Katharine Hepburn’s Singular Style


Being singular is an attitude of fierce independence and a conscious choice to follow your heart – a way of life for one of America’s most admired personalities.

Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn in George Cukor’s 1938 film “Holiday.” Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

“If you want to trade the admiration of thousands of men for the disdain of one, by all means, get married.” – Katharine Hepburn

I love that quote. It’s so brilliantly true. Come on married men, admit it. You love your wife, you’re willing to fall on your sword for her, but in in everyday life, isn’t it more like disdain — a great malaise of dissatisfaction and annoyance because you can’t live up to her “high standards”? And wives, sure you love him, but why does he have to leave his dirty socks on the floor, the cap off the toothpaste and stare mindlessly at the TV screen when you could be doing things together?

I think Hepburn was one smart cookie and certainly a woman cut from singular cloth. She grew up in a liberal-minded family, her mother a suffragette and her father a doctor. Like her mother, Hepburn earned a degree from Bryn Mawr College at a time when finishing school was the normal path for well-to-do young women. She had plenty of romantic relationships along the way, but didn’t let them get in the way of pursuing her goal of becoming a stage and screen actress.

When other Hollywood beauty queens only appeared in public with “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” makeup and attire, Hepburn was often admonished for showing up sans makeup and wearing (gasp), slacks instead of the expected designer duds. There’s even one story of how she strode through a film studio clad only in her underwear after her trousers were deliberately hidden in hopes that she would don a dress. I have to admire that kind of singular-minded moxie. Hepburn was not a woman who was going to “behave” in a way that others thought was best.

Some say the only reason why she was single was because the great love of her life, Spencer Tracy, was still married to his estranged wife. Well, that likely did prevent any mad dashes to a justice of the peace after a glass of wine and a beautiful sunset. But it also gave Hepburn breathing space to recognize that having her independence along with the love of Tracy was a fine lifestyle indeed. In fact, she had another bon mot I adore: “Men and women would get along so much better if they lived next door to each other.”

I’ve been married and have plenty of friends who are married now or divorced. I think it can be a fine legal framework for establishing a partnership that includes buying valuable property, getting bigger tax returns, raising children, having access to perks that favor those who are married, and even to establish a template for how things will be divided if one day you want to divorce.

But the myth that marriage will solve all your problems and ensure you are never lonely again, that there is that one person out there who can meet all of your needs for sex, companionship, conversation and life partnership, simply isn’t true. Married people, in time, discover that truth and either accept it and find ways to deal with it or decide they didn’t get the right one (so better get divorced and start the hunt again). Perfect partners meeting each other’s every need is a myth, not reality. When married people tell you they have to work at the relationship, sacrifice, compromise and seek outside help, they’re not just saying that to make you feel better because you’re single.

So even though we’ve been inundated with cultural messages about Prince Charming, The One, happily ever after, remember that for every upside to marriage, there’s a downside, too.

If marriage makes sense for you and you can enter into the bonds of matrimony with realistic expectations, by all means, do it. But if you think there may be a better way, don’t let anyone persuade you differently. After all, as Hepburn also said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”

Copyright © Kim Calvert / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC.

Kim Calvert editor of Singular magazine.
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.

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