Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Latest Claim: Getting Married Makes You Fatter Because You Are Having So Much Fun

Even when marrying has a bad effect, it will be attributed to something good.

Are Living Single readers brilliant or what? Here are just a few of their latest insights. (I have so many more that I still need to get to.)

1. When bad things happen to married people, it's all good.

Let me tell you about a great catch made by Jeanine in a story she saw in the New York Times about how getting married makes women fatter.

First, some background. In Singled Out, I described a CDC study showing that married people were fatter than single people. The study was based on a nationally representative sample of more than 100,000 Americans. Still, I noted that since it was a study of people at just one point in time, it was unfair to conclude that getting married made people fatter. Maybe, for example, they were already fat when they were single and getting married didn't change anything.

Now along comes a study that actually did follow the same people over time - more than 6,000 Australian women, for 10 years. All of the women gained weight over the 10 years, especially if they had children. But just looking at the women without kids, the ones with a partner gained more weight than the women who were single. [Caveat: The original study is not yet online at the journal's website, so I was not able to read the original article, which is what I always try to do.]

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The Times reporter asked another scholar (not the study's lead author) why she thought that the married (partnered) women had gained more weight. Before I tell you her answer - which was just a guess - imagine what answer would have been proffered if it were the single women who got fatter. Probably that they are home alone sitting on their couches eating ice cream, in a desperate attempt to sugar-coat that bitter man-less taste in their mouths.

But since it is the coupled women getting fatter - well! It is because of a GOOD thing - their active social lives! They're always going out to restaurants, those married women. (Thanks, Jeanine, for noticing this.)

2. Bad food is perfect for single people.

I have so many boxes of clippings that sometimes I can no longer locate some of my favorite things. For example, somewhere in my collection is a story about convenience desserts (I think you pop them in the microwave) that were described as only moderately tasty, but still ideal for college students and single people. Because really, what is a better predictor of wanting your food to taste great than being married?

I still can't find that, but fortunately (well, not so fortunately), another version of it recently appeared on CNN Money. (Jeanine found that one, too -- thanks again!) This one is about pancake mixture that comes in a can. I guess you shake it up, point the nozzle, and shoot! For $4.99 a can, you, too, can have pancakes. The proud distributor of the spray-pancakes bragged to the reporter about what a terrific convenience food it is, great "for single people and campers."

I hereby invite both the distributor and the reporter to my place. I'll treat them to my homemade buttermilk pancakes with a compote made from fresh farmers-market blueberries.

3. Since Google and Netflix are booming, should you start your own business, too?

Living Single reader "logic001" left a comment to this post that may well be my new favorite way to explain what's wrong with studies comparing currently married people to single people.

My old favorite analogy was to a drug study. Looking only at the people who are currently married, and claiming that they are doing better in some way than people who are unmarried, is a bit like doing a drug study in which you only include in the drug condition the people who liked the drug and stayed on it. You pretend that the many people - maybe even as many as 40-plus % - who started taking the drug and couldn't stand it, should not count against any claims that the drug companies want to make for the effectiveness of the drug. The companies claim that the drug works based only on the people for whom the drug worked. Get it? That's what tons of marital status research is like.

"Logic001" suggested that we can understand what's wrong with comparing the currently married people to the single people by thinking about start-up businesses. Most of them don't work. If you were trying to decide whether to start your own business, "Picking Google and NetFlix as your data set, and ignoring dozens of family restaurants that folded, Pets.com, and so on," would not be too wise. Oh, logic001, you are so right! Thank-you.

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.

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