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- I Don't Like Kids. There. I Said It.
- I'm Single and Happy...Why Does That Make Them So Mad?
- What's Wrong With Separate Bedrooms?
- Why I'm Done With Online Dating!
- The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone
- How Can I Be Happily Single When I Hate Being Single?
The Spinsterlicious Life
There was a time when a woman over, say 35, who was still single was thought of as “less than”…not quite up to par with her better off sisters who had managed to snag a husband…like they’re supposed to. Something had to be wrong with her, right, because why isn’t she married? This, actually, wasn’t too long ago. Two years ago, when I first started writing my book –The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree– I got many puzzled looks from lots of people.
But not anymore. Something happened. The world woke up to something that many of us already know. Being single, free, and unencumbered can be quite good. Women everywhere are learning that there’s real appeal to being single and having the ability to live the way you want, spend your time and money the way you want, and to just be.
Yep. Being single just might be in! Many women are celebrating their ability to date who they want and then send him home. He doesn’t have to “put a ring on it”. Being married is no longer the only desirable life path for a woman. It’s still a good one, but just not the only one.
I’m not making this up. There are statistics that back me up:
- According to the U.S. Census, 28% of U.S. adults were unmarried in 1970. That percentage rose to 47% in 1970, and a 2011 study by the Pew Research Institute found that the number of U.S. adults who are unmarried is now 49%, a record high.
- To be clear, this number (above) includes not only those who are never-married, but also the divorced and widowed. If we focus on the Never Married, that description fit 1 in 5 white women in the U.S. in 2010 and 2 in 5 black women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Now granted, being single wasn’t the life plan of every unmarried woman. Sometimes plans don’t work out, including that there just might be an inventory problem: in 2011, there were only 89 unmarried adult men to every 100 unmarried adult women in the U.S. It’s nice to know, though, that Plan B can be pretty good.
- But many women are choosing singlehood, either for the time being or forever. The rise of later marriage, single motherhood, and homeownership by unmarried women are all signs that the pull of marriage is changing. Marie Claire magazine even explored the idea of “girlfriends as husbands”, in that close friends are now possibly filling some of the roles that would typically be filled by a husband.
Do an online search of ‘single’, ‘spinster’, ‘singular’, ‘unmarried’ and what you’ll get back are pages and pages of blogs, news stories, and online magazines talking about the joys and realities of being single.
But it’s still a little complicated. I have a number of single girlfriends who say they really hate being single, and yet, at the same time, they love so many things about their single lives.
I don’t know why this trend is happening. I don’t know what jump-started this shift in thinking from single = “poor thing” –to- single = “woman on top”. I don’t know that I even care why. I do know that the ability for single women everywhere to proudly own their single status and embrace the life they have ahead is a beautiful thing. Being married isn’t necessarily better, it’s just different. (But we already knew that, didn’t we?)
Fortunately, in 2013, there’s no one right path for everyone. There are a number of ways to “do single” (e.g., divorced, cohabiting, single mom, single-and-dating, single-and-looking, single-and-not-even-thinking-about-a-man…), and they’re all legit choices. So is marriage. To each her own…
Twice in the past month I had the opportunity to spend time with two of my ex-boyfriends. Both times, afterwards, I was struck with how much I enjoyed them and lovely it was.
A dear, married-for-20-years friend has always teased me about how weird she thinks it is that I have remained friends with all my exes. It isn’t true that I’m friends with all of them –there’s 1-2 that turn my stomach– but, for the most part, I am friendly with most of them. It’s nice. And it works for me.
Here’s whatI like about it:
-I appreciate the company of a man. They’re different from my girlfriends in ways that are good and ways that I still don’t always get, but that difference is what makes it interesting.
-We know each other well…or as well as a man can know a woman. :-) We’ve shared many intimate moments (not just the physical kind) and we’ve seen each other at our best and worst. There’s no pretense, so it’s comfortable.
-Since we’re just friends now, and no longer dating (and no longer “doing it”), I get to focus on the good things about them, those things that drew me to them in the first place. And when they start to bug me, I can say “good night”. I get to shut out the other sides of them that are the reasons we broke up in the first place.
-I know who’s good for what. When I need someone to hang with me –escort me to yet another gala, or see a movie, or go to a concert –I know who likes what, so I know exactly who to invite and who not. (When you’re dating, he has to go with you whether he wants to or not, which doesn’t always work out so well).
Sometimes it can get tricky when he’s married or has a steady girlfriend. I know that it’s innocent and strictly platonic, but that’s a hard thing to convince her of. And I get it. I’m not sure how I’d feel if my (presently non-existent) boyfriend was spending time with his ex.
I interviewed for a job a few weeks ago that seemed like it could be my dream job…if there’s such a thing, given that I’d have to make my own company, Golden Door Consulting, my part-time gig, if I took it. That’s how almost-perfect this job sounded, so I was delighted when they invited me in for an interview.
My first interview was with Human Resources, a nice young lady who kept telling me how impressed she was with my résumé. I thought, “So, we’re off to a good start.”
We chatted awhile about the job requirements, the people who would be on my team, and the company’s culture…and the company culture conversation is where things got tricky.
Nice HR Chick mentioned that she had Googled me and came across this blog. Then she said that it was great that I’m single because the two other women I’d be working with are married with young children. Screeching brakes sound in my head. What is she implying? First of all, you can’t discuss marital status as a job requirement. It’s illegal. But more importantly, what was her point? That I would be expected to take up the slack for them because my home life wouldn’t be making demands on me? Au contraire, Naive HR lady. I have a very full home life, it just doesn’t involve a husband or kids. But it’s every bit as important to me.
Before I could respond, she caught herself and apologized for her slip. She tried to clean it up by saying something about diversity in the workplace being good for everyone. Yeah, right.
So I played along. I wasn’t going to ruin what seemed like a good thing just because at least one person thinks the single lady is going to be the fill-in whenever there’s a school play or appointment with the pediatrician.
As it turns out, this wasn’t my dream job after all because they made the decision to move the position to their Los Angeles office and I’m not willing to relocate. But it reminded me of something I always suspected when I had a “real” job: being single and child free means always-available…to some. I got really good at having ever-ready excuses as to why I wasn’t available, either.
This conversation was really timely, as the blogosphere, online and print magazines, and tv shows everywhere are discussing women’s roles and behaviors in the workplace, spurred by Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, about what women need to do to fare better in the workplace, and Marissa Meyers, Yahoo’s new CEO who had a nursery built in her office but is cutting out the opportunity for others to work from home. (I know; that was a really long sentence). These conversations have mostly left single women without kids out of the conversation and, instead, focus on wives and mothers. It’s been interesting to watch from afar.
But the HR lady let me know what she thinks about people like me. I wonder how many others do, too.
One of my favorite vacations was an African safari at the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. We stayed at the beautiful Sable Mountain Lodge which really felt like paradise. Deep in the wild, the accommodations were minimalist yet lovely, the food was great and the staff personable, friendly, and efficient in all the right ways.
And then there were the animals. Beautiful, majestic, and awesome to see. And to be clear, this was a photographic safari; no animals were harmed.
I went with my married friends, Cindy and Peter. Yes, I was the third-wheel, single friend in theory, but it never felt like that. We had a grand ole time.
But a vacation to Africa, in general, and a safari, in particular, can be expensive. So I am grateful to Danielle Mcann of Wild Africa for sharing information on ways to travel to Africa for safari or other adventures without breaking your personal bank.
Danielle is a copywriter who works with Wild Africa. When she’s not writing content she enjoys traveling, swimming, shopping and taking her Golden Retriver dog for a walk. Today, she’s sharing tips on “wild, wonderful, easy-to-budget Africa.”
In Danielle’s own words:
How great is traveling? You get out of your routine, out of all the things that shroud us in habit and comfort and you get down to what really matters, which is the pursuit of pleasure and experience. That’s the sort of thing that makes us into a human rather than a walking, eating, sleeping, working machine.
And, of course, you get to see and do new things. It’s all worth it in the end, all the saving and the aeroplane trips and the research. Traveling on a budget is a way to get the very most out of your travel dollars, by stripping away absolutely everything you don’t need (um, meals should stay). Where there’s a will there’s a way, and if you are short on cash and you want to go somewhere, make it happen.
- Traveling anywhere during the off-season is a good way to do this. Or you could go to Africa, where seasons matter less than they do elsewhere. Everyone should see Africa at least once in their lifetime. It’s like nowhere else on earth. Just by changing the time of year that you travel, you could save a lot.
- When traveling in a group, you will end up with more value deals than you would if you went somewhere all your own, because packages normally work in bulk/group deals.
- Planning a really long way ahead is one way to save, and the other way is to not plan at all, and to get a last minute deal! Whatever you do, make sure you’re enjoying the ride.
- Tours are great because of the local knowledge and secrets that they provide you. There are certain places you can only get into courtesy of a tour. Tours come with information that you wouldn’t otherwise have which is great in a place like Africa. Wild Africa offers these sorts of tours, tours that mean that you don’t have to completely fend for yourself, and that some of the research is down to your guide.
I agree with Danielle that Africa is like no other place on earth and visiting there is an amazing experience.
There is a lot of upside to being single; in a nutshell, I love that my money and my time are my own and I get to spend them however I want. But there’s a downside, too. A downside about which I’ve felt powerless to fight. You see, The Atlantic magazine recently published an article by Onely.org on the economic burdens assumed by single people.
So, in honor of Tax Day, April 15, I am joining dozens of other bloggers who are writing about and expressing our frustration at what we consider institutionalized discrimination against single people. Why Tax Day? Because, some of the most egregious examples of unfair treatment against singles occur in Income Tax, IRAs, and Social Security laws, which all largely favor married people.
In fact, our federal code contains over 1,000 laws where marital status is a factor, and in most cases single people lose out. According to The Atlantic article, a single woman making $80,000/year, could pay more than one millions dollars more than her married female peer over her lifetime, because of some of these laws. (What, you think I can’t think of anything more interesting to do with $1,000,000?)
The Letters section in yesterday’s New York Times has a few comments where people discuss their personal experience with the imbalance in some of these tax laws.
But it’s this law that really makes me want to scream “foul”. There is a law that protects an individual from a stalker…a stalker as in someone who threatens to do harm and places a person in reasonable fear of bodily harm or death. This law can also protect the spouse of the person being stalked, if that person is married . But guess what? If the person being stalked is single, the same protection is not allowed. That’s right: a close friend is not protected, even though s/he may be “like family” and equally in danger.
My wish is that companies that offer employees time off for, say, a death in the family or to care for a loved one, will expand the definition of family to include really close friends. We all know that blood and marriage licenses can’t measure a relationship.
Some of the discrimination against singles is not serious, it’s just annoying. Like this one. A man and woman –both DirecTV customers– move in together. If the couple gets married, they can combine their previously individual accounts into a single account, so they don’t lose all their saved shows or have to pay for an additional DVR. If they move in together but don’t get married, it seems they cannot combine their accounts. Why?
So, even as the number of single people continues to grow, I –and my fellow bloggers– are hoping to call attention to some of the ways the country needs to re-examine some of its laws that treat singles as “less than.” We’re not. #UnmarriedEquality #SinglesBlogfest
If you want to read the posts on this same topic from other bloggers, click here.
Last week, I was “forced” to cook dinner for a guy I dated a lifetime ago. I wanted to interview him for this blog and the only way he would agree to it was if I cooked for him. (Sigh). So I did.
Though we didn’t make it as a couple, he and I have remained friends through the years and it was a fun night. Why didn’t we make it? There’s no one specific reason, but I do know that we have different sensibilities about a lot of things. For example, he didn’t understand why I would get mad when he would use my toothbrush. Eeeeww!
John (as in “Doe”, because he won’t let me use his real name) is a youthful 54-year-old executive in the entertainment industry. I wanted to interview him because I write a lot about my own spinsterhood and was curious about the male experience. I don’t pretend that John is representative of other men who’ve never been married, but I found his responses to my questions rather intriguing.
John has always dated a lot, and I find what he’s doing now particularly interesting…meaning I don’t know quite what to make of it. He has a woman… and then another 2-3 on the side, so to speak. He’s a nice guy, though, and this is a reminder that I often don’t know what some women are thinking. (More about this, later.) Here’s John’s take on a few things:
How his family impacted his view of marriage:
My Mom didn’t really have a life outside her children.
My Dad shocked me. When he was dying, he expressed regret that my sister had not married, but he said he didn’t recommend it for the boys. He and my mother were married for 45 years and I couldn’t believe he was saying this. I later found out that he had another woman.
Why he hasn’t gotten married:
Marriage is not something I foresee because there’s no benefit.
I probably also have some fear of commitment…being held accountable to another person, losing my freedom. I don’t want to hurt anybody.
I always struggled with whether I could be faithful. Some of my married friends say ‘Get married and f*&^ around.’ I didn’t want to do that. Divorce is traumatic.
I like knowing lots of women…having semi-relationships with them. A desire for safety keeps me from wanting to connect to them on a deeper level…because I don’t know what that deeper level even means. I’m just not that kind of dude that needs somebody all the time.
I’m in a relationship up to a point. A woman wants your time. She wants to know ‘why can’t we spend weekends together?’ I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be with one person that much. And how would I explain it to the others? I haven’t met anybody, yet, who’s made me want to give up everybody else.
On that relationship:
I guess you could say she’s my girlfriend. I want her in my life, but I’m not turned on by her anymore. We haven’t had sex in 5 years. She’s like a ‘safety’ for me. We’ve been together 13 years and have seen each other through a lot. We’re in each other’s lives. I do love her.
This relationship doesn’t allow me to get emotionally close to anyone else. I know this is dysfunctional.
NOTE: So, John has a girlfriend who he’s been with for 13 years, but they don’t have a sexual relationship. He fulfills that need with the 2-3 other women in his life. As far as I can tell, this works for everybody involved.
Sex…then and now:
When I was young, I never went a weekend without sex. Now, sometimes I don’t want to be bothered.
On being a male spinster…okay, bachelor:
I’m alone, but not lonely.
On the societal pressure of having never been married:
I don’t pay attention to it. I’m busy trying to handle my business. It never feels awkward because I meet too many married men who are unhappy. I don’t believe marriage works.
Because he works in the entertainment industry, John spends a lot of time in clubs. He left dinner the night of our interview at 10:30p to go meet a client at a strip club. That’s the nature of the business. He laughed that he would have preferred to go home.
I think one thing I was struck by was how many women he has access to. A 54-year-old man can still date as much as he wants. I think the pickin’s are a lot slimmer for a 54-year old woman.
By now, you may be familiar with the firestorm around Susan A. Patton’s recent advice to female Princeton college students. After attending a professional women’s conference on campus, Ms. Patton –a Princeton alumna– decided she had an additional message for the women of Princeton University, a message that likely was not covered in the conference. Ms. Patton wants these female college students to start locking down their future husbands now.
Ms. Patton wrote in an editorial published in the Daily Princetonian (which has since been removed from the Web):
“Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out — here’s what you really need to know that nobody is telling you…
…For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”
Yes, she did. And she went on to say:
“Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.”
I don’t even know where to begin, but I guess I’ll start with that I think Ms. Patton is right, in the narrowest of senses. If getting married is the primary goal, right now, of these Princeton students, then maybe they should start auditioning for husbands now. I just hope it doesn’t interfere with their education and their postgraduate plans, because a plan to get married is usually not enough of a plan in this modern world.
But I believe Ms. Patton is wrong in so other many ways. Here’s a few:
- She assumes that where a man goes to school is an indication of what kind of husband he’ll be. She doesn’t seem say much about what other qualities in men these young women should look for –like maybe a man who is kindhearted and caring– and I wish she had. To me, where he went to school would not be at the top of the list.
- Having an “intellectual equal” is probably a good thing in a relationship. It does help to have similar sensibilities in this way. I just don’t know that going to the same school means you’re intellectual equals. Suppose, for example, he’s a legacy admission and is just kind of a mediocre thinker, but got in because of family connections? Then what? Believe it or not, she might, some day, come across a graduate of a (lesser?) state university who is her intellectual equal. That could happen. I also don’t think they should narrow down their options by shutting out a guy just because she isn’t an Ivy League grad like she is.
- I would like her to stop scaring young women into thinking that “they’ve almost priced themselves out of the market.” This is dangerously close to suggesting that they ‘dumb down’ in order to be desirable, and this makes me sad. And mad.
- But where I really take issue is this sentence: “the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry.” I really beg to differ. Of course I know that choosing the right husband can be a pretty good factor in having a good life, but is it the cornerstone of her future and happiness? Is this the 1800s? Happiness comes in so many forms to women both married and unmarried and, honestly, I believe each woman is responsible for her own happiness. Do you remember Elizabeth Gilbert, the Eat, Pray, Love woman? She actually had a nice husband and still wasn’t happy. It happens. If it were me, I’d say “You are the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to being true to yourself.” In fact, Toni Morrison, a Princeton professor, may have said it best in her best-selling novel Beloved. When Sethe tells her man, Paul D, that he is the best thing that has ever happened to her, he responds “You are your own best thing.” My hope is that every young woman, Princeton graduate or not, takes this message to heart.
So, I’d like to ask Ms. Patton to make one small amendment to her advice, if she’s insistent on sticking to it: at least insert the word “first” in there, as in “your first husband”. You see, according to the Pew Research Center, people who marry young are more likely to divorce than those who marry at older ages. A 2012 study by McKinley Irvin , a family law firm, corroborates this.
It may indeed be true that there will never be another time in life when a young woman has access to so many men, but I would just like them, at this precious time in their life– to think broader (e.g., travel, graduate school, getting to know herself), not narrower (e.g., Uh-oh, gotta find a husband).
But what do I know? I wrote a book –The Spinsterlicious Life—advising unmarried women how to have a pretty nice life while they’re single. I guess those who don’t follow Ms. Patton’s advice may be “doomed” to following mine.
I don’t like working out. I’m still waiting for an injection (safe) to be developed that will make me healthy and fit while I’m sprawled on the couch watching this week’s DVR’d tv shows. I’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time so, in the meantime, I’m doing the next best thing. About a month ago, I started to get back in shape the old-fashioned way. Here’s what I’m doing and the tools I’m doing them with. (Let’s see how many I’m still doing in a few months.)
I joined Oprah and Deepak Chopra and thousands of other people in a free 21-Day Meditation Challenge. It’s a “three-week guided meditation journey toward the triad of whole wellness—mind, body and spirit. This free interactive program comes with daily meditations to help you embrace the vision of your best self, expand your understanding of your miraculous body and achieve greater balance and well being.” I’m not exactly sure why I started this, though there’s really no downside to meditating, right? It might even be good for me…except, now that I’m at day 19 today, I haven’t done it yet…for no good reason. I’ve been putting it off all day. My plan, now, is to do it before I go to bed. I’m better at meditating when I’m anxious about something. Since I’m not, it seems dispensable. Which is ridiculous because it only takes about 15 minutes. I need to change my attitude.
I love walking. It’s my primary mode of transportation. I’ve been walking 10,000 steps/day for almost a year. That’s the equivalent of approximately 5 miles. My FitBit –a fancy pedometer type thingy– clips to my bra and tracks how many steps I’ve taken, the distance I’ve walked, and floors climbed. It can also track calories eaten and burned, and my sleep cycle, though I don’t bother with those. So far, I’ve walked 4,118,973 steps since last June 1. Yes, that’s 4 million, 118 thousand, 973 steps, which = 1816 miles. When I started, I really did 10,000 steps just about every day. Then winter came. Now I’m down to 3-4 days a week. The Fitbit costs $99.00 and I think it’s worth it.
The New York Public Library offers free yoga classes sponsored by Compass Yoga, “a nonprofit organization focused on improving the health of all people by teaching the therapeutic benefits of yoga.” I love these classes; the teachers are great and the price is right! I go about once a week, and should probably do more, but really, who has the time?
This is my newest activity and I’ve only been at it for a couple of weeks. I’ve been going to SoulCycle and Crunch Gym because I can’t decide, yet, which one is for me. They both have their pros and cons. SoulCycle is more aesthetically pleasing and I think the instructors might be a bit better…as well they should be, because, at $34/class, it’s not cheap. Crunch is right around the corner from my house –which counts for a lot– and is less expensive. I’m still making up my mind between the two and am very proud (and a bit surprised) that I’ve been going 3x/week. That probably won’t last…
When I’m not motivated to leave my house, I have two really good workout apps on my iPad. They each cost about $2 and are worth much more.
So I’m trying. If I keep all this up, even just a little bit, I should be fine.