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!