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Sex and the Singles
Recent studies have showed that- for the first time- less than half of Americans are married. Read this article from ‘The Guardian’ and answer the questions.
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My immediate reaction to the news that half the United States is still single, as a 36-year-old unmarried woman in New York City, was: a) oh good, there are still single men out there; and b) I blame Tinder. Yes, Tinder.
In the internet economy, choices are endless (you can always swipe left) – and choosing just one person can be impossible when you are always wondering what else could be out there. I want to believe that the multiplicity of choices has led us all to make more refined decisions, but it probably compounds the feeling of just not being ready to decide quite yet.
Or it might be a little more complicated than that. Relationships always are.
According to a study used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for its monthly jobs report, as of August more than half of Americans are reportedly unmarried. The group of 124.6m single Americans includes people as young as 16 and older people who may have divorced or been widowed. “Single” encompasses a fairly large and diverse group of people – but you would be hard pressed to find a headline that didn’t speculate about how we indicate trouble for our economy (or that, once again, millennials can’t get their shit together).
It’s true: more people are delaying marriage, both as couples and as singles. But is the reason we’re all “single” really that men are now perpetually childlike and the ladies independent women? I like to joke as much as the next single lady about how Sex and the City my life is – but the stereotypes about single people are usually inaccurate and don’t take into account dating in today’s complex cultural and financial realities.
Single simply means unmarried – not that anyone counted in singlehood’s ranks is not in a relationship. You could be in a seven-year relationship, going strong and still check the box for “unmarried” and decide never to participate in the institution of marriage, but only the government (and maybe your interfering mom) will think that you’re single. Many long-term co-habitating couples have children and contribute to the economy in the same ways that married couples do. Many might even consider buying a house, which is more expensive than most weddings, if they could afford to – but who can afford to buy a house these days?
Marriage has long been a mostly-financial transaction anyway: from when marriages were exclusively a deal brokered between a father and his son-in-law to be, to the ghastly cost of modern weddings, there’s always been money involved. In the era of predominantly romantic marriages, now they are financially aspirational: they signal to the universe that you are now an adult, and babies, houses in the suburbs, cars and all the other things that keep the greater economic engine moving are in your not-so-distant future. (The monogrammed heart pillow from a distant relative, however, will have already arrived.)
There is a kernel of truth to the idea that increasingly independent women don’t need to marry for economic stability. Within certain income brackets, women are earning almost as much as their male counterparts and in more low-income socio-economic strata, some women are even out earning men. This shift in “who” the breadwinner is has now long shifted the necessity for women to have to get married: they can chose to, but they don’t have to for financial security.
And it’s more obvious now than ever to younger women that marriage is no guarantee of financial security in the wake of watching our parents and our friends’ parents get divorced. After being a spectator to all that drama, many children of divorce are likely to take marriage incredibly seriously and want to wait to marry (if they marry at all).
But this isn’t some kind of post-feminist utopian dream: many women and men still want to be in a monogamous relationship, and still want to get married. A study of how many single people there isn’t a monolithic group of empowered happy people that simply don’t want to be tied down. Many single people not in relationships have to navigate being caught between two worlds: one in which everyone gets married and it’s the standard organizing principle of our society; and one in which we can allegedly just “have it all” but can’t even pay our rent and are wondering if he’s ever going to text again.
Single and “loving it” is hardly the reality – these days it’s more like, “single and ambivalent while swiping right to questionable men on Tinder”. I am grateful that retrograde ideas of dating and love are being disrupted by a new generation of people trying to make it work outside the confines of a traditional nuclear family. But, I am perplexed because, despite the infinite choices, it can still feel like you don’t have any.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
WRITING: Write a text explaining how family life has changed in the last 30 years, why and what effects these changes are having and will have on society.
READING: Answer these questions in your own words
1. Who or What do you think ‘Tinder’ could be?
2. Why does the writer say that you shouldn’t take the figures too seriously?
3. In modern times, marriage is often used as a symbol of ….?
4. Why are fewer women getting married nowadays?
5. What does the writer say about single people´s attitude to marriage?
6. Which of these words best sums up what the writer feels about modern women’s situation?
b) essentially unchanged
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