For the First Time in My Lifetime, Signs of Real Progress for Single People
Scholars and journalists are taking single people seriously. Advocacy, though, is lagging behind.
Getting single people and single life taken seriously should not be a hard sell. In the U.S., nearly half of all adults 18 and older are not married. On the average, Americans spend more years of their adult lives not married than married. This is not just an American or even a Western thing. The rise of single people is a global phenomenon. All around the world, the number and proportion of unmarried people has been growing for decades.
And yet, the project of “taking singles seriously,” something I have now been working on for many of my 69 years, has been a hard sell. Only in the past few years have I seen signs of what I consider genuine progress, the kind of progress that is likely to continue into the future.
What It Means to Take Singles Seriously
By “taking singles seriously,” I mean at least three things. First, recognizing the importance of this demographic juggernaut. Seeing them as people whose single lives matter, rather than dismissing them as a bunch of people who are just stopping by singlehood on their way to committed romantic coupling (or recoupling), and only deserving of attention when they get there.
When there is more and more scholarly and media attention to single people, as there is now, that’s a way of taking singles seriously in this first sense. But if the writings perpetuate singles-shaming myths, that’s nothing to celebrate.
That’s why the second sense of “taking singles seriously” is so important. It means treating single people’s lives respectfully. It means resisting all those insulting deficit narratives of single life. You know the ones — they come with the attitude, “aw, you’re single, you poor thing.” It means challenging the myth that what all single people want, more than anything else, is to become coupled. Taking singles seriously means recognizing the ways in which people can flourish when single. And in fact, for some people, such as the Single at Heart, single life is more meaningful, fulfilling, and psychologically rich than coupled life…