Feb 13

Living Single and Singlism on Valentine’s Day: Bella DePaulo

Needless to say, Valentine’s Day is not fun for everyone. Many people resent the commercialization of love that it represents, and those who are and/or who prefer living single often feel slighted or judged.

Singlism” is social scientist Bella DePaulo‘s term to describe stereotyping, stigmatizing, marginalizing, and/or discrimination against singles. Her books 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, etc.), and she states this about herself (Psychology Today): “I love living single (except for the singlism) and never did have those reveries about some lavish wedding with the bridesmaids and the big white dress.”

De Paulo elaborates: “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).

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. “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 (“Everything You Think You Know About Single People Is Wrong,Washington Post).

The many reports over the years that marrieds are more fulfilled than singles is disputed by De Paulo. A GoodReads review explains her view, expressed in The Science of Marriage, regarding the flawed research and offers this interesting related tidbit:

…DePaulo…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.’

If you’re interested in more from DePaulo, check out her Psychology Today blog called “Living Single.”