Single people: Alone but not necessarily lonely

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Singles only want to get coupled. Singles are miserable and lonely; their lives are tragic. If you’re married, you will be healthier and live longer. Single women are not getting any and are promiscuous. Single men are horny, slovenly and irresponsible. They are also scary criminals. If a man is single, fastidious, well-dressed and sexy, he’s gay and here gay is a bad thing.
Good lord, shoot me now! As I sit here reading this in my 7th floor office, I now understand why skyscrapers don’t have windows that open. You can’t jump.

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard, 1979) is the Visiting Professor of Psychology (since 2000) at the University of California, Santa Barbara and describes herself on the About of her web site as a social scientist, author, blogger, speaker and consultant. She has several books to her résumé but her hit seems to be "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After". While her web site shows several areas of interest and research, her forte seems to be related to the study of singleness, the state of being single. She writes a blog / column on the web site Psychology Today entitled "Living Single: The truth about singles in our society".

10 Myths About Single People: Singles are not pining, selfish, sad, or sick
This article by Dr. DePaulo in Psychology Today (Feb 21/2011) reveals stereotypical characteristics the author feels are unjustly applied to anybody not married. The most telling aspect of the analysis is that the author dispels the negative portrayal of anybody who is single. Being single doesn’t mean the person has failed at marriage. Being single doesn’t mean the person is incomplete. – Time for a Jerry Maguire reference? – And most of all, being single doesn’t imply any one of a number of negative characteristics which may indicate a personality that is bad right up to criminal. In fact, being single can just be who you are and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Lonely: Learning to live with solitude
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you can find this book by Emily White which sets out to "de-glorify loneliness", rallying against the portrayals of being alone by people like DePaulo. Ms. White apparently has suffered from a feeling of disconnect which made social interaction – making friends and intimate relationships – difficult if not impossible which a Globe and Mail reporter called "chronic loneliness. Unlike DePaulo who looks upon being single as a good thing, White seems to see being single as undesirable.

"We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone."
– Orson Welles

The Stats
Canada’s agency for statistics, StatsCan points out that we are living longer and more of us are finding ourselves alone. It’s just a number; no critique on this being good or bad. Of course the one funny comment I found in their research was the statement "25% of Canadians would like more time alone". Digging a little deeper, I discovered those who said this were those with children: 58% of women aged 25 to 44 with kids compared to 34% of men in the same circumstances. Ha! When we’re alone, we’ll complain about being lonely but when we’re into it up to our armpits, we’ll be praying for a moment of peace!

Living alone can be hazardous to your health, studies show
Of course examining this question turns into a no brainer. The article with this name points out how we can be pretty sloppy with doing anything for one.

Where’s the inspiration to cook for one? It’s just so easy to throw a Pizza Pocket in the microwave.

Who’s going to tell me to go to bed and when? Come on, just one more time to flip through all the channels; there has to be something other than infomercials on at 2am.

Exercise? There’s nobody here to comment on my paunch and make me think of doing something about it.

Hmmm, I wonder just how long it will take for anybody to find my body. So, just how long does it take for a rotting corpse to stink up the hallway outside my apartment?

Living Alone is Bad for the Environment
What? Ah, come on! Well, nope, About.Com tells us that one-person households use more than their share of energy and resources. There seems to be some economies of scale by having more than one person flush the same toilet. In fact, the author cites the study "Innovative solutions for averting a potential resource crisis—the case of one-person households in England and Wales" which points out the consumer behaviour of one-person households increases the overall consumption of energy, land and household goods. A country (in this case England) must look for solutions in the way of pro-environment behaviour and more resource efficient lifestyles.

Final Word
I didn’t realise anybody could write so much about being single. Of course I discovered Dr. DePaulo is single and seems to have concluded that being single is who she is and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hmmm, it almost seems like a paraphrase from Seinfeld. "She’s single… Not that there’s anything wrong with that!" Does her own singleness explain her interest in studying this phenomenon and writing about it and explaining it and defending it? I had never thought about being single as either positive or negative, I just thought about it as just, well, being.

However, this does remind me of something I’ve heard more than once over the years in amusing observations about life. If a woman finds a single man over 40, she should remember that it means two possible things: there’s something wrong with him or he’s gay. I remember the first time I saw this in a newspaper column written by a woman and thinking to myself, "I’m doomed!"

Nowadays, I don’t know. Dr. DePaulo defends or explains being single as not being a horrible state of affairs and considering that the current statistics put divorce up around 50%, I suppose I’m going to look a little less odd being single because there will more single people around me. Of course, somebody could give the analogy of a nutbar doesn’t look that crazy when he’s in the psyche ward.

However, if I’m living alone, I’m not sharing and if I’m not sharing, I’m not being as efficient as I could be. So there, I need to share. And I guess if I share, somebody is going to be around on a regular basis and I wouldn’t have to worry about my body going unnoticed for too long.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle.


Psychology Today: Belle DePaulo – biography
Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard, 1979) is a social psychologist and the author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After (St. Martin’s Press) and Single with Attitude: Not Your Typical Take on Health and Happiness, Love and Money, Marriage and Friendship. In Singled Out, and in her other work on people who are single, DePaulo has drawn from social science data to challenge the stereotypes of people who are single. DePaulo has also offered seminars and workshops on the science of singlehood. She is the recipient of a number of honors and awards, such as the James McKeen Cattell Award and the Research Scientist Development Award. DePaulo has published more than 100 scientific papers and has served in various leadership positions in professional organizations. She has written op-ed essays for publications such as the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsday, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she is also a contributor to the Huffington Post. Bella DePaulo has discussed the place of singles in society on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers (such as the New York Times and the Washington Post) and magazines (such as Time, Business Week, and Psychology Today). She has been a Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara since the summer of 2000. Her personal blog is All Things Single (and More).

official web site: Bella DePaulo

Wikipedia: Single person
In legal definitions for interpersonal status, a single person is someone who is not in a relationship or is "unmarried".

Wikipedia: Loneliness
Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling in which a person experiences a strong sense of emptiness and solitude resulting from inadequate levels of social relationships, however it is a subjective experience.

Wikipedia: Loner
A loner is a person who avoids or does not actively seek human interaction or prefers to be alone. There are many reasons for solitude, intentional or otherwise, and "loner" implies no specific cause. Intentional reasons include spiritual and religious considerations or personal philosophies. Unintentional reasons involve being highly sensitive, having more extreme forms of shyness, or various mental disorders. The modern term "loner" is usually used with a negative connotation in the belief that human beings are social creatures and those that do not participate are deviant.

There are two distinct types of individuals that are called loners. The first type includes individuals that prefer solitude and are content to have very limited social interaction. The second type includes individuals that are forced to be isolated because they are rejected by society. This individual typically experiences loneliness. The first type are not lonely even when they are alone. However, these are very broad generalizations and it is not uncommon for loners to experience both of these dimensions at some point—their bliss due to solitude may come at the price of loneliness.

In popular culture, there is a certain romanticism in the idea of the loner since he or she is seen as special and unique. This can be attributed to the notion that truly great people often lurk in the shadows of societies that espouse corrupt or superficial standards of existence. As a result, the concept of a lonely hero is a recurring theme in stories.

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