Sometimes all it takes is a decision to embrace your single lifestyle and shift your attitude about how you experience your single life.
Recently, Singular magazine hosted an evening at the Los Angeles Central Library where author and sociology professor, Eric Klinenberg, spoke about his book, “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.”
Klinenberg’s work focuses on the intense social conditioning in our country to marry and raise a family while at the same time, the number of single people continues to rise ― currently almost half of the U.S. population. What was particularly interesting was hearing how Klinenberg’s own perspective shifted during the course of his research (maybe because he’s married). He didn’t expect to find any significant advantages to living solo and was surprised when he did.
He mentioned that the singular trend has also grown in other countries, and that many other nationalities see living alone, outside of a family setting, to be the ultimate luxury. This is in stark contrast to the social norm in the U.S. where both sexes are conditioned to believe that being single makes them “losers.” Unlike Singular magazine and its social community at SingularCity, there is a lot invested in conventional singles-orientated businesses that attempt to make single people feel inadequate in order to sell them a product ― something they’re told will make them happier and more socially successful.
Klinenberg noted how this negative view of being single has led to anxiety, particularly among single women in their late 30s and early 40s. Even though they may choose to live alone to pursue personal goals, their peers, parents and society at large, continuously remind them about their biological clocks and the need to get married before it’s too late.
When I spoke to Klinenberg, I mentioned my own interest in male conditioning and our programming to find a mate, raise a family and to act as the provider in an age when women are so independent. In my experience, the pressure for males to live up to this standard — to be married and providing for a family — is also fraught with anxiety, particularly in the current economic climate where men must compete with women in the workplace.
For both sexes, there is a steep emotional price to pay when we go against the powerful conditioning from our society, particularly as it’s promoted in advertising and the mass media. How many movies have you seen where the protagonist ends up happily single?
Yet, as Klinenberg pointed out, it’s the very need for space and solitude that is driving this trend to live solo, not only in the U.S. but all over the world. More and more, people seem willing to dismiss the criticism from their coupled peers for the privilege and luxury of personal physical and mental space. This different viewpoint can provide quite a liberating shift in perspective. Single people can suddenly see living alone in a new and positive light.
For example, as a writer I have often sought quiet and solitude, and sometimes, when in a relationship, I have felt the need to sacrifice my own time and mental space for what I thought the other person wanted. Like many others, I am interested in what I consider to be my own personal growth. I truly need 20 minutes of peace and quiet in the morning to sit quietly and reflect ― if I want my day to run smoother. At the same time, the “norm” would suggest that if I’m not waking up with a female in my bed, I’m not fit to be in a beer commercial, much less inhabit the planet as a true man.
While I have had wonderful experiences waking up with a woman, it also requires compromise. First there is talk. Maybe there is even sex. Likely there is breakfast. But meditation is probably not on the agenda. Can I compromise and meditate later? Of course. But has systematic, daily meditation and space been a big part of my recent life, for the better? Absolutely.
Consider this: if singlehood is no longer viewed as better or worse than being married, but is just what life happens to be at a particular moment in time, that sense of inferiority can be lifted and replaced with a sense of self-sufficiency for being able to live life on your own.
These are all fascinating issues raised by magazines like Singular, and books like “Going Solo.” Any time our assumptions about how things should be are questioned and we are open to hearing a different perspective, we are free to follow our own inner voice and find a life that can be incredibly liberating.
Copyright © Tom Bunzel/2012 Singular Communications, LLC.