Feeling single

by Rob Horning

14 February 2008

 

As my Valentine’s Day gift to you, here’s a paean to the single life, and a useful reminder of the many ways society tries to convince us that being single is shameful. (Valentine’s Day, of course, is just one of these.)

So single people typically are happy, and getting married does not make people lastingly happier, even for those who get married and stay married. How can this be? Single people do not have the official, legal coupled status that is so celebrated in our society—and many are not part of any couple, formal or informal, same-sex or different-sex. Plus, they are targets of stereotyping and discrimination. Why aren’t they miserable and lonely?
The ways we have come to talk about people who are single is misleading. We often say, for example, that they are “alone” and that they “don’t have anyone”. In fact, though, single people (perhaps especially single women) are likely to have whole networks of important people in their lives. They often have friendships that have outlasted many marriages. They have not invested all of their emotional and interpersonal capital into just one person.

Society, after all, has much more at stake in our being married than we do, since it is fundamentally a system of social control and property management.

 

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