Tonight, Advice Goddess Radio, 7-8pm PT, 10-11pm ET: Dr. Bella DePaulo On Why "Single" Shouldn't Be Paired With "Miserable"
Contrary to popular belief, the adjective that goes with "single" isn't necessarily "miserable," and not being in a relationship doesn't mean you'll "die alone" and have your face eaten off by your 26 cats. Belief in notions like these pushes people to get into relationships they shouldn't, just to have someone, and helps keep people together with partners who aren't making them happy.
So...just in time for what I've termed our "national day of insincerity," when people who behave hatefully to each other year-round try to make up for it by buying flowers, chocolates and jewelry, I have Dr. Bella DePaulo coming on my show -- Advice Goddess Radio, 7-8pm Pacific, 10-11pm Eastern -- to set you straight on how good things can be for people who don't have that "significant other"...if only they throw off all that societal prejudice against being single:
Listen live at the link, call in (347-326-9761 when show is live), download the podcast afterward.
DePaulo is the author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, which I've referenced in a column:
But, what will become of you if you don't lock in a man like an interest rate? Who will change the rubber sheet on your bed and put tennis balls on the bottom of your walker? This is an understandable concern, but maybe you could just put a few bucks aside for that, as it seems kind of insulting to get together with somebody now as a means of saving big on elder-care. Beyond the need for good nursing, maybe you fear being all alone in your twilight years (or, worse yet, dying alone and being turned into a Purina substitute by your 26 cats). The truth is, according to studies referenced in Bella DePaulo's terrific book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, women who've never been married have some of the strongest friendships and sense of community in their lives, and are the least likely to feel lonely when they're old bags.
And I wrote about one of her studies here:
Like a lot of unpartnered types who go suddenly psycho, your friend probably seemed perfectly happy until that night she marched into some crowded bar and shouted, "I'm nothing without you!" (Who "you" is remains to be seen.) Now, maybe she never really was happy, or maybe she just hit that age where "single" becomes an adult form of cooties. In a recently published study, Bella M. DePaulo and Wendy L. Morris blame this bias on "The Cult of the Couple," and puzzle at "the strange implication that people without a stable sexual relationship are wandering adrift with open wounds and shivering in their sleep."
DePaulo and Morris aren't anti-couple; they were just surprised when their data showed most people suspect single equals loser -- even single people. When they asked 950 undergrads to describe the characteristics of married and single people in general, married people were assumed to be "mature, stable, honest, happy, kind, and loving." Singles got nailed with "immature, insecure, self-centered, unhappy, lonely, and ugly." Of course, the truth is, sometimes two is the loneliest number. Is there really anything lonelier than feeling completely alone when you're in relationship with somebody else?
It doesn't help that award-winning social scientists keep making bold pronouncements about the transformative power of marriage, like E. Mavis Hetherington's claim, "Happily married couples are healthier, happier, wealthier, and sexier than are singles." Don't be too quick to assume they also have bigger breasts, flatter abs, and are less likely to be abducted by aliens. The above quote from Hetherington's recently published book was just one of many examples cited by DePaulo and Morris of couple-glorifying sloppy methodology and data analysis. DePaulo told me via e-mail, "I think that cultural notions about singles and marrieds are so pervasive, and so unquestioned, that even respected scholars do less than their best work on the topic." DePaulo and Morris point out the rather obvious flaw in Hetherington's claim: She compared only happily married people to all single people. Wow, imagine that: Happily marrieds are more satisfied with their lives than, say, suicidal singles.
Amy Alkon's Advice Goddess Radio: "Nerd Your Way To A Better Life!" With the best brains in science.
And, in case you haven't heard, my latest book is I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle To Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society. It's only $12.75, brand new, with Amazon's discount at the link above. (New copies go against my advance, and help me keep writing, doing my radio show...and eating!)