I’m a sucker for statistics, polls and studies — well, basically anything that takes something as intangible as love and gives it a firm scientific foundation. So I was especially excited when I came across this recent study by the Pew Research Center. The verdict: Nearly 30 percent of adults have never been married.
Not currently unmarried. Not single. No, no — never been married.
Now, this flies in the face of all those happily married statistics I’ve seen. And truthfully, these new statistics are quite liberating. There’s always been this huge stigma surrounding the never-been-married set — stereotypes full of spinsters with cats sitting in rocking chairs and knitting their days away or being at the center of neighborhood gossip where kids make up stories about them and the stories become the stuff of legends.
Honestly, think about this for a minute: Don’t the wheels start turning in your head if you meet someone who is over 35 and unmarried? I’ve even caught myself doing it a time or two because it’s so ingrained in us that it’s normal to get married. It’s normal to meet someone and want to settle down and have a family, so any sort of deviation from that “norm” is seen as, well, abnormal. Of course I’ve been on the receiving end of such glares, and I could just imagine everyone thinking, “Why isn’t she married?“
And here’s the real kicker about this whole thing: In her recent article for The Huffington Post, author (and lifelong spinster! Eleanore S. Wells describes the jealousy she’s always harbored toward her divorced friends. It wasn’t because they’d had at least one shot at marriage, but rather, she says, because divorced people are viewed in a more favorable light than those who have never been married. Wells’ recalls a recent dinner party, and her friends comments both shocked and saddened me…
So imagine my surprise when I attended a dinner party not too long ago with some friends and colleagues I hadn’t seen in awhile. A number of them were shocked — shocked! — that I still (their word) wasn’t married. In fact, my un-wifed “plight” was the topic of conversation for what I considered to be much too long. “Why?” they wanted to know. “What’s wrong?”
The kicker was that this conversation was led by a woman who was going through her third divorce. How does one fail at marriage three times by the age 45? It seemed that I was the only one who thought that was odd. All present congratulated her for knowing how to get a man… even if she couldn’t keep one. And collectively, they couldn’t accept that I had chosen to be happily single.
Isn’t that wild?
If you’ve never been married, have you experienced this? What has been your reaction? Do you think society views unmarried men and unmarried women differently? Why? Would you ever choose to remain unmarried? xoxo
[Photos via Le Love]