“Single at Heart”: Bella DePaulo Removes the Stigma

Social scientist Bella DePaulo‘s latest book, Single at Heart: The Power, Freedom, and Heart-Filling Joy of Single Life (2023), follows a string of others she’s written about a similar topic. These include Singlism, Single with Attitude, Alone: The Badass Psychology of People Who Like Being Alone, and Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong.

And if you want to read her elsewhere, consider her website blog and this recent viral HuffPost article about her own choice to be single.

Singlism” is her term to describe stereotyping, stigmatizing, marginalizing, and/or discrimination against singles. “Tell new acquaintances that you are single and often they think they already know quite a lot about you. They understand your emotions: You are miserable and lonely and envious of couples. They know what motivates you: More than anything else in the world, you want to become coupled. If you are a single person of a certain age, they also know why you are not coupled: You are commitment-phobic, or too picky, or have baggage. Or maybe they figure you are gay and they think that’s a problem, too (Singled Out).

In list form, per her website, the following are some prevalent myths about being single:

  1. The Wonder of Couples: Marrieds know best.
  2. Single-Minded: You are interested in just one thing – getting coupled.
  3. The Dark Aura of Singlehood: You are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic.
  4. It Is All About You: Like a child, you are self-centered and immature and your time isn’t worth anything since you have nothing to do but play.
  5. Attention Single Women: Your work won’t love you back and your eggs will dry up. Also, you don’t get any and you’re promiscuous.
  6. Attention Single Men: You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible, and you are the scary criminals. Or, you are sexy, fastidious, frivolous, and gay.
  7. Attention Single Parents: Your kids are doomed.
  8. Too Bad You’re Incomplete: You don’t have anyone and you don’t have a life.
  9. Poor Soul: You will grow old alone and you will die in a room by yourself where no one will find you for weeks.
  10. Family Values: Let’s give all of the perks, benefits, gifts, and cash to couples and call it family values

To be clear, DePaulo is not against non-singlehood for other people. “I defend single people because we are relentlessly demeaned by myths and pseudoscientific claims that say our lives are second-rate….This is the 21st century. We don’t all have to choose the same life path (“Everything You Think You Know About Single People Is Wrong,Washington Post).

Relationship expert Jaclyn Geller states of Single at Heart, “Myriad men and women interviewed describe the benefits and pleasures: freedom to manage one’s time and finances; privacy; pursuing meaningful work; discarding convention in favor of a life based on conscious priorities; dedication to important causes; investment in community; commitment to ‘intentional’ friendship networks that include cohabitation…the list goes on. Anyone who is immersed in the uncoupled life, who is somewhat single at heart, or who cares about someone single at heart must read this pathfinding book.”
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