I love featuring voices other than mine here at “All Things Single (and More).” Although I read widely about single life, think critically, study the academic journals, and do my own original research, my perspective is limited by my own life experiences. So, even though I always appreciate hearing from people who share my point of view, I also greatly value those whose single lives have been very different.
Sitting in my favorite chair, sipping a cup of dark roast, I realized my 59th birthday is three months away. After a moment of terror, I fell into thinking about my life so far and where 58 years has “brought” me: I am approaching 60, was laid-off 6 months ago, I’m unattached, and starting my fifth career. The only constant in my life I could come up with, the one thread tying the patchwork pieces together, is depression.
“Wow,” I said to my cats, “the pinnacle of almost six decades of living! I never could have imagined.” Then, I did what anyone in this situation would do, I laughed. I don’t know what else to do with life sometimes. Besides, though my pinnacle of achievement is not as stupendous as I thought it would be by now, I’m happy (when I’m not depressed).
If you’ve read Singled Out, you know my take on the so-called marriage penalty in taxes – it is actually a bonus. Single people are the one who get penalized. A law review article comes to the same conclusion.
There’s a different sense of the marriage penalty that actually is real, according to sociologists Naomi Gerstel and Natalia Sarkisian. They talk about marriage as a greedy institution, because it wants all of the interpersonal time and attention for itself. As I’ve been discussing at Living Single, people who are married pay less attention to other people in their lives than do people who are single. They are less likely to stay in close touch with their siblings, friends, parents, or neighbors, or to support them in emotional or practical ways.
People who are married or in a romantic relationship name about 4 people (other than their partner) they can turn to in a severe crisis. Single people name about 6. Those were the results of a not-yet-published study (that I discussed here) that inspired headlines such as “Falling in love costs you friends.”
Even though I’ve been a research psychologist for my entire adult life, I have to admit that I had forgotten something significant about Erik Erikson and his stage theory. I was reminded of it while reading Robin Marantz Henig’s story in the New York Times Magazine titled, “What is it about 20-somethings?” Here’s the relevant excerpt: