Decades from now, someone will write a definitive history of the rise of single people in American society and around the world. Looking back at the past half-century, it is already clear what the demographic part of the story will look like - a steady rise in the number of single people, the number of people living in one-person households, and (though this is less routinely calculated) probably also a continuous increase in the number of years of adult life that people spend single.
What is not entirely clear is when (if?) the demographic juggernaut will level off or even reverse. 2011 was not that year. Instead, the fact that the proportion of single people crept so close to 50% was cause for headlines such as this one from the Associated Press: "Staying out of the ring: Barely half of adults wed."
There was a lot of angst about marriage this past year. As scholars and pundits begin to acknowledge the insecurity about marriage that, I think, is behind so much of the matrimania, it becomes more and more possible to have a real discussion of the attractions of single life.
Such a discussion was offered a great big boost by Kate Bolick's cover story in the Atlantic magazine, "All the Single Ladies." It was the end of 2011 when the story appeared (the November issue of the magazine) and it already has more than 49,000 "likes" on Facebook. A TV show is in the works.
It has also been a good year for scholarship on singles. The prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a report of 7 studies designed to explain why people cling to mythologies of marriage and coupling. (I blogged about the research here, here, and here.) A thoughtful and meticulously researched book about media portrayals of single women (discussed here) was another highlight.
In the domain of advocacy, the Alternatives to Marriage Project has continued its important work. The importance of singlism as a social issue got a boost when 28 authors, experts, activists, and cutting-edge thinkers agreed to join me in contributing to the book Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. The book has already garnered some very high profile mentions in the media, including a story in the New York Times (discussed here) and a cover story in the most recent issue of Boston Magazine (discussed here).
The website Single with Attitude was launched in 2011. It has lots of resources for those who want to live their single lives fully, joyfully, and without apology. The best parts are the feeds from dozens of enlightened singles bloggers.
Those are just a few of the ways that 2011 was a very good year for single people. Let me know which of your favorite examples I missed. In my next post, I'll acknowledge some of the year's disappointments. (Feel free to send me your ideas for that post, too.)
[You may want to check out "Single by choice: A high-profile celebration," if you haven't already.]