Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Singletude on Vacation Until 1/7/09

If you've been checking your inbox in vain for a new installment of Singletude, that would be because I've been shuttling back and forth between friends and loved ones for the holiday season. Tomorrow I'll be off to the beautiful blue Caribbean to get eaten by sharks--err, to bathe in the crystalline waters concealing one of the world's most famous coral reefs. ;)

I hope that you all have something special planned for this New Year's Eve, whether celebrating with a date, friends, or family. Most of all, I hope you bring your infectious 'tude--singletude, that is--when the clock strikes midnight and carry it with you throughout the new year.

I'll be back on January 7, so look for new blog entries in the days that follow, including our very first Singletude interview! See you in '09!

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Alone Together" by Jennifer Senior: A Singletude Response

On November 23, "Alone Together" was the cover story of New York Magazine. Since I love it when the mainstream media addresses singles issues, I dashed over here to tell you about it. Unlike those brief pop newsflashes with their useless trivia ("4 of 5 Single Women Say they Want to Get Married,"anyone?), this article has heft and meat, even if I got the sense that a few of the marital stats used to dress up this hearty fare had passed their expiration date. Overall, though, the article takes an in-depth look at living single in the country's most populated metro center and, in the end, reaffirms it as a natural and healthy condition.

The fact that singles now live alone in one of every two New York City apartments prompted writer Jennifer Senior to question the stereotype of the lonely, isolated cat lady. In the process, although she trots out the same overblown Waite and Gallagher statistics about how much happier and healthier married people are (see my review of Dr. Bella DePaulo's Singled Out to better understand how this data is manipulated to support an agenda), she ultimately uncovers the truth that has quietly shaped half the American population--that social health is about depth and variety of connection, not marriage. And due to that finding, it should come as no surprise that, despite their tough veneer, cities are often the most fertile grounds for establishing and maintaining all-important social networks. Here are some of the article's highlights:

*Even though people are more likely to live alone in urban environments as opposed to less populated areas, city dwellers are less likely to feel lonely.
*Singles feel more connected when surrounded by other singles and are therefore less likely to be lonely in the city than out in the 'burbs.
*The unhappily married feel lonely as often as or more often than singles.
*A large network of close friends and acquaintances increases happiness and health as much as a good marriage. Urbanites tend to have more friends.
*Singles tend to have more friends and leave home to socialize more frequently than couples.
*Intimate friendships aren't the only benchmark of emotional health. Casual acquaintances (i.e., friends of friends) and colleagues increase our sense of well-being, too.
*The Internet communication that so many in the young single generation favor, long vilified for its propensity to isolate, is, in fact, a valuable means of socialization.
*Living alone in itself may provide personal satisfaction due to its association with maturity, independence, and achievement.

Senior fleshes out these claims with research evidence, expert interviews, and some editorializing that seems mostly on the mark and singles-friendly. She also raises a point that resonated with me and might with you, too. Specifically, if you are among the millions of professional singles who never step off the workaday treadmill, you may be particularly vulnerable to loneliness because your--pardon the pun--single-minded attention to work may preclude developing social contacts. I have to admit right about now I'm hearing strains of "People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world..."

Now I know there are some critics who will be offended by the article's unabashed crushing on NYC and cities in general. In its defense, when I lived in a semi-rural area, I did feel more lonely than I do now, although I suspect that was due more to a difference of perception than actual hours spent socializing. Still, the potential for connection, as desired, that teems right outside my door in a big city is itself a comfort that I didn't have in a small town, and perhaps that sense of connectedness is almost as important as time spent in the presence of others. Nevertheless, while cities may be hotbeds for happening singles, the most important factor in your social success is how dedicated you are to cultivating connections. Even in a city as enormous as New York, like Senior, I am easily isolated by my work if I don't consciously make time for family, friends, dating, and outside activities.

In any event, I am pleased to see a high-profile magazine put a mostly positive spin on singlehood, confronting the myth of loneliness head-on and discrediting it. I observe so many writers purporting to do the same, who instead end up infusing their articles with nagging doubts about whether all those seemingly happy singles are really just donning a brave facade, intentionally hoodwinking traditionalists, or disconnecting from their true emotions. Senior takes the opposite approach, addressing prejudices right away and dispelling them. Whether you're a denizen of Greenwich Village or the plains of Wyoming, I encourage you to read this portrait of the coming era for singles.

What do you think about Senior's assertions in "Alone Together"? If you live alone, do you feel lonely? Do you think any loneliness that you feel is either ameliorated or exacerbated by the size of the town or city in which you live? Do you think you spend more time socializing and have more acquaintances than your coupled friends do? Do you find your social network as emotionally satisfying as a romantic relationship?

Fun Link of the Day

(This is your reference point for the dubious marital stats.)

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankful to Be Single

With Turkey Day almost here, you're looking forward to digging into some stuffing, mashed potatoes, and catch-up conversation with extended family.

Okay, let's be honest. In reality, you're dreading Aunt Hattie's pukin' pumpkin pie, Uncle Rufus's stories that all begin with "when I was your age," and the inevitable five-pound weight gain.

But whatever you may or may not be thinking about Thanksgiving 2008, chances are it has nothing to do with giving thanks. Yet thankfulness has surprising health benefits. Expressing gratitude combats stress and depression and improves vitality and longevity. It's associated with increased happiness, enthusiasm, and determination, as well as with better job and academic performance and more satisfying relationships.

Contrary to popular myth, which assumes that a holiday centered on family can't possibly be attractive to singles, we know that single people can and do have much to be thankful for. A positive single doesn't merely tolerate singlehood but finds ways to appreciate it. As an example, while I've been single, I've always been most thankful for the additional time I've had to devote to my writing. As precious as relationships can be, they do require a sacrifice of time, which may interfere with beloved hobbies and pursuits. So during the seasons that I've been on my own, I've redirected the energy that I might otherwise have spent on someone else toward the accomplishment of my creative goals.

This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to spend some time contemplating at least one aspect of singleness that you are most thankful for. If you are religious or spiritual, offer thanks by praying, singing, burning candles, or lighting incense. For those who enjoy ceremony, commemorate the object of your gratitude on a piece of paper, then release it to the wind or bury it in the earth like a time capsule. Otherwise, try journaling about what you are thankful for or, if it's not too personal, sharing it with others, especially those who have misconceptions about the single life and who would be inspired to hear how fulfilling it can be.

Oh, and one more thing you should definitely be thankful for--all those single cuties at the gym working off the mashed potatoes alongside you!

What part of the single life are you most thankful for? Why?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Singelringen's SinglePower Celebrity Contest

So, do you all remember the Singelringen? That pricey turquoise ring that announces your eligibility to those in the know and your lack of fashion sense to everyone else? (Okay, that's probably a bit harsh. It's attractive for a piece of blue acrylic.)

Well, their PR rep, Linda Sherman, recently informed me that Singelringen is sponsoring the SinglePower Celebrity Contest for the world's coolest celebrity singles, who will be crowned Mr. and Miss SinglePower. Out of 10 nominees of each sex, American actress Drew Barrymore is currently leading the pack for the women, while Germany's hip hop maven Crosijan heads up the field for the men.

Ho hum, right? I agree. But here's the interesting twist: You can vote for any non-celebrity single, including yourself, as a "wild card." According to Sherman, your nominee should be "attractive, proud, strong in a way that makes other people feel appreciated and also a good role model for other singles." The two wild cards who accumulate the most votes will be added to the final running along with the celebrity nominees.

When you vote, you will be entered to win a trip to Sweden, where you will stay in the famed ICEHOTEL, a seasonal world wonder constructed entirely of ice. Singelringen must know that you don't need a significant other to light your fire; cold hands will just as easily stoke a warm heart!

News of the SinglePower competition jump-started my own musings about what makes a single person "cool." In my mind, a cool single is someone who is comfortable with him- or herself and enjoys life to the fullest, whether or not he or she has a romantic partner. He or she isn't afraid to venture out alone and doesn't postpone his or her dreams until marriage. Cool singles are those who may live by themselves but are never really alone, maintaining close networks of family and friends. They know who they are, and when they do couple up, they don't disappear into the relationship or sacrifice their unique spirits for the sake of unity. Most of all, they realize that being single isn't some kind of disease but a normal, often transitional state in which they may find themselves many times throughout the course of life.

What makes a single person cool in your book? Who would you nominate for Mr. or Miss SinglePower? (This is your chance to give the singles in your life some recognition!)

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Help a Friend Through a Break Up

It's almost midnight, and you've just brushed your teeth, turned off the TV, and pulled back the bed covers when the shrill ring of the phone interrupts your nightly routine. It's a raspy stranger asking if you're lonesome tonight.

Okay, no, not really.

It is, however, your friend, all choked up, announcing that he or she has just been dumped.

As a single, you've probably been there before, although your last breakup may have receded into the past, making it difficult to dredge up the feelings associated with it. Furthermore, your objective view of your friend's recently expired relationship may interfere with your ability to empathize with his or her loss. And then there's schadenfreude, that all too human tendency to snicker at the suffering of others, which may creep into your exchange unbidden. All in all, when you get that desperate, late-night phone call, you may feel about as eloquent as Elmer Fudd, stuttering and stammering in the face of your friend's distress.

If you find yourself at a loss for words when your friend is suffering, you may want to try one of these simple approaches:

DO sympathize or, better yet, empathize. If you can remember what it was like to break up with someone you loved, share that so he or she knows you understand. If you can't, at least express how sorry you are that the relationship has ended and that your friend is hurting. Acknowledge that he has experienced a significant loss, validate her feelings, and confirm that it's okay to grieve about it.

DON'T minimize the loss by telling your friend how much better off he or she is without the ex. While it may be true, it's not what your friend believes or needs to hear right now. Later, he may reach that conclusion on his own, and, at that time, you can support his opinion if you agree. But in those first stages of loss, she may not be able to see her former partner objectively, and if you slam the the ex, she may feel worse for loving someone you've declared a "loser," "jerk," "idiot," or other undesirable. Furthermore, she may feel alienated because you aren't acknowledging her loss. Remember that even if your friend's ex was the devil incarnate, your friend loved that devil! And absolutely no "I told you so's" even if you did tell him so. Good on you; maybe she'll listen to you next time. But today she needs your friendship, not your judgment.

DO promote realistic thinking. Breakups have a way of distorting our views of ourselves and our former partners. If your friend is beating up on himself or glorifying her former partner, inject some healthy realism into the conversation. If the ex belittled your friend, calling her unattractive or unworthy in some way, set the record straight from your more objective standpoint. Similarly, if your friend has idealized his ex, seize opportunities to remind him that the love of his life was a flawed human being like everyone else. (Be careful not to badmouth the ex, though. There's a fine line between realism and wrath. See above.) Another common cause of distress when a relationship dissolves is the fear that the abandoned partner will never find love again. This is another area in which you can help by reassuring him that he will have lots of new opportunities to find a partner. After all, probability is on her side that she will not be single forever.

DON'T condone negativistic thinking. We're talking about those long-winded sighs of self-hatred, those mournful predictions of a life devoid of meaning or purpose without the ex-partner. Sometimes your friend may be fishing for a boost to his or her wounded self-esteem or faith in life, and it's okay to give it, but it can be easy for her to fall into a pattern of fatalistic thinking. If this starts to happen, let him know that that's nonsense and you won't listen to it!

DO let your singletude shine! You know from experience that there are lots advantages to the single state. When your friend moans and groans about how lonely or depressing or unhealthy it is to be single, you're the perfect person to correct him! One by one, answer each of her anxieties with your voice of experience until she has a fuller, more accurate, and hopefully more positive picture of what it is to be single. If you can convey how genuinely content you are with your single life, you can do wonders to buoy your friend's spirits.

DON'T exacerbate your friend's worries by instigating a rant session about whatever dissatisfactions you may have with your single status. Save that for other single friends who aren't currently enduring a breakup. Single or coupled, both states have their pluses and minuses, but now is not the time to bitch about the latter. Stay upbeat and keep the focus on your friend and how you can alleviate his or her concerns.

DO allow your friend to process the loss in his or her own way. Throughout the healing period, your friend may experience a wide range of emotions, swinging from sadness to anger to ambivalence and back again. This is normal. Along the way, your friend may want to distract himself with work, hang out more often with you, or rehash the details of the breakup ad nauseam. Recognize that any way she chooses to deal with it is okay as long as it doesn't hurt herself or others.

DON'T expect your friend to handle the breakup the same way you do. For you, the most natural response might be to talk it out with everyone willing to listen, while your friend may want to be alone, or vice versa. Just because your friend chooses a method of coping that seems foreign to you doesn't mean it's less effective, so don't push him to adopt your personal coping style. That may actually make her feel worse and retreat from you.

DO offer lots of opportunities for your friend to engage in fun, beneficial activities. Invite him to see his favorite band; take her to her favorite spa for a beauty day. Encourage him to reclaim an old hobby; support her as she explores a new craft. It's important for your friend to realize that he or she can still be happy and effective outside the relationship. Many times, a single will sacrifice some of his interests on the altar of The Relationship and lose his precious sense of individuality. A breakup is an ideal time for her to rediscover or even reinvent herself, recommitting to her own personal development.

DON'T withdraw from your friend because he or she doesn't immediately take you up on your suggestions. Keep introducing them, without taking offense if they're rejected, until your friend is ready to welcome the world in again. On the other hand, don't draw your emotionally fragile friend into potentially harmful distractions like drinking or gambling. While these may seem like benign pastimes under normal circumstances, right now your friend's judgment may be impaired, and he is vulnerable to drowning his troubles through irresponsible behavior. Instead of pushing your friend into risky pleasures, be her lookout and guide her away from pitfalls.

DO help your friend seek out new romantic partners when he or she is ready. Your friend may want to jump back into the dating pool immediately, or he or she may revel in newfound singlehood for years. For some people, a few casual dates right after a breakup help them regain their self-confidence, while, for others, they just stir up unwanted memories. Respect your friend's preference, whatever it is, and do your part to help. Accompany him to the bars, help her write her online dating profile, go together to a speed dating session. Give tips and listen to dating stories.

DON'T coerce your friend into dating before he or she is ready. You've probably heard the crude little adage that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. But not everyone operates that way. Many of the newly single cause immense heartache to themselves and others by diving into rebound relationships or a series of meaningless sexual exploits. There's nothing wrong with your friend if he decides to be single for awhile or even forever, so keep your well-meaning nose out of her new love life until she invites you in.

DO prepare to let your friend grieve as long as necessary. The length and intensity of the grieving process can vary a lot depending on the length of the relationship and level of commitment to it, the mutuality of the breakup (or lack thereof), and individual response to loss, among other factors. If your friend had doubts about the relationship for several years before the breakup and had already begun to live a more independent lifestyle, she may recover much more quickly than someone who was blindsided by the news that his beloved girlfriend was leaving him for another man.

DON'T hold your friend to your own timetable for recovery. Your friend isn't you, and the circumstances of his or her breakup aren't yours, so that wouldn't be fair. Careless admonitions to "snap out of it" or "just get over it" are painful to someone who would gladly do just that if all it took really was a magic snap of the fingers.

DO protect yourself. As much as you may want to be your friend's crying shoulder, if your spirits are getting soggy from listening to one too many tales of sorrow, you may need to take a break. Be sure to spend time socializing with your more upbeat friends so you can recharge your batteries, and when there are days that you can't support your friend's weighty problems, it's okay to be unavailable. If your friend's grief is turning into severe depression, the best way you can help is by helping him or her find a professional counselor.

DON'T assume the responsibility of "fixing" your friend. It's possible to be crushed by someone else's unrelenting grief if you don't maintain your own emotional boundaries. Don't convince yourself that you can rescue your friend from suicidal threats or debilitating depression. Again, refer your friend to a mental health professional who is equipped to address these problems.

Breaking up is hard to do, not just for the couple but for their well-intentioned friends. Ultimately, you can't erase your friend's pain or urge him through the stages of grief faster than he can travel them. But as a fellow single, you're in an ideal position to help your friend transition to single life, a state that is much more fulfilling and less scary than married America would have us think. Inspire your friend with the joys of single living, and when it's your turn for a breakup, he or she can remind you what you were missing!

What do you say or do to be supportive of your newly single friends during the breakup process? What are you careful not to say or do?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Singles Are 93 Million Votes Strong: Who Cares?

Here it is again--Election Day. I hope that you all have registered to vote and will be turning out at the polls en masse to raise your voices for the singles community. But if you're wondering who is raising a voice for us, you're not alone.

We've been a hot topic in Gallup polls, CNN headlines, and, yes, movies. But as singles advocate Dr. Bella DePaulo noted before the primaries and again a few days ago, this hasn't translated into more than a cursory nod from the candidates, not even from Barack Obama, the choice of 60% of single voters.

I'm going to pick on Obama for a minute simply because he is the favored candidate among the majority of singles. If you visit his web site and view the drop-down menu under "People," you will see 23 special-interest demographics. One of them must be "Singles," right? Nope. There are "Arab Americans," "Rural Americans," even "Sportsmen." But no "Singles."

Now point your mouse to "Issues" and select "Civil Rights." I quote: "Obama and Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails women’s and racial minorities' ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression." Where are the words "or marital status"? Nowhere to be found.

How about "Economy"? Surely this is a subject of consequence to singles...But no. The headline reads, "Barack Obama will provide a tax cut for working families." In fairness to him, the following paragraph clarifies that individuals will also be eligible for a tax break. But then why not make the headline more inclusive, replacing "working families" with "workers"?

Hop over to "Healthcare," an issue that disproportionately affects single people. It starts out the right way, referring to what Obama will do for "all Americans," but once he's talking numbers, it's all about families again: "The Obama plan will lower health care costs by $2,500 for a typical family..." Nice to know, but what about for a typical individual? Do we not exist until we have a spouse and kids?

Given this singlism, it's no wonder that Obama's campaign devotes an entire section to "Family" but none to "Singles."

Again, I'm picking on Obama because he's the candidate who's supposed to support the underdogs of this country. A glance at McCain's site will prove that he's just as family-focused, but then, that's a core value of the Republican platform, so it should come as no surprise. And I'm not contending that neither of the candidates should support families; the family unit has always been central to human life, though a smaller, more constricted unit has replaced the historical norm in the U.S. However, we singles represent an enormous swath of the population and should also be recognized as an important constituent group with needs and concerns of our own.

Despite that singles still have a long way to go on the road to equality, I still urge you to make your statement at the polls today. Singletude has already endorsed a candidate, the one whose policies I believe will help singles the most, even if they're not specifically intended to do so. Here's how the candidates stack up on major issues that affect singles:

Civil Rights

Obama--Will work to end employment discrimination, though nothing is specifically promised for singles.

McCain--Civil rights? What's that?


Obama--Proposes a tax cut of $500 per individual and reinstatement of higher taxes on those earning more than $250,000. Wants to dispense with taxes for 10 million low-income Americans and seniors who take home less than $50,000 a year. Will tax record oil company profits and redistribute them to consumers. Vows to pump $50 billion into job growth and health, education, housing, and heating. Will reform the mortgage industry to prevent another housing bubble and subsequent crisis. Supports "fair trade," not free trade, which has shipped millions of American jobs overseas, unions, an increased minimum wage, and tax relief for small businesses and start-ups. Suggests flexible work schedules, although he also wants to expand more specifically family-friendly (presumably "marrieds-friendly") programs. Wants to invest in green, clean energy jobs.

McCain--Vows to somehow strengthen the dollar, for which he apparently has a magic, secret formula. Does not propose tax cuts for the middle class unless you have dependents. Does propose even more tax relief for high-income earners and corporations but not specifically for small businesses or start-ups. Wants the American public to essentially bail out delinquent homeowners. Supports even further deregulation of free trade, which has shipped millions of American jobs overseas. Suggests flexible work schedules, although he also wants to expand more specifically family-friendly (presumably "marrieds-friendly") programs. Wants to invest in green, clean energy jobs but also in traditional, "dirty" fuels and dangerous nuclear power. Will work for various tax breaks on gasoline but will lower the priority on ethanol.

Health Care

Obama--Promises to institute a national health care plan for the uninsured. (Those who are already insured can opt to keep their current insurance.) The health care plan is called "affordable," and tax credits towards its purchase or purchase of an approved private plan are guaranteed to those who need them, although we are not given any concrete numbers. Intends to fund the plan by streamlining bureaucracy in the health care system, increasing preventive care, and allowing the Bush tax cuts for the upper class to expire. Supports the elimination of many current insurance practices that disadvantage consumers such as preexisting condition exclusions, premium inflation, blockage of generic and overseas drug distributors, denial of mental health coverage, and much more. Wants to make health care more affordable for employers.

McCain--Promises a heath care tax credit of $2,500 per individual. However, this is not enough to cover the cost of insurance for the average person over 45 as well as for residents of 13 states in which the average policy costs at least $500 more. Will encourage consumers to buy insurance across state lines, but critics argue that this will lead to a monopoly of cheap, low-quality policies. Hopes to make insurance more "portable," which some claim will abolish the employer-based system. Agrees with some but not all of Obama's industry reforms.

The Iraq War

Obama--Claims he will immediately phase out our presence in Iraq.

McCain--Prepared to hunker down in Iraq for the long haul. Promises "victory."


Obama--Committed to improving the job outlook for low-income Americans (including "perks" that really shouldn't be perks like sick leave and retirement plans) and investing in affordable housing.

McCain--Poverty? What's that?


Obama--Encourages research on women's health issues, tougher laws prohibiting violence against women, female entrepreneurship, and accessible birth control.

McCain--Women? What're they?

Anti-singles Action

McCain would also take actions that would actually work against singles, such as strengthening the institution of marriage to "preserve the traditional family," which smart singles who have read their history books will know is anything but traditional. As usual, I will repeat that I have no objection whatsoever against marriage and, in fact, think it's a healthy, admirable commitment. What I object to is how our government rewards marriage at the expense of singles.

If any of you are still undecided, I hope the above comparison has helped to persuade you in one direction or the other depending on which issues are important to you as a single. Change won't happen overnight, but if we speak up for ourselves louder and louder at every election, someone is bound to hear.

Do you think that singles are largely ignored by politicians? If so, do you have any examples of this? Which candidate do you think is more supportive of issues that singles value?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Singletude Adds to Blogroll

Singletude would like to call your attention to the proliferation of blogs by or about singles that you may or may not have noticed on the new and improved blogroll. Lately, I have been scouring the web in an attempt to find some of the liveliest, funniest, most interesting bloggers who have something to say on the issue of singlehood! In the coming days and weeks, you will see even more new additions.

Please note that Singletude does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed by any of the bloggers on the blogroll. I am trying to compile a list of diverse voices, and where you find diversity, you will also find disagreement. However, rest assured that I do not blogroll any blogs that I think have nothing interesting or worthwhile to say.

If you would like your blog to be on the Singletude blogroll, there's no time like the present to make a request! The criteria for inclusion are simple: You should either be a single whose writing is informed by your single status (i.e. if you are a single whose blog is about antique automobiles or Lhasa Apsos, good for you, but that won't appeal to the audience here) or anyone, single or not, who regularly writes about topics important to singles. I am happy to link to blogs that focus on dating and the pursuit of relationships, but I am particularly interested in blogs that cover other aspects of the single life, as well.

And, of course, if you are a single blogger who eventually becomes...not will still be on the blogroll, though you may be moved to another section. Away from the cool kids. Like the loser table at lunch. :) Just kidding. You'll probably be moved to "Blogs Formerly By or About Singles." ;)

To be considered, please send your link to my email, which can be found in the "About Me" section as well as at the end of every post, with "Link Request" in the subject line. Naturally, reciprocal links are always appreciated, too. :)

On Tuesday, Singletude gets political, so hurry back!

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Single on Halloween: Ten Fun Ways to Scare Yourself

As far as holidays go, Halloween is singles-friendly. While there are plenty of sexy singles showing off in costumes that make the most of it, there is little emphasis on romance or family. No one is waiting to pounce on you with mistletoe, though they may pounce with an ax or chainsaw, and when the clock strikes midnight, it's not your cue to plant a wet one on the nearest eligible bachelor(ette) but to cringe and cower at a host of ghouls and goblins.

Still, if you haven't been invited to a party this year and don't have small children to chaperone, you may wonder how to raise your Halloween spirits. That's why Singletude has picked ten frighteningly fun ways to give yourself the chills this Halloween. Try them alone (if you dare), or double your fun with a friend!

1. Host a horror movie fest.
Pop some corn, dim the lights, and treat yourself to a selection of horror classics that will keep you on the edge of your seat, questioning every bump and creak in the house throughout the night. Add some friends to the mix if you don't want to sleep alone! Visit's Horror Storefor inspiration. If you're creative and handy with a video camera, you may even want to shoot your own bloodbath! (When I was young, one of my friends and I passed hours writing and shooting our own amateur vignettes. Closer to comedy than horror, they weren't exactly film festival material, but they entertain us on dark and stormy nights to this day.)

2. Bake some Halloween treats for the tricksters.
If you're at home in the kitchen, whip up some Halloween-themed cookies or cupcakes for the trick-or-treaters on your block. Take the leftovers in to work the next day and surprise your coworkers. To get your creative juices flowing (and your mouth watering), check out these scarily good Halloween recipes from!

3. Be crafty.
You don't have to be a witch or warlock to have some serious craft. Is painting your cup of tea? Light up a dark, spooky night with this Glow-in-the-Dark Mural! Do you quilt? Keep warm with this Ghoulies and Ghosties Quilt! Or maybe you like to keep the home lights burning? Practice the ancient art of candle making when you hand-dip these Easy-to-Make Gourd Candles! Whether you want to spruce up your own home or sell your wares at the local market, crafting is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to express your, um, inner demons on Halloween. Get more Halloween craft ideas from

4. Be designing.
Design your own costume or, better yet, a costume for a child in your life. Unless you go to a high-end costume rental, most packaged costumes look cheap, generic, and scream "Halloween store." That's not the kind of scream you're looking for! If you're nimble with a needle and thread, consider sewing a homemade costume, which can be as simple or elaborate as you'd like and can be fine-tuned to your measurements and color and texture preferences. McCall's, Butterick, and Simplicity are among the most popular designers of costume patterns for those who like to do it themselves. If the sewing machine is not your friend, put your creative genius to work and mix and match what you have. An embroidered blouse and peasant skirt befit a gypsy, while a straw hat and overalls are the building blocks for a scarecrow. Or, if you're skilled with hair or make-up, create a lavish cat face that will bring sparkle to a black bodysuit or mad scientist hair for a young Einstein. When you bring a touch of costume magic to the kids in your world, they'll think you're really cool, and there's nothing more heartwarming than watching a child live the role of his or her favorite character for one enchanted night.

5. Bury yourself in a book...of ghost stories, of course.
Dig up an old book of ghostly tales, heat the hot chocolate, and delight in the chills racing up and down your spine! If you have friends over, gather around the fireplace or light candles and take turns reading or telling stories to each other. Even better, prepare the stories in advance and act them out for your captive audience. Don't forget to toast the marshmallows! Click herefor a selection of literary thrillers from

6. Do the "Monster Mash."
From Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain to Zevon's "Werewolves of London," the musically inclined have tried to capture the sounds of the spooky and the kooky for centuries. This year, make a Halloween mixtape of your favorites and make copies for friends and family or listen to it yourself to get in the mood for a howling good time. If you're feeling adventurous (or have had a few drinks), sing along! Should the spirit really move you, take a handful of friends and a page out of small-town Christmas traditions and go "Halloween caroling" door to door. (Whaddaya know? Amazon has something for everyone today. Add these spine-tinglersto your mixtape!)

7. Build a haunted house.
Every neighborhood has that one house that goes all out for Halloween, the one with animated skeletons singing and dancing in the front yard, a soundtrack of moans, groans, and scraping chains triggered by little footsteps on the stairs, and a basement that every kid begs to see. Why not make that house yours? Transforming your basement into the land of the undead requires a substantial investment of time, money, and physical labor, but the emotional payoff is big when yours is the house that people drive 30 miles to see. Moreover, you can use your local celebrity for a good cause. If your haunted house is thrilling enough to charge admission, you can donate the proceeds to charity. See for tips on constructing your own house of fear!

8. Relive our haunted history.
Though the U.S. has a relatively short history, it produced the Salem Witch Trials, Washington Irving, and the Winchester House. If the macabre in our history captures your imagination, this Halloween visit a museum or take a tour at a historic site with a gruesome past. Who knows? You just might witness something the history books can't explain! Here are some landmarks to get you started:
The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
Alcatraz Island
The Bell Witch Cave Farm
Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/Museum
Danvers State Insane Asylum
Gettysburg, PA
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Hotel del Coronado
Hotel Provincial
The House of Mystery (The Oregon Vortex)
Hull House
Jim Thorpe, PA (The Hand Print)
The Knickerbocker Hotel
The Lincoln Theater
The Myrtles Plantation
New Orleans, LA
The Queen Mary
Washington Irving House
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum
Salem, MA
The Stanley Hotel
Tombstone, AZ
The Whaley House
The White House
Winchester Mystery House

9. Honor the dead.
The word "Halloween" is derived from All Hallows Day (a.k.a. All Saints Day), which, in many European and Central/South American cultures is a holy day on which families honor their ancestors who have passed on to the next life. Mexico, for example, arguably the country with the most colorful All Hallows Day festivities, parties hard in its cemeteries, adorning loved ones' graves in wreaths and streamers and breaking out the tequila and mariachi bands for a toast to the dead. While dancing on the graves of your deceased relatives may hold little appeal, you can still find meaningful ways to honor them. From leaving fresh flowers at a grave site to revisiting family photo albums, you too can set aside this day to remember important people who are no longer with you. Take this a step farther, if you will, and commit the day to something your loved one cared about. Do an activity the two of you enjoyed together, volunteer for a cause he or she supported, or spend some time with someone else he or she loved, keeping your memories alive.

10. Be a ghost hunter.
These days, anyone can get in on the action, whether or not you have an electromagnetic field detector (EMF). Of course, if you want proof that what you saw wasn't just your own shadow, infrared cameras, EVP recorders, and other pro paraphernalia are a necessity. You can pick up your own at web retailers like Ghost-Mart, Ghosthunter Store, or The EMF Safety Superstore, although Singletude can't vouch for the quality of the equipment. Even if you don't buy the goods of the trade, you can still investigate hotbeds of paranormal activity for your own amusement and edification. The Shadowlands has what might be the most comprehensive inventory of reputedly haunted locations in the U.S. and has recently expanded its listings beyond our borders. With such an extensive collection of sightings, you should be able to find at least one or two near your hometown. Since the site depends on user updates, be sure to report any new findings! On a note of caution, though, many of these sites are not open to the public. You should always get permission before exploring private property.

No matter what you do this Halloween, alone or accompanied, have fun, stay safe, and don't eat too much candy--it'll rot your teeth. Unless your dental plan covers caps. Then go for it. :)

If you'll be single this Halloween, how are you planning to celebrate? If you've ever tried any of the above suggestions on Halloween, what was your experience like? What other ways can you think of to celebrate Halloween on your own?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Forbes Best Cities for Singles, 2008

I'm late to the game on this one, folks, but on September 4, 2008, Forbes announced its annual rankings of the most singles-friendly American cities. This year, Atlanta tops the list, bumping last year's champ, San Francisco, to second best, while Dallas takes home the bronze.

The cities were rated on six factors--number of singles, culture, nightlife, job growth, cost of living, and online dating activity. Atlanta's solid scores on job growth and nightlife propelled it to first place. Although San Francisco scored poorly on job growth and cost of living, it held onto second because it houses more singles than any other U.S. city (a whopping 30% of its residents are unmarried) and has a thriving cultural scene. Last year's runner-up, New York, dropped to eighth in view of its inflated cost of living, stalled job growth, and stagnant online dating scene. Dallas, on the other hand, saw a meteoric rise from ninth to third due to its affordability, job growth, and hot nightlife, even as former third-place finisher, Los Angeles, plummeted to sixteenth, following New York's downward trajectory for the same reasons. Rounding out the top 10 were Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Boston, New York, Orlando, and Phoenix. The worst city for singles was Jacksonville, sitting dead last in fortieth place.

Cities boasting a claim to number one in any category included the aforementioned San Fran for most singles, L.A. for richest culture, NYC for hippest nightlife, Austin for fastest job growth, San Antonio for most affordable cost of living, and Charlotte for most happening online dating scene. Their counterparts languishing at the bottom of the ladder were Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Charlotte (a city of extremes, apparently), Milwaukee, New York (another city of extremes), and Memphis. To see a complete list of cities and how they fared among singles, click here.

A cursory glance at these results suggests that Texas is muy caliente, which should come as no surprise to those who are used to its blistering summers. The Southeast, however, is a mixed bag, and the Rust Belt and Midwest aren't exactly singles meccas.

Of course, not everyone will agree with some of the measures used to draw these conclusions. For instance, the nightlife rating was determined by calculating the total restaurants, bars, and nightclubs per person. However, a report on the quantity of eateries in a metro area says nothing of their quality or attractiveness to the single population. As another example, only data from was used to assess each city's online dating culture, a measurement which excludes many other online dating heavyweights. For a more detailed explanation of the scoring system, read this.

Still, the Forbes study, fast becoming the definitive ranking system for singles searching for a change of pace via a change of place, provides valuable data that not only reveals which cities are home to the most singles but how each city serves its singles. So if you like to hit the bars on the weekend, you may want to pack your bags for New York, whereas if you intend to circulate online, Charlotte might be more your speed. Wherever you hang your hat, though, take your positive singletude with you!

Do you live in or near any of the cities on the Forbes Best Cities for Singles list? If so, how do you think your city stacks up? Do you think the measures used for this study can provide valid conclusions about which cities are best for singles? If not, what measures would you use?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Singles and PDA: Dealing with Public Displays of Affection

As a blogger, I try to keep my writing in the public eye and my personal life out of it. But this time I have to blur the boundaries because--let's face it--there aren't any boundaries when a guy standing close enough to kiss you is slipping the tongue to the girl next to him along with whatever fingers he can get inside her shirt.

As the October air gets nippy, couples huddling for warmth have become a frequent sight on street corners, park benches, and trains. Out in the open, we're under a big enough sky that we don't need to test physics by occupying the same space at the same time. When a touchy-feely couple gets cozy on a picnic blanket, anyone who doesn't want to see the show can appropriate a different patch of grass.

But it's more difficult to avoid the lovebirds when they insist on performing their mating ritual in an enclosed space such as a movie theater, shopping aisle, bus, or train. For instance, at least once or twice a week on the train, I have an uncomfortably close encounter of the following kind: There I am, staking my claim to a mere inch or two of poll, maintaining a zenlike focus on avoiding eye contact with fellow passengers and staying upright despite the bucking B line's best attempts to throw me. While innocently awaiting my stop, barricaded in my mental fortress of solitude, a couple, usually but not always under the age after which adults are supposedly not to be trusted, enter the car and take up residence at my poll.

In case you've never been on a subway, when passengers join you at your poll, you are forced to part with your personal space, and you won't see it again until they disembark. Since most people don't like to part with their personal space, there is an unwritten rule that you dignify this loss by keeping your body parts to yourself and making a good faith effort to be as invisible as a muggle can. So when you have nowhere to look but at the couple in front of you and their giggling and eye flirting gives way to spit swapping, they're not only flaunting their PDA but breaking the subway code big time.

Now, one kiss--okay, fine, whatever. I'll avert my eyes and pretend I didn't see. But when you punctuate every sentence by locking lips over and over in an enclosed space where I have no choice but to be an onlooker, you might as well jab me in the shoulder with a pointy nail every 10 seconds. It's visual torture. And these aren't just teenagers with untamable hormones and no manners. These are adults, some of them dressed for work, where, in 20 minutes or so, they will have no problem exercising the self-control that somehow eludes them on the train.

When singles complain about PDA, inevitably there are accusations of envy and bitterness. But I'm going to lay those to rest right here: I may not be in a committed relationship, but I am regularly on the receiving end of kisses, so I have nothing to be envious about. Even if I weren't, though, that wouldn't change the fact that I don't want to watch a couple's intimate romantic moments played out in front of me any more than I want to watch them scream and curse at each other, get sick and vomit, or give birth. Some things are private, and just because we can see most of them on cable TV doesn't mean they shouldn't be. When someone force-feeds the public a slice of his or her sexuality, it can be embarrassing, distasteful, and even somewhat violating to unwitting bystanders.

For some singles, of course, PDA does also trigger envy, insecurity, and depression as an in-your-face reminder of what they want but don't have. In fact, sometimes, I wonder if, for at least quite a few couples, this is the unconscious objective of PDA--to show off their relationship, something widely perceived as an asset, in the same way one might roll up a sleeve to show off a Rolex or take the new Lexus on a grocery run. After all, it's hard to believe that these couples go home and sit through dinner, dishwashing, dog feeding, their favorite weekly drama, and the news while staring into each other's eyes and recreating living Rodin sculptures. At least a good part of their public canoodling must be exhibitionism rather than sheer overflow of love.

Whether PDA makes you blush, brings out your green-eyed monster, or sends you running for comfort food, there are ways to restore privacy to your personal space:

1. Lock down the liplockers.
Though some with a laissez-faire philosophy may protest that getting frisky outside the bedroom is harmless, there's a reason every state has laws prohibiting public nudity and sexual activity. Public spaces are for the public, and it's only fair that we all cooperate so everyone can enjoy them. You don't have to be exposed to someone else's indecent exposure. If a couple is being so inappropriate that you feel uncomfortable sharing the same steamy air, you have the right to report them to the authorities. Yes, it's harsh and not to be done willy-nilly, but sometimes people don't consider how their actions (or, um, attempts to get some action) affect others until they're face to face with the consequences.

2. Bounce them to a bedroom.
Most PDAs skirt a finer line between in flagrante and innocent. Such instances may not be a case for the police, but if you're in an establishment like a restaurant or movie theater, the management will want to hear about it if the patrons are unhappy. If the cooing and cuddling is making you too queasy to eat dinner or if you have to crane your neck around the neckers to see the movie screen, complain to a manager. He or she may discreetly ask the couple to dial it down a notch, or you may be given a discount or refund.

3. If they really want a show, give them an audience.
When reinforcements aren't available, such as in a bus, train, or store aisle, you may have to take matters into your own hands. Sometimes couples deep into a display of PDA may be ignorant of the attention they're drawing to themselves. Give them a funny wake-up call with hoots, whistles, cheers, or jeers to remind them that they're not in the privacy of their own home. This may embarrass them into an early curtain on their performance. Other options: Pretend to snap some pictures with your camera phone, start directing them as though they're shooting a love scene, or, if all else fails, use the tried and true exhortation to get a room. (Note: If you don't know the sappy sweethearts, use caution. Even if your intentions are to make light of the situation while getting your point across, there are always those unhinged sorts who will react violently to teasing and many more who will be anything but embarrassed and flip you the bird before progressing to second base. And, of course, you risk being as obnoxious as the offending parties.)

Now, when the tables have turned and you're out on a date, make sure you don't hand out an unwanted helping of PDA to those around you! Wandering fingers are bad enough; pointing the finger at others only to slobber on your significant other is even worse. Contribute to a PDA-free society by saving your bedroom eyes for the bedroom.

How do you feel as a single when you're unwittingly treated to a display of PDA? If it bothers you, why do you think that is and how do you respond to it? Have you ever done anything to discourage an overly amorous couple, and, if so, did it work?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Single-parent Adoption: What to Know, Part II

Now that you understand how to undertake a single-parent adoption, there's just one question left: Are you prepared to be a single parent? This is probably the hardest question that you'll ask during the process because even though governmental organizations and private agencies will give you their answers to the question, only you have the real answer, and you have to volunteer it on speculation, without any hands-on experience.

This is one reason to foster a child. Not only will you help a boy or girl who needs a home, but you'll have an opportunity to assess how you handle the day-in, day-out responsibility of childcare.

If you don't want to foster a child, perhaps out of concern about becoming too attached or dealing with emotional or physical handicaps, maybe you have nieces and nephews or little cousins who could stay with you for a month or two in the summer. Another option is to volunteer childcare on a consistent basis for friends, neighbors, or a nonprofit. The more time you routinely spend with kids, the better. Youngsters can be cute when you're playing their favorite games for a few hours while mommy and daddy are out, but your parenting skills won't be challenged till little Jenny is tired and cranky after a whole day of back-to-school shopping and wants an ice cream now.

Aside from direct experience, though, there are some objective criteria you can reference to help confirm whether you're ready to adopt as a single parent:

1. Age
Age may be nothin' but a number, but most U.S. states require that you be at least 18 years old to adopt. Furthermore, many agencies impose a minimum age limit of 25 and a maximum of 40. Alternatively, the restrictions may be an age difference between adoptive parent and child of no less than 20 years and no more than 40. In other countries, these limits may be different. For instance, in China, the maximum age is 50 to adopt a healthy child and 55 to adopt a special-needs child.

2. Health
Most agencies both here and abroad have health standards that unfortunately rule out prospective parents with certain health problems. Obesity, mental health disorders, and chronic conditions like diabetes are some potential disqualifications. In addition, some disabilities are of more concern than others and are usually evaluated on a case by case basis.

3. Substance Use
Not surprisingly, hopeful parents with a history of alcohol or drug abuse may not be looked on favorably, and certainly anyone for whom substance abuse is still an issue should seek treatment and get the problem under control long before applying to adopt. But nowadays even smoking or social drinking may be grounds for rejection, especially at private agencies. Hey, this may be a good time to kick a bad habit.

4. Criminal History
Most of us have had a speeding or parking ticket at least once in our lives, but needless to say, if you've been convicted of a serious crime, your chances of adoption may be slim. However, depending on the nature of the crime, if you've since learned from your mistake and transitioned to a healthier mode of living, you might still be an acceptable candidate. So don't give up before you can make your case.

5. Financial Wellbeing and Employment Status
Obviously, you'll need to provide financially for a son or daughter. Those bikes, ballet shoes, and band-aids aren't free, you know. On the other hand, it's a misconception that you have to be wealthy to adopt. You simply need to demonstrate that you have a stable source of income sufficient to keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and maybe a dog at your feet. As we discussed last time, the government subsidizes many adoptions through ongoing assistance or tax credits, and some agencies also have endowments that can lift part of the burden off your shoulders. Furthermore, if you work from home or can get leave from work to bond with your little one during those first months following the adoption, this may add up to bonus points for you. But, in the end, the only honest labor that can really work against you would be a job that demands a lot of travel or is hazardous to your health.

6. Home Environment
Is your home child-friendly? It may be small, but it should have room for a growing boy or girl. It should also be childproofed so that threats to safety, from unprotected electrical outlets to open swimming pools, are addressed. The birth parents or agency will also want to know what other people will be in the child's life. If you have a friend or relative who lives with you, he or she may also need to submit to a background check.

7. Other Children
If you already have kids, this may or may not work in your favor. Some agencies and/or birth parents would rather place a child with first-time parents, who can lavish all their attention on the newcomer, while others prefer parents with a proven track record.

Many of the above criteria are used for evaluating your potential as a parent during the home study, in which a social worker collects documents, interviews you, and inspects your house. All U.S. residents must undergo a home study before they can legally adopt, whether publicly or privately, and if you think there's something ironic or even inequitable about the fact that people can conceive as many babies as they want without federal interference while you have to be scrutinized from attic to basement, you're not alone. Fortunately for us since home studies are here to stay, the word on the street is they're not that scary. Social workers don't expect you to be perfect. In fact, part of the home study may include parental education to help you create a safe, enriching environment for your new addition. Though the nature of home studies varies somewhat by state and agency, this site thoroughly describes everything that will likely be covered.

Finally, although these are not formal qualifications, it might be wise to ask yourself the following questions as well:

1. Do I have an adequate support system?
Do you have family and friends who are committed to helping you raise this child, people who can be called on to offer regular advice, occasional childcare, and emergency assistance? Do you know others who have adopted so you can access their wisdom and experience? If not, consider joining a support group specifically for single adoptive parents. Start attending the group before you adopt so you can get the scoop on the adoption process and its aftermath and make sure that it's right for you.

2. Am I willing to give up my "me" time? I mean really, truly willing?
One of the most frequent comments I hear from new parents is that they didn't anticipate how much a baby would interrupt their routine. Once you adopt a child, especially if you choose an infant, you can forget those two-hour baths with a book and a pillow or those spontaneous all-day mountain biking trips. You might not even have time to do your hair or shave in the morning, especially if you stayed up all night with a sick kid. A youngster is going to radically alter your lifestyle, no buts about it, so be honest with yourself about whether you can tolerate the upheaval.

3. Have I accomplished a lot of my professional goals? If not, can I let go of them?
Notice I said "a lot" and not "all." It would be unrealistic to write off your career years before retirement. But the fact remains that, as a single parent, your job will now take a back seat to your child. Since there won't be anyone else at home to ferry your son or daughter to school, softball practice, birthday parties, or dentist appointments, you'll probably have to leave work early, go in late, and take on less responsibility in general than you used to. If your job once involved heavy travel, you'll doubtless have to cut back on that, and if your employer wants to transplant you halfway around the world, you may have to say no. Because of all this, you might find yourself passed over for promotion or simply unable to achieve all that you had dreamed. Your reward will be different, at once more personal and less self-contained, the reward of instilling the love, values, confidence, and support that a child will need to achieve his or her dreams.

4. Can I place my child above my love life?
For singles who are parents, whether through adoption or by birth, one of the greatest challenges is balancing parenting with adult relationships. Many singles who haven't found a life partner nevertheless enjoy the search or just the occasional date and maybe even a nightlong dalliance. But once a child enters the picture, casual dating flies out of it. Now every date is a prospective mom or dad, and that bad boy or sugar baby you once lusted after can't even be on your radar. Sure, you could just have a one-night fling, but then you have to worry about who will drive the babysitter home or what effect it will have on your child when he or she wakes up to a stranger in mommy or daddy's bed. You don't want your son or daughter to get attached to someone who won't be around next year, and for that matter, you don't want to teach him or her that love is casual or disposable. When you do get serious about someone, you have to remember that your child was there first and gets to be the final arbiter as to whether or not that person becomes a part of your family. Plus, if the new love of your life ever lays a hand on your baby or hurts him or her in any way, you need to be prepared to send your honey packing, no excuses accepted. And let's not even get started on all the men or women who have now written you off just because you're a single parent. Yes, once you have kids, you can see how quickly your hot dates become...not dates. In fact, you may date only rarely or not at all until your son or daughter is a teenager or out of the house entirely. Can you live with that?

5. Do I want to be a parent for the right reasons?
This question necessitates a brutal examination of your inner motives, and if you probe deep enough, you might not like what you find. Lots of people dive into parenting for the wrong reasons. Perhaps they're feeling pressure to start a family from their parents or friends who have settled down. Maybe they want to have a "mini me" through whom they can channel their unfulfilled youthful ambitions. Some struggle with feelings of emptiness and isolation and expect a child to fill that gap with his or her love. Others may believe that they have something to prove, that they can't fully live life or be mature adults until they've raised kids. These are just some of the wrong reasons to embark on the messy adventure that is parenting. You know they're the wrong reasons because they focus on what a child can do for you, not what you can do for a child. When you want to adopt for the right reasons, your focus will be on how you can give the love you've stored up all these years to someone else, how you can help him or her grow, how you can contribute something to the next generation, how you can share your time, resources, and energy with a boy or girl who could benefit from them.

If you have any doubts about whether you're ready to adopt, remember that it's okay to slow down and reexamine how you feel later. Unlike the birth process, adoption isn't dependent on some biological clock. There's no rush here. Taking the time to make sure you're ready to be a parent and perhaps modifying your life in ways that help prepare you to that end will make you a better mom or dad. Once you've given yourself the personal green light, all that stands between you and your new little one is a seal of approval from the state and possibly an agency, so go for it. Don't worry if you don't meet every guideline. Lots of people don't, yet still manage to adopt. All decisions are made on a case by case basis, so always ask if an exception can be made in yours. If you're open-minded and determined enough to adopt, you will almost certainly find yourself one day reminding your son or daughter that where there's a will, there's a way.

If you've adopted (or if someone you know has), what were some of the qualifications that you (or he or she) had to meet? Whether or not you've adopted, how do you think someone can know when he or she is ready for a single-parent adoption? What questions should prospective single parents ask themselves? Do you think the current standards for adoptive parents are too lenient, too restrictive, or appropriate as they are?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Single-parent Adoption: What to Know, Part I

Last time, Singletude cleared up some myths about single-parent adoption. Now that we know adopted kids can and do turn out just fine in single-parent homes, we'll delve into the adoption process for single adults who have a lot of room for a little person in their lives.

There are two main routes to adoption--independent adoption or agency adoption. An independent adoption is arranged directly between the adoptive parent and the birth parents with the aid of personal attorneys. These adopters are the would-be parents you see advertising in the newspaper for expectant mothers. Think Juno. Agencies, which act as middlemen between prospective parents and adoptees, may be either public or private, domestic or international. If you know someone who adopted a Russian or Chinese baby or a child from our own foster care system, she or he probably worked with an agency. Let's take a closer look at these very different forms of adoption and the advantages and disadvantages each holds for single people.

Independent Adoption

An independent adoption may be ideal for a single parent because she or he doesn't have to meet rigorous agency requirements. This kind of adoption is also less expensive than an agency adoption, averaging $10,000-15,000, which may include the cost of the search, legal fees, medical bills, and other negotiable financial support for the birth mother. (There is a federal tax credit of up to $11,650 for adoptions if your income is below $214,730.) In addition, an independent adoption can progress much more quickly than an agency adoption; since most birth mothers initiate the adoption while pregnant, an adoptive parent may only have five or six months to wait till his or her baby arrives. Which brings us to what is by far the greatest advantage of independent adoption--an adoptive parent will almost always be able to adopt the child at birth. This means that she or he can bond with the child immediately and be Mom or Dad from day one.

There's only one real drawback to independent adoption, and we've all seen enough movies of the week to know what that is: for a period of up to 30 days after the birth, depending on the laws of your state, the birth mother can change her mind and keep the baby. In which case, you are no longer the proud parent of the son or daughter you already named and painted a nursery for. To avoid the possibility of this crushing blow, some single parents-to-be elect to adopt through an agency.

Unfortunately, there is little data on independent adoption, so we don't know how many of these children are raised by single parents.

Public Agency Adoption

Public agencies handle the adoption of kids in the state system, so you'll know from the outset if the rights of the birth parents have been terminated. And whereas you have to go it alone in a private adoption, an agency will be there to hold your hand during the process and afterward, providing resources on parenting, counseling, and information about what to expect. Due to government funding, these adoptions are also the least expensive, totaling $2,500 or less, most of which is reimbursed in most states. Furthermore, when they adopt through public agencies, 89% of parents receive a subsidy of $350 a month on average to defray the costs of childrearing, so this is a very affordable choice for a single mother or father. However, the number one benefit of a public agency adoption is the chance for a prospective parent to foster a child before officially adopting. About 63-65% of parents who adopt publicly fostered their sons or daughters first. This gives both parent and child time to build a relationship and assess their compatibility.

On the downside, foster kids adopted by single women are approximately seven years old (the national average is six and a half), and in 2006, only two percent of all adoptees were infants under one year. Due to the red tape that tangles any legal proceeding, it can take 17 months to finalize a public, single-parent adoption. So these are kids who may have memories of other families in other homes and who will bear the scars of separation from those families. Furthermore, children who are wards of the state were removed from their parents for a reason. Many of them were abused or neglected, and lots have special physical, mental, or emotional needs that may be hard to cope with alone. On the other hand, single parents may be especially well-equipped to handle these concerns because needy kids will have their undivided attention.

The most recent federal data indicates that 29% of public agency adoptions are single-parent adoptions. The foster care system is so swelled with kids at any given time that public agencies are happy to find qualified parents and may be less rigid about marital status than private agencies. Also, because so many of these kids have been abused, some of them have fears about living with a parent of one sex or the other, so a single adult of their preferred sex is sometimes favored over a married couple.

Private Domestic Agency Adoption

Private domestic agencies are the luxury cars of the adoption world. They facilitate adoptions of the most desirable children--American infants in good health--as well as older kids from all walks of life, and they do so with an even greater array of services than public agencies have on hand.

Accordingly, private domestic agencies are the most selective and, therefore, the least likely to place a child with a single parent. They've been known to impose a host of qualifications that can seem discriminatory but are well within their rights as private organizations. These criteria may apply to a prospective parent's age, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, health status, relationship history, and myriad other personal characteristics that you may consider private or at least unrelated to your ability to parent. Furthermore, if it seems that private domestic agencies create designer families, it should be no surprise that they come with designer price tags. They can charge $5,000-40,000 per adoption, although some offer sliding scales or reduced fees to those who track down birth parents themselves. Since private agencies are so popular, the waiting period to adopt can take up to several years and is seldom under 12 months.

It is estimated that singles account for a mere 5% of private domestic agency adopters. Nevertheless, if it's paramount that you're matched with a boy or girl whose parents were Catholic, Cuban, green-eyed mathematicians but you don't want the insecurity of an independent adoption, a private domestic agency may be the only way to go. If so, check with your employer to see if you're eligible for an adoption benefits plan to offset the sometimes overwhelming cost of private adoption.

Private International Agency Adoption

In the face of overt prejudice at private domestic agencies, single parents have been flocking to other countries to adopt. For those willing to take on travel and language barriers, it can seem like a magic solution. In the heyday of international adoptions, overcrowded, underfunded overseas orphanages were desperate for adoptive parents, so they had more relaxed regulations and shorter wait times, sometimes as brief as four months and seldom over a year, although this has changed recently as more and more parents-to-be have jumped on the same boat to China, Russia, or their country of choice. Compared to the U.S., a greater proportion of children adopted abroad are, as every parent dreams, young and physically healthy. In addition, the birth parents aren't part of the process, so there's no chance that a teenage mom or dad will have second thoughts and try to regain custody. To top it off, although international agency adoptions are still expensive at $7,000-25,000, they average less than private domestic agency adoptions.

The only detractor to international adoptions is that not all nations hold to high standards of childcare, and many foreign-born adoptees are emotionally wounded by neglect and outright abuse while wards of the state. However, as discussed above, American kids in state custody are also liable to be traumatized, so this factor alone shouldn't preclude a search overseas.

Tragically, however, some of the countries that previously placed the most kids with single parents are now squeezing them out due to the 2008 Hague Adoption Convention, a treaty signed by more than 75 nations that prescribes marriage as a prerequisite for adoption. For instance, China, which once united 30% of its orphaned children with eager singles, has now restricted such adoptions to just 8% of its total, begging the question of why single parents are good enough for 8% of the kids but not the other 92%. Sadly, single-parent placement giants Ukraine, Guatemala, Vietnam, Thailand, and Korea have followed suit or are poised to do so; onetime A-listers India, Ethiopia, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Honduras, and the Philippines have become decidedly less singles-friendly; and Russia has tightened the reins on all would-be foreign adopters even as Romania and Cambodia have slammed their doors. Yes, even couples are running into barriers in a more nationalistic climate. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page and click through the exhaustive list of countries for an education in just how tedious and unwelcoming international adoption is becoming.)

Nevertheless, there are still nations from every continent which understand that families come in all sizes and are happy to work with singles, or at least single women. (More challenges face single men, although international adoption is not impossible.) Visit this site for detailed nation-by-nation listings that spell out each country's adoption policy for singles.

Perhaps you've wistfully imagined reading bedtime stories or helping a youngster with homework but never thought that mental scene could become reality without a spouse. Hopefully you now know that it can and have a better understanding of the various roads that may lead you to that special child you'll call your son or daughter. When our single-parent adoption series wraps, we'll outline the steps you need to take to travel any of those roads, including a self-assessment of your own readiness to parent, fundamental standards imposed by most agencies, and the scoop on the dreaded home study!

If you adopted as a single parent or know someone who has, which of the routes to adoption did you (or he or she) take? What were some of the merits and pitfalls of the adoption process you (or he or she) chose? What advice would you give to other singles looking to adopt?

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