests of the stereotypes I thought were out there. It was no surprise when our results showed that single people were seen as miserable, lonely, self-centered, immature, and so much more. Those stereotypes, like many others, have mostly been debunked.
Imagine having a day off to do anything you like. On this hypothetical day, you have no work, no assignments that are due, and no obligations. You can just think about what would make you happy -- within the realm of what you can afford to do and what you can manage to do, logistically – and then just do it.
“When singlehood is rendered viable and aspirational, marriage becomes an option rather than a compulsion.”
In the U.S. and in other nations around the world, fewer people have been marrying and more have been staying single. When people do marry, they are getting around to it at an increasingly older age. As a consequence, the decline in the proportion of married people and the surge in the proportion of single people is especially evident among the young.
In the past half-century or so, solo living has become a demographic juggernaut. According to a United Nations report, around the world, 1-person households are now just as common as households comprised of just a couple, with no kids. And across Europe and North America, there are more households consisting of just one person than of couples and their children.
When I see examples of what I call singlism – the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and marginalizing of single people, and the discrimination against them – I like to point them out in my blog posts. Consciousness-raising is especially important when it comes to singlism. In contrast to more familiar isms such as racism and sexism, singlism is less often recognized. And sometimes, when instances are described, other people deny that they count as examples of prejudice, or they dismiss them as inconsequential. (In fact, some are deadly serious.)