Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mulling singleness, longevity

Have I told y'all that before moving to Boston in 1999, I worked 4 years as the features reporter for the Pipestone County Star, in the small town of the same name in southwest Minnesota?   (Using the term y'all gives me away as a Midwesterner, right...?!) 

I'm sure I have.

My main beat at the Star was covering the robust performing arts scene, community organizations, dairy and pork and corn-n-soybean farmers, and the non-stop activities and recognitions at 3 elementaries and 1 high school.   Took endless photos of kids standing in rows, the community chorus with open mouths and hands outstretched, the Chamber of Commerce director shaking hands with new business owners.  Made lots of trips into barns for photos of pigs and cows.  One spring when the Star was down a sports reporter, I documented the track, tennis and golf teams' exploits and wickedly improved my skills as a sports-action photographer and writer.   It's where I began a personal column, Thinking Aloud, which started me writing in the stream-of-consciousness style that presaged the tack I'd eventually take in this blog.

I loved what I did in Pipestone, except for the ulcer-inducing school board meetings to raise taxes for a new facility, and I loved my life there.   But it was during the 3rd time through the same annual cycle of activities -- Homecoming, Christmas tree lightings, blizzard photos, Prom, the Watertower Festival, the Hiawatha Pageant features -- that I realized it might be time to explore different horizons.

And look where exploring got me.

This morning over my coffee, I came across a New York Times article titled, "In a Married World, Singles Struggle for Attention":
"Here’s a September celebration you probably didn’t know about: It’s National Single and Unmarried Americans Week."
I knew it sounded familiar, then realized it's because I, naturally, documented this week's occasion in September 2010.  It was a relief to find that I hadn't also documented it in 2008 and 2009.

Funny, when I saw the Times article this morning, the intent was to delve into the content of that blog entry by Tara Parker-Pope.  Specifically, how true these paragraphs rang:
"'There is this push for marriage in the straight community and in the gay community, essentially assuming that if you don’t get married there is something wrong with you,' says Naomi Gerstel, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst who has published a number of papers comparing the married and unmarried.
"'But a huge proportion of the population is unmarried, and the single population is only going to grow. At the same time, all the movement nationally is to offer benefits to those who are married, and that leaves single people dry.'

"Yet as she and other experts note, single people often contribute more to the community — because once people marry, they tend to put their energy and focus into their partners and their own families at the expense of friendships, community ties and extended families."
And these:
"The unmarried also tend to be more connected with siblings, nieces and nephews. And while married people have high rates of volunteerism when it comes to taking part in their children’s activities, unmarried people often are more connected to the community as a whole. About 1 in 5 unmarried people take part in volunteer work like teaching, coaching other people’s children, raising money for charities and distributing or serving food.
"Unmarried people are more likely to visit with neighbors. And never-married women are more likely than married women to sign petitions and go to political gatherings, according to Dr. Gerstel."
And these:
"The pressure to marry is particularly strong for women. A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Missouri and Texas Tech University carried the title “I’m a Loser, I’m Not Married, Let’s Just All Look at Me.” The researchers conducted 32 interviews with middle-class women in their 30s who felt stigmatized by the fact that they had never married.
" 'These were very successful women in their careers and their lives, yet almost all of them felt bad about not being married, like they were letting someone down,' said Lawrence Ganong, a chairman of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri.
"'If a person is happy being single,' he said, 'then we should support that as well."
Anyway. I'm pretty OK with being single in the city ... it has its benefits.  Other than my wistful 93-y-old Grandma, no one is pressuring me to get married.  I'll probably still go to political gatherings this season as long as my quease-factor stays in check.  And it's a good article (thank you, Tara, who is also a marathon runner).   Since I've now just quoted about half of it, feel free to decide, without my input, how you might feel about the conclusions.

I, on the other hand, have been freshly reminded of the time I have put into this blog -- 870 posts and 3.5 spins through the news cycle -- and am seriously wondering if it is time to explore different horizons.


Joshua said...

That's an impressive number of posts, Karin. I, for one, hope you make it to four digits ... perhaps you can stop at a round 1000.

Tashia said...

I reposted that article to my facebook page yesterday. A close friend who I happen to often fall on the other side of the political fence from found it "disappointing and divisive."

I've read and reread it and perhaps it is because I'm single, but I don't feel like they are saying married people are bad- just recognizing a shift in a priorities that happen when folks marry? I don't judge folks that are married I think there is a natural shift that comes in comfort in having regular companionship and a full family unit at home. I think perhaps my friend finds it divisive because she has some regret- specifically " at the expense of friendships, community ties and extended families." in gaining a husband and two kids in the last three years...

I found it sort of refreshing to have recognition for the role I see myself and other single friends playing with they attached friends.

Your thoughts? Or other thoughts of married folks out there?

Anonymous said...

I am married and am much more involved in my community, volunteering, etc.. than I was when I was single.

In the area I'm from, I see many more married people with children volunteering in service groups, church groups, school groups, etc..

Audrey said...

I don't think that getting married really changed my participation in community events and volunteer work. There should be a recognition that 'married' and 'married with kids' are different!
Now having kids changes everything. At least when they are little, you don't have time to do much stuff other than take care of your family, especially if both parents work. I think it will change when they get older.
However, I think there should be some acknowledgement that those of us who are lavishing their time and money on children are providing the next generation of taxpayers that will support all of us when we're old fogies. So it is a kind of public service, too! Everyone does their part, single or married.