Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

10 Myths About Single People: Here Are the Last 3

Myths about who has a life and who dies alone

This week, I've been describing my Top 10 myths about single people. The first 4 were mocked in this post and the next 3 in this one. One of the last myths is that singles don't have anyone and don't have a life. Another is about the ultimate threat to single people - that they will die alone. The last myth is one of those great examples of lying with words, as when the magnanimous granting of perks and benefits to people who are married is called 'family values' rather than, say, discrimination against singles.

Myth #8 about single people is the pity myth. Aw, you poor single people, it says - too bad you are incomplete. You don't have anyone and you don't have a life. What is so amazing about this myth is that people try to pin it on some of the most accomplished and beloved single people. Remember when President Obama nominated a single woman to be Secretary of Homeland Security? That woman was then Governor Janet Napolitano. Do you also remember what Governor Ed Rendell said about her? He said, "Janet's perfect for the job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote literally 19, 20 hours a day to it." Now here's the thing. This woman who is being described as having "no family" and "no life" has a brother and sister; has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro; likes tennis and whitewater rafting; spends time with close friends; knows tons about movies, opera, and songs; and credits her family and friends for the support she needed to recover from breast cancer. Janet Napolitano is an exceptional woman, but having a life that is full of family and friends and work and passions is not the exception for people who are single. In fact, single people often a whole network of people they care about and who care about them. Married people have "the one," but single people often have more than one person who is important to them.

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Myth #9 is going to sound very familiar. It is a favorite myth for scaring single people into getting coupled. Myth #9 is about the poor soul who is single. It says that if you are single, you will grow old alone and you will die in a room by yourself where no one will find you for weeks. You know what kills me about this? How does getting married guarantee that you won't die alone? Unless you and your spouse die at the exact same time, then either your spouse dies first and you are left "alone," or you die first, in which case, well - you're dead! But what about the part about growing old alone? That's interesting, too, because there is a lot of research on that. Studies show that it is hard to find a group of people any less likely to be lonely in later life than women who have always been single. I think it is because they don't pick out one person to be "the one" and then stick everyone else on the back burner. They attend to the friends and family and other important people in their lives, and that pays off.

Myth #10 is the family values myth. It says, let's give all the perks, benefits, gifts, and cash to couples and call it family values. Who gets the breaks on car insurance, health insurance, vacation packages, and gym memberships? Married couples do! The singles who pay full price are subsidizing them. If you have followed the same-sex marriage debate, you probably already know that there are 1,138 provisions in federal laws in which marital status is the basis of benefits, rights, and privileges. Some of these are big things. If you are married and you die, your Social Security benefits go to your spouse. If you are single and you die, your benefits go back into the system.  And if someone who really cares about you dies, they can't give their Social Security benefits to you, a single person, even though you may have been their best friend for life. That's one of the reasons the GLBTcommunity wants in on official marriage. But guess what? Every single person, whether gay or straight or anything else, is left out of this treasure trove of perks and privileges. Making marriage the basis for privilege is what a lot of people call family values. That's a myth. I call it discrimination.

So those are my Top 10 myths about single people. Do you have any to add?

 

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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