Are you by yourself? Did you come alone? What — no date? Hey, I know this nice guy …
Nothing — I mean nothing — brings out the cupid busybodies like New Year’s Eve. But you can stop asking us single ladies, “So, who will you be kissing at midnight?” We’re content that the answer is “no one.”
“Auld Lang Syne” — the song belted out by New Year’s Eve revelers every year — is actually a Scottish poem about two friends catching up, not two lovers.
It’s not just well-meaning friends or Aunt Mabel and Uncle Joe accosting us at the family holiday dinner. A couple weeks ago, an older Italian man confronted me in the grocery store checkout line after noticing my ringless left hand. “How can you be so beautiful and single?” he yelled, waving his prosciutto as everyone around us turned to stare. “What’s the matter?”
Actually, nothing. We unmarried maids may have no “other half,” but we are far from alone. Nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population is single — compared to 29 percent of households in 1990. A recent Pew Research Center report on census data showed the spike among singles over the past 30 years came largely from those who have never been married.
Contrary to sad stereotypes, many single women wouldn’t have it any other way. This New Year’s, instead of bugging women about their single status when the ball drops, try celebrating it along with them.
Like me, Selina Bell has a hot date this New Year’s Eve: her cranberry margarita.
“I’m actually thrilled to be alone — happier than I’ve been in a really long time,” the stylish middle-aged Connecticut divorcée told me. “I’m almost scared to get involved with someone because I don’t want to lose myself again.”
Bell has three grown daughters and a career co-directing a nonprofit organization. Like many divorced women, she sees the idea of getting hitched as a big gamble rather than an alluring proposition.
“Everything used to be about men’s careers and women nurturing everyone, but when we do that, we leave out ourselves,” she said. “Now I have no guilt and can work toward my goals, learn and grow. I don’t want to give it up.”
Elizabeth Engelberg, a clinical psychologist, noted that many women today “are not willing to put up with things they have in the past — especially if they’ve had a tough marriage or two.” Another factor in the singledom surge, she said, is that “some women want an authentic connection and just can’t find the right one.”
With more women working, marriage is becoming a choice — not a necessity. Plus, 77 percent of Americans say divorce is morally acceptable, up 18 points from 2001, according to a 2019 Gallup poll. Both developments mean women are increasingly willing to hold out for everything they want in a mate, or, as Engelberg put it, “They’re simply less willing to settle.”
After getting married and divorced twice, that’s certainly how I feel. Somebody has to “check all the boxes” in order for me to get off the snuggly single couch. It’s just not worth it.
Engelberg said men, on the other hand, are more likely to accept a partner who’s not a perfect match just to avoid being alone. In 2017, U.K. data analysts Mintel found that 49 percent of men reported being happy solo versus 61 percent of single women. Plus, 75 percent of unattached ladies said they were not actively looking for a significant other, compared to 65 percent of men who said the same.
A study by Paul Dolan, professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, found the healthiest and happiest group in our entire population is single women who don’t have children and were never married.
Michele Traina might be a mom and a divorcée, but she feels pretty good, too. The 40-year-old New Jersey comedian is busy filming a pilot for her show “Divorce Diaries” right now.
“I’m extremely happy about being divorced, but as soon as I split, people were like, ‘I have a guy you should meet,’” Traina tells her audience. “I’m like, I just left an institution where I was supposed to be with the same man for eternity. And you show up with another one? That’s like going to someone’s rehab graduation with a bottle of wine.”
Traina’s goal is to make people feel better about being alone. She said Manolo Blahniks helped “Sex and the City” stars make the single life look sexy, but they’re far from essential. “I may be home in my two-bedroom New Jersey apartment in my Target flats, but I’m just as happy,” she quipped.
Still, many single women would also be happy if the right man came along.
“I really want to be in a relationship, but I’m conflicted,” said Sofia Gonzalez, a 31-year-old business strategist in Fort Myers, Florida, who will toast 2022 with her parents and some coquito, or traditional Puerto Rican eggnog. Then they’ll dance to salsa music and pray for God’s grace in the New Year.
“I want to celebrate and kiss someone when the ball drops like all those romantic things we see on TV. But I am independent — and I want the full package,” she said, noting she’s in no rush to get paired up.
“My business is my boyfriend,” she told me.
I’d rather have nothing than nothing special. Indeed, when women make a conscious decision to remain single, they feel good about that choice.
Bell would also like a relationship at some point. “I think that when I find the right person to be under the mistletoe with, it will be great,” she said. “Until I find that person, I’ll wait.”
I’m with her. I’d rather have nothing than nothing special.
Indeed, when women make a conscious decision to remain single, they feel good about that choice, Engelberg said. It’s not lonely or pathetic. It’s empowering. So stop putting pressure on us to race to the altar.
Bell seconded that and urged her three millennial daughters to focus on having good careers and great friends rather than a ring. After all, “Auld Lang Syne” — the song belted out by New Year’s Eve revelers every year — is actually a Scottish poem about two friends catching up, not two lovers.