According to the New York Times, over half of adult women are single in America.
So why are they so often made to feel like anomalies, freaks, and even failures? Why, in a day and age when women are over half the workforce, do we still allow princess mythology to cloud the minds of young girls–leading them to believe that a woman isn’t worth her tiara unless a man sweeps her off her feet before the ripe old age of 30? Why is social life still so built around being coupled, leaving a lot of happily single people to feel like they’re inadequate?
These are just a few of the questions that Michelle Cove asks in both her new book, Seeking Happily Ever After, and her documentary film of the same name. By interviewing ordinary people–mostly women and a few, really annoying guys–she paints a picture of just how difficult it remains for a woman, particularly after 30, to deal with the judgment that comes her way simply for being unattached.
Neither the book, nor the film, is explicitly feminist (like Bella DePaulo’s Singled Out), but the approach is liberating nonetheless. Cove is sober about the realities of being single. She doesn’t evangelize about its obvious benefits (and despite public perception, damn there are plenty), nor does she try to oversell the single life. But she also allows her subjects to show the light and the dark of the single life, to speak for themselves, to be transparent and brave in talking about how they are trying to re-imagine the old fairy tales–whether that means, indeed, finding a partner, or truly staying single by choice.
I was reminded of that great video poem that was circulating the internet a few months back, where solitary moments were celebrated in poetic word and image. Some of my favorite moments of my life, some of the most growth-producing and powerful, have been moments of being truly alone. While I haven’t technically been single for almost any of my adult life, I’ve insisted on having a lot of independence, even within relationships. I bought my apartment on my own. I spend much of my work life solo and happy (with lots of communities and friends to keep me company when I need it). Sometimes the best company in the world, to me, are a couch and a book, or a long walk in the park with nothing but my thoughts and questions to mull over and the day’s little surprises to notice. My joy is rarely diminished because I don’t have someone to share those things with. It’s just different. And ultimately, it’s about finding the variety of companionship and solo living, intimacy with another and intimacy with oneself, that really determines happily ever after.
If you’re in the NYC-area on October 23rd and interested in seeing the film, it will be playing as part of the New York United Film Festival. Details here.