I like to celebrate single life. I think it deserves at least as much respect and celebration as married life. Maybe even more, because single people are still stereotyped and stigmatized. When they do well in their lives, they are typically overcoming many more obstacles than married people are.
Maybe, though, what should come before celebrating single life is normalizing it. What’s striking about being single in contemporary American society (and many other places as well) is that it is utterly ordinary. Living single is normal. Nearly as many people in the U.S. who are 18 and older are unmarried as married. (If you start counting at age 15 or 16 instead of 18, then there are more people who are not married than married.) What’s more, even when you include in your calculations people who do marry, Americans are spending more years of their adult lives not married than married. Living single is not just normal, it’s the norm.
I just gave a talk on Singled Out and my other writings about single life at the Women’s Literary Festival. I described the statistics behind my claim that it is the single people who are living in the most ordinary and commonplace way, so we should stop thinking about single people – even single people who are beyond their 20s and 30s – as unusual. I mentioned one of my favorite predictions from the Pew Research Center that by the time today’s young adults reach the age of 50, about 25% of them will have been single their entire life.
I told the audience about my research on single people and explained that I was interested in every aspect of single life except one – dating. I wanted to underscore the point that single life is something to be embraced, not just something to try to escape.
I also described some of what I love about being single and living alone. I could have spent the entire time just on that but there was so much more to say.
Many people had questions that they asked in front of the room full of more than 100 people. Even more telling, I thought, were the questions and comments I got from the people who approached me individually afterwards. Several people told me they had grown children in their 40s who had never married. My bet is that they had never in their life approached a stranger to tell them, unapologetically, that their son or daughter had never married. They seemed to be thinking about their grown kids in a new way. Of course, other lifelong single people also talked to me. So did a few recently divorced people. Another person told me that she had been living with roommates but listening to me talk about what I loved about living alone reminded her of what she loved, too. She’s going to try to find a place of her own.
As long-time readers of this blog know, I don’t think that being single is for everyone, and neither is living alone. (Lots of single people do not live alone.) If being single or living alone is for you, though, you should fully embrace it. Live it, love it, and never let yourself feel pressured to justify it or apologize for it. You have lots of great company.