Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Is This the Myth About Singles That Single People Are Most Likely to Believe?

I’ve always thought that the most intractable myth about single people is that what they want, more than anything else, is to become unsingle. Now I have a new hypothesis. Read More

Very interesting article, and

Very interesting article, and something I had never really considered. I think for women at least that the societal expectation has become that they will have everything - a partner, a family, and a job - and do a good job in all of those areas. This translates into society viewing any woman who fails in any one of these areas (obviously including single, childless women who fail in two of the three areas) as a lesser person. Hopefully articles like yours will challenge this assumption and help people to recognize that a person's worth is determined by factors beyond their relationship or parenting status.

Very interesting article, and

Very interesting article, and something I had never really considered. I think for women at least that the societal expectation has become that they will have everything - a partner, a family, and a job - and do a good job in all of those areas. This translates into society viewing any woman who fails in any one of these areas (obviously including single, childless women who fail in two of the three areas) as a lesser person. Hopefully articles like yours will challenge this assumption and help people to recognize that a person's worth is determined by factors beyond their relationship or parenting status.

I wonder if this is the right interpretation of these stories

Because neither of these individuals claimed they were selfish specifically because they were single, but because of specific habits (time alone, buying clothes).

It could be that they chose this interpretation of these habits because they're subconsciously thinking that their single status means they're single. But to prove that we would have to show that this (ie interpreting specific habits as signs of selfishness) is more common in singles than non-singles.

And of course all of this assumes we all use the same standard and definition of what qualifies as selfishness. And also that selfishness is necessarily bad. Some philosophers, like Nietzsche, argue that it is not necessarily so.

On a related note, I do notice that singles sometimes present their lives in ways which emphasize aspects that do seem trivial and selfish...ie the freedom to be careless or sloppy (for a good example see that latest post at Onely). I'm not sure this is a good idea, from a public relations standpoint. It seems to play into stereotypes.

Meant to say "thinking their single status means they're selfish"

Too bad we can't edit posts.

As I intimated both in the

As I intimated both in the Onely post and in my comments on that post (and need to do here again apparently), single "sloppy" living is in fact a stereotype, but the definition of "sloppy" itself is always up for debate too. Moreover, unconventional ("sloppy") habits are a true fact of life for some of us, and some of us enjoy and relish them--thereby reclaiming the stereotype as one viable option among many, instead of trying to suppress it.
CC

Like Alan said, I don't

Like Alan said, I don't necessarily think selfishness is bad. It's usually not damaging to other people. Most selfish acts actually benefit others, e.g. buying expensive cloths contributes to the livelihoods of everyone involved in that supply chain.

But, I have to respectfully disagree with him about Christina's red meat post on Onely. I thought it was fantastic! She came across as spontaneous, fun, and (most importantly) real. I think it would be much less original, and therefore much less interesting, if she pigeonholed herself into some sanitized, stale, politically correct personality stereotype. As it is, she has a magnetic personality. She wouldn't if she clung to every trivial social norm in an effort to win public approval.

orrrr maybe they just like

orrrr maybe they just like being single. Who cares? Why do we think everyone wants to be like everyone else? Im married but if someone told me they didnt want to marry I would be ok with that. Because I dont want kids I think people should be ok with that too. Its better then people getting married and then divorced 7 years later with 2 kids. I think more people should not marry to be honest. Just like more people should not have kids.

plus i see tons of selfish

plus i see tons of selfish married people. To assume that just because someone gets married and has kids they automatically sacrifice their needs is ridiculous! Almost no married person I know sacrifices all their needs for their kids. Hell I dont even think thats healthy to do anyway.

Interesting thoughts...

Another consideration is that sometimes people feel a need to offer up an explanation for their singleness before they are asked. People often ask me why am I STILL single. I get tired of answering that question or feeling pressured to have an answer. I come up with a variety of responses depending on which side of the bed I rolled out of...lol.

Another thought...

As a single people, maybe they felt a need to offer up an explanation for their singleness before they were asked. I am often asked why am I STILL single or why do you think that you are still single. Uhhhh.... as if this is a complex problem to be solved or an untreated illness. I get tired of answering the question or feeling pressured to answer the question. Sometimes I offer up something to cut people off. What I say largely depends on what side of the bed I rolled out of.

Choice

Singles are indeed more at liberty to be selfish – which is part of the attraction of being single. A spouse and (vastly more so) kids involve obligations one can’t responsibly avoid. (Many do avoid them, of course, but not responsibly.) When we single folk are generous, we more likely are so because we choose to be, not because we’re duty-bound; that’s a whole lot more fun.

Really depends upon the single person and their situation

What if a single person has to care for an elderly parent or relative? Or help take care of someone's child? Not something that one can "responsibly avoid". And what about work? That's something that's hard to avoid as well, unless you have a spouse willing to support you.

I think you may be thinking in terms of the usual stereotypes...ie the single person and fancy-free and the married person as duty-bound. But I suspect that reality is more complex than that.

Ties That Bind

Sure, you are right to point out that responsibilities abound for everyone -- hence "more likely" rather than "always." I've done the elder care, for example, and I wish it had gone on longer. Yet, as singles, we, ceteris paribus, really do have more options about generosity. That's a good thing.

Who is Selfish?

I'm 40 years old and a lifelong single. My brother is married with three children. If you ask them who is selfish, they would unequivocally tell you my brother. It's all about showering his family with gifts and yet when it's time to reciprocate, seems to be difficult for him to really make an effort (bc he's so busy with his family, which trumps all else in terms of importance in life). I have spent so much time and money on my nieces, nephew and their whole family and yet and I never see anything coming back - and what I'm most interested in is some level of concern or interest in me as a person or my life (and how I'm doing). It just doesn't happen. I see this over and over again with my married friends with families. Seems like a very insular, exclusive way of thinking that has been extremely hurtful and disappointing to me over the years.

I know I can be selfish, but

I know I can be selfish, but at least I'm aware of it. At least my selfishness doesn't harm other people most of the time. Single or not single, I'd still be the same person with the same flaws. At least I don't force someone to put up with my quirks because I can't stand being alone. I see coupled people who are selfish in that regard all the time.

A married pal once joke to me 'you're smart, goodlooking, funny, awesome. Why are you still single? What's wrong with you? LOL' As if that joke was ever funny. This was coming from the guy that waited until 40 to marry. I called him on it since he should know better. He admitted when he was single he used to cry thinking there must be something wrong with him. It takes work to doubt the perceptions that there must be something wrong with you.

I've been single my whole

I've been single my whole life. I've had many opportunities to get married but it never really interested me. I also have never thought of myself as any more or any less selfish then any of my married friends. I always just think I'm extremely independent. Maybe for some people the stereotype of single people in their 40s like me who have chosen to stay single on purpsoe is that we are selfish but I think a much more truthful stereotype is just that we are very independent. Most of my friends that I actually hang out with (not talking about my married friends I only see on facebook, LOL) are all single or divorced so the whole "we're selfish" thing never really comes up. Maybe my married friends say I'm selfish behind my back, I have no idea, but with the friends I actually hang out with its not a topic of discussion.

Not Selfish

I wouldn't say singles are selfish...if you are in the singles boat, you may have nothing to focus on but your own needs, which is naturally limiting. Maybe some people can't handle as much as others (three kids, a house, husband etc.)...

But, when you're pushed to handle more, you accommodate for more...you expand.

People judge singles so harshly...

well to be honest I see tons

well to be honest I see tons of married people who cant handle their house, work,kids,friends and love life. They half ass it all. So to assume that just because you have it you can handle it is an illusion. Id say out of all the married people I know 1 out of 5 can actually handle it well. But this is usally because one spouse isnt in a demanding career.

I respectfully disagree that

I respectfully disagree that single people have nothing else to focus on then their own needs. Let's say you want to have someone run a charity or do community service. Would you rather have the person with 3 kids running it who won't have the time to put into it and is preoccupied to say the least or would you rather have a single person running it? Actually single people who are community service minded would be much better at that then married people. Its much easier to make a difference in the world when you are single. When you are married and have kids you have to focus on them, not the outside world.

Just last night I was feeling

Just last night I was feeling guilty about buying 50-dollar face cream. I half felt guilty because I knew I had other things I needed to spend money on (health care, mortgage, cat food), but part of me was also feeling guilty for splurging on something like that that half my friends would never even consider because they are paying for daycare and college. So I guess *that* part of my guilt had less to do with being single/selfish than being childfree/selfish. Which as Bella says, are cousins anyway.
CC

I wouldn't feel guilty

If your friends want to buy expensive face cream I'm sure they could...if they can pay thousands and thousands for daycare or college they surely have the resources for a can of face cream.

And I think guilt usually serves us badly, as kind of a fifth column, working in concert with external critics to undermine our confidence.

Not related to the post, but I need some deeper explanation on Misery Loves Company

First of all, I am trying to understand this "Misery Loves Company" quote/effect/thing. There is probably some supernatural explanation to this that I don't get or see yet (BTW, I'm not religious). I think those who are married/coupled, have kids, somehow want you to be in the same situation as them. Are they forgetting that that was a choice they made and that I am making my own choice to stay single based on the current state of affairs. Ok, why I am mad...

Yesterday at a company lunch (which I had to painfully endure as I was the only single guy there), one of the guys is getting married in a few weeks and everyone was excited for him. Two topics where discussed: "Cars" and "House - Buying vs. renting". Let me paint the situation for you guys and I am sure most of you have experienced it many times.

Cars:

The about-to-be-married guy says he uses a 10-year old car and folks on the table said he ought to be using a newer car. He then responded that they shouldn't worry that he was already getting/starting to get enough pressures to do that. (Believe me on this on) Somehow, everyone cheered. Another guy said, he has already started speaking like a married guy. I was like, I'm from different planet. What are these people cheering about.

Mortage:
Then boss asked me if I had purchased a house yet, and I said NO, that I'm still looking (Personally, I don't see I why I should buy a big house now, as a single guy, just started my career, taking all that debt). The lady by my side chimed in that the rates are now low, it's time to take advantage of the situation. I began wondering, who is going to be doing the payments for 15, 30 years? Them or me?. Why shouldn't it be my choice to decide to rent or to buy. I don't like taking on debt, at least not now.

I don't understand why people have to recommend I do this or do that when I could care less about what they do. Again, everyone who gets married, have kids, buys a house, etc, made a choice and there is no reason to expect others to do similar things. I've always had a live-and-let-live attitude but that's not working with these folks.

This is just of one of the many things I have had to endure and of course the "Why are you not married?". One time, I told a lady I was tired over the weekend (went fishing with some buddies in the ocean). She said, "Oh, the wife and kids giving me trouble". I was dumbfounded. When I said I'm single, I think there was a mild earthquake. She gasped her jaws, like "WHAAATTTT!!". As if I killed someone...

Currently, I'm exploring ways (in a few years) how I can be self-employed so I don't have to endure these kinds of meetings/questions or explain my private life to anyone. I'm not interesting in coupled-life and having lived alone for a while, I've become institutionalized and I like it. Why is it difficult for people to see that as a life-choice.

Sorry for ranting...

Cheers,

Jay

A suggestion

If you want to avoid personal questions I have a one-size-fits-all answer. If people want to know why are you haven't bought a house or why you haven't married or had kids just say, "Oh, I have different values". Nobody knows how to respond to that, and all you will get is silence. Afterward, you can peacefully excuse yourself from the conversation.

Different values

What a great come-back and conversation-stopper. I love it! Leave them scratching their heads and worrying.

Luray Virginia 2003

I have to tell you the story on how I came up with that. I was at the Walmart Supercenter in Luray, Virginia right after the US went to war with Iraq. George Bush was at the height of his popularity as the family-values president at that time. I stopped in to buy some backpacking supplies and was in a long line at the register. The lady behind me was having a very loud cell phone conversation which I was trying to ignore. At one point she bellowed, "You have to forgive her, some people don't understand that us Christians have VALUES!". I had to look.

I turned around and saw a 400 pound woman in a sweatsuit with 2 equally chubby kids. On her ring finger was the largest opaque gray diamond I had ever seen. She must have upended the Little Debbie snack aisle into her cart along with a freezer full of frozen pizza. Balanced on top were several bags of chips. It took everything I had to keep my mouth shut. I so wanted to ask, "Values? I'd like to hear more about these values. Please do tell."

That's when I crafted my handy values comment. It has a 100% success rate, so far anyway. Nobody yet has asked me to describe my values but if they did I'd probably mention something about fiscal responsibility, world peace, sustainability and minimizing global destruction, which is why I'm not interested in owning an exurban vinyl sided behemoth and filling it with kids.

meaningless phrase

I got so sick of that "family values" line. It implied if you didn't live a certain way, weren't married, were childless, and didn't fit a certain mold, you were valueless, whatever that meant. People didn't care that you were a kind, hardworking, compassionate person- you didn't have feckin' family values if you weren't like them, or more specifically like the "400 pound woman in a sweatsuit with 2 equally chubby kids. On her ring finger was the largest opaque gray diamond I had ever seen."
I'm going to remember your comeback. Thank you!

Different values

What a great come-back and conversation-stopper. I love it! Leave them scratching their heads and worrying.

Thats awesome! Its more

Thats awesome! Its more polite than I can usually muster.

I sometimes say they'll get the press release when it happens to me. Goodness knows if some dude is making me happy, human nature is such that I'll not be able to shut-up about him ;-) Don't people know about that? I'll annoy even myself.

Next time I get badgered about having kids, I'm tempted to start crying and say I can't have kids. Let's see if my acting lessons pay off ;-) Although, seriously people need to consider that these questions are awkward, intrusive and painful for some.

Perhaps you could mix them...

and start with:

"I can't have kids"

Pause

"Because I have different values"

;D

I'll do that if I'm feeling

I'll do that if I'm feeling like being cute :-)

If I'm feeling mean, I'll let them think I've got fertility issues. I'm sure people with fertility issues probably get tormented by these questions too. Let them think about it.

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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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