Single Lady Books: I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married

Cover image from Red Room

I’ll start with the positives, here. It’s spring. Why not?

Bella DePaulo wrote the foreword. She blogged about it at Psychology Today in 2009:

• My favorite theme running through the book: These single women are not alone. They have friends and family who are important to them, and they are quick to say so.
• My favorite “I can relate” quote comes from Sheila Bridges, interior designer for celebrities such as Sean Combs, Tom Clancy, and her Harlem neighbor, Bill Clinton: “I’ve had so many friends over the years that had a vision of walking down the aisle in the white gown – what the dress would look like, sketching it out – but I never had that.”
• My favorite statistic: “more than half of the fifty thousand kids placed in permanent homes in the United States were adopted by African American women without a spouse.”

Those thoughts jumped out at me, too, since I have friends who have adopted as a single moms. I know a lot of single women who never had the white gown, wedding-march dream, too.

Other good things: Beamon dispels the myth that a woman over 40 has a less than 20 percent chance of getting married. She writes that given recent demographic shifts, women in their forties actually have a much higher chance of getting married – as much as 65 percent. The women she interviews  are straightforward about both their loneliness and worry about dying alone (probably the most common worry) but they also are honest about the work and commitment involved in relationships. Since they know they’re not willing to make those commitments, they prioritize their family and friendships, their careers and their goals. That is not a bad thing.

Things that make me a little crazy about this book : I don’t like the use of the word “Sistah” with an ‘h.’ But I also feel condescended to when people start talking to me in the ‘hood speak they saw on a popular black sitcom in an attempt to be down. I appreciate erudition across race and class and gender. So, I get frustrated by this kind of language, with the caveat that I also sometimes find it endearing. I knew where she was going with that, but she had me at the title.

Speaking of that title…Generally — and this is not confined to Beamon’s book — I am not interested in an either or approach. The stories of single people, just like the stories of relationships, are nuanced. Those nuances get lost in a discussion where marriage has to be posited as undesirable or the Only Thing That Will Make A Woman Worthy in her Entire Life.

I’m somewhere in the middle, and some of the women in the book are, too. I don’t view marriage or my relationship status as the single most important defining characteristic of my life, but I also don’t think relationships are the scum of the earth and should be avoided like the plague. So, while I like the title and I’ve heard some people secretly express this sentiment, I think it’s disingenuous to poo-poo marriage just because you’re single. It feels like resentfully picking up all your toys from the sandbox and stomping out, mad because no one chose you, but telling your friends later that you left because you really wanted to play by yourself.

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