The New Hot Thing: Being Single?

Portrait of businesswoman, smiling
Portrait of businesswoman, smiling

There was a time when a woman over say, 35, who was still single was thought of as "less than" -- not quite up to par with her better off sisters who had managed to snag a husband, like they're supposed to. Something had to be wrong with her, right, because why isn't she married? This actually wasn't too long ago. Two years ago, when I first started writing my book --The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree -- I got many puzzled looks from lots of people.

But not anymore. Something happened. The world woke up to something that many of us already know. Being single, free, and unencumbered can be quite good. Women everywhere are learning that there's real appeal to being single and having the ability to live the way you want, spend your time and money the way you want, and to just be.

Yep. Being single just might be in! Many women are celebrating their ability to date who they want and then send him home. He doesn't have to "put a ring on it." Being married is no longer the only desirable life path for a woman. It's still a good one, but just not the only one.

I'm not making this up. There are statistics that back me up:

▪ According to the U.S. Census, 28 percent of U.S. adults were unmarried in 1960. That percentage rose to 47 percent in 1970, and a 2011 study by the Pew Research Institute found that the number of U.S. adults who are unmarried is now 49 percent, a record high.

▪ To be clear, this number (above) includes not only those who are never-married, but also the divorced and widowed. If we focus on the Never Married, that description fits 1 in 5 white women in the U.S. in 2010 and 2 in 5 black women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

▪ Now granted, being single wasn't the life plan of every unmarried woman. Sometimes plans don't work out, including the issue that there just might be an inventory problem: in 2011, there were only 89 unmarried adult men to every 100 unmarried adult women in the U.S. It's nice to know, though, that Plan B can be pretty good.

▪ But many women are choosing singlehood, either for the time being or forever. The rise of later marriage, single motherhood, and home ownership by unmarried women are all signs that the pull of marriage is changing. Marie Claire magazine even explored the idea of "girlfriends as husbands," in that close friends are now possibly filling some of the roles that would typically be filled by a husband.

Do an online search of "single," "spinster," "singular," "unmarried" and what you'll get back are pages and pages of blogs, news stories, and online magazines talking about the joys and realities of being single.

But it's still a little complicated. I have a number of single girlfriends who say they really hate being single, and yet, at the same time, they love so many things about their single lives.

I don't know why this trend is happening. I don't know what jump-started this shift in thinking from single = "poor thing" to single = "woman on top." I don't know that I even care why. I do know that the ability for single women everywhere to proudly own their single status and embrace the life they have ahead is a beautiful thing. Being married isn't necessarily better, it's just different. (But we already knew that, didn't we?)

Fortunately, in 2013, there's no one right path for everyone. There are a number of ways to "do single" (e.g., divorced, cohabiting, single mom, single-and-dating, single-and-looking, single-and-not-even-thinking-about-a-man...), and they're all legit choices. So is marriage. To each her own.