Maybe with more stories like Holson's appearing in prestigious publications such as the New York Times, the hosts of the pity parties for successful single people will more often find themselves mocked than taken seriously.
Are you persuaded that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is not gay, and that it should never have mattered anyway? Good, because we can now move on to her next supposed shortcoming - she's not a mother.
Amidst all of the "is she or isn't she" (a lesbian) talk about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, there are arguments intended as defenses of her single life: "Oh, she just hasn't found the right person yet. It is hard for someone so accomplished to find a man who can deal with that. She does date, you know." What is too often missing even among some of the smartest commentaries is the possibility that Kagan actually likes her single life.
On September 11, 2001, thousands of Americans were offered this opportunity: "If you would like, please share your thoughts on the shocking events of today." Who do you think had the best physical and emotional health two years later -- (a) those who answered the question in great detail; (b) those who gave a short answer; or (c) those who chose not to answer?
Welcome to two guys from the blogosphere calling attention to stereotyping and discrimination against singles. Both draw from published scientific reports to make their points. One of the studies shows that single and partnered people hardly differ from each other at all in what they are really like, but our singles-are-doomed stereotypes persist nonetheless.
They tried so hard to make us pity all those highly successful people because they were single. What good is any accomplishment, no matter how fulfilling or impressive, if you have no spouse with whom to share it, the program seemed to suggest. We singles have heard this so many times before. This time, though, we aren't buying it. And by "we," I don't mean just me.
I get lots of pitches from people who have never read a word that I've written. They think they already know what all singles are interested in. Their emails are great illustrations of pervasive stereotypes and caricatures of single people. At the other end of the spectrum are the thoughtful questions that are raised and the meaningful experiences that are shared when I take my singles talks on the road.
Sometimes people who have gotten divorced over and over again consider themselves superior to people who have never been married. Some even say so in no uncertain terms. A Time reporter has a different take - she thinks that serial divorcers should no longer be allowed to remarry. (Also, a note about my next singles talk.)
A new book claims that if you are a little bit married (in a long-term monogamous relationship, without the official marriage certificate) and a heterosexual woman, you are probably more eager to make the leap to marriage than he is. Looking at the big picture, though, I think men and women are becoming more similar in how they approach (or don't) coupled life. A glance at the demographic trends over the past century indicates that the age at which men and women marry (among those who do marry) is becoming more similar.
That recent step forward in hospital visitation rights has been framed primarily as a victory for same-sex couples. It is. But the Presidential Memorandum is actually wider-ranging than that. Plus, two more reasons to smile if you are single - or if you are a fair-minded person of any stripe.
Finally, the New York Times Magazine acknowledges that "the mere fact of being married, it seems, isn't enough to protect your health." But is life in a good marriage better than a comparable single life?
A law review article distinguishes between an "unmarried couple's penalty or bonus" and a "single person's penalty." An unmarried couple can, under certain circumstances, end up paying more in taxes if they marry - that's what we usually think of as the marriage penalty. But they can also pay less. A single person (not part of a couple) never pays less on the same income as a couple.
A much-read post to this Psychology Today page ran under the subheading: "Massive meta-analysis says marriage reduces depression." I have three problems with that: The review wasn't a meta-analysis, it wasn't massive, and the literature doesn't show that getting married reliably reduces depression.
The Atlantic magazine published claims that men become happier, healthier, and harder working after marrying. The men, it is said, thereby become more "civilized" when they marry. The claims do not hold up well when measured by scientific standards. So who's the barbarian now?
Quirkyalones have especially high standards for coupling, they value friends and not just romantic partners, and they are not at all insecure with their single status. Ultimately, though, they want what everyone else believes they should want - The One, that perfect match, the love songs, the romantic miracle.
What does the 2007 synthesis really show about the link between getting married and getting depressed? See for yourself. Also, a glimpse at the long list of topics I am planning to get to in this blog.
These initiatives are often targeted at poor people. But as scholars such as Kathryn Edin and her colleagues have shown, the poor already DO value marriage. They value it greatly and have high standards. They don't want to marry until or unless they find a partner who is already set economically. And they want a partner they can trust and confide in and depend on for the long term. Their concern is that marrying someone without a job and the money for, say, a small home and a car, is a divorce risk, and that's worse than not marrying at all. They are absolutely correct in their belief that getting married and then divorced is a greater financial burden than staying single.
Two upcoming singles talks are open to the public - one is a solo talk with a book signing afterwards and another is part of a panel discussion. Be sure to say hi to me if you can make it to either one - I'd love to meet more Living Single readers in person.
To be single at heart, I think, means that you see yourself as single. Your life may or may not include the occasional romantic relationship, and you may or may not live alone or want to live alone, but you don't aspire to live as part of a couple (married or otherwise) for the long term.
The question of whether the spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should get to start her own lobbying and political-organizing group is not a political one. It is much bigger than that. The basic principle at stake is whether getting married should limit your rights as a citizen in any way. I don't think it should. But here's the thing: It shouldn't automatically qualify you for any special benefits, either.
Instead of generating reasons why getting married makes you lastingly happier (since it doesn't), let's see if we can figure out why, despite all the matrimania and the singlism, the vast majority of single people live happy and healthy lives filled with sustained emotional connections. (Yes, studies show that.)
If you have a friend, a sibling, a parent, a child, a cousin, a coworker, a neighbor, or just about any other person in your life, and you maintain a connection with that person, you have a relationship. You are in a relationship.
In her sermon about "Singled Out," the Reverend Ann Schranz told her Unitarian Universalist congregation, "The changing nature of family is not something to be feared; rather, it is something to be affirmed and celebrated."
In the spirit of the book, Singled Out, Living Single is a myth-busting, consciousness-raising, totally unapologetic take on single life. At this blog, we discuss just about everything about single life -- except dating!