Monday, January 22, 2007

Pg. 69: "Singled Out"

Bella DePaulo is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.

I asked Bella to put her book to the "page 69 test," and here is what she reported:
I’ve been single all my life and have sometimes had the experience of being excluded from weekend social events by my friends who were coupled. When I started to ask other single people about their experiences, I often heard variations of the same sort of story. Two of the more poignant ones are described on p. 69.

Getting excluded just because you are single is only one example of what I call singlism. Single people are also stereotyped, stigmatized, and discriminated against in the workplace and the marketplace, in politics and in everyday life. (And don’t even get me started on the so-called “marriage penalty.”)

What is especially interesting about singlism is that the people who practice it often do so unselfconsciously. The quote from The Knot that begins on the bottom of p. 69 is an illustration of singles-bashing without apology. Elsewhere in Singled Out, I point to examples of singlism from publications such as The New Yorker and The Washington Post. I also show how even the most accomplished single people can still get The Singles Treatment.

Although I document many instances of singlism, I do not see single people as victims. Instead, Singled Out is a story of resilience. For years, I had been seeing headlines claiming that getting married makes people happier and healthier. I’m a social scientist, so I went back to the original reports in the professional journals to see what the studies really did show. I was amazed to find that so many of the claims I had been reading were grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong. I document that in Singled Out, too. Many single people really are living happily ever after.

How can singles be targets of discrimination and still live happily ever after? How serious is singlism, compared to other isms? How is it that singlism has slipped under the cultural radar at a time of such heightened sensitivity to so many other isms? Americans now spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married, and for the first time in our nation’s history, households that include a married couple are in the minority; so why do we see so much matrimania all around us? Singled Out takes on all of these questions.

Here is all of p. 69:

but because feelings of closeness waned, as can happen among any friends, regardless of anyone’s status as single or coupled.

The exclusion of singles seems more suspect when it happens suddenly. Consider, for example, this story about Kim. She and her long-time partner had socialized with two other couples every weekend for years. When Kim and her partner broke up in mid-week, she called a woman from one of the other couples and had a long and tearful conversation. As Kim expected, her friend wanted to hear all of the details and conveyed lots of kindness and compassion. What Kim had not anticipated was her friend’s final words before the call ended: “I’m so sorry to hear all this. We were looking forward to seeing you this weekend.”

Kim’s so-called friend was not the least bit embarrassed to uninvite Kim once she was suddenly single. To her, it seemed self-evident that couples socialize with other couples, and so if you are no longer coupled, you are no longer welcome.

The assumption that couples are special and singles are second-class explains why couples can plan couples-only events or vacation trips right in front of their single friends, and think nothing of it. It also accounts for the rule that was once in place in a Canadian hiking club for seniors: If you become widowed, you need to leave the club by the end of the calendar year.

Were the friends of Sandy, Kim, and all the others just a bunch of ignoramuses? I doubt it. Maybe they read too many advice columns.

Suppose they went searching on the web for suggestions for maintaining their friendships with their single friends. On the MSN website, “The Knot,” Valerie and others like her could have found just what they were looking for -- a column titled, “Friends: Keeping Them After You Tie the Knot.” Here are some choice excerpts:

Now that you are married...married friends may joyfully add you to their roster of couples to dine and vacation with, while your union may remind single friends of their lack of success in the relationship department.

You may have trouble staying close to single friends after marriage. They may seem distant and jealous...Don’t take friends’ negative reactions personally; they’re likely feeling a bit deserted. If you want to maintain the friendship, call your hurt friend and ask him or her out for coffee or a drink.

Your friendship may die a natural death. Don’t feel guilty; this happens sometimes.
Many thanks to Bella for the input.

Read about some of the highlights from the book and a Q & A with the author.

Among the praise for Singled Out:
“With elegant analysis, wonderfully detailed examples, and clear and witty prose, DePaulo lays out the many, often subtle denigrations and discriminations faced by single adults in the U.S. She addresses, too, the resilience of single women and men in the face of such singlism. A must-read for all single adults, their friends and families, as well as social scientists and policy advocates.”
-- E. Kay Trimberger, author of The New Single Woman

"It’s time for America to become acquainted with its new ‘unmarried majority.’ Singled Out debunks myths and stereotypes about single people and lays the groundwork for social, political, and economic change – change that is long overdue in government policies and business practices."
-- Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director, Unmarried America
The publisher says that "Singled Out debunks the Ten Myths of Singlehood," including:
Myth #1: The Wonder of Couples: Marrieds know best.

Myth #3: The Dark Aura of Singlehood: You are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic.

Myth #5: Attention, Single Women: Your work won’t love you back and your eggs will dry up. Also, you don’t get any and you’re promiscuous.

Myth #6: Attention, Single Men: You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible, and you are the scary criminals. Or you are sexy, fastidious, frivolous, and gay.

Myth #7: Attention, Single Parents: Your kids are doomed.

Myth #9: Poor Soul: You will grow old alone and you will die in a room by yourself where no one will find you for weeks.

Myth #10: Family Values: Let’s give all of the perks, benefits, gifts, and cash to couples and call it family values.
Bella and the book frequently appear in the media.

Read Bella's contributions to The Huffington Post and visit her website.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Steve Hamilton, A Stolen Season
Eric Klinenberg, Fighting for Air
Donna Moore, ...Go to Helena Handbasket
Louis Bayard, The Pale Blue Eye
Neal Thompson, Riding with the Devil
Sherry Argov, Why Men Marry Bitches
P.J. Parrish, An Unquiet Grave
Tyler Knox, Kockroach
Andrew Rehfeld, The Concept of Constituency
Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue