When you sit down at your favorite eatery does the wait staff immediately remove the extra place setting at your table? Are you blamed for complicating the seating charts at your married friends’ parties? The outcasts of whom I’m speaking are the world’s single or unattached individuals and according to concrete data, are finally receiving the respect they deserve.
Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist specializing in culture, and author of Going Solo, states that there are more single individuals living in the United States than ever before and, as a result, singles are considered part of “the greatest social change of the last 60 years that we haven’t named or identified.” I was under the impression that I’m just another Single White Female, but I’m actually part of a cultural phenomenon. If you’re a single lady then you’re also part of this social spectacle.
I recently took some time to consider if I’m similar to other solitary women included in this mass. What I quickly discovered is that, despite now belonging to a group whose numbers are 124.6-million strong, I appear to be a minority within the majority. However, just like I never thought my being single would be looked at as anything other than pathetic, I refuse to believe there aren’t other women like myself in existence. Women whose versions of singlehood differ vastly from the singles Mr. Klinenberg describes.
Why is the United States teaming with singles anyway? There are many factors that contribute to singles replacing the nuclear family as the current most popular domestic unit. Today’s singles are waiting to find their soulmate before getting married, while earlier generations were pressured into marrying young. If it takes these singles a lifetime to find their “spoon” they are no longer embarrassed. I’m in full agreement with this sentiment, but did you need to be married and divorced to realize how important destiny should be? I’m a 47-year-old virgin-to-marriage who has been looking for my soulmate since puberty. The time spent in search of my soulmate breaks down to more than three decades that I’ve been walking this Earth, or at least the East Coast and Hawaii, in search of my North Star.
In a bizarre twist of fate the decision to avoid settling is being used against many never-been-married women. Divorced women by definition have either been loved and left or been loved and decided to leave a relationship. Regardless of who left whom, the common denominator in both scenarios is that at one point in time, a married couple supposedly loved each other. On paper it looks as if no one has ever loved me as opposed to looking as if I have a good head on my single, solitary shoulders. Instead of receiving kudos for my judgment, men view me as a loveless spinster. I’m hoping my approach to this dilemma is similar to that of other single women. I choose to employ a process known as lying. I’m not Pamela Lewis, a single individual in search of my lifetime partner in crime; I’m Pamela Lewis, a divorcee. Certainly I’m not the only single woman who has figured out a way to look a tad more loved than she is?
Mr. Klinenberg believes today’s singles are also postponing marriage due to their dedication to career goals. As a result of delaying marriage, singles are relishing the time spent alone in their man caves and lady lairs. They are not easily convinced that giving up their old, moldy Barcalounger® for love is a worthwhile trade. This is a stark difference from how I feel. I’d be so overjoyed to find love that I would easily give up my quaintly decorated corner of the Earth.
Even if my potential mate had an overwhelming desire to hang his filthy, baseball hat collection on the wall, I wouldn’t protest. Likewise, if he wanted to display his vintage shot-glass collection procured from dive bars the world over, I wouldn’t take issue. My only caveat to living with a male is that he refrains from hanging any carcass on the wall that once had a mother. I can’t imagine that there aren’t single women like me who would gladly give up the stuffed animal collection they’ve had since age 13 in exchange for love.
Despite their desire to be surrounded by things that make them feel good, Mr. Klinenberg asserts it’s a fallacy to assume that today’s singles are a narcissist bunch. Instead, many are out and about and often responsible for gentrifying the communities in which they live. They are more likely to attend public events, classes, and lectures compared to married couples. While it is mortifying to admit, I don’t do a damn thing for anybody other than myself. This is not to suggest that I don’t have empathy for others. I’m simply saying that unlike my millions of singles peers, my life is a mess and it needs 100% of my attention. There must be other single women whose heads are filled with too much anxiety about their future to consider committing to random acts of kindness. For me, to be charitable I might have to get one evening of good sleep despite the constant 3 a.m. ruminating about my lack of money, family, friends, or anyone to bury me.
My career makes it close to impossible to participate in classes and attend lectures. No, I’m not a doctor whose surgeries could take many hours to perform or a defense lawyer who is up until the wee hours preparing documents for trial. I own a pet-sitting service, which is not only more stressful than to get a stay of execution, it’s less predictable. I could have a dog in my care that refuses to poop or is trying to pass a tube sock. In either event, I must be there to witness its natural conclusion. It seems pointless to pay for classes that I will eventually miss because Harley ate another tennis ball.
Contrary to what specialists on culture believe, there are many ways to define being single. Some may look at single by the dictionary definition: “the only one of something as opposed to several.” According to a generic Google search, the definition of single is pretty arcane, most likely written by a man, and downright offensive. A single is defined as an “unmarried individual or one not involved in a stable, sexual relationship such as a single mother.” Let me get this straight. According to Google, only married couples have stable sexual relationships? Has the author of this definition ever seen an episode of Dr. Phil? For myself, the best definition of singlehood is the one that I provide for myself.
My definition of single would reflect that I’m happy, I can take care of myself, and I’m not single because I’m deficient in character or morals. Maybe the word single should be updated to reflect something else entirely. What if we replaced the word single with the word smart? When overheard in a conversation between wait staff at a restaurant, the usage might sound like, “Ms. Lewis, the woman sitting at table 47 is smart so you may remove her extra place setting.”