“Going Solo” is a recent book written by NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg. The book describes the incredible phenomenon of the majority of adults in America being single. According to the book, in 1950 only 22 percent of adults were single. Today, more than 50 percent of Americans are single, and 31 million (one out of seven) adults live alone.
A conclusion to this phenomenon could be the migration of women from the home to the workplace. There is still progress to be made considering that women still make less than men. According to Catalyst, a non-profit organization for expanding opportunities for women and business, in 2010 women made 81.2 percent as much as men based on weekly median income, which was a huge increase from 1979 when women only made 62.3 percent.
The other dirty little secret of the singles’ movement is birth control. Women are now able to control the amount of babies that they have (if any). The days of the barefoot and pregnant wife maintaining her home, caring for her babies and eagerly waiting for her husband to arrive home from work with dinner on the table are over (wait…that sounds awesome – but I kid the ladies).
Klinenberg attributes the main shift to the growth of metropolitan city life. According to him, “cities allowed for the expression of individual eccentricities and permitted the experiments with new ways of living that small towns and villages suppressed.”
Regardless of where this phenomenon came from, no human society before us has ever supported large numbers of people who live alone. This restricts many theories on this new way of life to opinion (big surprise – I have one).
Most Americans have felt the strain and seen the wreckage left behind from marriages ending in divorce. Rarely are people able to walk away from that experience without a lasting impression on the negative effects of marriage. This is absolutely true for people in our generation who have grown up in this new single culture.
The ideas of romance and finding that special person has always pervaded the minds of young people, but the rise of divorce has shown that sometimes people don’t always get their choice right. Maybe there isn’t a need to find that special person. Maybe the idea of one person being able to satisfy your needs for the rest of your life is a tired and old idea that no longer is relevant in our modern world.
The religious institutions will always insist that the remaining single is a flawed idea. In the Bible during the creation story, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Do you remember how that turned out? The two of them got together and ruined the fate of every future generation. The moral of the story is that the first ever married people destroyed easy and naked living for everybody (slow clap for Adam and Eve).
There is no doubt that the modern world is different in one of the most fundamental ways. There is no way to predict the future, but single life has emerged as a viable and legitimate option for people looking for an alternative to the traditional life. So grab some birth control, set a table for one, and realize that never in the history of the world have you been any less alone.