Until we stop judging each other on the basis of our relationship status, the old stereotypes about single people will live on and on and on.
Last week I was invited to a lovely dinner party at the home of a single friend – a successful architect who is also one of our SingularCity members. About half of the guests were married or “socially coupled” — a term used by singles expert and social psychologist Bella DePaulo to describe those who are single from those who are not.
As people arrived and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, I started chatting with an attractive man in his 40s. Inevitably, one of my favorite topics of conversation came up: SingularCity. Since he said he was single, I encouraged him to check it out. Maybe he’d want to join.
I explained that it wasn’t a dating site, nor the typical singles industry website, but rather an online gathering place for unmarried men and women with its own lifestyle magazine, a private password-protected Facebook-like social network and lots of fun events for singles. I assured him it was nothing like a lonely hearts club or “meat market” that some people imagine when they think of singles groups.
His response: “Oh, no, you wouldn’t want me to join SingularCity.”
“Why not?” I asked, surprised by his response and wondering what horrible issue he was about to confess.
He paused, sighed and said, “Because I’ve never been married.”
He then went on to explain that for most people, that put him at the very bottom of the coupled vs. single social ladder — hovering just above the “something must be terribly wrong” category.
“Au contraire,” I countered. “That would make you an ideal candidate because you’ve spent your whole life experiencing both the freedom and the challenges of being single.”
He looked at me as if I were trying to make him feel better — like when someone knocks a glass of red wine on your white carpet and you assure them it’s no big deal as your frantically dab at the fibers with club soda and a paper towel.
But I really did think he would be a great addition to our group. He was attractive, charming, smart, funny, well-dressed and also, to tell the truth, I knew he would enjoy being a part of the “living single” universe at SingularCity.
No dice. He knew what people thought about men like him who had reached a certain age and had never tied the knot. He had no desire to do anything that would remind him of that aspect of his life — the “being single and never married” part.
Our conversation reminded me of something Bella DePaulo writes about in her book, “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.” It’s a book I wish everyone would read, particularly the first chapter; there, she writes how in our culture, nothing matters quite so much as one’s search for their soul mate. The more coupled you are, the more approval you receive from friends, family and the community at large – the more you fit in.
It’s not just coupled people who do it. Even single people judge other singles on the basis of their relationship status. Take a look at this checklist and see if you don’t agree that the more points you have, the higher you sit on the “I’m socially successful” totem pole:
1) Have you ever had a serious partner? (1 point)
2) Did you lose your soul mate through no fault of your own? (2 points)
3) Are you trying to find a soul mate? (1 point)
4) Are you engaged? (2 points)
5) Are you engaged with a ring and a date? (3 points)
6) Are you married? (5 points)
DePaulo points out that non-single factors have an influence as well in status ranking. Rich singles rank higher than poor singles. Male singles rank higher than female singles.
It’s crazy, really — and it’s one of my motivations for doing this whole Singular thing in the first place. I hate social injustice, petty discrimination and people who try to make other people feel inferior for superficial reasons, like whether or not they have a serious boyfriend or girlfriend.
And yes, as single people continue to move toward becoming the majority of the population (already 50 percent in the U.S. and growing), it gets harder to keep us convinced we’re inferior because of our relationship status. But clearly, as evidenced by my conversation with this charming man at the dinner party, we still have a long way to go.
Copyright © Kim Calvert/Singular Communications, LLC.
Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.