In , after the younger group had left home, Walsh started the blog so they could all continue the conversation. I came of age with hookup culture, but not of it, having continued through college my high-school habit of serial long-term relationships, and I wanted to hear from the front lines.
What would these sexual buccaneers be like? Bold and provocative? Worn-out and embittered? When Walsh opened the door, I could immediately see why young women find her so easy to talk to; her brunette bob frames bright green eyes and a warm, easy smile. But now every woman who is a six and above wants the hottest guy on campus, and she can have him—for one night. It appears that the erotic promises of the s sexual revolution have run aground on the shoals of changing sex ratios, where young women and men come together in fumbling, drunken couplings fueled less by lust than by a vague sense of social conformity.
Or is it that pornography endows the inexperienced with a toolbox of socially sanctioned postures and tricks, ensuring that one can engage in what amounts to a public exchange according to a pre-approved script? Most striking to me was the innocence of these young women. Does that freak you out? Is there an expiration date on the fun, running-around period of being single captured so well by movies and television? Six more years. I woke up.
But now that 35 had come and gone, and with yet another relationship up in flames, all bets were off. It might never happen. Or maybe not until Or 70, for that matter. Was that so bad? Perhaps I could actually get down to the business of what it means to be a real single woman. The numbers are striking: The Census Bureau has reported that in , the proportion of married households in America dropped to a record low of 48 percent.
Fifty percent of the adult population is single compared with 33 percent in —and that portion is very likely to keep growing, given the variety of factors that contribute to it. The median age for getting married has been rising, and for those who are affluent and educated, that number climbs even higher. Indeed, Stephanie Coontz told me that an educated white woman of 40 is more than twice as likely to marry in the next decade as a less educated woman of the same age.
Last year, nearly twice as many single women bought homes as did single men. And yet, what are our ideas about single people? Perverted misanthropes, crazy cat ladies, dating-obsessed shoe shoppers, etc. Some of them are widows. Some of them are divorced and between connections, some of them are odd, loners who prefer to keep their habits undisturbed.
Famous Bolick family story: When I was a little girl, my mother and I went for a walk and ran into her friend Regina. They talked for a few minutes, caught up.
How could that be? Grown-ups have husbands! Thus began my lifelong fascination with the idea of the single woman. There was my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Connors, who was, I believe, a former nun, or seemed like one. There was the director of my middle-school gifted-and-talented program, who struck me as wonderfully remote and original. Was she a lesbian?
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There was a college poetry professor, a brilliant single woman in her 40s who had never been married, rather glamorously, I thought. Once, I told her I wanted to be just like her. Back when I believed my mother had a happy marriage—and she did for quite a long time, really—she surprised me by confiding that one of the most blissful moments of her life had been when she was 21, driving down the highway in her VW Beetle, with nowhere to go except wherever she wanted to be.
I was seeking something more vague and, in my mind, more noble, having to do with finding my own way, and independence. And I found all that. Early on, I sometimes ached, watching so many friends pair off—and without a doubt there has been loneliness. Once, when my father consoled me, with the best of intentions, for being so unlucky in love, I bristled. All of which is to say that the single woman is very rarely seen for who she is—whatever that might be—by others, or even by the single woman herself, so thoroughly do most of us internalize the stigmas that surround our status.
Love with the intensity of a teenager and the wisdom of your years.
In , she coined the word singlism, in an article she published in Psychological Inquiry. In July, I visited DePaulo in the improbably named Summerland, California, which, as one might hope, is a charming outpost overlooking a glorious stretch of the Pacific Ocean. Over lunch at a seafood restaurant, she discussed how the cultural fixation on the couple blinds us to the full web of relationships that sustain us on a daily basis. To ignore the depth and complexities of these networks is to limit the full range of our emotional experiences.
I have always been very close with my family, but welcoming my nieces into the world has reminded me anew of what a gift it is to care deeply, even helplessly, about another. There are many ways to know love in this world. This is not to question romantic love itself. Rather, we could stand to examine the ways in which we think about love; and the changing face of marriage is giving us a chance to do this. That we want is enduring; what we want changes as culture does.
O ur cultural fixation on the couple is actually a relatively recent development. Children were raised collaboratively. As a result, women and men were sexually and socially more or less equals; divorce or its institution-of-marriage-preceding equivalent was common. It was in our personal and collective best interest that the marriage remain intact if we wanted to keep the farm afloat. Even servants and apprentices shared the family table, and sometimes slept in the same room with the couple who headed the household, Coontz notes.
Until the midth century, the word love was used to describe neighborly and familial feelings more often than to describe those felt toward a mate, and same-sex friendships were conducted with what we moderns would consider a romantic intensity. When honeymoons first started, in the 19th century, the newlyweds brought friends and family along for the fun. But as the 19th century progressed, and especially with the sexualization of marriage in the early 20th century, these older social ties were drastically devalued in order to strengthen the bond between the husband and wife—with contradictory results.
But by overloading marriage with more demands than any one individual can possibly meet, we unduly strain it, and have fewer emotional systems to fall back on if the marriage falters. Some even believe that the pair bond, far from strengthening communities which is both the prevailing view of social science and a central tenet of social conservatism , weakens them, the idea being that a married couple becomes too consumed with its own tiny nation of two to pay much heed to anyone else.
In , the sociologists Naomi Gerstel and Natalia Sarkisian published a paper concluding that unlike singles, married couples spend less time keeping in touch with and visiting their friends and extended family, and are less likely to provide them with emotional and practical support. And yet we continue to rank this arrangement above all else! My friend M. Dalton Conley, the dean for the social sciences at New York University, recently analyzed data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and found a 40 percent increase, between and , in men who are shorter than their wives.
Most research confirms casual observation: when it comes to judging a prospective mate on the basis of looks, women are the more lenient gender. Perhaps true to conservative fears, the rise of gay marriage has helped heterosexuals think more creatively about their own conventions. Gay men have traditionally had a more permissive attitude toward infidelity; how will this influence the straight world? Coontz points out that two of the hallmarks of contemporary marriage are demands for monogamy on an equal basis, and candor.
Or understand that flings happen? In her new book, Unhitched, Judith Stacey, a sociologist at NYU, surveys a variety of unconventional arrangements, from gay parenthood to polygamy to—in a mesmerizing case study—the Mosuo people of southwest China, who eschew marriage and visit their lovers only under cover of night.
Sexual relations are kept separate from family. At night, a Mosuo woman invites her lover to visit her babahuago flower room ; the assignation is called sese walking. She can take another lover that night, or a different one the next, or sleep every single night with the same man for the rest of her life—there are no expectations or rules. America has a rich history of its own sexually alternative utopias, from the 19th-century Oneida Community which encouraged postmenopausal women to introduce teenage males to sex to the celibate Shakers, but real change can seldom take hold when economic forces remain static.
I n the months leading to my breakup with Allan, my problem, as I saw it, lay in wanting two incompatible states of being—autonomy and intimacy—and this struck me as selfish and juvenile; part of growing up, I knew, was making trade-offs. So I started searching out stories about those who had gone off-script with unconventional arrangements.
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Vincent Millay—they investigated the limits and possibilities of intimacy with a naive audacity, and a touching decorum, that I found familiar and comforting. I am not a bold person. To read their essays and poems was to perform a shy ideological striptease to the sweetly insistent warble of a gramophone. That underprivileged communities are often forced into matrilineal arrangements in the absence of reliable males has been well documented by the University of Virginia sociologist W.
Bradford Wilcox, among others , and I am not in any way romanticizing these circumstances. Evidence suggests that American children who grow up amidst the disorder that is common to single-parent homes tend to struggle. But we would do well to study, and to endorse, alternative family arrangements that might provide strength and stability to children as they grow up.
I am curious to know what could happen if these de facto female support systems of the sort I saw in Wilkinsburg were recognized as an adaptive response, even an evolutionary stage, that women could be proud to build and maintain. I definitely noticed an increase in my own contentment when I began to develop and pay more attention to friendships with women who, like me, have never been married. Their worldviews feel relaxingly familiar, and give me the space to sort through my own ambivalence.
Indeed, my single friends housed me as I flew around the world to research this article; by the end, I had my own little unwritten monograph on the very rich lives of the modern-day single woman. These days, I think of us as a mini-neo-single-sex residential hotel of two. Could we create something bigger, and more intentional? In August, I flew to Amsterdam to visit an iconic medieval bastion of single-sex living. The Begijnhof was founded in the midth century as a religious all-female collective devoted to taking care of the sick.
The women were not nuns, but nor were they married, and they were free to cancel their vows and leave at any time. Over the ensuing centuries, very little has changed. Today the religious trappings are gone though there is an active chapel on site , and to be accepted, an applicant must be female and between the ages of 30 and 65, and commit to living alone. The waiting list is as long as the turnover is low. I contacted an old boyfriend who now lives in Amsterdam to see if he knew anything about it thank you, Facebook , and he put me in touch with an American friend who has lived there for 12 years: the very same Ellen.
The Begijnhof is big— apartments in all—but even so, I nearly pedaled right past it on my rented bicycle, hidden as it is in plain sight: a walled enclosure in the middle of the city, set a meter lower than its surroundings. Throngs of tourists sped past toward the adjacent shopping district. In the wall is a heavy, rounded wood door. I pulled it open and walked through. Inside was an enchanted garden: a modest courtyard surrounded by classic Dutch houses of all different widths and heights.
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Roses and hydrangea lined walkways and peeked through gates. The sounds of the city were indiscernible. Neat and efficient in the way of a ship, the place has large windows overlooking the courtyard and rooftops below. To be there is like being held in a nest. We drank tea and talked, and Ellen rolled her own cigarettes and smoked thoughtfully. When an American woman gives you a tour of her house, she leads you through all the rooms. Instead, this expat showed me her favorite window views: from her desk, from her single bed, from her reading chair.
A place where single women can live and thrive as themselves. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Also see: The End of Men Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U. A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way—and its vast cultural consequences. By Hanna Rosin Delayed Childbearing Though career counselors and wishful thinkers may say otherwise, women who put off trying to have children until their mid-thirties risk losing out on motherhood altogether.
Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough. Isn't it time you did the same? Now it provides access to celibacy. By Caitlin Flanagan Sex and the College Girl "This is clearly a mess and not one that is going to clear up with magic speed on the wedding night.
Their need is greater, and their condition really deplorable. It comes near to being a disgrace not to be married at all. Also see: The Return of the Pig The revival of blatant sexism in American culture has many progressive thinkers flummoxed. Down the ladder from Playboy to Maxim. Also see: Love, Actually How girls reluctantly endure the hookup culture.
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As a homeschooling mom, I can never have enough books around for the kids to read. This was a great addition to our collection! Pastor King did a great job of breaking the book up into sections and providing you with discussion questions after each chapter, great book to look at by yourself or as a part of a discussion group. We used it with our singles ministry and it was a big hit!!
The Book is very practical and easy to read. The ideas may seem simple, but if taken in stride can really change one's ability to maintain relationships. The book is good for both married and single, friends and family. Great Book with good simple applicable principles that speak to everyday life in many ways and maintains focus on the example of Christ. Awesome Read. Great book!!! It was very informative and put a lot of things into perspective according to God's word