Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Here’s the Answer You Are Not Allowed to Give If You Are Single

Interviewers ask different questions of single people

As many of you know, I always have a long list of items I want to get to in this blog - stories in the news, examples of singlism, topic suggestions sent to me by readers, books I want to review, and more. A few hours ago, I copied one question and answer from an interview I found online to my document titled, "for future PT blogs." Then I went back to the other projects I've been working on. But the interview kept percolating in the back of my mind, until I realized that what was important was not so much that one question and answer that I had copied, but what came after it.

In the interview, Kevin Sessums of the Daily Beast talked to Edie Falco. The actress, of course, was Carmela on HBO's the Sopranos, and now she's Nurse Jackie on Showtime and a star in New York theatre.

Here's the one and only question and answer I was going to share here:

Does it make you sad, Edie, that you've never been married?
No. No. I'm not sad about any of my life. It's so unconventional. It doesn't look anything like I thought it would. I really am just making it up as I go along. And it took me a long time to realize that's OK. But if the main centerpiece of all of this is supposed to be love then I am living in a deluge of it-the friendships that I have that are, on the average, 30 years old, my family, my children. In my household there is an insane amount of laughter and celebration. My kids have never seen me scream at anybody. They've never seen an argument. There's never been even a cold silence. And those are things that I grew up with because my parents did end up divorcing.

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Great answer, right? Move on.

If only. Here's the next question:

They married and divorced twice. That must have affected you in some marriage-less way.
Twice or three times? Twice, I guess. It's funny. It's a big blur, all those years. I'm sure my parents' divorces did affect me in some way, but also in my life in general I don't see a lot of marriages that look appealing to me. Because I'm not married I tend to get a lot of eye-rolling conversations with people about their marriages. Why would I want to head there? I want love in my life, no question about that. But I have a ton of it. My own kids have seen nothing but love and compassion and friendships that have been worked on diligently because friendships are like marriages in a lot of ways.

OK, maybe Edie Falco gave the interviewer an opening by mentioning her parents' divorce at the end of her previous answer. But NOW it's time to move on, isn't it?

You already know the answer to that. Here's the next question:

But with young kids in your life now, doesn't that cut down on the kind of freedom you can have in your love life?
That freedom I had in the past was great fun but it's also like drinking-it's over. I don't need that anymore. It was really fun. Really great fun. Affairs. Never being totally committed to one person. But then it all ended right about the same time my kids came into my life. And I don't miss any of that. Not any of it. The truth is it became lonely and a burden after a while.

Asked and answered, asked and answered, asked and answered - move on already!

Nope, not done yet.

But you wouldn't say no to marriage if the right person came along.
Uhh... well.... it has to be the really right person at this point. It's like, I guess, when a really great play comes along.

If you are single, other people simply do not want to take "I am happy" as an answer to how you feel about your life. What was stewing in my mind for the past few hours, I think, was the recognition that this line of questioning has been targeted at me over and over again.

I have a collection of mental tricks and tips to use when something strikes me as not quite right but I can't figure out why. One of them is to flip the excerpt I'm pondering, and rewrite it as if a married person were the target. So the first question would be something like this:

"Does it make you sad, Sigourney Weaver, that you're married?"

Unthinkable. The question would never be asked. But suppose some unconventional interviewer did pose that question, and got an answer that included, "No. No. I'm not sad about any of my life...In my household, there is an insane amount of laughter and celebration."

That would be the end of that line of questioning. I doubt any interviewer would go on to ask something like:

"But what about your parents' experiences at marriage? Those must have affected you in some marriage-full way."

I don't have to alter a single word of the third question:

"But with young kids in your life now, doesn't that cut down on the kind of freedom you can have in your love life?"

Can you imagine if the interviewer went on to ask the married-interviewee's equivalent of the fourth question put to Edie Falco:

"But you wouldn't totally close off the possibility of divorce, would 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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