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:
- The Wonder of Couples: Marrieds know best.
- Single-Minded: You are interested in just one thing – getting coupled.
- The Dark Aura of Singlehood: You are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic.
- 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.
- 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.
- Attention Single Men: You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible, and you are the scary criminals. Or, you are sexy, fastidious, frivolous, and gay.
- Attention Single Parents: Your kids are doomed.
- Too Bad You’re Incomplete: You don’t have anyone and you don’t have a life.
- Poor Soul: You will grow old alone and you will die in a room by yourself where no one will find you for weeks.
- 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.