A book on life’s devastations that leaves you feeling good, but not in a stupid, sappy way

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Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

London journalist Christina Patterson wanted to read a book called I Feel So Awful I Don’t Know What to Do. There was no such book, so she wrote The Art of Not Falling Apart.

Patterson had every reason in the world to fall apart. At thirteen, she started to get tiny bumps all over her face. By twenty-three, she said, “My face was covered in deep red lumps. They throbbed for days, and then turned into giant pustules.” At twenty-six, she was told she had lupus. There were times when the pain was so bad she could barely walk. She lost the job that she loved — one of the most devastating losses of all, as her work was what kept her going when everything else was falling apart. Patterson also lost her faith and the community that came with it. Breast cancer happened at age forty. She was “carved, and radiated, and drugged and reconstructed.” Six years later, the cancer returned. She was told it could kill her this time. Her sister was hospitalized with schizophrenia at fourteen. Her cousin was clinically depressed and survived an overdose. By the time she was writing The Art of Not Falling Apart, both her sister and her father had died. …

We hardly notice all the ways single life is described as just waiting until real life begins

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Photo by Junior Moran on Unsplash

Most people don’t like to wait. Who wants to be stuck in a line instead of being at the place you actually want to be? Waiting often seems like a waste of time. It makes us restless and impatient. If we are waiting for news that can be very good or very bad, that’s stressful. Sure, there are positive versions of waiting — as, for example, when you are expecting something good to happen and you are savoring the build-up — but most often, waiting just seems frustrating, annoying, and boring.

There is a subfield of sociology called the sociology of time. That perspective is more structural. It reminds us that waiting is linked to social power. More powerful people go to the head of the line or skip the line altogether. Less powerful people are kept waiting — often by more powerful people. …

What is it like to stay single for life in a place where 99% get married?

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In many places around the world, staying single for life is becoming more commonplace. In Australia and New Zealand, for example, as of 2010, 14% of women — 1 out of every 7 — got to their late forties without ever marrying. In Latin America and the Caribbean, it was 13%, and in Europe and North America, around 11%.

In central and southern Asia, though — including places such as India, Iran, and Afghanistan –that number is just 1%. Marriage is nearly universal.

The differences among different regions of the world are not just demographic. …

Why even the happiest romantic relationships can fail to provide the fulfilment we crave

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Photo by Jeffery Erhunse on Unsplash

In a culture obsessed with marriage and coupling, solitude gets short shrift. There is, though, one esteemed book on the topic that has maintained its lofty status more than three decades after its initial publication in 1988. I’m talking about the psychiatrist Anthony Storr’s “Solitude: A Return to Self.”

The back cover of a recent printing of Solitude poses this question: “In the supreme importance that we place on intimate relationships, have we overlooked the deep, sustaining power of solitude in human life?” Of course, Anthony Storr’s answer is yes.

He reminds us that “the capacity to form attachments…is considered evidence of emotional maturity.” Yet, he adds, “Whether there may be other criteria of emotional maturity, like the capacity to be alone, is seldom taken into account.” …

In my 13 years of blogging about single life, no topic has been more popular than this one

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Photo by Kinga Cichewicz, Unsplash

I’ve been writing the “Living Single” blog at Psychology Today since March of 2008, nearly 13 years. I’ve posted there more than 950 times. One of those posts was the all-time-favorite, by far: The badass personalities of people who like being alone.

Rather than listing the top 26 posts in order, I’ve grouped them into 6 thematic categories. The number in front of each title is the rank-ordering.

Why so many people are drawn to solitude and to single life, including even some people who are partnered

1 The badass personalities of people who like being alone

2 The truth about why some men stay single

7 23 ways single people are better: The scientific evidence

9 Why 5 types of people may withdraw from social…

Not wanting kids: sometimes it’s complicated, and other times it really isn’t

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Oprah’s 50th birthday, Wikimedia Commons

Not all that long ago, people who did not want kids — women, especially — were reluctant to say so. That’s not so true anymore. Perhaps inspired by books such as Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids? from 2012, Meghan Daum’s 2015 anthology, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, and Orna Donath’s provocative Regretting Motherhood, in 2017, more and more people are openly discussing their life choices, even though they realize they will not always have receptive audiences.

I’ve been revisiting some of these writings as I republish here at Medium some blog posts that originally appeared at a site that has been discontinued. (1) Part 1 begins with Jessica Valenti’s account of what happened when Nebraska passed a safe haven law so people could safely drop off babies they were not prepared to care for. Even though I already wrote about this, dipping back into it left me stunned all over again. (2) The second part is my review of Daum’s anthology. (3) In the third part, I highlight some key quotes from the anthology, on topics such as reasons for not having kids and getting stereotyped, stigmatized, and asked invasive questions about it. (4) The last section is a collection of quotes from celebrities, not because I’m star-struck, but because they offer some great insights and quips. …

Uncommon wisdom about staying single, not having kids, and the true meaning of selfishness, from Keturah Kendrick’s “No Thanks”

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Keturah Kendrick, photo provided by Kendrick

I adore people who live their single lives joyfully and unapologetically. I’m always on the look-out for authors who write about unconventional life choices in compelling and engaging ways. Keturah Kendrick is one of my all-time favorites. When I first read her memoir and cultural criticism, No Thanks: Black, Female, and Living in the Martyr-Free Zone, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and writing about it. Unfortunately, the site where I published those writings no longer exists, so I want to share them with you here on Medium.

The first of three sections is about Kendrick’s brilliant analysis of what other people get wrong about the choices women aren’t supposed to make, such as not having kids. In the second section, I highlight some of my favorite quotes and insights from the book. …

Food insecurity is a bigger problem for singles, but they are less likely to get help

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Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash

Even before the nationwide lockdowns, there were far too many people in the U.S. with not enough to eat. The pandemic has exacerbated that disturbing reality. More single than married people are suffering. Single people typically have far less money than married people, for a variety of reasons including discriminatory practices written into the laws of the land. But the big financial disadvantage of unmarried Americans is not the only reason they are more likely to go hungry.

Single People Are Less Likely to Have Enough to Eat than Married People

Since April, the Census Bureau has been conducting a weekly Household Pulse Survey to learn how people are faring during the pandemic. The number of participants varies each week, but as an example, for the week of June 11–16, more than 1.2 …

Tell people how you feel and they will believe you — unless you are happily single

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Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash

In 2002, Time magazine published a cover story about women who were choosing to stay single and not have kids. I had not yet written my first book about single people, and I was still trying to understand the psychology of how single people are viewed. I was baffled by this letter to the editor that was written in response to the cover story:

“As long as women bounce around kidding themselves that life is full when alone, they are putting their hedonistic, selfish desires ahead of what’s best for children and society.”

The reader did not know the women in the Time story. He had no personal investment in them. What’s more, the women were not complaining about being single. They chose that! If they are happy with their life choices, then why was this random reader unhappy? So unhappy that he would sign his name to a letter in a magazine that, at the time, had a readership of about 4 million. …

They knew they were biased against their single clients. Here’s what they did.

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Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Single people’s lives are undermined in so many ways by the stereotyping and stigmatizing of single people that I call singlism. One of the most disturbing set of examples comes from disappointing experiences with mental health professionals. I have been studying single people and singlism for decades. To this day, I continue to hear stories from single people who like being single and went into psychotherapy for help with other life issues, only to find that their therapist seems to think that marriage or romantic coupling is the real issue and the actual goal.

Mental health professionals are swimming in the same pool of stereotypes and mythologies and ideologies as everyone else, so it is not altogether surprising that some of them absorb the prevailing prejudices. Fortunately, there are also a few who realize that there may be something wrong with the way they are thinking and decide to do something about it. …


Bella DePaulo

“America’s foremost thinker and writer on the single experience,” according to the Atlantic. Author of “Singled Out.” Harvard PhD www.belladepaulo.com

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