Living the single life
Published 11:57 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Boy, are people staying single in huge numbers these days.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the proportion of one-person households increased from 17 percent in 1970 to 27 percent in 2012. In 1990, there were roughly 23 million one-person households.
That number jumped to 32 million in 2011. In 1960, only one in 10 adults had never been married. By 2012, that number jumped to one in five.
And, as a still-single person, I’m not sure the increase in single households is such a grand thing. I feel guilty about it sometimes.
My mother was only 19 when she married — my parents are heading into their 60th year of marriage — and she and my father believed that raising a family was what their life was about. To date, they have been blessed with six children, 17 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Heck, when my father was my age, he was working every hour of overtime he could to put kids through college and pay for weddings, while Mom did everything she could to minimize household expenses.
They never did much for themselves; their kids always came first.
But fewer of us live this way today. No, we stay single — or get divorced and become single again. We are free to consume ourselves with meaningless details: Should we go skiing or should we buy a new car? Should we sleep in or wake early and go to the gym? Should we get a new job or quit and move to Bermuda?
We worry so much about fulfillment that we are frequently unfulfilled. And there is a simple reason for this: Focusing on oneself is the natural course the single life takes, unless you are Mother Theresa.
Selflessness and sacrifice was the natural course for my father and mother, and though they never got to experience much comfort and peace, they experienced a meaningful existence and the special happiness that comes with it.
Besides, studies have shown that marriage is good for most of us.
Married men are physically, emotionally and financially healthier than their single counterparts. Married men live longer than single men — though their wives may tell you it only seems longer.
That’s because married men avoid risky behavior and are much less likely to wake up in a pile of dirty laundry, still clutching the tequila bottle they began drinking from just before the party broke up.
Married people generally produce happier, healthier children than single parents. Marriage produces stable, thriving communities. Happily married people enjoy more gratifying sex lives, too, according to studies.
The years go by awfully fast when you have a family and growing children, my married friends tell me, but I’m shocked how fast they’ve gone by without being married and having a family. It weighs on me at times.
I don’t feel like I am contributing enough to my fellow citizens. I feel guilty that my life lacks stress. I don’t wake in the middle of the night to tend to sick children who puke on my feet, the way my married friends do. And I don’t worry that I can’t sleep nights because of the mounting bills. A stressful day for me is when the FedEx person and the mail carrier show up at the same time.
In any event, I feel guilty for contributing to statistics that suggest America is becoming a giant singles bar full of self-focused people. I am trying to do more charity work and be more useful to society.
I’ll get right on it after I look at a new set of skis, which I’ll be needing for weekend getaways this winter.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.