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."
Oscars and Razzies, move over. It's time for the Singles Book Awards. For this great suggestion, I owe my thanks to Laurie in Ithaca. She sent me this query:"Hi Bella, I would love to read some fiction, contemporary or otherwise, that gloriously depicts the life of someone who is enjoying themselves, fully engaged, life full of people, and not focused on getting married or saving a marriage. Perhaps it could even have the theme of how marriage can work to limit a life by closing down opportunities to really get to know many different people. How without the consideration of a deeply tied in partner someone might be freer to pursue a path than they otherwise might. Stuff like that."
It's awards season. No need to limit yourself to movies. Living Single readers offer Oscar and Razzie nominations for fitness clubs, gyms, restaurants, hotels, car insurance companies, grocery stores and supermarkets, employers, and neighborhood shops and businesses. Add yours.
When a book called The Case for Marriage was first published a decade ago, there was much controversy because Harvard University Press rejected it. Conservatives said this was just another example of liberal media bias. I think the focus on liberal vs. conservative media bias and ideology obscured the more fundamental point: The book misrepresented the science.
A PT blogger recently seemed quite impressed with a CBS poll showing that 90% of currently married Americans said that they would marry their spouse again. He called those results "remarkable." He titled his post, "And they lived happily ever after." PT featured this question from him at the top of the blogger page: "Would you remarry your spouse?"So what's wrong with that?
My most basic wish is that you can acknowledge to yourself how you would most like to lead your life, and then pursue that path that is most meaningful to you. Secondarily, if you are up for it, I hope you will admit to the life that works for you. The latter is more difficult, because too many people are stuck in mental ruts when it comes to thinking about the ways to live a full and meaningful life, and they will let their disapproval show. But if you can stand up for your life choices, especially when they are not the most conventional ones, then you will have stood up for everyone else who thought they were alone and could not say (for example) that they like their single life just fine.
One step forward and two steps back. Forward: The New Republic asks, Why assume that marriage is better? Backwards Step 1: CNN describes single women as "stomp[ing] their feet in defiance." Backwards Step 2: Smartmarriages, referring to a book telling single women to "marry him", tells all their listserv members, "Buy [it] for all of the single ladies in your life." Because, of course, married people know best, and one of the things they are sure they know about singles is that we all want to be married.
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!