“Singlism” by Bella DePaulo – The plight of the 40% of adults

Book Review

Jul 13, 2011 by

Singism by Bella DePaulo could be the sophisticated Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Like that iconic but sentimental work, Singlism might just call the right attention to the tragic treatment of those not in a legal marriage.

The Census Bureau counts them as 40% of the adult population. If you are among them like I have been all my life, you probably have not had an easy time of it. The odds are that, like people of color and those with alternate sexual orientations once did, you sought therapy, tried to comply with whatever and fit in, and self-destructed through shame.

In Singlism, DePaulo turns on all the lights about the bias and bad [perhaps illegal] behavior toward singles. We, for example, are refused rentals. Employers expect us to pick up the slack when the married leave the office. The latter have lives, it’s concluded. We don’t. And we get invited by the smug married to spend the holidays with their families instead of “alone.”

The amazing thing is that DePaulo,who is single, presents the realities objectively, not through rant and over-sharing of personal experience. Twenty-eight intelligent contributors pitch in and add specialized information and insight.

Interestingly, the prejudice about the singlism is intact across generations. Generation Ys of both sexes who are heading toward 30 are harassed about when they are going to get married. It is also gender-neutral. The single man earns less than the married man. If he remains single too long there will be questions about his sexual orientation. The message is unambiguous: Married provides social acceptance and safety.

Ironically those social mores persist in an era when half of marriages end in divorce. More to the point, at least when it comes to how social values are formed and reinforced, in 2010 the birth rate was the lowest it had been in 100 years. One reason marriage has been framed as sacred has been because it’s been positioned as the preferred way of rearing children. However, if there are fewer children to rear, why should the institution be given such societal support?

If “Singlism” achieves its mission those sections – space which can now be bought – in newspapers like THE NEW YORK TIMES posting photos and blurbs about weddings will become anachronisms. A joining together could mutate into a private ritual rather than a public alliance which gets media attention. What mitigates against that, of course, is that the wedding is big business.

DePaulo is not alone in advocating rebranding the single state as different, not better or worse than marriage. Marketer Toby Bloomberg, who has been featured in FORBES, launched digital community All The Single Girlfriends. Members, including myself, now have meeting places online, on podcasts, and often in-person to be who we are, without explanation – or apology. That frees us up to get right to the “business” of our work, personal lives, transitions, losses, philosophies, and how we could help each other. For some of us All The Single Girlfriends has been the analog of what the Elks had been for traditional members of a community.

What we learned from the civil rights, women’s, and gay/lesbian movements is that the first step in change is to change ourselves. Leaders like Malcolm X inculcated the black community with pride. Then came the power. Activists such as DePaulo and Bloomberg tell singles we are who we are. Embrace that, love it, and love ourselves. The dirtiest trick in America, one the Dalai Lama picked right up on, is the ethos of self-hate. When we singles did hate ourselves, we not only accepted abuse. We invited it.

Singlism is published by Double Door Books.

All The Single Girlfriends Interview with Bella DePaulo

Disclaimer:  Bella DePaulo gave All The Single Girlfriends  complementary books. However all opinions expressed in this post should be attributed to Jane Genova.


About the Author

Jane Genova Has Written 24 Articles For Us!

I’m a coach, book author, and lecturer on careers, specializing in transitions. When I was 58, I restarted my professional life. That was in 2003. Since then I have I have muted into one of those renaissance folks who keeps multiple lines of work going. My latest book Over-50: How We Keep Working has helped thousands of people realize that exciting careers don’t depend on your age. I write four blogs: Jane Genova, Law and More, Career Transitions, Over-50.
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  1. Interview with Bella DePaulo, PhD | All The Single Girlfriends - [...] Book Review of Singlism by Jane Genova [...]

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