Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Even More Than Single Life, This Is About Authenticity and Choice

Live the life that is most meaningful to you.

My passion is single life. I love to live it, write about it, bust myths, and - I hope - provide a bit of enlightenment. But there is something even more fundamental at the core of my writings, and that's the wish that we can all choose to live the life that, to each of us as an individual, is most meaningful and authentic.

I was moved to note this because of a comment that was left on this recent post. One of the readers writing under the name Anonymous (there are several) said this:

"I do get confused when people talk about being single as a state in which one has ‘friendships' but not ‘relationships' --- are people here confusing being single with being celibate? For me, not being celibate isn't about hook-ups, it's about relationships that are...romantic and intimate and sharing. Long ago I realized that I didn't want to be married but to deny myself this other part of me --- not going to happen and I don't feel like I'm a fraud as a single for admitting it."

If any readers of this blog or of any of my other writings have felt reluctant to acknowledge an important part of themselves because of what they read, I apologize. That is exactly the opposite of my intentions. When you sense something like that is happening, please continue to call me on it.

I do, deliberately, write disproportionately about aspects of single life - and life in general - that are especially likely to be stigmatized. So Anonymous is probably correct in suggesting that I talk about singles who have friendships but not romantic relationships more often than I talk about singles who have both. I think that if you have romantic relationships, you are less likely to be put on the defensive. Other people who view the world in conventional ways see you and perhaps think to themselves - well, s/he's single, but at least s/he's trying to get married.

I had great fun writing Singled Out, but hardly more so than when coming up with chapter titles and subtitles. Take, for example, the chapters on single women and single men:

• Myth #5. Attention Single Women: Your work won't love you back and your eggs will dry up. Also, you don't get any and you're promiscuous.

• Myth #6. Attention Single Men: You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible, and you are the scary criminals. Or, you are sexy, fastidious, frivolous, and gay.

The point of those titles was this: No matter what you do as a single person, no matter how you live your life, there is a caricature or stereotype out there that can be used to undermine you. So don't live your life based on what you think will attract the approval, acceptance, and well-wishes of others. Those who practice singlism unabashedly will always find you wanting; they will see you as bogged down with "issues" until the day you marry. (On the other hand, those who really care about you and who are not intractable practitioners of singlism will probably treat you fairly regardless of whether you are single or coupled or not exactly either one, and regardless of whether they are single or coupled or something else.)

I like to hear from readers about what I'm missing. More than once, a comment was posted saying that I did not acknowledge involuntary celibacy often enough. So I included the topic in this post about sex and the single person. Others asked that I discuss asexuality, so I did that here. On the other hand, I'm probably not going to be persuaded to write the standard normal stuff. So, you won't find a whole lot here about the downsides of single life, or about the joys of marriage, because you can find those things, well, just about everywhere. They are part of the conventional wisdom. That's not to say that there are no downsides to living single (there are) or no joys to marriage (there are those, too). It's just too pedestrian and boring to write entire essays saying so.

Bottom line: My most basic wish for all of you is that you can acknowledge to yourself how you would most like to lead your life, and then pursue that path that is most meaningful to you. Secondarily, if you are up for it, I hope you will admit to the life that works for you. The latter is more difficult, because too many people are stuck in mental ruts when it comes to thinking about the ways to live a full and meaningful life, and they will let their disapproval show. But if you can stand up for your life choices, especially when they are not the most conventional ones, then you will have stood up for everyone else who thought they were alone and could not say (for example) that they like their single life just fine.

[I also want to mention here that I'm way behind on addressing topics that have been suggested to me or that I promised to come back to. Feel free to send me follow-up nudges if you are getting tired of waiting.]

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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