Book review: Singlism – Proof positive it’s rampant

days Elena Kagan since 2010

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Did you know you pay more for most things in our society just because you’re single? Are you aware of the tax disadvantages you live with because you’re single?

Did you realize that single women—even accomplished, high-profile single women like Elena Kagan, the 112th Supreme Court Justice—are often subjected during interviews to intrusive questioning about their dating life and their feelings or intentions about marriage and children, that single men almost never encounter?

And OMG, I am freaking out. I just realized something. As I’m writing this post Zemanta, which is a very cool service that scans the words you’re writing and brings up various “related” images you can use in your blog posts, brought up the picture you see at right of Elena. However, most of the other images it called up are pictures of mental health institutions.

What in the world do Zemanta software writers (probably mainly young men as most software writers are) think a mental health institution has to do with being single?

Bella DePaulo, who writes the Living Single column for Psychology Today, would love it. In the newest book she edited, Singlism, which holds a compendium of posts on singlism from her PT blog, you can enjoy the unshakeable logic, solid research, and pithy comments with which she skewers the many instances she finds of the stereotyping and prejudice singles endure. She also edited the brief contributions from others who write with enlightened voices about singles issues.

DePaulo actually coined the word singlism when she first began to realize the stigmatizing that goes on, and she wrote her first book Singled Out. I like the format of the new book—short items, quick reading, hard-hitting. It’s a good one to keep on hand in case you want a quick reference to keep you fired up.

After all, it took women being fired up for more than hundred years to finally win the vote.

P.S. In one of her posts, DePaulo laments the fact that marriage is the occasion for out-of-control gift buying. Yeah, and anniversaries, too. Not to promote the idea that singles should become avid gift-hoarders, but hey, that’s one of the reasons we created Single Working Women’s Week, and now Single Working Women’s Day (August 4). So mark your calendar for next year and either buy a single friend something you know she’d love, or give her the gift of time and energy—cook her a dinner, take out her garbage, babysit her pet, whatever.  But celebrate!

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Being sick as a single person

Churning butter

Churning butter. No way. I buy it.

It was several weeks ago that I put the butter in the mixer bowl to “soften.” Honestly, yes, several weeks. And that’s because I kept getting sick and pooping out on planned projects and imagined extra activities.

Hey, I kept it covered with the butter wrapper so it didn’t get dusty. Did you know that butter keeps astoundingly well sitting outside the refrigerator? Probably the salted kind keeps even better than the unsalted, which is what I use.

Anyway, I’ve got this fabulous-smelling quickbread/cake thing in the oven. It’s a recipe that will be appearing—if it’s as good as she says!—in my upcoming cookbook. I haven’t named the book yet; thinking about a couple of different titles but I know I want to get single women in there somehow.

Anyway, I’ve been remiss about the SWWAN blog for a while for the same reason the butter sat out, abandoned. It’s been a bear battling the various mysterious pneumonias and sinus infections and so on that have come to visit me this year. Hardly been well since January, except for a week here and there. And I noticed how fear took over when I was sick for more than a few days. I wondered if this was it—is this the illness that’s going to do me in?  Maybe that fear is more a function of advancing age plus serious heart issues, but being sick sure reminds me how very much my friends and family members mean to me—and how much I, as a single woman, depend on them. Single folks without any family have to depend even more on friends.

I’m feeling better now and I’m delighted to see more new SWWAN members. We do have an exciting event planned for Single Working Women’s Week this year. Once you check it out, if you want to help raise money for the wonderful work of our American Red Cross—and win some cool prizes—you can get your cake piece or raffle tickets here.

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Living alone means…

Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist

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Was searching for the source of a quote about how sharing with someone doubles our joys and halves our sorrows (there are so many different sources mentioned that I can’t determine where it actually originated) when I came across this one:

“Having someone wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night is a very old human need.” – Margaret Mead

Reminds me of a wonderful reflection on living alone that appeared in this blog a few years ago. And my comment on it: “As author Alice Walker so aptly puts it, when you have a live-in, that’s at least one side of you that’s covered. When you live alone, you’re vulnerable on all sides.”

So let’s see. What does she mean when she says “sides,” and which one is supposed to be uncovered when you live alone?

Financial is one side. Though it may also be true for a single partner in a percentage of married or cohabiting couples, we singles mostly bear the full costs of everything we do and are solely responsible for maintaining our home, clothes, etc. We don’t generally have people  volunteering to throw in a percentage of their salary to help.

Social. We may, and if we’re lucky, do have enough pals or friends we can go places and do things with. To have company out in the world is usually a blessing; to have company at home can be a mixed blessing when you’re not in the mood! But in any case it can take extra courage to pursue life’s little adventures when you have to do it alone.

Physical. When you live with someone, you have another person to share a hug with when you need one. In romantic relationships you’ve got regular opportunities for sex. Singles must work to find hugs among friends or relatives, and/or we can get and give physical affection with a pet.

What else? Spirituality is something we all choose and experience alone.

Emotionally could be where she’s suggesting the “uncovered” side occurs when you live alone. You may have one or more close friends you can turn to for support, but you always have to find them first. They’re not there to see and hear your pain when you get the devastating phone call about a lost job or the death of a close friend. They’re not wondering where you are when you’re late, and they’re not there to be glad when you get home (another thing pets can help with!).

Do you feel vulnerable on all sides? If you believe that life is a series of lessons, then it’s easy to see that living alone can be the larger context for the kinds of lessons you never have to face when you always live with someone. Just as living with someone gives you lessons you can’t get any other way.

There are joys and freedoms to being coupled just as there are unique joys and freedoms to being single. When the day comes that society values both equally, there will be no need for organizations like SWWAN.

Cropped screenshot of Rosalind Russell from th...

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Ever notice how the most interesting and exciting stories (in books and movies) usually involve an independent woman, generally unmarried? think about it–even in the day of Rosalind Russell. Read my review of her movie, Sister Kenney.

[Many thanks to Wendy and Rosemary for helping me sort through the issues for this post. And check out their website: www.mysinglespace.org]

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Angels among us

The first few hydrogen atom electron orbitals ...
What does quantum physics have to do with angels? Image via Wikipedia

It’s been inspiring reading our guests’ thoughts during this Single Working Women’s Week. I want to end the week with something equally inspiring.

I’m thinking of a post I wrote years ago when I first started blogging. I used to write a personal blog called AngelsandFrogs. It’s gone now, but because it was early in my career as a self-employed copywriter and marketing consultant, I had a little more time to devote to thinking poetic thoughts. One of my favorite posts from that time—and I wrote it on a Saturday morning also—seems like a good way to end this special holiday week.

Long pause…like 24 hours.

Well, did you ever think you were going to find something, go looking and realize that whatever it was you were looking for is buried so far you don’t know if you’ll ever see it again? I had to start manually digging through all the 3 years of backups of my AngelsandFrogs blog. Needless to say, I didn’t get far enough before I had to interrupt for an errand.

Since I haven’t yet found the post I was thinking of, I’ll share this one from 2003. Just as relevant today (though it’s now Sunday instead of Saturday when I started this post).

Angels among us

“It is impossible to create any action that does not have value. You may not see it, but that is irrelevant. Live in the trust that when it is appropriate, pieces will fall into place and you will see clearly.” ~Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul

Gary Zukav studied quantum physics in order to present it for the layperson. Five years later, because he had been so profoundly moved by what he’d learned while he studied for that book, he wrote Seat of the Soul, another book in which he takes the lessons learned and applies them to the oldest, most insoluble questions of mankind–why are we here? does evil exist? what about “sin”? how can a “good God” allow suffering?

The answers he comes up with offer a kind of comfortable certainty previously available only to staunch adherents to various religious creeds. Hmmm. Gary Zukav admits he’s had great guidance from “non-physical guides and teachers.” Sounds a lot like old-fashioned “angels,” doesn’t it?

Our guest bloggers this week are just a few of the wonderful single women who could be said to be angels walking here among us. Thank you so much, ladies.

Ever ask a single woman, what can I do for you? Her automatic response is almost always, oh, I’m fine. Our next project ought to be helping single women learn how to let others do things for them! ” ) We’ll work on that for next year’s Single Working Women’s Week.

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Ever “defend yourself” for being single? Listen to Dr. KGL

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis is a great supporter of SWWAN. She’s been working with us for the past 3 years in many ways. We are thrilled to have her share one of her articles as our first Single Working Women’s Week guest blogger. Love to hear your thoughts on this tell-it-like-it-is post.

“Single Women, Stop Defending Yourself!”

“Proud to be single.” “Single by choice.”

Why do people who have not signed a legal document of marriage need to proclaim their feelings about their life position?

It is a shame women have to take a stance one way or another on their feelings about being single. Wouldn’t it be great if there were no more value judgment about being single than about the length of your fingernails? Sometimes they’re long and sometimes they’re short. But you aren’t treated differently because of their length. You don’t have to sing to the world that you like short nails or you’re proud of your long nails. Unfortunately, that non-judgmental thing is not the case in our society.

People who have signed the legal document of marriage don’t say they are proud to be married or married by choice. People in a majority (whether this is economics, racial, gender, or life position) take their place of privilege for granted. It’s only the minority [note from BP: Society’s conventions and rewards are designed mainly for marrieds and thus tend to make singles feel like a minority even though single women are now actually a 51% majority in America!] who may feel the need to sing out the praises for “not being married.” It sounds like what it probably is: a defense against others’ expectations – that everyone should be married. Too bad others often hear it as “Me thinks thou doth protest too much.”

Think about this: why do you need to laud your life position? If it weren’t that you are fighting off what others think you should do, would you need to?

I understand, though, I write as a woman who just turned 64. I write as a family therapist who specializes in singles (always single and single again). I also write as someone who has researched and published a lot about singles (see With or Without A Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives). One of the many things I’ve learned is that singles of different decades view their life position differently.

Prior to age 30 people feel free not to have to follow society’s traditional rules. Women and men no longer feel compelled to find a mate in their 20s, get married, and start a family. There is more freedom to explore their social world, focus on career, hang around with the opposite sex, have sex – all without expectations that you must “settle down.”

“Settle down.” What a stifling phrase. It sounds like you can be yourself up until the time you “settle down” and have to stop being yourself. Settle down to what?

After age 30, though, women are continually warned about the “ticking clock.” While they may not feel pressured about having children at this point, others certainly are wanting to pressure them. And, by the end of their 30s, most women have given in; that ticking becomes deafeningly loud.

Once women enter their 40s, they either have to change their song or they have to put on a good front. It’s hard to sound proud of something that you don’t feel you have any choice about—the fact is, you can’t make an appropriate man appear in life. Or, you can put on a good front while you sing the old song, knowing it may no longer be in tune.

Women in their late thirties and older need support for not falling into the trap of having to take a stand on how they feel about being single. They need support for the variety of feelings they have—sometimes it’s great and freeing being single, sometimes it can feel sad or lonely [BP note: just like being married!]. And sometimes it’s not an issue at all. Women need support to avoid the self-blame for why they don’t have a man. Mostly, they need support to push back against our culture that pressures women into how they should be feeling as a single woman.

If you want information about a source of great support, check out my Unique Retreats for Women weekend. And, be sure to get your 15 Golden Rules For Being An Emotionally Healthy Single Woman.

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, author of With or Without A Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives, and other books for singles, is a marriage and family therapist (39 years). Her most recent book is Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary She has a practice in Cincinnati and in Washington, DC. She is available for phone consultations, 513-542-0646.

A “Single Working Women’s Week” meditation

It’s a candle kind of morning. Dawn came gray, then suddenly lit by a strange light, then darkened with heavy layers of cloud. I love the morning. So peaceful. So full of possibility…

Started reading The Artist’s Way last week. It’s a book that’s been calling to me for years, since I first heard someone talking about it. It’s a book that—should you accept this mission—forces you to think. About things you may not have wanted to think. About things you may not have bothered to think much—like what do you  really want to do  with your life? Things like what did you like and what didn’t you like about your childhood…stuff that you may have already—if you’re over 50 like me—thought enough about, thank you, and have no desire to revisit.

Rebel Yell
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rohit Chhiber

An interesting exercise. List five lives you would have liked to have led if you didn’t lead the one you have. My list came fairly easily—rock singer, motivational speaker, painter, biologist/physicist, lawyer. Then the next part asks what can you do in your life to honor that part of yourself? Hmmm.

I realized that I’ve unwittingly been doing something significant during my present life to include some aspect of all those other dream lives. It was a curiously gratifying feeling.

Rock singer – For thirty years I’ve been known as the “crazy lady in the back who sings” in the aerobics-to-music class. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my life to sing and “dance” that way.

Motivational speaker – I’ve been been invited to do many presentations over the years of my career. For each one I’ve always done my best to inject my passion about the subject and my wish to share important information. Takes a lot of work, can be a little nerve-wracking (depending on the audience), but it’s a powerfully satisfying feeling when I know I’ve reached the minds and/or hearts of those to whom I speak.

Painter – I loved to draw when I was a child. I dreamed of being an artist, but my parents firmly discouraged me and suggested something sensible for making a living. While I was married and raising my kids, I was fortunate to be able to study drawing and watercolor painting. Talk about a lot of work! Talk about nerve-wracking—having my first one-woman show was the most frightening and exhausting experience of my life. Even though I am an excellent salesperson, I’m much better at selling other people’s stuff. It’s weird when it’s your own work out there. Anyway, I’m happy to say I sold many of my paintings, and I’m pleased to say I still have a few on my own walls.

Biologist/physicist – I had an immensely inspiring nun teach me sophomore biology. She was a powerful example of a single woman who wasn’t afraid to exercise her individuality. How she got away with it as one in the order of nuns of  the Blessed Virgin Mary that taught us is beyond me. Suffice it to say, when I got to my first college biology class, I realized this was going to be way too much work. Still I read voraciously about pscyhology and metaphysics, and then branched into actual physics for the layman. I am passionate about the subject. And 30 years after that failed biology class, I became involved in writing to the Cleveland Clinic development department, and the flame of my interest was rekindled. I started writing a blog about bioscience, BioMedNews.org.

Lawyer – Ah, this one’s tricky. My very first job out of high school was as a legal secretary for the second largest patent law firm in the city of Chicago at the time. I loved the whole “lawyer” thing, loved their intelligence, their command of the English language. What I didn’t like was the way they seemed to view me as a second-class person, not worth their time or attention. I had come out of an all-girls Catholic high school where you were judged on your performance alone. By the way, it’s an experience I’d still recommend for any girl who’s been held down or made to feel less important than the males in her family or who needs to get out of her own teenage hormones and focus on her work.

Anyway, I ended up marrying a law clerk who worked at the firm—we actually had arguments about the meaning and use of words. What fun for a writer and a lawyer! I adore courtroom dramas (think I’ve seen every passable one ever made). And I write medical-issue-related blogs for a wonderful public-service-spirited attorney. Writing Mesothelioma-Advice.org lets me exercise my understanding of using language properly in a legal context. All interstingly gratifying exercises for my legal tendencies.

Now during this special holiday, Single Working Women’s Week, maybe it’s a good time to ask yourself those questions. What five lives would you like to have led if you didn’t lead the one you’re leading? And what are you doing now to honor those parts of your soul?

I hope you like your answers. And if you don’t, this is the perfect week to imagine into being some new ways to have fun with your dream lives. My way of bringing my painter back to life now is to join the Art Museum. I’ll be scheduling monthly visits with my sketchbook.

I’m wondering if being single lets us honor more of all our parts? Has it been true for you?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rohit Chhiber

Learn how mapping your life can change everything

A parking lot in Manhattan, United States with...
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Do you feel like you’re in a rut?

Last year we were privileged to have Monika Moss visit us on the SWWAN Dive radio show. Here’s a link to her session on Life Mapping—her own specially developed technique for breaking through the dailiness and getting to where you really want to go.

She’s doing a public seminar during the upcoming holiday made just for SWWANs, Single Working Women’s Week. If you’re anywhere near Cleveland and you want to change your life, here’s the info:

Life Mapping: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Path Finding
Retreat Seminar
with Monika K. Moss

August 7, 2010 10 am – 5 pm
Register here

If you feel stuck.  If you feel like you need support making this transition.
If you have forgotten what you dreamed of being when you grew up.  If you just can’t seem to figure out what is holding you back.  Come spend the day mapping your life with Monika K. Moss.

For over 20 years, Master Mapper, successful business consultant and life coach, Monika K. Moss has been making her dreams come true through this process called Life Mapping.  She has dedicated her talents to helping people transform themselves and move toward a more peaceful and enlightened way of being. Monika shares her Life Mapping process which has helped hundreds of individuals chart a map to their ideal lifestyle, enrich their lives and bring added value to their family, organizations and community.   The exercises in the book allow anyone to map a route from vision to reality. Life Mapping has guided Monika in overcoming life’s obstacles and creating a road to success, happiness and joy.  Spend the day with Monika and create a road map to your ideal life style.

This one-day retreat will guide you through the process so you leave with a clear vision, new awareness about what is getting in the way and an action plan for the next 90 days to guide you and keep you focused.

Upcoming Retreat:
The Mandala Center for the Healing Arts
114 East Park Street (Chardon Square, 44024, two doors from the library in the brown building, parking lot in front)

August 7, 2010 10 am – 5 pm
Register here

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How do you define courage?

Being a single working woman takes courage–in our society or anywhere. Being a single working mom takes even more courage. Just saw a movie on Netflix instant view about a single working mom in 1960s-70s Poland who quietly spearheaded a movement that turned into a massive triumph for labor rights. After numerous struggles–she didn’t even know how to read or write and had to learn that in order to get a job running a crane that would allow her to work somewhat fewer hours each week than her former welding position–and including watching overworked fellow workers die in fires related to crappy work conditions, she suffered jail, beatings, firing, and more. Her championing the cause of fairness to workers eventually led to an industry-wide strike that at last crippled the Polish “party” politicians who’d taken over the oppression of the workers after Hitler was kicked out.

The bonus is that embedded in the film is a beautiful, though brief, love story.

Most of us aren’t firebrand activists and never will be. But God bless the people who are willing to sacrifice so much to fight for justice. Check it out on Netflix–it’s called simply Strike. You won’t find it on Amazon.

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Single women at Christmas

300px-JChristmas_painting

Here's to hearing angels on high all year long

Single women have pretty much the same array of choices for spending Christmas day as non-singles. Some will spend it with family, some with friends, some alone (e.g., the non-single woman who is estranged or separated from her mate—or wishes she was). Some will get Chinese food and see a movie, some will rest and read, some will clean or perform other chores.  Some will volunteer at soup kitchens. Some will exercise their creativity—cook, write, paint, play music.

Some, like me, will hang out with their grandchildren and see Christmas again through the eyes of the child. Some of us have spent hours planning, shopping, and wrapping. Some have foregone this practice and decided just to share themselves in some way.

Some of us, like me, who are moving, may be practicing the art of letting go—there’s a joy in releasing stuff to do good elsewhere in the universe. I’m pleased that I can give some of my treasured things to my family members this year. This Christmas I decided to do a little of each: “shopping” from my own possessions, wrapping, and writing about my move within Chicago.

Whatever you’re doing this year, try spending a few minutes every hour just stopping and feeling your feelings. Regard them with respect and tenderness. Send love and appreciation to yourself for all that you do, for all that you share with others, and for all you contribute to the world around you. And while you’re doing that, be sure to express your love to people and send appreciation out to all those who touch your  life.

Merry, merry Christmas to all the wonderful single women in the world. Extra good wishes to all the single mothers who work so hard to make Christmas special for their kids.

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Finding joy: go around the boulder

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will
tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

– Buddha

Got this gem from my HearthMath quote of the day list. Can’t you just picture the Buddha sitting there with his twinkling eyes and big round stomach (I love the laughing Buddha carvings), encouraging us to laugh with him at our own foibles and the absurdities of this life? When I was a kid and got angry about something bad that I was sure wasn’t right, I often used to choke out the words, “It’s not fair!” through my tears and frustration. And my mom would whirl around, angry herself then, and hiss back at me, “Who told you life was fair?” My mom and dad, like so many in the world, had more than their share of unfair things happen to them–from dysfunctional parents, stays in orphanages, and grinding Depression poverty, to losing a beloved first son and killing to keep from being killed in World War II.

I didn’t get it then. Didn’t really know what she meant. I’ve learned since then, of course, but I can imagine how much quicker and easier the lesson would have been if we’d both known about Buddha’s philosophy and been able to take his words to heart. How do we turn tragedy into laughter?

Today, when things aren’t fair, I don’t like it any better than I did as a kid. But I’ve come to accept that this is the way life and people can be. It’s like in the little kids’ Nick, Jr. show where Moose’s friend, the blue bird Zee, is in a race and arrives at a big boulder in the path. And Moose asks the kids watching, well, should Zee go AROUND the boulder or try to go under it?

If we accept that boulders are simply part of life, we learn to use our creativity to go around them and get back on path. If we accept that we might not even finish a race, we can still choose to do the best possible job—and enjoy the work we do. If we believe that everything is perfect as it is, we can find reasons to laugh at the sky even when things are at their blackest. Whether it’s a rotten economy, an abusive relationship, a crappy job, or a serious health challenge, all we need to do is come up with Plan B and Plan C—and even with the worst case senario—and we will always be ready to find the positive.

And when single working women reach out to support each other, we get an extra layer of cushioning to help us feel the joy.

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