Recognizing that (I'm guessing here because I really don't know who is reading) the majority of my readers tend to be married and I might be running the risk of insulting those readers, I am going to make this little rant anyway. If you are feeling sensitive, either don't read the rest of this post or recognize that I am mostly being sarcastic (oh, and probably a bit sensitive).
I have a habit of watching the Today show in the morning as I get ready for work despite the fact that I do not particularly enjoy it and quite often disagree with or am irritated by the stories. I watch (listen mostly) to see what the weather is like outside and have some background noise to wake me up. This morning, I had this story forced on me. The whole thing was about how neuroscientists have discovered that marriage makes you smarter! It was bad enough when that study came out not long ago claiming married people are happier, oh and don't forget about the headlines claiming married people live longer (which also implies married people are wealthier) but now they are claiming marriage makes you smarter? UGH!
To be clear, despite my own wretched marriage, I am not against the institution and I would love nothing more than to (very selectively) find someone with whom I can spend the rest of my life. But in the mean-time, I really do not need to be bombarded with these types of stories. The "expert" on the show this morning prattled on about the "cognitive decline" of people who live alone and are "socially isolated." She also casually remarked on how it is more stressful living alone.
Personally, I find living alone to be less stressful - at least less stressful than having roommates or even a spouse (granted mine was a bad example, but still). The positives of living alone are great:
*I always control the TV
*I am directly responsible for whether there are dishes in the sink or not
*I am responsible for whether or not the bed goes unmade
*I can eat cereal for dinner if I so choose
*I can spend an entire day inside with no one around to judge me
*I can indulge in any number of guilty pleasures (eating an entire box of girl scout cookies, watching bad tv, etc) without scheduling it around anyone else's schedule
*I choose when I have visitors over
*I can walk anywhere in my apartment naked
*I can turn my music up and dance around however and whenever I like
*the dishes always get put away in the right spot
*none of my stuff gets moved unless I move it
I could go on and on . . . recognizing that there is an equally lengthy list of the joys of living with a spouse.
I am the first to admit that I often feel socially isolated. I often feel I have outgrown the single peer group of which I am supposed to be a part (honestly, I am just no longer interested in 30 single people cramming into a beach house for a long weekend of prancing around in bathing suits) and my long term friends, the ones I know best and those I feel know me best - are all married or dating someone long term. Every. Single. One. Besides that, I am often socially isolated because I work A LOT! As in, a good day is leaving work by 7 or 8 pm and 9 or 10 pm is not terribly unusual.
That being said, I still manage to fill my calendar with plenty of brunch dates, dinner dates, parties and trips so, despite the fact I often describe myself (especially in winter) as a hermit or social recluse, I am hardly socially isolated.
And if I am in cognitive decline, I wonder what I would be capable of if I were married and "obtain[ing] knowledge of two people" as this segment suggests. I have met far too many unbalanced (intellectually) married couples to fully believe that. I think my job presents plenty of cognitive challenges - usually more than I care for.
Plus the suggested hobbies to "strengthen your marriage" and "build fresh neural networks" can all be done by someone who is single: take dance lessons, watch movies (the discussion can be done with friends, family, strangers on the internet!), throw a party (I do this), learn a language (never knew this only made married people smarter), take on a home project (again, living alone is not a barrier to this). Sure, those things probably will strengthen your marriage and your neural networks but I doubt any more than for a single person doing the same activities.
Honestly, if there really is a "never-married penalty" then maybe the experts should stop flaunting around all of the great things marriage does for people and start focusing on why singles are so isolated, lonely, depressed, unhealthy, stressed and cognitively declining. What is the social reason for this?
In my own culture (ie, the Mormon culture), I have found that being single over 30 can be incredibly isolating simply due to societal expectation that I should be married by now. And possibly have a kid or two. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have been asked why I am not married or why I don't have a boyfriend.
[As a sidebar: If I knew my own fatal flaw maybe I could do something about that but I think the biggest issues are 1) I do not like the social structure that is readily available to me for meeting people - I find them awkward and contrived and I am not comfortable in them (leaving me feeling reserved and withdrawn); 2) I do not fit easily into the mold making me more of an acquired taste, I believe; and 3) I was forced into singles wards for over a decade and at 31 I was kicked out and left to fend for myself among the other old maids in the family (or "traditional") ward.]
Maybe if single women weren't treated like sad, childless old maids and single men weren't treated like committment-phobic playboys, closeted gays or freaky weirdos (despite the fact that I have encountered all three), maybe there would be a little less depression and isolation. Maybe.