Jaclyn Geller is guest-posting here to share her bold (and sometimes hilarious) Call to Action for single people who are tired of the pervasive unfairness that advantages married people and deeply disadvantages anyone who is not officially married. Geller, an English professor and author of Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique, has long been at the cutting edge of thinking on matters of fairness for people who are not married. I have been hosting her guest posts since 2009.
According to the prevailing cultural narratives, single people in later life have two big things going against them: They are single and they are old. Now focus on the older single women and you have the trifecta: They are single, they are old, and they are women! If conventional wisdom got its way, they would be doing terribly. But guess what? They are not. There are real challenges, for women and men, to aging in an ageist and singlist society. Considering what they are up against, it is remarkable how well older single people are doing.
The number of single people has been growing for more than a half-century. Of all Americans who are unmarried, the biggest proportion of them, by far, are people who have never been married. Yet not much research has focused specifically on this group. Maybe that’s in part because the percentage of people who stayed single all their life has, in the past, been fairly small. But that may be changing.
Relationships, love, family – these are all concepts that should be far-reaching and open-armed. Instead, they have been squeezed into narrow, stifling boxes. ‘Relationship’ is too often a shorthand for romantic relationship – what a shame! Same for love. ‘Family,’ too, has such great potential.
A reporter just asked me about celebrities and other people in the news. Do they have anything important to tell us about single life? I realized that over the years, I have often used the words and deeds of public figures as jumping-off points for analyses of the place of marriage and single life in contemporary society.
Single people are routinely stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, as I highlighted in the subtitle of my book, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. They are also shamed. Here are some examples of that. Happily, as the number of single people grows and as more people spend more years of their lives not married, single people are sometimes celebrated, too. This collection also includes examples of ways in which single people are celebrated.