I love the single-at-heart life so much that I named this blog after it. (Click here and then scroll down to learn more about what it means to be single-at-heart and what we know about it.) I devote many posts to the continuing challenges of living single, whether or not you embrace that status the way people who are single-at-heart do. It is frustrating and disappointing to find that the stereotyping and stigmatizing of single people, the exclusion of them from social events organized by the couple, and the discrimination against them (all of which I call singlism) has continued into the 21st century.
Yet in this season of thanks, it is also fitting to recognize the ways in which it is more possible to live a full, joyful, complete, and meaningful life as a single person than it ever has been before. Attitudes are changing for the better, different ways of living have proliferated, and laws are evolving in ways that suggest greater inclusiveness.
One of the strengths of single people comes from our growing numbers. In 1960, only 28% of Americans 18 or older were single (divorced, widowed, or always-single). By 2012, the percentage had jumped to 44%. If you are an unmarried American, you have that in common with at least 103 million other people.
This is not just an American phenomenon. A United Nations report on population trends in 77 nations found that between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of women ages 44-49 who had never been married had increased in every developed nation.
Not all single people live alone (some live with people such as friends or family), but the number who do has also been climbing precipitously. In 1950, the percentage of people living alone was in the single digits (about 9%). By 2012, the percentage of 1-person households was 27.5%. In plenty of other nations, especially Scandinavian ones, solo living is even more commonplace.
In an especially dramatic retreat from Nuclear Family Land, the percentage of 1-person households now exceeds the number of married-with-children households. In fact, it has for years. Households with any married couple at the helm (whether or not they have kids) are now in the minority; there are more households headed by people who are not married (whether or not they have kids). (See Singled Out for more documentation of these demographic trends and discussions of what they mean.)
However you plan to celebrate this holiday season – or not celebrate – you probably have lots of company. There is no one way anymore, and for that, I think we can all be grateful.
Here are some of my previous posts on Thanksgiving, from this blog and from before I started blogging here at Psych Central:
Single friends image available from Shutterstock.