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Food for Thought: Singles Edition

I keep a file of quotes relevant to single life that I constantly replenish. At a time of year when food is so central to so many people, I thought I’d share some food for thought.

On the critical difference between loneliness and solitude:

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”

–Author Mary Sarton, as quoted in the Associated Press

Who is really at risk for feeling lonely:

“If you are afraid of loneliness, don’t marry.”

–Anton Chekhov

On celebrating on your own:

When Jessica Biel found out, in 2018, that she had been nominated for an Emmy, she was alone with her 3-year-old. She told Stephen Colbert that she put her son to bed, and then,

“I enjoyed a fabulous glass of champagne by myself.”

Colbert told her she should not drink alone. Biel wasn’t having it:

“You know what, I like drinking alone…I think it’s cool.”

The rap against living alone that is just plain wrong for certain people:

Felicia Nimue Ackerman has had more than 200 letters to the editor published in the New York Times. That may well be a record. When she was profiled by Andrew Marantz for The New Yorker, she was living with no one but her cat. In one of her letters to the Times, she made this apt observation:

“The fact that living alone may make it ‘difficult to go back to living with someone else’ is a disadvantage only to people who anticipate ever wanting to go back to that.”

How the term “Ms.” became popularized:

The term “Ms.” has a long history, but it took the efforts of Sheila Michaels to popularize it. She liked it because it captured her independent status:

“No one wanted to claim me, and I didn’t want to be owned. I didn’t belong to my father and I didn’t want to belong to a husband.”

About the stereotyping of single people:

In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Prodigal Summer, the character Lusa had been widowed at a very young age:

“Lusa had been amazed at how quickly her status had changed: being single made her either invisible or dangerous. Or both, like a germ. She’d noticed it even at the funeral, especially among the younger ones, wives her own age who needed to believe marriage was a safe and final outcome.”

Lusa was not just a target of singlism; she came to realize that she had also practiced singlism by stereotyping other single people:

“She [Lusa] understood with some chagrin that she’d accepted the family’s judgment of Jewel as a child and not a woman, simply because she was manless.”

This perspective on how married people regard single people is from a comedy special on Netflix (hat tip to Elliott Lewis for telling me about it a while back):

“They put you on the couch, and they stare at you like you’re a pillow that doesn’t make sense to them. Like, ‘What do we do with that? We have to match that somehow…’”

–Comedian Jen Kirkman

This is dedicated to all the unique pillows out there who are not looking for their match. Happy holidays!

Food for Thought: Singles Edition

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2019). Food for Thought: Singles Edition. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Nov 2019
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