Feb 12

Single People Have a Voice in Bella DePaulo

I defend single people because we are relentlessly demeaned by myths and pseudoscientific claims that say our lives are second-rate. But I’m not advocating singlehood for all. Some people live their best lives married, and others find more meaning and fulfillment in single life. This is the 21st century. We don’t all have to choose the same life path. Bella DePaulo, PhD, “Everything You Think You Know About Single People Is Wrong” (Washington Post)

The recent article cited above following its concluding statement is from expert-on-singlehood Bella DePaulo and is well worth the read.

DePaulo is such a prolific writer that’s she’s published several more books since I last posted about her, which wasn’t so long ago. Just to name a few, last August there was How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, last July Single Parents and Their Children: The Good News No One Ever Tells Youand last February both The Science of Marriage: What We Know That Just Isn’t So and  Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong, a collection of many of her previous articles and posts on this topic.

One of the first points she makes in the latter book is “Why no study has ever shown that getting married makes people happier or healthier – and no study ever will“—and this is the one she thinks is the most important. Her The Science of Marriage is actually just that one chapter in book form.

A GoodReads review explains DePaulo’s view regarding the flawed research and offers this interesting related tidbit:

…DePaulo also touches on ‘matrimania’ – the extreme valuing and celebration of marriage, couples, and weddings rampant in pop culture, the media, the workplace, the marketplace, politics, religion, and everyday life. She follows with this clever quote – ‘When people who marry get an initial boost in well-being that then dissipates, perhaps that honeymoon is attributable not (just) to the ‘support, intimacy, caring, [and] companionship’ that they are supposedly getting because of being married, but to the fact that their life choice was just validated by other people, perhaps in a big, expensive celebration of themselves.’

Last December DePaulo posted about 2015’s high and low points for those who are single. The “highs” include new resources such as “Solo-Ish,” which is a regular column in The Washington Post, and a sizable Facebook Community of Single People. The popularity of Kate Bolick‘s book Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own has also been notable, she reports.

The “lows” seem worth quoting verbatim:

  1. The landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was supremely and egregiously stigmatizing of single people and single life. (Remember Justice Kennedy describing single people as “condemned to live in loneliness”?)
  2. At the Aspen Ideas Festival, supposedly a place for cutting-edge thinkers, a panel of “experts” was asked to answer the dopey, regressive, and insulting question, “Can single people be happy?” In 2015. They all responded, without even a glimmer of recognition of how embarrassing it was for them to do so.
  3. As if being a refugee or homeless were not already difficult enough, some categories of single people are being singled out for special discrimination.
  4. Despite the fact that nearly half of all adults in the US are single, and Americans now spend more years of their adult life not married than married, there are still no academic journals, no conferences, no degree programs, no textbooks, and no sources of funding dedicated exclusively to single life.

At least DePaulo is a staunch advocate. If you’re interested in more from her, check out her Psychology Today blog called “Living Single.” Her readers’ top five favorite articles from last year were:

1. Why so many partners want to be both single and together

2. Who is divorce toughest on?

3. The top 10 ways couples have changed

4. Sex drive? There’s no such thing

5. National Singles Week: 19 reasons why we need it

Feb 14

Valentine’s Day: Myths and Misconceptions About Singlehood

Contrary to popular opinion, many people who are single and/or living alone like it, even choose it. Valentine’s Day be damned.

Social scientist Bella DePaulo has authored several books about being single, including Singled Out (2007) and Singlism (2011). “Singlism” is her own word to describe stereotyping, stigmatizing, marginalizing, and/or discrimination against singles.

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.

How many people are potentially subjected to the above wrong-headed beliefs? According to sociologist Eric Klinenberg‘s 2012 Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (just out in paperback), almost half of American adults are single— compared to only 22% in 1950.

Like DePaulo, one of Klinenberg’s main points is that a growing number of adults of all ages—including seniors—actually choose to live alone. And living alone is often not about feeling alone and/or isolated.

DePaulo, in fact, titled her recent post about interviewing Klinenberg “Myth-Buster: How Going Solo Takes Lonely Out of Alone.” He relates the following about singles’ social networks:

Conservative cultural critics condemn ‘selfish singles’ for their purported narcissism, but I discovered that singles and singletons are actually more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors than people who are married, and – surprisingly – that they are more likely to volunteer in civic organizations. This is especially true for women, whose time and energy for public engagement diminishes when they get married and have children, but it’s true for men as well. Then there is the vast new world of middle-aged and older singles who are forming communities, networks, and in some cases alternative family structures to provide mutual support. They are participating in a genuine social revolution. After 200,000 years of group living, contemporary singletons are redefining the terms of collective life…

Consider this, then, those of you out there pushing your crazy Valentine’s Day expectations onto the world: Other than having to fend off your unfair pressures, many singles are probably happier and more socially fulfilled on this day than you are.