By now, we all know about the rise in single people and that, for the first time in U.S. history, there are more single people than there are married people. Interestingly, this increase in single people is not just a U.S. phenomenon: single households have increased 30 percent worldwide.
It looks like everybody is catching on to something that many of us have known for some time: Being single can be good. I don’t really know what this demographic change means, but it could become really interesting if this change continues. Right now, it’s pretty close in the U.S.: 49 percent married, 51 percent not married. But I wonder what would happen if this change continued, and being single became the norm the way being married is now.
Life in a society where most people are single would require a few changes in the way we do things. Here’s a few I thought of… some light-hearted, some more important:
That Annoying Question. Every single woman older than 29 has a story about the annoying questions she gets from family, friends and virtual strangers about her unmarried status. That would change. Instead, people would sidle up to wives, give them a look of concern, and ask in a pitying tone: “Why aren’t you single?”
Roommates At Any Age. I’m reading a book called My House, Our House by Louise Machinist, Jean McQuillin and Karen Bush about three single women who bought a house together and have been successfully living together as grown-up roommates for seven years and counting. They call it “cooperative housing,” and it may be the next new wave of living styles, as more people remain unmarried but don’t necessarily want to live alone. The book even has a quiz in the back to help you decide if cooperative living is for you. It’s an interesting concept that I bet we’ll see more of.
Small Box Stores. Right now, big box stores are all the rage. Go to Costco or a Wal-Mart SuperCenter and you can buy a 100-roll pack of toilet paper and other ginormous-sized packages of just about anything. The reverse will be true when singles become the norm. Stores that carry food and other products in small sizes will sprout up everywhere to cater to their single customers. Remember Campbell’s Soup for One? It was ahead of its time. They should bring it back… minus all the sodium.
Who’s Your Family? Companies that offer employees time off for, say, a death in the family, will have to expand the definition of family to include really close friends.
A Fun New Holiday. National Singles Week — typically celebrated the third week in September — will go from an obscure observance that only a few people know about to a rival to Mother’s Day for attention… hopefully with better gifts.
Come As You Are. Dinner party hostesses will stop acting like having an uneven number of guests at the table is a problem. (It never should have been. Just add or subtract a chair, for Pete’s sake). Weddings won’t have an awkward singles table stuck over in the corner; that’s where the marrieds will be.
Travel For One. Cruises will figure out a way to appeal to single travelers and do away with the extremely pricey “supplement” they currently charge.
A Fairer Government. At present, there are over 1,000 laws that provide overt legal or financial benefits to married couples. Some of the worst offenses involve income taxes, Social Security and the rules around IRAs. That sh** needs to stop!
Live Where You Want To. It is illegal to deny housing to people with kids, but it is not illegal to deny housing to a single person. I don’t get this one.
For The Greater Good. Singles have been shown to volunteer more, and have more involved relationships with their parents, extended family and neighbors. More of this can only be a good thing.
Better Marriages. I imagine that one of the reasons there are more single people is that we no longer feel obligated to get married… even when it doesn’t feel quite right. With the pressure off, maybe people will only get married when it’s really right, making for stronger and healthier unions and families. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I’m sure it’ll be a long, long time before the growth in the number of singles is in such sharp contrast to the number of marrieds, but it was fun fantasizing about what it could mean. Did I miss anything?