May 3, 2008

Singled Out

How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After
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By Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.

I know some people are marriage-obsessed and I’ve certainly experienced one of the main questions at a family gathering being, “So, do you have a boyfriend?”; still, I’ve never realized the extent of discrimination against singles. (And yes, Bella DePaulo is very aware that singles do not face the discrimination many other groups must survive.) Sometimes she seems to be digging too deep into a frankly benign situation, but other times she uncovers surprising truths. The tone rarely contains bitterness – yes, there is some, but DePaulo approaches her subject matter with humor. Each chapter focuses on a different subject singlehood in a fairly self-contained manner. Thus, I’d like to make some comments about my favorite discussions.

Science and the Single Person

This is perhaps my favorite chapter in the book. Some might be intimidated by the large amount of data presented, but DePaulo presents everything in easy to understand terminology and graphics. We’ve all heard that married people are happier and healthier – but how accurately are scientists presenting this data? As it turns out, not very. I want to force some of my science friends to research some of the topics DePaulo brings up for their theses.

Myth #2: Single-Minded

DePaulo barely has to make a case for this one. What to single people want? To get married. Yeah, right. She deftly addresses how demeaning it feels to be reduced to an empty-headed man or woman chaser, simply because you don’t have a partner. She brings up examples of this experience that will feel familiar to any single. None of the material in this chapter seems stretched; it’s a concise, clearly stated common problem.

Myth #4 It Is All About You

This chapter definitely brought some issues to my attention I had never considered. Many cultures regard marriage as a sign of maturity, and treat singles as children no matter their age. On the other hand, there are many culturally acceptable ways for married people to act immature. One of the most obvious: a perfectly capable married person can rely on their spouse to cook and do their laundry.

Myth #6 Attention, Single Men

SINGLED OUT is a female-centric work, partially because it is informed by DePaulo’s person experience. This chapter focuses entirely on the male side of the equation. One of the most intriguing points is the tendency to perceive single men as creepers. In truth, many serial killers married and procreated. The majority of violence against women is done by a past or current intimate partner. In the end, DePaulo concludes society regards single men more favorably than single women.

To Be or Not to Be Single

DePaulo writes, “I think that most Americans – including most single Americans – want the marital mythology to be true. They passionately want to believe that if only they find their soulmate, they will live happily ever after.” My friends and I talk all the time about this concept, and we do want it to be true. We grew up in an age of high divorce rates, but we still hold the Disney dream close – jaded, cynical teenagers who still believe one day we’ll find the one. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Who cares? We’ll be just fine on our own, whether Prince Charming arrives on the scene or not.

Don’t be put off by the non-fiction aspect. SINGLED OUT is a fascinating read. It may not change your paradigm, but it will open your eyes to various injustices. Find out more at Bella DePaulo's website.

3 comments:

  1. I was laughing at your family gathering quote. I have been married for 7 years and the only question I hear now is "when are you going to have a baby?" It is so frustrating that we have these "guidelines" for life based on society. Marriage and children are not for everyone and people should respect that.

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  2. sounds like an eye opener!

    you've been tagged for a meme!

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