Is This David Letterman's Most Shameful Top 10 List?

Is it OK to joke that people are single because they are busy running ISIS?

Posted Sep 14, 2014

On September 10, 2014, David Letterman's Top 10 list was called, "Top Ten Reasons Why You're Still Single." (This link will take you to the most recent Top 10, which will no longer be the one about singles.) Take a look at the singles-relevant list below and see what you think. Then I'll tell you what I think.

David Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons Why You're Still Single":

10. It is impossible to tell where you end and the couch begins.

9. Few ladies live near your makeshift forest home

8. Who wants to be 'Mrs. DiCaprio' anyway?

7. Too busy writing Top Ten jokes

6. You buy your clothes at a deli

5. Mom says no dating until you're forty

4. At the barbershop, you say, "Give me the 'Ken Burns'"

3. OkCupid redirects you to NotOkCupid

2. "Bald with moustache" is a tough look for women to pull off

1. Too busy running ISIS

So what do you think?

I'm not a regular viewer of Letterman; I hardly ever watch him. Ages ago, I used to have every new Top 10 list emailed me to me, but that did not last for long. So I cannot claim to be totally familiar with the typical Letterman Top 10 these days. Still, how much do you have to know to have an opinion of this list?

I'd like to think of myself as a person with a sense of humor. I know that a list like this about why people are still single is going to include lame jokes about single people. But I think this list goes beyond that.

The last reason, the #1 reason why David Letterman thinks you are still single, left me gasping. I have been collecting and analyzing derogating things people say about singles for a very long time; I've even done a systematic series of scientific studies on the matter (discussed here). I think I'm quite familiar with the nastiest examples of singlism. But is there anything crueler, more vicious, or less justifiable than equating single people with the most brutal international terrorist – someone who literally slices people's heads off?

How can that qualify as humor? Why was it okay for David Letterman to say this? Why was there no outcry?

If you are more familiar with Letterman's other Top 10 lists than I am, please let me (and others, in the Comments section) know: Has any other Top 10 list ever vilified another person or group in such a stunning and heartless way as to equate them with the world's most heinous terrorist?

The other reasons on the list are bad, too (except for the self-deprecating one about being too busy writing Top 10 jokes). But they are what I expected – mostly the standard stereotypes of single people. I think these are telling, too, in the sense that it is apparently okay to joke about single people in ways that would not be okay with regard to other stigmatized groups, about which there has been more consciousness-raising. For example, I bet David Letterman has not told any Top 10 jokes about African-Americans being stupid watermelon-lovers. Everyone knows those kinds of caricatures are offensive. Look what happened to Donald Sterling and others who have made similarly offensive statements. With single people, though, it is open season.

As an antidote to the egregious nastiness of the Letterman Top 10 and all of the other singlism out there, I've just put together a collection of 65 of my most empowering writings about single life, The Best of Single Life. Many of the articles first appeared in this Living Single blog.

The Best of Single Life is available in paperback here and here, and as an ebook here. The book includes 8 sections:

  1. Why Singles Are Thriving – Despite All You've Heard to the Contrary
  2. Single Life: We Chose It
  3. Mocking Those 'Why Are You Single' Lists
  4. The Good Life and the Successful Life
  5. Savoring Our Solitude: Choosing to Spend Time Alone
  6. Valuing Our Relationships: Choosing to Spend Time with Others
  7. Sex and the Single Person: Have It Your Way – or Just Skip It
  8. Are We Missing Out by Being Single – or Are They?


[Notes: (1) I have written so often about the stereotypes of single people, and the myths about how getting married will transform you, that I have collected all my debunking in one place, here. (2) You can find my other books here. (3) Thanks to Gena for the heads-up about the Top 10 list.]