The Best of Single Life: Lessons from More than a Decade of Study and a Lifetime of Experience
Living single, deliberately, can be identity-defining and life-changing
Posted Sep 24, 2011
Long before Singles Week started, I had a plan for one of my posts. I'd describe my "lessons learned" about single life from all the time I've spent studying it, talking to others, and living single myself. I started a draft that kept growing and growing. It included lots of what I've learned from published research. It had a section on the special challenges of living single in a matrimaniacal society. It included some tips for defusing and debunking singlism.
Then I realized that my previous posts on the myths about single people covered much of what the research actually shows (as opposed to what the media claims that it shows). I have talked about the pain of singlism previously, too. I probably will share my tips in a separate post sometime, but for today, as Singles Week draws to a close, it seemed most apt to focus on the positive.
Below are some of my best guesses about the best of single life. I welcome researchers to put these ideas to the empirical test.
1. To choose to live single is to unpack the "truths" that everyone else takes to be self-evident. Singles who have made that choice are probably living their lives more thoughtfully than many others. They are not simply following the predictable and approved paths. Maybe they even know themselves better than many other people do.
2. Single people who live their single lives fully and without apology probably are, or have come to be, more resilient than others. They are less daunted by the wagging fingers of friends, family, media, and the matrimania that is everywhere. They are inured to the scolding admonitions that they are on the path to no good.
3. Singles are on the vanguard of appreciating those aspects of life that are of great value, but rarely recognized as such. For example, many singles are especially likely to understand that:
- Solitude can be just as important as sociability; the particular mix of solitude and sociability that is ideal is not the same for everyone.
- "Relationship" is a very big word, referring to far more than just romantic relationships. Singles often value friends, relatives, mentors, and neighbors.
- The conventional meanings of "having it all" or of "balance" are not the only meanings. Singles define what makes their lives meaningful.
- Beliefs about the most desirable amounts and kinds of sex are not timeless or universal. They have changed over the decades and the centuries and they are different in different places. Singles are less bound by the prevailing sexual "shoulds." Singles may also be less judgmental about different sexual orientations, including GLBT, asexual, polyamorous, and more.
4. There are untold numbers of single people living secret lives of silent contentment and joy. They like their single lives. They don't want to become unsingle. But they dare not say so, because they can anticipate the skepticism that will ensue (e.g., the condescending claim that deep down inside, you know you really want to be coupled) and because they think they are the only ones who feel the way they do. To them, I say: Come out, come out wherever you are. If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands. You will be surprised at how many other single people are clapping with you.
I hope you have had a Happy Singles Week!