Saturday, February 20, 2010

Single Women in "More" Magazine

Speak of the devil! I just found an article about long-term single women in More, a magazine targeted towards women over 40. A selection from the article is here. I liked how the author, Susan Dominus, talked about community as being important for single women, and she also mentioned co-housing communities, which have always sounded kind of cool to me (although they seem more suited to older people who are in the position to buy their own homes). The article did have a tone that to me, seemed almost defensive, leading me to believe that there is an expectation that single women would be judged harshly by their peers. It's not something I've really experienced, however, let's check back when I get to 40+ years old (assuming I'm still single). For example, "'s easy to imagine that those who reject [marriage] may have come from unhappy families.." (the women profiled in the article didn't) and "...none fit the caricatures of the frustrated spinster or wacky Auntie Mame".

I thought it was interesting how it was repeatedly mentioned that these women had not given up on romance: "They didn't set out to be single, and they're still open to meeting a soul mate." "This comfort level with going it alone doesn't mean these women have renounced all dreams of romance". And, "None of the women interviewed for this story consciously set out to live without a mate. In fact, each of them has come close to getting hitched at least once, sometimes twice." I may be reading too much into this, but as we move forward with the acceptance of singlehood or other alternative lifestyles, I wouldn't want it to be the case that it's only acceptable to be single if you're seen as romantically desirable. Whether or not being single is our choice, shouldn't we be able to make the most of it anyway? I also wondered why there were no photos of the women who were featured in the article, especially when role models for single life were mentioned as being important.

I was glad to find this article, even though I'm not in its demographic. But would an article like this ever be published in a magazine targeted towards younger women? I doubt it, unless we're talking about a more "indie" publication like Bitch. Even at the tender age of 25, I'm already a long-term single woman. Most people my age have been dating, either consistently or on and off, for 10 years. In my mind, that's a long time. Looking at the media, you'd think women like me simply don't exist.

For a year, I had a subscription to the popular magazine Details, which is targeted towards men, although it also has some female readers. There would never have been an article in that magazine about long-term single men, unless there was some other titillating factor playing into their single status. I don't think that it's necessarily seen as okay for men to be perpetually single, either. Once single men get older, they might be seen as players or people who have issues with commitment. Could this have anything to do with the fact that we've only had one single president? However, while it goes without saying that these men are out there, apparently we're still working on the burden of proof when it comes to older single women. Or at least, we're trying to show that such women can lead lives that are just as exciting as their male brethren, and that they are not objects of pity.

I'll end with an interesting quote from the More article, which comes from Bella DePaulo, author of a book called Singled Out. She said: "American women spend more years of their adult life unmarried than married...So instead of thinking of single life as transitional, we should really be thinking of marriage as what comes between one single phase and the next." Romantic, no...but pragmatic, yes.


Rebekah said...

I really love Bella DePaulo (and she wrote a post about asexuality - one that was absolutely accepting and even a little encouraging), and her pragmatic discussions of what it means to be single never disappoint (or rarely, anyway).

The demonization of singlehood has always bewildered me, since it always seemed to me to be the most desirable state of being (besides, all the coolest ladies - like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth I, and Jane Austen - never married).

Ily said...

I think I remember that article...thanks for making the connection :-)

I wonder how attitudes about single people have changed, if at all, over the years. As long as there's been married people, obviously there have also been single people, so it does seem pretty odd how many myths and prejudices about single people there can still be.

Pam said...

I think the fear of women choosing to be single is a male control thing. In my group of spouses of people with Alzheimer's disease, the women almost all say no way would they marry again, while the men tend to be eager to find someone else as soon as they are free or sooner. Men want women to take care of them and are threatened by the idea of women who are content without men.

Ily said...

Hmm, interesting-- thanks for sharing your experience.