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Still single : an ethnography of having-never-married Lovell, Verna Louise 1978

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STILL SINGLE: AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF HAVING-NEVER-MARRIED by VERNA LOUISE LOVELL B.N., McGill University, 1967 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS ) i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Anthropology and Sociology) We accept t h i s thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September, 19 7 8 © Verna Louise L o v e l l , 1978 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of Brit ish Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of ANTHROPOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY The University of Brit ish Columbia 2075 W e s b r o o k P l a c e V a n c o u v e r , C a n a d a V6T 1W5 Date /t>, /97P ABSTRACT Singleness most commonly refers to a stage of early-adult l i f e which i s temporary and which precedes marriage. Individuals who do not marry at the customary age are referred to as " s t i l l s i ngle". I t i s said that they have never married, which implies that t h e i r single status appears to be permanent. In North America, marriage i s a dominant and favored r e a l i t y . The majority of men and women marry, produce children, and e s t a b l i s h a l i f e s t y l e generated out of b e l i e f s , values, and norms about family r o l e s , r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , and a c t i v i t i e s . That r e a l i t y i s assigned a d e f i n i t i o n by virtue of i t s i n s t i t u t i o n a l status and i s further reinforced by the process of r e i f i c a t i o n . Marriage and family l i f e are considered representative of the natural and b i o l o g i c a l world. Singleness i s known and understood as the antithesis of marriage. As such, i t i s commonly thought of as an unnatural status and as a manifestation of c u l t u r a l incompetence. T r a d i t i o n a l l y , s o c i o l o g i s t s and lay members a l i k e have con-sidered singleness to be a form of deviance and have sought to i d e n t i f y i t s significance i n determining other s o c i a l pheno-mena . Since the 1960's, the trend has been to regard singleness not as a variable but as a phenomenon i n i t s own r i g h t . What has been emphasized p a r t i c u l a r l y i s the image of the young adult who i s unattached, free, r e l a t i v e l y a f f l u e n t , and highly sociable - the "single swinger". In the l a s t f i v e years, emphasis has also been placed on singleness as a sound alternative to marriage, as a choice, and not as the r e s u l t of some unfortunate act of Fate. To t h i s end, the current academic and popular l i t e r a t u r e focuses p a r t i c u l a r l y on the divorced, separated, and widowed. E s s e n t i a l l y , i t s concern i s with the loss of married l i f e and the return to single l i f e . The focus of t h i s thesis i s on singleness as experienced by those who have never married. I t regards having-never-married as a d i s t i n c t s o c i a l phenomenon and seeks to present the essential commonsense features by which that status i s known and experienced by representatives of i t s membership. The data from which those c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features have been explicated are ethnographic. They were co l l e c t e d through the method of participant-observation ;in the s o c i a l setting of discussions among never-married individuals arranged s p e c i f i -c a l l y for t h i s study and to a lesser extent on a variety of occasions encountered i n the course of carrying out the routine events of everyday l i f e . I t i s the s o c i a l organization of and commonsense knowledge about the family that provide the i n t e r p r e t i v e schema whereby v i r t u a l l y a l l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features of having-never-married e x i s t , are made v i s i b l e , and are assigned a r a t i o n a l i t y F i r s t , that i n t e r p r e t i v e schema renders singleness an i l l -defined and somewhat elusive phenomenon. This means that s i n g l people must esta b l i s h t h e i r own d e f i n i t i o n of t h e i r status. And, even that i s done by using c r i t e r i a provided by the i v i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n s of marriage and the family. Second, that int e r p r e t i v e schema questions the c u l t u r a l competence of those who never marry. It demands that single people provide an account for having never married, and i t defines the c r i t e r i a by which that account i s assessed. Thus, i t judges the c u l t u r a l competence of the never-married. Third, that inte r p r e t i v e schema forces those who have never married to the periphery of a "couples world" and requires that certain a c t i v i t i e s be enacted i n a way that i s exclusive to the single status, given that the majority of men and women perform those same a c t i v i t i e s with members of the nuclear family. V . TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ABSTRACT i i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT v i CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION 1 II. THE VISIBILITY OF HAVING-NEVER-MARRIED 9 II I . ASSIGNING A RATIONALITY TO HAVING-NEVER-MARRIED . 21 IV. ACCOUNTING FOR BEING STILL SINGLE 41 1. The Demand For An Account 41 2. The Search For An Account 4 8 3. T e s t i f y i n g to Cul t u r a l Competence 51 4. Assessing C u l t u r a l Competence 6 3 V. ACCOMPLISHING HAVING-NEVER-MARRIED 7 8 1. Doing Things Alone 79 2. Being On Your Own 86 3. Meeting People 95 VI. CONCLUDING REMARKS 109 BIBLIOGRAPHY 112 APPENDIX I PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION BY MARITAL STATUS IN CANADA 115 v i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT This work arose out of a s e n s i t i v i t y about the over-shadowing of the never-married status by the i n s t i t u t i o n s of marriage and the family both i n the academic worlds of sociology and psychology and i n the world of everyday l i f e . That s e n s i t i v i t y resulted i n an in t e r e s t i n portraying the d i s t i n c t i v e features of the never-married status as a s o c i a l e n t i t y i n i t s own r i g h t . To that end, I have met and talked with many individ u a l s who have never married. I owe thanks p a r t i c u l a r l y to those men and women who have shared, i n recorded conversation, th e i r thoughts, t h e i r feelings, and t h e i r experiences about being single. To a considerable extent, i t i s t h e i r formulations that have made thi s work possible. In presenting those formulations, I have aimed to preserve the good humor and the uniqueness of t h e i r authors. It i s my wish that they f i n d I have accomplished that aim and that t h i s work r i g h t f u l l y represents what they would claim to be at least some of the d i s t i n c t i v e features of the single status and l i f e s t y l e . I also owe an acknowledgement to those individuals -friends and r e l a t i v e s , married and unmarried - who may be taken aback when they discover that they have contributed unwittingly to t h i s study. I have taken the l i b e r t y to include t h e i r "contributions" - not to expose personal opinions and is o l a t e d events - but rather because they have provided so c l e a r l y for a display of the commonsense knowledge we a l l share v i i regarding marital status and both the family and the single l i f e . I am also indebted to my advisor, Roy Turner. Professor Turner taught me much about the q u a l i t a t i v e analysis of s o c i a l phenomena and I am grateful for the many insights I have gained from his work i n sociology and from his counsel during the development of t h i s thesis. As well, I would l i k e to thank the members of my committee, E l v i Whittaker and Kenneth Stoddart for the i r i n t e r e s t and support. Professor Whittaker's course "The Sociology of Knowledge" and Professor Stoddart 1s "The Sociology of L i f e s t y l e s " both provided pertinent back-ground for the focus of thi s thesis. F i n a l l y , I would l i k e to extend my thanks to the B r i t i s h Columbia In s t i t u t e of Technology for granting me an educational leave for the academic year 1977 - 1978. That time and f i n a n c i a l support provided me, not only with the opportunity to accomplish t h i s portrayal of the single status and l i f e s t y l e , but also with access to a valuable educational experience. 1 Chapter I INTRODUCTION Singleness i s most commonly known as a temporary phenomenon and as a stage of early adult l i f e which precedes marriage. For the majority of ind i v i d u a l s , that i s prec i s e l y what singleness i s . However, i n every generation there are a small number of men and women who have never married and for whom singleness becomes an apparently permanent status. I t i s that form of singleness which i s the ess e n t i a l concern of thi s study. To explicate the ch a r a c t e r i s t i c features of the s o c i a l structure of the phenomenon of having-never-married i s i t s central aim. In a l l s o c i e t i e s the large majority of men and women marry or couple i n a r e l a t i v e l y permanent and exclusive fashion, produce children, and est a b l i s h a l i f e s t y l e which i s generated out of culturally-determined b e l i e f s , values, and norms about family r o l e s , r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , and a c t i v i t i e s . That i s the paramount r e a l i t y . Inherent i n that r e a l i t y i s the es s e n t i a l defining feature of singleness - the fac t of being uncoupled and c h i l d l e s s , and pursuing a l i f e s t y l e that does not conform to that of the paramount r e a l i t y . As well as providing a framework for defining or locating singleness, the r e a l i t y of the world of marriage and the nuclear family provides an interp r e t i v e schema by which singleness i s q u a l i f i e d , evaluated, judged, and experienced. While the paramount r e a l i t y tends to be seen as natural and favorable, the r e a l i t y of having never married tends to be seen as unnatural, 2 unfavorable, and perplexing. Individuals who never marry are known and understood i n stereotypical terms and are subjected to certain forms of discrimination. For example: Ours i s a family-oriented culture. And i t so values family l i f e that i t treats unmarried adults at best as undeveloped, immature, and incomplete - and at worst as f a i l u r e s and w i l l f u l renegades who cannot or w i l l not take up a respectable and responsible family r o l e . . . Singleness immediately raises questions about one's sense of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and about one's d e s i r a b i l i t y as a tenant, a neighbor, a customer, even a f r i e n d . The unattached man or woman, after a l l , may be ca g i l y waiting for a chance to ste a l one's husband or wife. Common stereotypes see the bachelor as a self-indulgent hedonist, the unmarried woman as either promiscuous or f r i g i d . (Bach and Deutsch, 1970:ix-x) As t h i s quotation indicates, singleness i s commonly regarded as a deviant status. The ind i v i d u a l who never marries i s assessed - by married and never-married individuals a l i k e -for manifestations of c u l t u r a l incompetence. Soci o l o g i s t s , too, have accepted t h i s commonsense interpretation of singleness. T r a d i t i o n a l l y , s o c i o l o g i c a l research has considered singleness as a manifestation of deviance. As a variable i t s significance has been examined i n studies of b i r t h order, socioeconomic status, occupational achievement, emotional maturity, mental i l l n e s s , and suicide."*" Recently, the trend has been to renounce the b e l i e f that singleness i s a manifestation of c u l t u r a l incompetence, and to regard i t as a viable alternative to marriage and the nuclear 1 See Bernard (1972:331-47) for a summary of such studies done in the United States; also Gilder (19 74) who claims that singleness i n the male i s a pathological syndrome of psychologi-cal i n s t a b i l i t y . 3 family. In the current lay and academic l i t e r a t u r e on s i n g l e -ness, the common stereotypes and forms of discrimination are deplored and i t s attractiveness heralded. To put the focus of t h i s study into perspective, I s h a l l present a b r i e f h i s t o r i c a l account of that trend. In 1962, singles' advocate Helen Gurley Brown "pioneered" t h i s trend with the publication of her book, "Sex and the Single G i r l . " On the cover of i t s paperback e d i t i o n , t h i s book was advertised as "The sensational best s e l l e r that torpedoes the myth that a g i r l must be married to enjoy a s a t i s f y i n g l i f e " (Brown, 1962). This set the stage for the image of the "single swinger" - a man or woman between the ages of twenty and t h i r t y l i v i n g a l i f e of fun and wild abandon. What followed was a move to i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e that image with the creation of s o c i a l settings designed to accommodate these "swinging singles". Singles bars, singles clubs, vacations for singles, and apart-ment buildings with party rooms emerged in a l l major c i t i e s . The single i n d i v i d u a l became, among other things, a consumer, and businessmen moved quickly to meet t h e i r "needs". But that image.of the single i n d i v i d u a l has also been challenged. Reflections on the " g l i t t e r " of the single l i f e from the vantage point of the 1970's suggest that the "single swinger" exists only as f i c t i o n and that i t has been largely a creation of the media and the business community. If i t i s a r e a l i t y at a l l i t appears that i t i s so only temporarily, for people rapidly outgrow or t i r e of i t s supposed charm. The 4 "singles scene" i s now being described as s u p e r f i c i a l , a l i e n a t i n g , depressing, and ex p l o i t i v e ; i t s participants as 2 lethargic , unfeeling, uninvolved, pathetic, and lonely. Starr and Cams (1972) , i n a study of a community of single people i n the i r early-to mid-twenties l i v i n g in Chicago, support the notion that the image of the "swinging single" has been "spawned and nurtured by the media" and i s " c l e a r l y f a l s e . " On the basis of interviews with 7 0 single people, they conclude that: They are people coping with the same problems we a l l face: f i n d -ing a place to l i v e , searching for s a t i s f a c t i o n from th e i r jobs and seeking friends, dates and ultimately mates i n an environ-ment for which they have been i l l - p r e p a r e d and which does not ea s i l y lend i t s e l f to the formation of stable human relationships. (Starr and Cams, 1972 :48) In the 1970's, a further trend has been to d i r e c t the attractiveness and d e s i r a b i l i t y of singleness toward the older adult, toward men and women over the age of t h i r t y who have never married, or who have separated or divorced, or are widowed, and for whom singleness appears to be a permanent status and, at least for some ind i v i d u a l s , a choice. These individuals are t y p i f i e d as independent, free, s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t , f u l f i l l e d , a f fluent, happy, and l i v i n g f u l l , stimulating l i v e s . This image A pointed a r t i c l e on single people and singles bars by Henry F a i r l i e (written for the Washington Post, and reprinted i n the Vancouver Sun, December 10^ 1977) i s the source of many of these qu a l i f y i n g terms. An a r t i c l e i n Macleans, June 12, 1978, t i t l e d "The Singles Myth" further explodes the appeal of the "singles scene". It states: "Things aren't working out quite the way the independent, 'liberated' singles had hoped. For one thing, there's a l l that loneliness." 5 of singleness has produced another type of consumer and another type of commodity designed exclusively for singles. For those individuals who are not convinced that singleness offers such p o s s i b i l i t i e s as those l i s t e d above, psychologists and soc i o l o g i s t s have offered t h e i r expertise and support. They have written a number of "how to" publications on the topic of singleness and, to augment the printed word, they conduct night 3 courses and weekend workshops. In keeping with the trend to regard singleness not as a temporary antecedent to marriage, but as a. viable alternative and as a phenomenon i n i t s own r i g h t , Adams (1976:19) declares that i t i s not simply by chance or by default that many individuals never marry. She suggests that single people consistently and purposefully r e s i s t "succumbing to the i n t r i c a t e l y dependent system of marriage and the nuclear family." She notes that they are s o c i a l l y independent and possess a psychological q u a l i t y which manifests i t s e l f i n : a very strong sense of psychological s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y and personal i n t e g r i t y , both of which are independent of external emotional confirmation and are not re a l i z e d through long-term exclusive emotional commitments to a s p e c i f i c i n d i v i d u a l , whether a lover, wife, husband, or c h i l d . Among such publications are The Challenge of Being Single (Edwards and Hoover, 197 4) and Single: L i v i n g Your Own Way (Bradley et al., 1977) . Workshops and courses on singleness have t i t l e s such as "Strategies for Successful Single Li v i n g " and "How to be Happily Unmarried." These are offered by u n i v e r s i t i e s , community colleges, and community centres. See the F a l l 1977 Program, Centre for Continuing Education, the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, for course descriptions and objectives. 6 Adams (1976:15) further asserts that singleness as a s o c i a l phenomenon: " . . . i s complete i n i t s own r i g h t and possesses i t s own i n t r i n s i c c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s d i s t i n c t from those that regulate the thinking and l i v e s of people who are married." This study takes that assertion as i t s point of departure. I t does not consider singleness as a variable, and i t does not seek to q u a l i f y , evaluate, or judge the single i n d i v i d u a l or the single l i f e s t y l e . Nor does i t seek to project or favor any p a r t i c u l a r image of singleness. What i s of exclusive i n t e r e s t i s the s o c i a l organization of the phenomenon of having-never-married. The t h e o r e t i c a l and methodological perspective upon which t h i s work i s based maintains that a l l s o c i a l phenomena be conceptualized as members' accomplishments and that any given c o l l e c t i v e enterprise i s characterized by a fundamental .order which programs i n d e t a i l even i t s most minute features. That perspective further holds that these ordered accomplishments are routine, taken-for-granted, and commonsensical. Members are not cognizant of their production of those c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features or of the methods by which they construct a display of any given s o c i a l setting or phenomenon. That perspective claims the s c i e n t i f i c study of s o c i a l behavior. To t h i s end, i t i s the s o c i o l o g i s t ' s task to reconstruct any given c o l l e c t i v e enterprise from the perspective of the sense-making apparatus of i t s members. I t treats data, not as evidence of some hypothesis, but as components of an organized 7 s o c i a l structure. Its primary aim i s to explicate and record only those components. That they e x i s t , that they are manifest in the talk and actions of bona fide members of the enterprise in question i s held as s i g n i f i c a n t evidence that they are a r e f l e c t i o n of an interpretive schema (including b e l i e f s , values, and norms) which i n turn generates them. That they exi s t i s held as s i g n i f i c a n t evidence that they constitute a display of that enterprise. It does not attempt to make predictions, determine s t a t i s t i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e , influence s o c i a l change, and 4 the l i k e . With the use of ethnographic data, t h i s study seeks to portray those c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features that constitute a display of having-never-married. I t seeks to locate the commonsense features of that phenomenon - the "facts" and "routine" events -which everyone knows and takes for granted i n the day-to-day accomplishment of being-an-individual-who-has-never-married. It i s concerned only with those features as they are a display of "individuals over the age of t h i r t y who have never married and are not committed to a long-term sexual r e l a t i o n s h i p " . While other categories of single people - those i n t h e i r teens and twenties, those i n common-law relationships, the divorced, separated, and widowed - may also have legitimate claim to many This approach to the study of s o c i a l l i f e i s based on the writings of Schutz, 1971; Garfinkel, 1967; Sudnow, 1967; Cicourel, 1964; Zimmerman and Pollner, 1970. It was i n Ken Stoddart's course, Sociology 220, that I began to see the appeal of ethnographic research and where I became motivated to develop an ethnography of having-never-married. Roy Turner helped me to do that i n a way that might be c a l l e d ethnomethodology. 8 of the features that w i l l be discussed here, there are also obvious differences within each of these representative categories of singleness. What I p a r t i c u l a r l y want to capture i s the apparatus t h i s society provides - for the never-married and the married - for the recognition, sense-making, ;and s o c i a l produc-tion of the phenomenon of having-never-married. What follows i s an ethnography of having-never-married. In Chapter II, I s h a l l discuss the general issue of the v i s i b i l i t y of having-never-married and the means by which that phenomenon was made v i s i b l e and accessible for the purpose of c o l l e c t i n g data for th i s research project. Chapter III focuses on the construction of a d e f i n i t i o n of having-never-married. I t i l l u s t r a t e s how t h i s i s framed within the int e r p r e t i v e schema of commonsense knowledge about the family and examines some of the consequences of that. The construction of a knowledge of "why" one has never married and the process by which accounts are offered and received, i s the topic of Chapter IV. Chapter V considers having-never-married as an accomplishment. I t i d e n t i f i e s the most s i g n i f i c a n t accomplishments characterizing the single l i f e s t y l e and discusses some of the methods by which 5 these are enacted by the never-married. Although demographic features are not c r u c i a l to t h i s study, for the reader's in t e r e s t I have included i n Appendix I the percentage d i s t r i b u t i o n of males and females i n five-year age groups by marital status, i n Canada, i n 1976. 9 Chapter II THE VISIBILITY OF HAVING-NEVER-MARRIED In th i s chapter, I intend to discuss those features of the s o c i a l organization of having-never-married by which that phenomenon i s located and encountered. I s h a l l explicate the methods by which i t i s displayed as a s o c i a l phenomenon; or, i n other words, when, where, and how an i n d i v i d u a l i s v i s i b l e as one-who-has-never-married. I s h a l l also discuss how I u t i l i z e d t h i s commonsense knowledge of the v i s i b i l i t y of having-never-married for the purpose of locating a display of that s o c i a l entity for t h i s study, and I s h a l l describe the methods by which the ethnographic data on which i t i s based were acquired. In the general routine of everyday l i f e , the i n d i v i d u a l -who-has-never-married constitutes a somewhat covert phenomenon. By covert I mean that a knowledge of that status i s not rea d i l y available to others. To i l l u s t r a t e : in such public settings as stores, restaurants, parks, o f f i c e s , schools, theatres, a i r p o r t s , and the l i k e , there are many s o c i a l phenomenon the features of which are available for immediate recognition, e.g. sex, age group, or some core a c t i v i t y such as going to a movie, teaching, and so on. With regard to having-never-married, no c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features f a c i l i t a t e that kind of public recognition. While an i n d i v i d u a l may be i d e n t i f i e d as being alone or without a companion, without a wedding r i n g , f r i e n d l y , preoccupied, working, eating dinner, et cetera, none of 10 these a c t i v i t i e s , of course, t e l l s anything about marital status. Even i n settings which are commonly known to cater to the singles community, e.g. singles bars and singles vacation spots, an individual's marital status i s not automatically recognizable or knowable. Singleness i s most obviously known as the ant i t h e s i s of marriage; hence, i t i s through certain features of the s o c i a l structure of that i n s t i t u t i o n that individuals are v i s i b l e as individuals-who-have-never-married. One such feature i s the newsworthiness of the occasion of marriage. Engagements and weddings are formally and personally announced. They are announced p u b l i c l y and they are announced to r e l a t i v e s , friends and selected acquaintances such as those seen regularly, e.g. co-workers, neighbors, club members, and the l i k e . Among thi s c i r c l e of associates, the discovery through means other than a formal or personal announcement that a fellow associate has married would be seen as unusual, strange, i n s u l t i n g , et cetera Among thi s same c i r c l e of r e l a t i v e s , friends, and acquaintances i t i s available for a l l p r a c t i c a l purposes to assume that those individuals for whom an announcement of marriage has never been made or received, have not simply neglected to announce t h e i r marriage but, rather, have never married. They are " s t i l l s i ngle". As well as the occasion of marriage, marital status per se warrants personal and public announcement. In places of employment, educational i n s t i t u t i o n s , s o c i a l groups, and the l i 11 one's marital status i s customarily declared.^ It i s also noted on leg a l documents such as insurance p o l i c i e s and w i l l s , and on applications for employment, educational courses, club memberships, and cr e d i t cards. For women, marital status i s also p u b l i c l y announced with the use of the t i t l e s Mrs. or Miss. (Although there i s some attempt to change the t i t l e of a woman to Ms.,, i t i s not widely used at t h i s time.) A second feature of the i n s t i t u t i o n of marriage i s that i t i s generally assumed that at least a l l healthy and c u l t u r a l l y competent individuals w i l l marry. Parents say to t h e i r children, "When you get married and have children of your own...", or, "Don't get married u n t i l you f i n i s h your education'.'. But they do not advise them never to marry. Nor do they assume they never w i l l . Good friends talk about the kind of person they would l i k e to marry and what they would.like to do before they " s e t t l e down" and when they would l i k e to marry. Rarely, i f ever, do people say they w i l l never marry. In fact, given the expectation that most people w i l l marry and given the lack of a s p e c i f i c time or o f f i c i a l occasion to mark being " s t i l l single",-the r e a l i t y that that status i s l i k e l y to be permanent tends to take the single i n d i v i d u a l by surprise. Many single people around 35 or 40 rather suddenly say to themselves and the i r close friends and r e l a t i v e s that i t has just recently occurred to them that they may never marry and may never have children. For example, i n the University of B r i t i s h Columbia Faculty Directory information about faculty members includes marital status. 12 U n t i l then, they had simply taken i t for granted that there was plenty of time for that. Thus, singleness, as a permanent phenomenon, becomes observable and reportable gradually and as i t begins to appear to be a state that i s not temporary and not an antecedent to marriage. Over time, then, singleness becomes v i s i b l e as a phenomenon i n i t s own r i g h t . However, unlike marriage, which i s temporally locatable i n terms of a s p e c i f i c date and hour, singleness i s temporally locatable i n terms of phases, and i n re l a t i o n to the non-occurrence of the event of marriage at that time i n l i f e when marriage "ought" to occur. F i r s t , given that the majority of men and women marry i n th e i r early twenties, i t i s assumed that the single i n d i v i d u a l between the ages of 7 25 and 30 wxll marry r e l a t i v e l y soon. One says to that i n d i v i d u a l , "Don't you think i t ' s time you got married?" or "Have you met anyone who interests you l a t e l y ? " That person i s i d e n t i f i e d as being " s t i l l s i ngle". Then, afte r the single person reaches about 35, one tends to stop asking about his or her plans for marriage, and begins to assume that he or she may never marry. After the age of 35 or 40, the single i n d i v i d u a l i s known as one who "has never married", and at 50 or 60, when the p r o b a b i l i t y of marriage i s even more remote, he or she i s 7 In Canada i n 1974 the average age (arithmetic mean) at marriage of persons never previously married was, for women: 22.4 years, and for men: 2 4.7 years. The median age (age above and below which half of the t o t a l marriages occurred) at marriage of persons never previously married i n 1974 was, for women: 21.3 years, and for men: 23.5 years ( V i t a l S t a t i s t i c s Volume I I , Marriages and Divorces 1974, S t a t i s t i c s Canada, p. 5). 13 simply known as one who "never married". With the appearance of singleness as an apparently permanent status, the phenomenon of having-never-married also becomes a newsworthy and reportable event. While not documented l e g a l l y and announced formally l i k e marriage, there are occasions on which the status of having-never-married w i l l i n evitably be reported. Like marriage, singleness i s considered to be a s i g n i f i c a n t biographical fa c t . As such i t i s announced i n face-to-face interactions where personal information i s shared, e.g. i n the establishing of new friendships and acquaintanceships, and i n interactions with professionals such as physicians, p s y c h i a t r i s t s , nurses, members of the clergy, and lawyers. The status of singleness (although not necessarily having-never-married) i s also reportable on the occasion of s o c i a l events to which i n v i t a t i o n s conventionally are issued to individuals and t h e i r spouses, e.g. informal and formal p a r t i e s , receptions, banquets, weddings, diplomatic and governmental ceremonies, and the l i k e . When single individuals receive such i n v i t a t i o n s they must inform t h e i r host or hostess of th e i r singleness and n o t i f y him or her that they w i l l attend unaccompanied, or seek permission to i n v i t e a guest and announce the name of that person. As well as being rendered v i s i b l e through i t s status as a newsworthy event, the phenomenon of having-never-married i s made v i s i b l e through verbal interaction which not only announces that status, but questions, q u a l i f i e s , judges, and affirms i t as well. Having-never-married i s a topic for conversation. That i t i s a mentionable occurrence i s indicated i n such statements as: "Two of our children are on th e i r own"; "One of my uncles never married"; "There are lo t s of single people i n my family"; "I'm the only single person i n our department"; or "We don't know any single people. A l l of our friends are married". That the single status i s a c u r i o s i t y i s also attended to in conversation. Attempts are made to explain why s p e c i f i c individuals remain single and why single people as a s o c i a l category do not marry. Single people are often asked why they have never married and i n conversations among themselves and with married people, they search for the answer to that question. Manifestations of c u l t u r a l incompetence and deviance are also i d e n t i f i e d and talked about. And i f none are found, the perplexing and elusive nature of having-never-married i s discussed. Also, formulations about the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features of the single status are made, and i n p a r t i c u l a r , they are compared with the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features of marriage and the nuclear family. The advantages and disadvantages of the con-sequent l i f e s t y l e of each status are weighed; the single person declares, "There i s one thing I would not l i k e to give up and that i s my freedom" and the married person r e p l i e s , "Yes, but doesn't i t get awfully lonely?" While more d i f f i c u l t to locate by the outside observer, formulations that display the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features of having-never-married are also made during the accomplishment of the a f f a i r s of everyday l i f e and i n v i r t u a l l y every s o c i a l setting, e.g. i n the work place, i n restaurants and theatres, at family gatherings, and i n the privacy of the home. They are often made in the form of thoughts and feelings, rather than verbalizations, and they are,often made i n i s o l a t i o n . They are made on occasions that provide for a display of having-never-married or being uncoupled p a r t i c u l a r l y to the unmarried person herself/himself. Examples of such occasions are: receiving an i n v i t a t i o n to a formal dance and being asked to bring a guest, being i n the company of married people when they are talking about th e i r spouses and children, and preparing dinner for one and eating i t alone. The Data As a researcher, i t was those aforementioned commonsense methods for locating singleness that I used to locate individuals who might q u a l i f y to pa r t i c i p a t e in thi s study. Within my own c i r c l e of friends and acquaintances and within my work and recreational settings, I knew without inquiring which individuals had never married. By virtue of the status of these relationships t h i s knowledge was commonsensically available to me and i t was in fact taken for granted by myself and others that I had thi s knowledge. Upon my asking these individuals i f they would be interested i n p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n a study about the l i f e s t y l e of single people, none expressed surprise at my knowledge of th e i r singleness, or asked questions l i k e , "How did you know I have never married?" I also drew upon t h i s commonsense knowledge to locate people I did not already know to pa r t i c i p a t e i n th i s study. Simply by asking my friends and acquaintances i f they knew any-one who had never married and was over t h i r t y , I was able to locate many other pa r t i c i p a n t s . As i n the case of my own exper-ence, these individuals commonsensically knew whether or not they were acquainted with single people and who those people were. No one said they did not know whether any of the i r associates were single or not, but rather r e p l i e d immediately that they did or did not know any people over t h i r t y who had never married. Through th i s snowball technique for locating individuals who q u a l i f i e d for t h i s study, between 1976 and 1978, arrangements were made for a t o t a l of f i f t y - f i v e individuals who had never married - t h i r t y - f i v e women and twenty men - to pa r t i c i p a t e i n th i s study. Approximately 85 percent are i n t h e i r t h i r t i e s and 15 percent are i n th e i r f o r t i e s and f i f t i e s . One par t i c i p a n t i s over seventy. A l l are considered to be i n a state of good physical and mental health and leading f u l l , productive l i v e s . The majority are university educated and employed i n profession-a l occupations. A l l l i v e i n a large urban setting. After i d e n t i f y i n g , approaching, and gaining the consent of those individuals who q u a l i f i e d for thi s study, I applied further commonsense knowledge about the v i s i b i l i t y of having-never-married i n order to locate i t s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features. As 17 mentioned above, one way i n which the phenomenon i s made v i s i b l e i s through verbal i n t e r a c t i o n , i . e . through the formulation of i t s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features in the company of one's friends, family, co-workers, and other associates. It was that commonsense knowledge I c a p i t a l i z e d on i n c o l l e c t i n g much of the data for th i s study. To f a c i l i t a t e the construction of formulations about the commonsense, taken-for-granted features of having-never-married, I arranged a series of group discussions among participants and a few i n d i v i d u a l interviews. These took place i n my home or i n the homes of the participants, and occasionally i n public places such as restaurants. The discussions and interviews were es s e n t i a l l y unstructured, and the participants were encouraged to present any aspect of the topic they deemed relevant. My aim, i n the role of f a c i l i t a t o r and participant-observer, was to promote what might be c a l l e d "normal" or "routine" conversation which would, as i n everyday l i f e , constitute a display of the d i s t i n c t i v e features of singleness as they are formulated by individuals who have never married. In a l l , twelve group discussions and f i v e interviews were arranged. The number of participants i n the discussion groups varied within the range of three to eight. Each group met once and each discussion extended over a period of two to three hours. A portion of a l l of these discussions and three of the interviews were audio-taped. The recorded conversation t o t a l s approximately t h i r t y hours. I t i s that recorded conversa-tion which constitutes the major resource material u t i l i z e d i n 18 creating t h i s ethnography of singleness. It may be suggested that the researcher-arranged settings, which generated the major portion of data for t h i s study, are but a simulation of a phenomenon that i s found i n the world of everyday l i f e , and, as such, would not constitute an authentic display of having-never-married. To that suggestion, I would argue that these occasions are a display of having-never-married i s inherent i n the fact that they were produced by bona fide members of that s o c i a l phenomenon who were asked s p e c i f i c a l l y to meet and discuss the single l i f e s t y l e . That they are undoubtedly representative of settings i n which single people normatively do engage i n the practice of assigning a r a t i o n a l i t y to t h e i r status i s supported i n the following fie l d - n o t e : On one occasion I asked two females i n th e i r early t h i r t i e s who were friends i f i t seemed unusual to be asked to talk about the single l i f e s t y l e and about being single. One r e p l i e d , "Oh no, we do t h i s a l l the time." The following i n t e r a c t i o n i s a further i l l u s t r a t i o n of the correspondence between the settings i n question and those i n which t h i s type of formulating practice occurs i n the world of everyday l i f e : * * Quoted materials, unless otherwise c i t e d , are excerpts from the recorded conversation or from field-notes. The sex of the pa r t i c i p a n t i s indicated by the i n i t i a l M or F. The number which follows i t refers to the participant's age. My p a r t i c i p a t i o n as researcher i s indicated by the i n i t i a l R. 19 W: In a way t h i s i s kind of fun because i t makes me think of l o t s of conversations - you know - l i k e in a lounge somewhere over a few drinks and you s t a r t talking with someone. (M 31) V: So you do talk about t h i s stuff? (R) W: Oh for sure - sure - just recently. V: With women? W: With women. Ha ha. V: Not with men then? W: Hardly ever - yeah - once i n a great while - with cert a i n r e a l l y close friends.... As mentioned i n the previous section, a display of singleness i s also provided during the accomplishment of the a f f a i r s of everyday l i f e , and formulations about that status are often made i n the form of passing thoughts and feeli n g s . As such, they are elusive and the i r v i s i b i l i t y i s not available to the public. They are c e r t a i n l y r e s i s t a n t to being captured by the s o c i o l o g i s t . The following excerpts from the recorded conversations i l l u s t r a t e that experience: J: The thing that I fi n d hardest to adjust to - sometimes at night when I go to bed I get t h i s weird f e e l i n g and I think to myself, gosh, i s i t going to be l i k e t h i s forever? Am I always going to go to bed by myself? (F 32) Later i n the discussion i n which t h i s i n d i v i d u a l was a p a r t i c i -pant, I asked the following question: V: I was wondering when you notice i t most that you're single? Like you can go through many days and months of your l i f e doing what you do without sort of noticing that you are single. (R) 20 J : I n o t i c e i t sometimes when I p e r i o d i c a l l y s o r t o f have ' n o t h i n g t o do'. You know - and I ' d l i k e t o do i t w i t h somebody. I d o n ' t have.anybody... somebody t o s a y , ' L e t ' s go f o r a d r i v e . ' . . . P e r i o d i c a l l y y o u j u s t f e e l b a s i c a l l y l o n e l y - on a r a i n y Sunday a f t e r n o o n o r s o m e t h i n g - y o u f e e l a b i t a l o n e . I t d o e s n ' t happen v e r y o f t e n - n o t enough t o w o r r y a b o u t i t . W h i l e t h e v i s i b i l i t y t o t h e s e l f o f h a v i n g - n e v e r - m a r r i e d i s p r o b a b l y most commonly made i n t h e manner d e p i c t e d i n t h e s e s t a t e m e n t s , i t i s o n l y t h r o u g h t h e t e l l i n g o f t h e s e i n c i d e n t s t h a t t h e y c a n be d i s p l a y e d t o anyone e l s e . T h u s , t h e o n l y way f o r m u l a t i o n s a b o u t s i n g l e n e s s a r e a v a i l a b l e f o r p u b l i c d i s p l a y i s t h r o u g h t h e medium o f v e r b a l i n t e r a c t i o n i n s e t t i n g s s u c h as p l a c e s o f work, f a m i l y g a t h e r i n g s , r e s t a u r a n t s , and i n f o r m a l g e t - t o g e t h e r s w i t h f r i e n d s . The o c c a s i o n s a r r a n g e d f o r p u r p o s e s o f t h i s s t u d y , e v e n t h o u g h f a c i l i t a t e d f o r t h e p u r p o s e o f s o c i o l o g i c a l s t u d y , a r e a f u r t h e r example o f s u c h a s e t t i n g . A s e c o n d f o r m o f e t h n o g r a p h i c d a t a f r o m w h i c h t h i s s t u d y has been d e v e l o p e d c o n s i s t s o f f i e l d - n o t e s . T h e s e a r e b a s e d on o b s e r v a t i o n s made i n t h e company o f s i n g l e p e o p l e i n s u c h p u b l i c s e t t i n g s as r e s t a u r a n t s , p a r t i e s , s k i r e s o r t s , p l a c e s o f work, and t h e l i k e . As I am a member o f t h e s o c i a l c a t e g o r y i n q u e s t i o n , some o f t h e s e n o t e s a r e b a s e d , as w e l l , on o b s e r v a t i o n s o f p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e s and c o n v e r s a t i o n s w i t h r e l a t i v e s , f r i e n d s , and o t h e r a s s o c i a t e s . T h e s e have o c c u r r e d i n t h e c o u r s e o f c a r r y i n g o u t t h e r o u t i n e e v e n t s o f e v e r y d a y l i f e and r e l a t e t o my own s i n g l e n e s s as t h a t s t a t u s has become a n o t e w o r t h y e v e n t o v e r t h e p a s t t e n o r f i f t e e n y e a r s . 21 Chapter III ASSIGNING A RATIONALITY TO HAVING-NEVER-MARRIED There i s no i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n of the phenomenon of having-never-married. As a s o c i a l e n t i t y , singleness i s known and understood e s s e n t i a l l y i n terms of the i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n of marriage and the family, i n other words, i n terms of what i t i s not. As noted i n the previous chapter, i t i s regarded as a somewhat perplexing and elusive phenomenon. The commonsense knowledge t h i s society provides about singleness i s not consistent. For example, when I t o l d various people i n the community I was conducting a study on singleness I received an array of c o n f l i c t i n g r e p l i e s and comments. One married woman rep l i e d , "You mean you're studying loneliness?" Other people expected I would be c o l l e c t i n g data i n settings such as singles bars and studying, e s s e n t i a l l y , the "single swinger". The participants referred to the i r l i f e s t y l e with terms such as t e r r i b l e , rock-bottom, boring, unexciting, uncommitted, convenient, free, and uncomplicated, to name but a few. One i n d i v i d u a l said, "Why would anyone want to study a sordid l i f e s t y l e l i k e mine?" Another noted, "At l a s t someone i s di s c l o s i n g what a good thing we single people have got." In contrast, the commonsense knowledge of marriage and the family i s c l e a r l y defined and re a d i l y understood. In any given culture i t i s held as a universal resource which generates \ a highly s i g n i f i c a n t framework for defining and assessing the s o c i a l world (Turner, 1977). To i l l u s t r a t e : terms such as "family outings", "going home for Christmas", and "just the family" are a l l given sense through that i n t e r p r e t i v e schema. This resource can then be u t i l i z e d to make evaluations and judgments about family-oriented occurrences, for example: "They are a close family"; "They have a good marriage"; "His father married l a t e " ; "He i s the black sheep of the family"; and "My parents are very conservative". One b e l i e f that i s generated out of commonsense knowledge of the family i s that the state of being married represents the normal, natural, and b i o l o g i c a l world. As well as being a part of the paramount r e a l i t y and the normative order, marriage i s 9 . . held to be a part of the natural order. Singleness, i t i s held, i s not a part of the natural order. The statement below might be considered as a c l a s s i c i l l u s t r a t i o n of the r e i f i c a t i o n of marriage and the subsequent b e l i e f that having-never-married constitutes an abnormal and unnatural phenomenon: This phenomenon i s known as the r e i f i c a t i o n of s o c i a l r e a l i t y . Berger and Luckmann (1966:89-90) define r e i f i c a t i o n as: "...the apprehension of the products of human a c t i v i t y as i f they were something else than human products - such as facts of nature, r e s u l t s of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine w i l l . " The i n s t i t u t i o n of marriage, they note, "...may be r e i f i e d as an imitation of divine acts of c r e a t i v i t y , as a universal mandate of natural law, as the necessary consequence of b i o l o g i c a l or psychological forces, or, for that matter, as a functional imperative of the s o c i a l system." 2 3 I think we were intended to l i v e i n pairs and I think that's the normal and proper way to do i t . Those of us who don't mostly I think regret i t - regret we didn't - haven't. I think i t ' s normal to l i v e that way. That's the way i t was intended. Otherwise there would be one sex and not two. (M 60) The aim of thi s chapter i s to present a d e f i n i t i o n of having-never-married from the perspective of the membership of that s o c i a l category. As noted i n the previous chapter, one method by which having-never-married i s made v i s i b l e as a d i s t i n c t s o c i a l entity i s through the construction of formulations which interp r e t , q u a l i f y , evaluate, judge, and affirm that status. Through those formulations members assign a r a t i o n a l i t y to th e i r status, and may be said to be constructing a d e f i n i t i o n of the The reader w i l l note that for each quotation c i t e d I have i d e n t i f i e d the sex of i t s author. I would l i k e to elucidate the t a c i t understandings about single men and women which explain my doing that. In North American society, i t i s commonly thought that singleness i n the male, i . e . "bachelor-hood", i s an a t t r a c t i v e and envious status and one that i s assumed by choice. In contrast, singleness i n the female, i . e . "spinsterhood", i s commonly thought of as unattractive and unenvious - a status that i s the r e s u l t of re j e c t i o n and, therefore, one which must be "coped" with. It i s also commonly "understood" that women want to get married and men do not. For both men and women, sexuality i s questioned i n the indi v i d u a l who does not mate for the purpose of producing children. In the male, v i r i l i t y i s associated with proven a b i l i t y to impregnate a woman. The female who produces no offspring i s referred to as "barren". S i m i l a r l y (although men have been allowed more alternatives than women), masculinity i s associated with the enactment of the role of provider for a wife and children, and femininity with the rol e of nurturer of children and husband and creator of a "home". For women p a r t i c u l a r l y , not to assume t h i s role has meant not to be f u l f i l l e d as a person. The quotations c i t e d throughout w i l l allow the reader to make his or her own decisions about whether or not the data supports these t r a d i t i o n a l b e l i e f s . 24 phenomenon of having-never-married. In what follows, I s h a l l explicate the methods by which that d e f i n i t i o n i s produced and i d e n t i f y the e s s e n t i a l taken-for-granted, commonsensical features constituting that d e f i n i t i o n . Emphasis w i l l be placed on the fact that the defining features of having-never-married are generated and given meaning through the i n t e r p r e t i v e schema of commonsense knowledge of the family, and the i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a -t i o n and r e i f i c a t i o n of that paramount r e a l i t y . The following excerpt of talk occurred within the context of a discussion among six women about the ways in which single people are d i f f e r e n t from married people. This i n d i v i d u a l took exception to l i t e r a l l y every suggestion and f i n a l l y made t h i s assertion: The whole point I'm trying to make i s probably the most important thing to any i n d i v i d u a l i s having a good rela t i o n s h i p with another person. And as a single person that i s the big thing that you are lacking. And, I mean we can talk about independence, we can talk about job security, i n t e r e s t i n g jobs, the whole thing. But because of the way we were created, the number one thing -and none of us have i t r i g h t now - but that i s the number one thing that you look for - a good rela t i o n s h i p with another person. And I'm not saying you can't l i v e a f u l l l i f e and that you can't be an unselfish person and have l o t s of things i f you don't have that r e l a t i o n s h i p . And that i s what being single i s a l l about -making your l i f e as i n t e r e s t i n g and as f u l l as you can without that r e l a t i o n s h i p . (F 34) This quotation i s one member's formulation of what might be c a l l e d the cardinal defining feature of the single status. U t i l i z i n g commonsense knowledge about the family as a resource with which to locate and define singleness, i t makes p a r t i c u l a r 25 reference to the rel a t i o n s h i p t h i s society expects to ex i s t between husband and wife and the c r u c i a l e f f e c t of that on the qu a l i t y of everyday l i f e . And, i t defines singleness i n terms of something that i s "lacking". It also i l l u s t r a t e s the b e l i e f that pai r i n g i s a feature of the natural order ("because of the way we were created... that i s the number one thing that you look for - a good rela t i o n s h i p with another person."). Commonsense knowledge of the family also provides the sense-making apparatus by which many formulations about having-never-married may be understood i n the f i r s t place. For example: I fi n d with myself being single, i t ' s sort of l i k e a ladder. I ' l l be on a rung for a while and I'm okay and then I ' l l get between the rungs and I f e e l l i k e I'm.in a vacuum. And so I muster a l l my forces together.and I climb up the next rung. But i t also seems as though each rung i s an alternative to what I'd r e a l l y l i k e to be. I'm always sort of compensating. I think I'm always accomplishing something, but what I'm accomplishing i s always the second choice to what I'd r e a l l y l i k e to be doing. (F 34) I'm r e a l l y fed up being single. I just don't see i t as a very glamourous l i f e - when you're home and nothing i s there -that's the t e r r i b l e part of being single. (M 36) In the f i r s t quotation, i t i s taken for granted that t h i s i ndividual's "accomplishments" stand as second to marriage, the production of children, and the establishment of a l i f e s t y l e centered around the nuclear family. S i m i l a r l y , i n the second quotation i t i s commonsensically understood that "nothing" refers to the absence of a family to share t h i s individual's home and, further, that "family" refers to. a nuclear family that he would l i k e to have established for himself, and not his family of o r i g i n , or someone else's family. 26 As well as providing for having-never-married to be located, defined, and made sense of, knowledge of the family generates the framework by which that status i s q u a l i f i e d . In discussing the single l i f e s t y l e , i t i s a common practice for members to make assertions about the subjective meaning of t h e i r never-married status. (This may be seen i n the three quotations c i t e d above.) S t r u c t u r a l l y , formulations of t h i s kind include evaluative c r i t e r i a which are drawn from the resource of commonsense knowledge of the family and declarations about the r e l a t i v e merits of the presence or absence of those c r i t e r i a i n one's own l i f e . Members talk of these as the 'advantages and disadvantages of being single. Of course, there i s seldom unanimous consent on the merit of any one c r i t e r i o n . That l i e s largely i n the eye of the beholder. The p o s i t i v e features of single l i f e , what members consider to be the advantages, turn out to be the negative features of family l i f e . The following statements are some examples of formulations which interpret singleness p o s i t i v e l y . Again, i t i s the commonsense knowledge of the family that provides the framework by which they make sense. My job i s constant bombardment by people. I can't stand the impact of somebody else who happens to need something from me when I get home. (F 32) One of the delights i s that I don't have to do a damn thing. I can do whatever I please and not owe anybody my company. I treasure that f e e l i n g of complete independence. (M 36) By not being married you don't get t i e d up with obligations to other people. If I want to go away for a week - which I just did - I can decide a few days ahead of time and I don't have to worry about kids, husband, and a l l the rest of i t . 27 I t has something to do with freedom of choice - being able to make your own decisions. (F 34) I've seen myself as d i f f e r e n t a l l along - not as the l i t t l e g i r l leaving high school and getting married.... Plus I didn't f e e l I was capable of carrying through a rel a t i o n s h i p . I wasn't mature enough. (F 31) I wouldn't mind somebody taking me out but I'd be damned i f I wanted to l i v e with him. (F 58) S i m i l a r l y , what are considered to be the negative features of single l i f e are seen as the p o s i t i v e features of family l i f e . The following statements i d e n t i f y some of the negative aspects of having-never-married according to some representatives of the membership of that s o c i a l category: I think l i v i n g alone i s a poor substitute for sharing a l i f e with somebody else who i s compatible and stimulating. (M 60) One thing about being single that I think i s a burden i s having to organize your whole l i f e a l l by yourself. I t just takes a l o t of time....I would think that two people sharing that load would make l i f e a l o t simpler. (M 38) I s t i l l think i f I could choose, I'd rather be married. I'd rather not be single. Because I've always wanted to share. I t ' s not only for myself - I l i k e to give and I l i k e to share. And sometimes when you're having a fabulous time or i n a beautiful place - i t ' s fine to have friends around you - but i f there i s someone you r e a l l y care for - and i f you share i t with them, i t means a hundred percent more. To me l i f e i s sharing. If you can r e a l l y share a good relationship there's nothing better. (F 35) Every so often (my mother and I) w i l l have a heart to heart talk and I'11 t e l l her how I f e e l about being single and that I'm not that pleased with i t . It's not my preference. And i t ' s not so much the sex - i t ' s the loneliness and the lack of companionship and the fact that I don't have any kids and the fact that I l i k e kids. I l i k e kids - goddamn i t - I'd l i k e to have my own kids. (F 36) I can't think of anything more devastating than reaching my 28 f o r t i e s or f i f t i e s and not having anybody r e a l l y close because I'm very close to my family. My mother i s very i l l r i g h t now and I think maybe that's why i t i s important to have children because they do replace your parents. You always need somebody that i s sort of part of you. (F 31) As the commonsense knowledge of the family and the r e i f i c a t i o n of that i n s t i t u t i o n defines having-never-married, so does i t define many c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features of the psychological make-up of the never-married i n d i v i d u a l and many of the p r i o r i t i e s that shape the single person's biography and l i f e s t y l e . In t h i s society we tend to associate maturity i n adults with marriage and parenthood, and we measure the milestones or developmental stages of adulthood i n terms of family r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s and the 11 developmental stages of one's offspring and spouse. The establishment of a nuclear family i s referred to as " s e t t l i n g down". That i s the r e l a t i v e l y permanent and most s i g n i f i c a n t phase of the l i f e span. "Marriage i s the r e a l way to be," said one i n d i v i d u a l i n commenting on the value system of the society. Adherence to a l i f e s t y l e based on marriage and the nuclear family i s even integrated into the psychology of the adult. This i s seen p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the f i e l d s of growth and develop-ment and mental health. For example Havighurst (1952:74-77) i d e n t i f i e s such adult developmental tasks as (1) selecting a mate, (2) learning to l i v e with a marriage partner, (3) s t a r t i n g a family, and (4) rearing children. About the f i r s t , he notes: " U n t i l i t i s accomplished, the task of finding a marriage partner i s at once the most int e r e s t i n g and the most disturbing of the tasks of early adulthood." Erikson (1963:263-8), i n his eight stages of psychosocial development, i d e n t i f i e s "intimacy" and "generativity" as the stages marking adult psychosocial maturation. Those individuals who do not achieve such heights of development, he claims, may have to cope with t h e i r opposites - " i s o l a t i o n " and "stagnation". Family-related events are also the hall-mark of s o c i a l achievement. When r e l a t i v e s and old friends get together or exchange news at Christmas, for example, what they share i s most often family news - "We had another boy"; "A just graduated from high school"; " J r e t i r e s t h i s year"; and so on. Family news seems to cover the basics of l i f e ' s events. It i s the " o f f i c i a l " news. The remaining events - t r a v e l l i n g , work, education, leisure-time a c t i v i t i e s , material acquisitions, friendships, and the l i k e are the extras. Which of those events one shares as news i s more or less a r b i t r a r y . One of the consequences these features of family l i f e have on the single individual's biography and l i f e s t y l e i s that they are rendered " i n v i s i b l e " . The following anecdote i l l u s t r a t e s that point: One time when my cousin was i n town v i s i t i n g her e l d e r l y mother I remarked during a telephone conversation that I was sorry I had not v i s i t e d her mother. She said, "Oh yes dear, I'm sure you're busy with your l i t t l e l i f e . " I f e l t so i n s i g n i f i c a n t . Here I was well-educated and had held several responsible jobs. Yet that didn't quite measure up. How do you communicate what your l i f e i s a l l about to someone who only knows of marriage and having children? (F 36) L i f e experiences and developmental milestones of the single i n d i v i d u a l are much less distinguishable than those of his or her married counterparts. Many features of his or her biography are known only to passing acquaintances and a few close friends. Many are not recorded at a l l . There are no family pictures on birthdays and holidays to mark l i f e ' s s pecial events and the passing of time. As one p a r t i c i p a n t 30 remarked: There are no plateaus to be reached when you're single. I haven't done anything outstandingly d i f f e r e n t from one year to the next. So consequently, I don't r e a l l y have a gauge to plot my age with. At times I f i n d i t d i f f i c u l t to r e a l i z e how old I am and what i t means. My l i f e hasn't changed much since I was twenty. It's sort of a continuum. (M 35) In the l i g h t of the status of family a c t i v i t i e s and family news, the single person i s often l e f t scrambling for something to say when news i s exchanged - p a r t i c u l a r l y with r e l a t i v e s and old friends. When someone makes a statement l i k e "We celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary t h i s year", i t i s d i f f i c u l t for the single i n d i v i d u a l to respond with a p a r a l l e l conversation topic. The news he or she shares tends to be chosen a r b i t r a r i l y . T y p i c a l l y , i t concerns work, t r a v e l l i n g , moving to a new loc a l e , leisure-time a c t i v i t i e s , material acquisitions, and the l i k e . And, of course, for married people, even these a c t i v i t i e s or events are family-relevant. Many of them are shared with family members and to l d as family news (e.g. "We went south for Christmas"; "We have seasons t i c k e t s for the theatre, too."; and so on). Further to render " i n v i s i b l e " the single person's l i f e s t y l e and biography, many events s i g n i f i c a n t to his or her personal history are often consciously omitted. Excluded p a r t i c u l a r l y are sexual relationships or a f f a i r s which, of course, are often temporary and of passing relevance. (Furthermore, when these are revealed, they tend to i n i t i a t e c u r i o s i t y , a n t i c i p a t i o n , teasing, and disappointment - responses the single person would prefer 31 to avoid.) A second e f f e c t of the lack of d i s t i n c t i v e events to mark l i f e ' s developmental phases i s that the in d i v i d u a l who never marries i s thought of as youthful - by the in d i v i d u a l himself or herself and by his or her married counterparts. Whether the single i n d i v i d u a l i s 30 or 40 or 60 his or her l i f e s t y l e remains unchanged i n many ways. This can r e s u l t i n the sudden awareness that one i s getting older, that one i s now 40, for example, and too old for the image and l i f e s t y l e of the "single swinger" and perhaps too old to consider s t a r t i n g a family. Women i n thei r late t h i r t i e s are often shocked when they r e a l i z e that i f they want children, they had better have them soon. Others face the abrupt discovery that i t i s already too la t e . For men of that age, of course, time i s not so precious. I asked one male, age 48, what he would think of marrying a woman i n her twenties and having children. He r e p l i e d , "That would be i d e a l . " Another concern, for both sexes, i s that the major r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for child-rearing rests with women; and, many women are opting not to take on that r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . Said one male r e g r e t f u l l y : I can see that a large part of the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y rests with the woman. If I were to get married and have a family, I would l i k e my wife to give attention to the children i n the i r early years -but the g i r l s today want t h e i r own careers, money, and freedom. A family completely throws that out the window. (M 33) Single people do recognize and appreciate t h e i r freedom. They are f u l l y aware of the positi v e features of th e i r l i f e s t y l e v i s - a - v i s that of the nuclear family. The following quotation 32 expresses the dilemma of choosing one l i f e s t y l e over the other: I'm not sure that I won't regret i t - I'm not sure. Like I would love to have kids. I'd l i k e to have had them when I was 25.... I'm scared of having kids i n a way too because boy t h a t ' l l disrupt your l i f e s t y l e i n a h e l l of a hurry.... But I l i k e kids. I think I'd be a good father. I think i t would be f u l f i l l i n g for me to be a father.... I might regret - that might be a good strong streak of regret when I'm 55 to 60 for not having been married. (M 38) As the never-married are thought of as youthful, so are they thought of as being less mature and less responsible than t h e i r married counterparts. Some unmarried males i n business are not offered senior positions, for example. One par t i c i p a n t , age 31, said his boss frequently asks him about his plans for marriage. The following anecdotes t e l l of other examples: One time I in v i t e d a 16 year old cousin to v i s i t me for the summer holidays. My aunt said she didn't know i f P was old enough to be without adult supervision. I was 2 9 at the time. Yet the year before she had v i s i t e d my s i s t e r who i s married and happens to be younger than I am. (F 36) I used to coach a f o o t b a l l team for 10 to 12 year olds. I didn't always agree with what t h e i r parents were doing. But i n t e r -fering with parents about th e i r children - i t ' s a very touchy s i t u a t i o n . "What does a single guy l i k e you know about kids?" they'd say. (M 37) A married friend of mine once said she would never take her children to a p e d i a t r i c i a n who was not married. (F 38) A p s y c h i a t r i s t I'm going out with said he was surprised at how stable I am for not being married. I to l d him I have l o t s of friends who are over 30, single, and stable. I t was l i k e a revelation to him. He was married for about f i f t e e n years and i s now separated. (F 36) Also, regardless, of how many years or decades singleness continues, there i s a tendency to think of i t as a temporary phenomenon. That i t i s a temporary phase (not the "real" phase) of adult l i f e may be seen i n the l i v i n g arrangements of single and married people. T r a d i t i o n a l l y , the buying of a house and the accumulation of furniture and household effects i s associated with nest-building, i . e . marriage and preparation for children. This i s sanctioned by the society in the t r a d i t i o n and r i t u a l of giving g i f t s of furniture and household ef f e c t s to couples on the occasion of the i r marriage and the b i r t h of t h e i r children. Parents and grandparents put family heirlooms away and say, "This i s for you when you get married?. Consequently, most single people, at least i n t h e i r twenties and early t h i r t i e s , do not establish permanent l i v i n g arrangements. They rent, share apartments or houses, l i v e amidst unpacked boxes, and "make-do" with furniture from the Salvation Army and hand-me-down pots and pans. (On the p r a i r i e s , t h i s style of l i v i n g i s , or at lea s t used to be, c a l l e d " l i g h t housekeeping". It i s also known as "baching".) The single i n d i v i d u a l gradually moves into a more permanent st y l e of l i v i n g and c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y , by the age of 35 or 40 begins to accumulate possessions of good qual i t y and to estab l i s h a permanent home. For most single i n d i v i d u a l s , t h i s takes time - partly for f i n a n c i a l reasons, and par t l y because for many people there i s s t i l l the f e e l i n g that establishing a permanent home for oneself i s rather odd. That i s something one does when he or she gets married. A male of about 60 said he has never invested i n r e a l estate because he f e l t that there was no point i n having a house without a woman to look after i t , 34 to be the homemaker. Of course, i n the 1970's, with the trend toward l i b e r a -t i o n from r i g i d r ole stereotypes, there are fewer l i m i t a t i o n s on what i s appropriate behavior for men and women - married or single. As well, single people are l i k e l y to be more affl u e n t and as such more independent i n t h i s decade than they would have been twenty or t h i r t y years ago. Hence, more are buying t h e i r own houses or condominiums and establishing permanent homes for themselves at an e a r l i e r age than previous generations of singles. And yet: People f i n d i t inte r e s t i n g that I l i v e i n a house - weird that I l i k e plants around my house. They prefer to think of the i r bachelor friends as young swingers - and non-changing. It's as i f you've stayed the same age. (M 35) The other day I phoned to t e l l my s i s t e r and her family I was buying a condominium. She said, "What do you need a house for?" (F 38) The temporary feature of singleness (or the uncertainty about whether one w i l l marry or not) i s also manifest i n an ambiguity regarding one's life-^-goals and plans for the future. Women p a r t i c u l a r l y , while they may have in t e r e s t i n g jobs or the potential to develop stimulating careers, often are reluctant to put too much energy into that because they f e e l they should concentrate on the i r s o c i a l l i v e s - on finding a mate. Because th i s society places so much emphasis on sexual r e l a t i o n s h i p s , even women with f u l l professional l i v e s are l e f t with the f e e l i n g that something i s missing, that t h e i r l i v e s are not as g r a t i f y i n g as they would be with that type of relat i o n s h i p to complement or replace t h e i r p osition i n the world of work. One participant who works as a nurse and r e l u c t a n t l y broke off an engagement a few months before t h i s statement was made noted: I f e e l there's a change i n the a i r somewhere, but I don't know what i t i s going to be yet. I'm not se t t l e d . I'm obviously not s e t t l e d . (F 3 3 ) 1 3 The b e l i e f that marriage and family l i f e i s the "natural" state and the subsequent i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n of that way of l i f e has rendered the single l i f e without i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n as a phenomenon in i t s own r i g h t (see Adams, 1976). As t h i s discussion of the d e f i n i t i o n of having-never-married indicates, that i s known and understood e s s e n t i a l l y i n terms of what i t i s not. This lack of i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n leads to the notion that having-never-married i s a s i t u a t i o n that i s a "challenge", that must be "coped with", "adjusted to", "compensated f o r " , 14 perhaps altered, and so on. The following field-note A friend of mine i n her early f o r t i e s who has never married r e c a l l s a conversation with one of her professors when she was 30 and had just completed an M.A. degree. Her professor suggested that she enter a doctoral program. She said no -that she wanted to get married. Three years l a t e r she did enter such a program. Now she speaks of more or less "wasting" those three years. 'That statement was made two and a half years ago. This woman has worked as a r e l i e f nurse for three years. She has not wanted a permanent po s i t i o n . She has wanted to get married. But neither has she become involved i n a sexual rela t i o n s h i p of any seriousness. Now, at 36, she i s beginning to develop a l i f e plan that i s independent of marriage and children. i These observations are supported by the book t i t l e s : The  Challenge of Being Single (Edwards and Hoover, 1974) and Coping: A Survival Manual for Women Alone (Yates, 1976). 36 i l l u s t r a t e s t h a t c o n c e p t : M (female f r i e n d , n e v e r - m a r r i e d , 37) and I were r e a d i n g a l e t t e r i n the Vancouver Sun ( A p r i l 1, 1978) about h a v i n g never m a r r i e d . I t s a u t h o r s t a t e s : "We p r e f e r not to choose a p a r t n e r than to choose one u n w i s e l y . However, to c e l e b r a t e s i n g l e n e s s i s o n l y to make a v i r t u e o f n e c e s s i t y . " M remarked, " T h a t i s so t r u e . " One woman, age 38, c o n f e s s e d t h a t she has never a d j u s t e d to or a c c e p t e d b e i n g s i n g l e . O t h e r p a r t i c i p a n t s ( n o t a b l y women) p e r c e i v e o f t h e i r s t a t u s as b e i n g " h a r d w o r k " , as t a k i n g "a l o t o f e n e r g y " . F r e q u e n t l y , r e f e r e n c e i s made to the " s u c c e s s f u l s i n g l e " - the i n d i v i d u a l who presumably has " a d j u s t e d " , can " c o p e " , and i s a b l e "to make a v i r t u e o f n e c e s s i t y " . To r e p e a t an e x c e r p t of a q u o t a t i o n c i t e d e a r l i e r i n t h i s c h a p t e r , perhaps b e i n g a " s u c c e s s f u l s i n g l e " i s a l s o " . . . m a k i n g your l i f e as i n t e r e s t i n g and as f u l l as you can w i t h o u t t h a t r e l a t i o n s h i p " . Such c h a r a c t e r i s t i c r e s p o n s e s to s i n g l e n e s s are r e i n f o r c e d and i n t e r p r e t e d by Adams (1976:50) i n the s tatement b e l o w : . . . i n c o n t r a s t to m a r r i a g e or i t s c o u n t e r p a r t o f r e l i g i o u s d e d i c a t i o n , the l i f e s t y l e o f s i n g l e p e o p l e l a c k s i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n and s u p p o r t , i m p o s i n g on i n d i v i d u a l s or the groups they have a l l i e d themselves w i t h the o b l i g a t i o n to d e v e l o p t h e i r own s t a b l e and c o n s i s t e n t g u i d e l i n e s f o r l i v i n g . T h i s l a c k o f s o c i e t a l r e c o g n i t i o n c r e a t e s a c o n f l i c t about s t a t u s t h a t u n d e r c u t s the sense o f v a l i d p e r s o n a l and s o c i a l i d e n t i t y (Who are we s i n g l e i n d i v i d u a l s ? What i s our a p p r o p r i a t e s o c i a l s p h e r e ? ) . . . . The development o f such " g u i d e l i n e s f o r l i v i n g " seems to be a f u r t h e r method by which a d e f i n i t i o n of h a v i n g - n e v e r -m a r r i e d i s p r o d u c e d . In t h e i r t a l k about t h e i r s t a t u s , members d e c l a r e c e r t a i n " t r u t h s " , " r u l e s " , and " p r i n c i p l e s " . These are f o r m u l a t e d as a f f i r m a t i o n s which seem to do the work of 37 r e i n f o r c i n g the more o b j e c t i v e and p o s i t i v e d e f i n i t i o n s o f t h e i r s t a t u s . F o r example : Most s i n g l e p e o p l e . . . a r e s i n g l e because t h a t ' s the r e s u l t of the l i f e t h e y ' v e c h o s e n . They h a v e n ' t chosen the s i n g l e l i f e b u t t h e y ' v e chosen to do t h i n g s t h a t e i t h e r r e q u i r e s i n g l e s t a t u s or have r e s u l t e d i n t h a t s t a t u s . I t d o e s n ' t seem to be a d e l i b e r a t e t h i n g l i k e g e t t i n g m a r r i e d . You d o n ' t s i g n a document t o say y o u ' r e s i n g l e - you j u s t a r e . I h a v e n ' t heard p e o p l e s a y i n g , " I ' m g o i n g to s t a y s i n g l e and I 'm d o i n g i t f o r the f o l l o w i n g r e a s o n s . " I t ' s more the r e s u l t than the g o a l . (M 37) I t h i n k c h o o s i n g to be s i n g l e has got a l o t to do w i t h c h o o s i n g the way you p r o d u c e . I t ' s a c h o i c e not to produce k i d s . Y o u ' r e p r o d u c i n g work - or something e l s e - p a p e r s , c r e a t i v i t y , whatever you want . But something o t h e r than k i d s . (F 34) I ' d r a t h e r be s i n g l e than u n h a p p i l y m a r r i e d . (M 31 e t a l . ) I t h i n k s i n g l e p e o p l e v a l u e f r i e n d s h i p s more and are more s e n s i t i v e to the " c o m p a n i o n s h i p needs" o f o t h e r s . I know t h i s e s p e c i a l l y w e l l as an o n l y c h i l d . I 'm p a r t i c u l a r l y c o n s c i o u s of d e v e l o p i n g f r i e n d s as f a m i l y . (F 34) These maxims are a l s o f o r m u l a t e d as o f f e r i n g s of a d v i c e by an o l d e r g e n e r a t i o n o f n e v e r - m a r r i e d p e o p l e to a younger g e n e r a t i o n , and from what might be c a l l e d " a d j u s t e d " , " s u c c e s s f u l " , or " c u l t u r a l l y competent" i n d i v i d u a l s to those who may be l e s s s o . The f o l l o w i n g statement was made near the end o f a group d i s c u s s i o n ; i t was o f f e r e d as a word o f a d v i c e t o a member o f the g r o u p twenty y e a r s t h i s p e r s o n ' s j u n i o r : And you have to l e a r n not to be ashamed because y o u ' r e s i n g l e . T h a t ' s t h e one t h i n g t h a t you s h o u l d never b e . I mean a l o t of p e o p l e t h i n k y o u ' r e second b e s t . Even a l o t o f s i n g l e p e o p l e . . . . When you t h i n k o f the t h i n g s you have done and the t h i n g s y o u ' r e c a p a b l e o f d o i n g why s h o u l d n ' t you be proud o f what you a r e ? . . . , W h e n I see these young g i r l s d e s p e r a t e t o g e t m a r r i e d - t h e i r p a r e n t s always a s k i n g when t h e y ' r e g e t t i n g m a r r i e d . . . . There are t h i n g s f a r worse than not b e i n g m a r r i e d . (F 58) 38 On a similar occasion, t h i s maxim was stated to a group of men and women i n t h e i r t h i r t i e s : The big thing i s once you h i t fo r t y . You think, "Well, I'm not going to have children." Once you get over that point, i t ' s great. (F 50) The following field-note i s a further i l l u s t r a t i o n of the practice of transmitting advice from one generation to the next: Today at work I was ta l k i n g to M about my study and about being single myself. (She i s 58 and has never married.) She said, "The t h i r t i e s . a r e the hardest. Now I don't even think about i t . I just bash on." The author of the following formulation describes how she evidently has "adjusted" to being unmarried, and the c r i t e r i a by which she measures that adjustment. Her insight i s offered as a rule which, she asserts, her peers must follow i f they want to be "happy". In the l a s t three or four years I've been much happier being single.... When I was younger I r e a l l y wanted to get married and yet just not to anyone - whereas now...I f e e l I can j u s t i f y being single now. I try and accept people for what they are and enjoy them for what they are and I don't get big expectations about things. And that's one of my outlooks that has r e a l l y changed. I just don't b u i l d things up. I try and accept people for what they are at the time and l i v e for the moment because i f you keep l i v i n g for the future and i n a semi-permanent state I don't think y o u ' l l ever be happy. If you're s t i l l single i n your mid-t h i r t i e s you have got to s t a r t thinking that i t i s a permanent state. I'm not saying that I want i t to be a permanent state but unless you come to terms with i t y o u ' l l never be happy. (F 37) Another participant attributed his happiness to a wide c i r c l e of long-standing, good friends and a stimulating, s a t i s f y i n g career: 39 I am one of the fortunate ones. I have both of those things. And i t ' s not as i f on evenings and weekends I have to rush out and compensate for a d u l l , f r u s t r a t i n g job. (M 48) Advice i s also offered i n the form of the t e l l i n g of advice given i n the past by a s i g n i f i c a n t t h i r d party, i n the following cases, married family members: My mother stressed that there are other things besides s a t i s f y -ing other people's needs at the expense of your own.... She said to use your brains and your s k i l l and i f you find somebody along the way - very nice, and i f you don't - very nice.... Nobody i s going to put a l o t of pressure on you. The pressure i s to do something you want to do - not necessarily to get married and have kids. (F 32) My grandmother t o l d me that even i f I do get married I should think seriously about not having children because of my age and the commitment and adjustment bringing up children requires. (F 36) As well as serving as c r i t e r i a and as gauges by which the never-married i n d i v i d u a l might measure the degree to which he or she i s a "successful single", these maxims and offerings of advice seem to do the work of c l a r i f y i n g and r e i n f o r c i n g the i d e n t i t y of the never-married. For example: One participant (F 34), on reading an e a r l i e r version of t h i s study, said, "I wish my mother could read t h i s , " implying that she can never f u l l y explain to her mother what her l i f e i s a l l about. C (F 33), a f t e r p a r t i c i p a t i n g in one of the group discussions I arranged, remarked that she f e l t a l o t better about being single a f t e r that experience. In t h i s chapter, I have i l l u s t r a t e d how the psychological make-up and l i f e s t y l e of the never-married are located, defined, and q u a l i f i e d on the basis of commonsense knowledge of family 40 r o l e s , r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , and a c t i v i t i e s and the r e i f i c a t i o n of the i n s t i t u t i o n of the family. It was also discussed how such concepts of the family tend to render i n v i s i b l e certain features of the biography and l i f e s t y l e of the never-married. There i s no i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n of having-never-married. This leads to the notion that i t requires an adjustment. How to make that adjustment i s affirmed through the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of maxims about having-never-married and the o f f e r i n g of these in the form of advice. This reinforces the never-married i d e n t i -ty and points toward a d e f i n i t i o n of singleness as a phenomenon in i t s own r i g h t . 41 Chapter IV ACCOUNTING FOR BEING STILL SINGLE" 1. The Demand for an Account It i s a basic premise that as a necessary condition for s o c i a l l i f e co-members share certain b e l i e f s and values and adhere to certain s o c i a l norms which dictate conduct and personal a t t r i b u t e s . These b e l i e f s , values, and norms are taught and their adherence sanctioned by a variety of methods which serve to reinforce them and to ensure conformity. Members who have been "properly" s o c i a l i z e d deomonstrate "appropriate" 15 behaviors and are said to be c u l t u r a l l y competent. However, i t i s also given that because of the i n f i n i t e range of human va r i a t i o n there are individuals who, for a variety of reasons, do not or cannot conform to the expectations of a p a r t i c u l a r s o c i a l group. In the event that an expression of non-conformity does occur, the normative order i s threatened. In the inter e s t of preserving that order the non-conformist, the c u l t u r a l l y incompetent, or the deviant i s taken to task. Among ethnomethodologists, the term "competence" i s used to refer to the display of commonsense knowledge of the s o c i a l structures of any given c o l l e c t i v e enterprise that i s provided by i t s bona fide members. This i s based on Garfinkel's d e f i n i t i o n which states: "I use the term 'competence' to mean the claim that a c o l l e c t i v i t y member i s e n t i t l e d to exercise that he i s capable of managing his everyday a f f a i r s without interference. That members can take such claim for granted I re f e r to by speaking of a person as a 'bona f i d e ' c o l l e c -t i v i t y member" (Garfinkel: 1967:57). I t i s t h i s use of the term "competence" that i s employed here. 42 Members of any given c o l l e c t i v e enterprise are held accountable for t h e i r actions,' t h e i r co-members have the r i g h t to expect such accountability, and they have the r i g h t 16 to ask for an account of inappropriate behavior. Members also have the r i g h t to assess c u l t u r a l competence on the basis of that account and do so by using c r i t e r i a generated by a stock range of accounts that t e s t i f y to competence. Thus the process of accounting i s an interlocking one, i . e . accounts are expected and requested, delivered, and also heard, assessed, challenged, and accepted or rejected (see Turner, 1974) . In t h i s culture, one of the most dominant, highly v i s i b l e , and highly favored values i s marriage. That a l l c u l t u r a l l y In view of the fact that t h i s study claims an ethnometho-dological framework, I would l i k e to emphasize that i t i s not Garfinkel's d e f i n i t i o n of "accountability" that i s employed in t h i s chapter, but rather that of Scott and Lyman. In t h e i r paper, t i t l e d "Accounts" (1968:46-7), Scott and Lyman define an account as "... a l i n g u i s t i c device employed whenever an action i s subjected to valuative inquiry. Such devices are a c r u c i a l element i n the s o c i a l order since they prevent c o n f l i c t s from a r i s i n g by verbally bridging the gap between action and expectation. Moreover, accounts are 'situated' according to the statuses of the interactants, and are standardized within cultures so that certain accounts are terminologically s t a b i l i z e d and routinely expected when a c t i v i t y f a l l s outside the domain of expectations." The authors i d e n t i f y two types of accounts; excuses and j u s t i f i c a t i o n s . " J u s t i f i c a t i o n s are accounts i n which one accepts r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for the act i n question, but denies the pejorative quality associated with i t . . . . Excuses are accounts i n which one admits that the act i n question i s bad, wrong, or inappropriate but denies f u l l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . " 43 competent individuals w i l l marry i s simply assumed. I t i s also assumed that they w i l l marry by a certain age. In t h i s culture that age i s between 20 and 25 for women and between 25 and 30 17 for men. Individuals who do not marry around that age experience considerable pressure about th e i r unmarried status. When friends and r e l a t i v e s marry they say, "I can hardly wait u n t i l i t ' s your turn", or "You'll be next'J. People ask an t i c i p a t i v e l y , "Who was that you were with at the party?" or "How are you and X getting along?" or "Have you met anyone l a t e l y ? " That pressure also comes from within. Many single people themselves wonder i f they r e a l l y w i l l "be next" - because in actual fact "no" they have not "met anyone l a t e l y " and "no" they are not "getting along with X'-'. Often such individuals put considerable energy both into searching for a mate and dealing with the disappointment (their own and that of concerned r e l a t i v e s and friends) that a mate has not been found. If an in d i v i d u a l has not married between the ages of 25 and 30 t h i s becomes observable and mentionable. Small children may be heard to ask the single woman, "Where i s your daddy?" or I r e c a l l a classmate who, at the age of 20 (in 1959), was concerned that she had not "even met anyone yet". "Do you r e a l i z e that L (her older sister) was engaged by the time she was my age?" she said f r e t f u l l y . Lest the reader think that young women do not think that way today, I am told p a r t i c u -l a r l y by friends who meet young women i n business o f f i c e s that many do. For example, I heard recently about a 19 year old who was not interested i n learning any more than was absolutely necessary about her c l e r i c a l job because she "just wanted to get married anyway". "Don't you want to get married and have babies?" Nieces and nephews say they want some cousins. Parents d e l i c a t e l y suggest, "Isn't i t about time you settled down?" And they lament because they are not yet grandparents and note d i s c r e e t l y , "I 18 guess we'll have to r e l y on our other children for that'!. Then, when i t looks as i f there i s no "hope", when singleness begins to look l i k e a permanent status - people tend to stop asking. As one 35 year old male stated: After a while even your mother gives up on you. Once the single person reaches the age of about 30, the subject of marital status i s approached with care and d i s c r e t i o n . P o l i t e l y , friends and r e l a t i v e s inquire about work and university courses, about t r i p s to T a h i t i and skiing i n Aspen. Even the most daring of mothers would.hesitate to. ask i f her daughter i s "seeing anyone", or i f her son has "any plans for the future". One pa r t i c i p a n t noted that i t i s almost a "no no" to discuss the subject: When my mother calls.she never asks i f I'm going out with any men. Even since I have t o l d her about C she never asks about him or i f I'm s t i l l seeing him - when she c a l l s me. I guess i t ' s kind of personal, but i t also makes me think she doesn't care. (F 36) 18 One friend of mine (who. i n c i d e n t l y married at 28) , when she was about 2 4 overheard her mother t e l l i n g friends that N had been a bridesmaid seven times. "At least the g i r l s l i k e her," sighed N's mother. 45 On the other hand: One of my Aunts and Uncles c a l l e d me today. When my uncle got on the phone, he said, "Hi you old maid - how are ya* doing?" Regardless of the manner i n which the never-married are responded to, the topic of t h e i r singleness i s a delicate one. For individuals who are otherwise competent, t h e i r having never married i s seen as unexpected, perplexing, odd, disappointing, sad, and the l i k e . Individuals who have never married belong to a s o c i a l category which p o t e n t i a l l y l i e s beyond the boundaries of c u l t u r a l competence. Hence, i t i s demanded by the culture that such individuals account for th e i r status. That means that i n the course of conducting the a f f a i r s of everyday l i f e the single i n d i v i d u a l i s vulnerable i n any number of s o c i a l settings to being asked why he or she has never married. For example: One time when I was t e l l i n g a fr i e n d of mine about my family background and about my parents marital problems, she said, "Well, the obvious question i s - i s that why you never married?" (F 38) Another p a r t i c i p a n t , who i s a counsellor i n a junior college, spoke of a similar experience: Just l a t e l y three or four of the students - who are upgrading the i r education and are between 20 and 25 - that I've had in d i v i d u a l conversations with have stopped me and said, " J why aren't you married?" (M 38) The necessity to account for one's having never married, i . e . to provide an answer to questions such as those above, may be i d e n t i f i e d as one of the demand c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the single status. It i s the focus of t h i s chapter to examine the process of providing and receiving such accounts as they occurred i n conversation among the participants of t h i s study. I t includes an overview of the content that constitutes a,rationale for not marrying, and i t includes an analysis of some of the a c t i v i t i e s accomplished during the interactions i n which that rationale was offered and received. It does not, of course, seek to explain l i t e r a l l y the reasons why single people as a category or as individuals do not marry. Nor does i t profess that there e x i s t s , i n fa c t , a " r e a l " reason. But p r i o r to that I would l i k e to point out a s i g n i f i c a n t feature of the occasions arranged for the purpose of thi s study. By virt u e of merely attending these occasions, participants were providing for a public display of the i r having never married and thus> t h e i r potential c u l t u r a l incompetence. Their very presence i n these group discussions made i t available for others to be cognizant of that potential and, i n f a c t , to challenge and assess t h e i r competence. Furthermore, given that singleness has been l a b e l l e d as a form of deviance, by p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n th i s study members risked being discredited and stigmatized (see Goffman, 1963). As the field-note below indicates, being the reci p i e n t of an i n v i t a t i o n to par t i c i p a t e i n a study about the l i f e s t y l e of the never-married i s a dubious honor: Following the party (which I had for the participants of t h i s study) one woman (age 38) to l d me she had the fe e l i n g she was going out to meet a l l the r e j e c t s . Another member (a male, age 36) admitted that, while he was impressed with a l l the people he met, he had expected to meet a bunch of losers." 1"^ While i t may be argued, as well, that these occasions were s o c i a l occasions much l i k e many others one might attend in the world of everyday l i f e , i t i s also s i g n i f i c a n t to consider that unique to these occasions was the core a c t i v i t y of discussing having-never-married. Presumably, on most comparable s o c i a l occasions, one's having never married, i f i t were v i s i b l e at a l l , would not l i k e l y be the focus of attention. In fact, one might attend similar s o c i a l events with a companion and therefore "pass" as a married couple or at least "cover" one's marital status. On other occasions, where one's marital status might be more v i s i b l e and where one might place his or her i n t e g r i t y i n jeopardy or r i s k being stigmatized, he or she might r e f r a i n from attending such an occasion altogether. In the settings arranged for t h i s study, such strategies for managing one's having never married would not have been 20 compatible with one's p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n them. The int e r a c t i o n below i l l u s t r a t e s one participant's P a r a l l e l situations might be receiving an i n v i t a t i o n to a party one's p s y c h i a t r i s t might have for a l l the patients he or she had seen over a given year, or being i n v i t e d to a s o c i a l gathering for a l l the students who f a i l e d t h e i r f i n a l examination. 20 See Goffman (1963:41-104) for a discussion of the methods by which discredited and di s c r e d i t a b l e persons manage the s o c i a l implications of such attr i b u t e s . 48 formulation of the potential r i s k inherent i n p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n t h i s study and his i n i t i a l reaction to being asked to do so: V: I'm wondering how people reacted when I c a l l e d about t h i s , when I said I was doing a study about single people. I'm just sort of curious about how you responded or what you thought of. (R) C: I thought i t was uh - i t ' s the sort of i n v i t a t i o n that you almost f e e l you should say no to, u n t i l you think about i t for a moment. (M 35) N: Why would you think of saying no? (F 50) C: Well, you know, here i s an intrusion on your privacy and someone i s suddenly t r y i n g to put you under the l i g h t of inspection to examine why i t i s you're s t i l l in the state you are i n . That's an inference you might take from i t -as to why i t i s you are as you are. In t h i s i n t e r a c t i o n , C demonstrates the commonsense knowledge that accounts for having never, married are expected and requested and, on the basis of t h i s , makes the assumption that any study of singleness would "naturally" include a demand for an account of why one has never married and, as well, an assessment of 21 that account. To provide such an account i s an a c t i v i t y that i s generated simply by his categorical membership and one which, as C seems to be aware, he could be c a l l e d upon to engage i n on t h i s p a r t i c u l a r occasion, and i f so, must engage in - l e s t his competence be further jeopardized. 2. The Search for an Account Accounts, i . e . statements of "why" or the "reason" cert a i n As Bruce Katz pointed out to me, t h i s could also indicate t h i s individual's f a m i l i a r i t y with the goals and methods of t r a d i t i o n a l sociology. people never marry, are formulated by members and non-members of the category i n question - concerned mothers and fathers, curious neighbors, suspicious employers, co-workers, friends, rejected and re j e c t i n g lovers, and so on. They tend to begin with the suspicion of unmarriageability which i s then followed by a search for manifestations which would confirm or deny that suspicion. Should such unmarriageability be determined, then an "adequate" and "understandable" account has been found. Examples of such accounts which would make not marrying "under-standable" (although not necessarily essential) are references to gross physical unattractiveness, physical handicaps, chronic physical i l l n e s s e s , psychotic behaviors, criminal behaviors, and the l i k e . However, not a l l never-married persons are able to o f f e r such "understandable" accounts for the i r singleness. Many are found, at least on the surface, to be marriageable. Hence, more covert manifestations of the i r unmarriageability are looked for. People i n t h i s group are often thought of as "losers", "loners", or " s o c i a l m i s f i t s " . Their possible personal attributes are: "fear of emotional commitments", "immaturity", "lack of s o c i a l s k i l l s " , "selfishness", "too independent", "too domineering", "uneasiness with members of the opposite sex", "too i d e a l i s t i c " , and so on. In the world of everyday l i f e , these attributes are employed i n such statements as: "What a temper! It's easy to see why she i s n ' t married" or "He always was shy around women. I guess that's why he never married". 50 But even t h i s degree of searching for unmarriageability or c u l t u r a l incompetence does not always r e s u l t i n an "adequate" account for having never-married. Most people, including those with the personal attributes c i t e d i n the preceding paragraphs, do marry. To have never married (or " l i v e d with anyone") i s a c u r i o s i t y . In everyday l i f e , the search for an "adequate" explanation continues with bewilderment and the assertion that there "must be a reason". Trading on c r i t e r i a for assessing c u l t u r a l competence and on commonsense knowledge of the family, members of th i s society might ask one who has never married: "You seem to have a l o t to give - you're good-looking - stable -you l i k e children - you have a sense of humor. How come you're not married? There must be some reason". The data which follows takes the aforementioned account-ing process as a point of departure. It w i l l be r e c a l l e d that the participants i n t h i s study were considered to be competent and "successful" members of t h i s society. Except for having never married, they have met i t s demands, i . e . they are educated and employed, they are ph y s i c a l l y and mentally healthy, and they l i v e r e l a t i v e l y f u l l , productive l i v e s . In short, they are the types of people whose marital status any member of th i s society would question i n the manner i l l u s t r a t e d i n the quotation c i t e d above. In conversations among the never-married about singleness, accounts for that status are offered spontaneously. Participants indicate the t a c i t understanding that explanations and j u s t i f i -cations for having never married are a p e r f e c t l y "normal" and "natural" feature of the subject of singleness. Many people say that as they get older they seldom think about being single and that they c e r t a i n l y are not bothered by i t . They themselves do not see i t as a p a r t i c u l a r l y d e l i c a t e subject, or one that should make anyone uncomfortable, and they c e r t a i n l y do not think of i t as a manifestation of incompetence. And yet, being asked, "How come you are not married?", they agree, seems l i k e a reasonable question: It's almost as i f they ^friends and relatives;]. are asking me to come to grips with i t . And I do try to answer. It sounds l i k e a reasonable question. I don't f e e l forced to answer but i t sounds l i k e a reasonable one. Well, why the h e l l aren't you married? (M 31) 3. T e s t i f y i n g to Cultural Competence It was discussed in the introduction to t h i s chapter that one of the most dominant, highly v i s i b l e , and highly favored values i n t h i s culture i s marriage. To share that value would be to display at least one important c r i t e r i o n attesting to c u l t u r a l competence. While the never-married have obviously not provided for a display of t h e i r acceptance of that value by actually marrying, they do provide for such a display i n t h e i r t a l k . I t was mentioned i n probably every conversation on singleness that never-married people do not necessarily have an aversion to marriage per se, nor do they make a conscious decision never to marry. In t h i s section, I s h a l l present a selection of accounts which indicate some of the methods by which the never-married provide for a display of competence i n 52 the i r talk about having never-married and the single l i f e s t y l e . I've always had i t i n my mind to get married. The main reason why I'm s t i l l single i s that I have been t r a v e l l i n g and getting established i n my work. (M 31) I presume this i n d i v i d u a l i s aware of the possible d i s c r e d i t i n g of his never-married status and of his v u l n e r a b i l i t y to being discredited on the occasion of thi s t a l k . In his account for being " s t i l l single" he c l e a r l y makes i t available for his co-participants that he does indeed share the values of the culture. He implies that because he did not marry at an age when most men do marry, he c e r t a i n l y has no d e f i n i t e intention not to marry. He further t e s t i f i e s to competence by i d e n t i f y i n g other values which are undisputably compatible with c u l t u r a l competence. In fact, by emphasizing the importance of t r a v e l l i n g and establishing his career he w i l l perhaps be seen by his peers as displaying not only an "adequate" account but, as well, an "admirable" account for having never married. The quotation below introduces a second method by which competence may be demonstrated: I'm sure everyone of us s i t t i n g here could have married i f we'd wanted to. (M 37) This declaration affirms that at least the never-married people present on thi s occasion are c u l t u r a l l y competent. I t i s not because of some handicap or flaw that they have never married. Nor i s i t that they have a l l been rejected or are innocent victims of some t e r r i b l e fate. Rather, they have chosen not to 53 marry. If they wanted to be married, they could be. This widely-held assertion of competence may be further reinforced by personal anecdotes which indicate that there have been s i g n i f i c a n t men or women i n one's l i f e - men or women one might have married. By t h i s means competence i s displayed by the fact that one was capable of establishing heterosexual relationships, did esta b l i s h those relationships, and was perhaps considered, or considered another, as a potential mate. I've met some men sure I've met some men i n my l i f e . I can't say that I've never had a man i n my l i f e . And I can honestly say that I've met some r e a l l y nice men but I've met men that have never r e a l l y - i t ' s never been quite the ri g h t - for the two of us. (F 36) This i n d i v i d u a l confirms that she i s not a "rej e c t " , that she has had relationships with men - and, men who are " r e a l l y nice". This serves to indicate to her l i s t e n e r s that the men she has met are not "rejects" either - that she i s capable of at t r a c t i n g men who are equally competent. In her f i n a l utterance, she provides an additional display of competence. By saying the relationships were never "rig h t " for both i n d i v i d u a l s , I take i t she i s supporting the c u l t u r a l value that while marriage i n i t s own rig h t i s c e r t a i n l y important i t i s even more important to have a "good" marriage. While she might have married any one of these men, perhaps because of timing, other p r i o r i t i e s , i n -co m p a t i b i l i t i e s , i t was seen, i n the int e r e s t of the values of the culture, as "better" not to. In keeping with the assertion that people could marry i f 54 they wanted to and that those who never do c e r t a i n l y have had the opportunity, i t i s a feature of the biographies of the never-married that they include accounts of the encounters with those persons one might have married. Below are some examples of those biographical accounts: M: Thinking back now - there was t h i s fellow I knew when I was overseas. We could have made a go of i t . Damn i t . He got transferred down to A f r i c a . . . . But we were so contented and happy with one another - we had a b a l l together. (F 58) R: You should have been smart and asked for a transfer to A f r i c a too. (F 58) M: I was too bloody dumb.... I was too daft.... Why I didn't I ' l l never know. You know there were a l o t of fellows I'm sure I could have made something with, but I bungled a l o t of sit u a t i o n s . . . . There was a fellow at university when I was there but I never thought of i t . He kept coming around...and I was so busy - and I had put a l l t h i s money into going to university and I was so busy tryi n g to pass...and he kept coming around and wanting to know where I was going for lunch and so on and I would say, "Oh I've got to study." And the next year when I finished I suddenly thought he was interested i n me and I didn't even give him f i v e minutes notice. • • • And one time when I was working at the Vancouver General - t h i s was when I was young and stupid and didn't know one bean from another - I said to t h i s other nurse I'm going home for lunch now. And t h i s interne said "Oh can I come with you?" And I said "You? A l l I'm having i s a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk." And he would have been quite happy with that but I said "Oh no...." I could have been o f f for the afternoon with him... but I was too stupid. I didn't know anything about i t ! (F 53) Such persons and experiences are not s i g n i f i c a n t only for the i n d i v i d u a l d i r e c t l y involved. Their place i n one's biography i s also noted by one's friends and r e l a t i v e s : V: Do you ever f e e l that you missed out on something? (R) 55 M: That's something that J and E ^married friends] have asked me.... J asked me about f i v e years ago - did I ever regret not marrying so and so. This person J was asking about - I think we r e a l l y could have had a very good relationship but the time wasn't r i g h t for me - and along came somebody else who was much more available. (F 58) The biographical significance of these persons and experiences i s also displayed i n the following anecdote: One of my aunts never got married and I can remember now when I was a kid hearing about t h i s guy Noel who came to the house with my aunt.... Why should I remember thi s guy's name? Obviously i t must have been talked about a l o t . I think every-body scared the h e l l out of Noel.... I think he was just an inc i d e n t a l beau and they say poor Noel got away.... Yet she l i v e d a f u l l professional l i f e . I wonder who t h e y ' l l match me up with when the time comes. (M 38) These incidents suggest that friends and r e l a t i v e s also take the necessary measures to reinforce the competence of t h e i r never-married associates. In the f i r s t incident, i t seems that J i s saying to her f r i e n d , "I know you had the choice to marry - that you could have, had you wanted to".. And, in the second i t appears that members of t h i s i ndividual's family were displaying for each other that t h e i r unmarried member was also a competent person i n that she had had a beau. Evidently, she was not unmarried because she was unattractive to men or had never been acquainted with them. To t e s t i f y to the competence of unmarried friends and r e l a t i v e s i s perhaps to t e s t i f y to one's own competence as well. As Goffman (1963) notes, one of the consequences of possessing attributes which are d i s c r e d i t i n g and stigmatizing i s that the persons those individuals associate with are also vulnerable to being discredited. Hence, by re i n f o r c i n g the worth of never-married associates one i s saying, "My associates are competent people; therefore, I am competent too"". One e f f e c t of not cr e d i t i n g the never-married with such competence i s described i n the statement below: My brother thinks there i s something wrong with you [ i f you are not married].... To him i t ' s a disgrace. Do you know that he i s embarrassed when he has to introduce me as a maiden s i s t e r ! (F 58) A t h i r d method of displaying c u l t u r a l competence through accounting for having never-married may be seen i n t h i s introspective comment: I have some thoughts on my family...but I'm not so sure that's r e a l l y what i t i s . (F 31) Accounts i n t h i s category o f f e r a stereotypical explanation for not marrying, i . e . a di s c r e d i t a b l e attribute or circumstance which could be a possible reason for singleness. Many are grounded in Freudian psychology and refer to an "unhappy" home-life or parents who had a "poor" marriage and a subsequent fear of having a comparable experience. S i m i l a r l y , a number of accounts offered by women make reference to father-daughter relationships that were not "close", being an only c h i l d , or having no brothers and the possible negative e f f e c t of those experiences on the a b i l i t y to es t a b l i s h adult heterosexual relationships. C h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y , these accounts include, as 57 well, an expression of doubt about the v a l i d i t y of those explanations. The following account i s one example: My father was never l i k e a friend - I was never close to him ever. He never gave me any love - I mean he was my father and perhaps i n his own way he did, but to me i t wasn't love and af f e c t i o n . I can never remember s i t t i n g on his lap or him giving me a hug or a kiss other than i n a formal s i t u a t i o n . I d e f i n i t e l y don't have a close rel a t i o n s h i p with him. And I hated the way he treated my mother - I just hated i t . And I t r i e d to make my mother leave him. I could say well perhaps I'm not married because you know - my parents - i f that's mar-riage, forget i t ! But I don't know consciously i f that's a f f e c t i n g me - I mean -I'm sure...I think you could put that as a b a r r i e r . I'm not saying there aren't reasons - and probably that I don't even know with my relationships with men that are affected by that. There must be. On the other hand you see people with r e a l l y rough childhoods... and they get married and they are happy. (F 37) While admitting to a childhood experience compatible with a common b e l i e f about why people never marry and acknowledging that i t i s a possible explanation, the essence of thi s account i s that t h i s i n d i v i d u a l questions the " r e a l " s i gnificance of those factors. By noting that people with si m i l a r experiences do marry - and marry happily, she also offers proof of the i r i n v a l i d i t y as explanations for singleness. Thus, she reinforces her own worthiness and c r e d i b i l i t y as a member of the culture, and she suggests that she knows she i s a marriageable person i n spite of common c u l t u r a l b e l i e f s about why people never marry. In a fourth type of accounting practice a c u l t u r a l b e l i e f explaining singleness i s acknowledged and then challenged i n terms of i t s v a l i d i t y - not as a reason for having never married -but as a manifestation of incompetence, abnormality, or deviance. 58 This excerpt of talk both elucidates, and challenges what i s perhaps the most common of those stereotypical b e l i e f s : I've been accused of being rather distant with people who - you know - with g i r l s with whom I've been f a i r l y close - but no closer. They say, "You're a f r a i d of a meaningful r e l a t i o n s h i p . " Well perhaps, but what's wrong with that? I'm protecting my freedom I guess. It's what I choose to do, so why i s that abnormal? (M 35) This i n d i v i d u a l refers to the widely-held assumption that people who do not marry have a "problem" with intimate relationships -that they are " a f r a i d " of the commitment or are not "capable" of establishing a "meaningful" r e l a t i o n s h i p . He c r i t i c i z e s the culture for not accepting personal choice as an "adequate" account for having never married - for looking at such an account with skepticism and searching for the " r e a l " reason. While acknowledging the p o s s i b i l i t y that he i s "afra i d of a meaningful rela t i o n s h i p " , he also challenges the v a l i d i t y of that as a c r i t e r i o n of c u l t u r a l incompetence. His argument i s further reinforced by reference to his adherence to other values of the culture - freedom and choice, as i f to suggest that surely i n a culture such as ours no i n d i v i d u a l can be denied such basic rights as freedom and choice. In the l a s t type of account t e s t i f y i n g to c u l t u r a l competence that I have i d e n t i f i e d , t r a d i t i o n a l values, b e l i e f s , and norms about male-female relationships are challenged -s p e c i f i c a l l y i n the accounts of female pa r t i c i p a n t s . Thus: I've backed out of two situations and i t was me because I r e a l l y f e l t my perimeters were getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And you know - I f i g h t against that - I r e a l l y do. I have to have a certain amount of independence.... And that seems to be r e a l l y hard for fellows to deal with. I think that a l o t of them s t i l l f e e l that they have to be the provider - they have to be everything - and they want you on t h e i r terms. (F 35) You f e l t that the men who were after you wanted to take you over and you didn't want to lose your i d e n t i t y . You wanted to be an i n d i v i d u a l . I always f e l t I wanted to be something to myself. (F 58) Both of these women point out that they have had relationships with men - that they were not "rejected" or "incapable" of establishing heterosexual relationships. By pointing t h i s out, they also add c r e d i b i l i t y to the argument they are about to make. They cannot be accused of not knowing what they are t a l k i n g about because of th e i r lack of experiences with men. In the f i r s t account i t i s also made e x p l i c i t that i t was she who made the choice to be single - or at least to be independent. This further serves to indicate that she i s not a "reject" - she i s not single because men are not interested i n her. These accounts ( l i k e the one c i t e d above) frame singleness within two highly-approved c r i t e r i a of c u l t u r a l competence -independence and i n d i v i d u a l i t y . And, while these have t r a d i t i o n a l l y been applied more to men than women, they are attributes which would be hard to locate outside the boundaries of competence. In the accounts c i t e d i n t h i s section stereotypical explanations for having never married are raised and challenged. They are challenged i n terms of t h e i r v a l i d i t y as accounts of the " r e a l " reason for having never married and i n terms of t h e i r v a l i d i t y as c r i t e r i a of incompetence. This a c t i v i t y i s described 60 by Goffman (1963:143-5) i n his discussion of one group of deviants which he c a l l s the " d i s a f f i l i a t e s " . He defines these as individuals ...who act i r r e g u l a r l y and somewhat r e b e l l i o u s l y i n connection with our basic i n s t i t u t i o n s - the family, the age-grade system, the stereotyped r o l e - d i v i s i o n between the sexes, legitimate f u l l - t i m e employment involving maintenance of a single govern-mentally r a t i f i e d personal i d e n t i t y , and segregation by class and race. In addition, he notes that " d i s a f f i l i a t e s " or " s o c i a l deviants": ...often f e e l that they are not merely equal to but better than normals, and that the l i f e they lead i s better than that l i v e d by the persons they would be otherwise. Thus, the accounts for having never married that members of that category themselves o f f e r are {based, not on assumptions of incompetence, but rather on c r i t e r i a which might be said to t e s t i f y to an exemplary degree of c u l t u r a l competence. In sum: I know why I'm single. I haven't wanted to compromise my i d e a l of what I want i n a rela t i o n s h i p . (M 48) I would now l i k e to present an account for having 5 never married within i t s i n t e r a c t i o n a l context. The following exerpt of talk i s from a light-hearted and l i v e l y conversation among a group of what Goffman would c a l l " d i s a f f i l i a t e s " . The p a r t i c i -pants support the notion that the single l i f e i s indeed the "good 22 l i f e " : Symbols used i n transcriptions are as follows: //indicates point at which talk i s overlapped, [ indicates talk which begins simultaneously, c a p i t a l l e t t e r s indicate increased volume, words underlined indicate stress, ( ) indicates what was said i s not transcribable. 61 S: Why - I'd l i k e to ask a question - Why - Did people i n t h i s room remain single by choice or by chance or by default? - Or i s that too tough a question? (F 32) R: I have no idea. (M 36) V: The books say by default ha ha ha (R) S: Ha ha ha V: The few//words that are written -S: Or by conscious or unconscious choice. I'm not talking about l i k e they plotted t h e i r l i v e s to be single but l i k e -that they - recognize i n retrospect that there were many times that they could have got married and they somehow always managed not to do that. B: Yeah there must be some l i t t l e aversion to i t somewhere along the l i n e . (M 35) Un huh (M 35) Right THERE IS That's my theory. THAT'S MY THEORY, S: That's my J R B S B: Yeah because ah V: Yeah mine too. B: Yeah there's always that turning point where you've sort of S: You've got a choice ha ha B: Yeah you s t i l l have that choice. R: I don't want to get into deep heavies B: Mmm hmm R: But yeah - because I have an aversion - a d i f f i c u l t y with r e a l l y extremely close relationships (V: Mmm hmm) and marriage i s a pretty close r e l a t i o n s h i p . (V: Mmm hmm) S: Or distant ha ha 62 R: And when I think of the times when I've come close -which i s three - ah - yeah - i t ' s in t e r e s t i n g because i t wasn't plotted (B: Mmm hmm) or planned as you're saying - i t just suddenly - i t ended. B: Well there's a l i t t l e i n e r t i a there too eh with everybody. I mean - i t ' s just you know - i t ' s easier to to stay single than to make another move i n any - any d i r e c t i o n . V: Well except that most people don't though. R: And the older you get the easier i t gets. B: Yeah r i g h t but uh V: Only ten percent B: You're sorta - i f you're born single - l i k e you're single. S: Ha ha ha Laughter V: One g i r l the other day// J: If the Lord meant you to be married you'd be born that way. Laughter S i n i t i a t e s the inte r a c t i o n by posing what could be heard as a rather personal question. It could also be heard that she has introduced a touchy subject. But by addressing her query to "the people i n t h i s room" she allows for the generalization of an answer, i . e . her co-participants are given the opportunity to of f e r accounts of why people i n general remain single and not necessarily why they personally have done so. She also acknowledges (as i f i t i s taken for granted) the c u l t u r a l competence of her co-participants by making reference to the "many times that they could have got married...". R l a t e r reinforces that assumption by providing a personal account i n which he notes the number of times he has "come close" to marrying. Through t h i s exchange the participants develop a sense of camaraderie and a sense of co-membership i n the s o c i a l category of having-never-married. They present themselves as an in-group with a shared knowledge - a knowledge which i s not necessarily available to non-members. For example, V notes i r o n i c a l l y that the knowledge found i n "the books" about si n g l e -ness does not correspond with r e a l l i f e . Later, S adds a wisecrack ("or distant") i n response to R's statement that "marriage i s a pretty close r e l a t i o n s h i p " , which serves to put down marriage and reinforce the superiority of singleness. As well, there i s unanimous agreement that people are single by choice and a concerted expression of confidence i n that decision. It i s also asserted that i t i s an "easy" decision to make, and that being single seems the "natural" and "normal" way to be. 4. Assessing C u l t u r a l Competence It was noted e a r l i e r that accounts are not merely provided or delivered. They are also li s t e n e d to, assessed, challenged, queried, accepted/rejected, and so on. Given t h i s i n t erlocking feature of the process of accounting, should members wish to demonstrate th e i r c u l t u r a l competence they must adhere to at least three conditions. F i r s t , they must conform to the i n i t i a l demand by providing such an account. Second, they must provide an account the content of which i s within the boundaries of c u l t u r a l b e l i e f s and values. Third, they must do that i n a manner that u t i l i z e s culturally-approved methods of i n t e r a c t i o n . While i t may be noted that these conditions are not mutually exclusive, the preceding section focused p a r t i c u l a r l y on the second, i . e . how the participants' accounts for having never married were framed by culturally-approved values. Through those accounts, members express competence, a sense of worth, self-assurance, and confidence that the decision to remain single has been the "right" decision. They r e f e r either to the choice not to marry or to extenuating circumstances whereby the "time" was not "right" or one did not meet (or has not met) the "right" person. In a sense, the single i n d i v i d u a l has not had a " r e a l " or "suitable" opportunity to marry. Of course, not a l l single people perceive th e i r singleness i n the j o v i a l and confident manner depicted i n the previous interaction. Some ind i v i d u a l s , while they would not argue with the assertions noted above (that they have remained single because of choice, poor timing, or not having met the "right" person), are not content with the l i f e s t y l e those circumstances have necessitated. One male about 6 0 spoke of regretting that he never married. In a strained conversation (with what seemed l i k e more silences than talk) we had the following exchange: V: Some people I've talked to say"that uh they think they r e a l l y didn't want to get married - that they steered away from the p o s s i b i l i t i e s - that every time they got close to making a commitment they got scared and ran the other way. C: Could be — could be. (said curtly) V: I know some people who say d e f i n i t e l y they don't want to marry. 65 C: They're just talking rubbish. V: Well, I know one fellow who's about 36 or 37 - he spends a l o t of time by himself - with his various interests and hobbies and he works long hours. He seems to make a point of staying alone. And he says he wants i t that way. C: Mmm hmm. Bully for him. He sounds l i k e a nut. Urn I think most people who talk i n t h i s vein are just uh covering up. They're just talking rubbish. I r e c a l l a few years ago a young lad who was then i n his early twenties claiming that he was going to be a bachelor and he held me up as his prime example of of his uh model. And I said forget i t . Uh he now i s married and has two children. On another occasion, a 36 year old woman expressed similar feelings of disappointment about being single. In a conversation which took place at a dinner party to which she inv i t e d two other female friends and me, we had a candid and emotionally-laden discussion (which lasted the entire evening) about the general features of the single l i f e s t y l e and the reasons why we as individuals and single people as a s o c i a l category have never married. What follows i s an excerpt from that conversation. I t i l l u s t r a t e s the interlocking feature of the process of accounting. In p a r t i c u l a r , i t stands as one example of what occurs i n t e r -a c t i o n a l l y when an account for having never married i s challenged 23 and rejected. G: I f e e l that I'm r e a l l y waning. I'm I fe e l l i k e I'm almost a 16 year old. That's how stupid and naive I am. (F 36) C, B, and G are good friends who see each other frequently. When I received G's i n v i t a t i o n to dinner, knowing that t h i s would be a group of single women, I asked for permission to tape the conversation. For the record, I would l i k e to note that C was previously married and has been divorced for several years. 66 C: I guess you see// (F 30) G: I'm not r e a l l y naive or stupid at a l l . I just f e e l that I I've been so deprived (laughingly) I f e e l l i k e I'm a 16 year old. That's exactly how I f e e l . Do you f e e l l i k e the turning point i n l i f e - that you've Ibeen l e f t out? V: How do you explain that G ? (R) G: Huh? C: Do you f e e l l i k e "The Turning Point" - l i k e the movie l a s t night? G: I f e e l that I have h i t my turning point and I f e e l that I have lacked i n a r e l a t i o n s h i p . And I f e e l that I haven't been able to - what r e a l l y makes me upset i s that I f e e l that I could give a l o t to a r e l a t i o n s h i p . V: Then you're not using your p o t e n t i a l . G: No. C: Yeah G: But maybe I I purposely did that on my own. Who's to say? V: Well one of the G: You know we a l l have choices. C: Yes. V: Yeah. They say. One of the things I'm interested i n looking at i s how people explain to themselves why they're not married or why they're not i n a r e l a t i o n s h i p . G: Well I can go by my knowledge of psychiatry and I can say that everybody has a choice and that you cannot blame any-body for your your whatever i t i s - your l o t i n l i f e . That you've made your choice. But I can't say that i t i s t o t a l l y that. I think i t ' s partly also chance. B: Oh d e f i n i t e l y . (F 31) C: No. I think choice has a l o t to do with i t . G: Sure i t has, but C. I haven't met anybody - goddamn - I've met a l o t of assholes, but I haven't// C: Yeah but have you gone out and searrcched for them? 67 G: I refuse to go out [and search for them. C: Have you stayed with your - okay but B: Yeah but they're not going to knock on your door. C: Have you stayed with your your l i t t l e group of friends who are a l l married? G: But C- I have gone through t h i s whole business about going to singles bars - my God g i r l - I've gone through the whole l o t . B: But have you been receptive at singles bars? • * • G: I've met some men sure I've met some men i n my l i f e . I can't say that I've never had a man i n my l i f e . And I can honestly say that I've met some r e a l l y nice men but I've met men that have never r e a l l y - i t ' s never been quite the right - for the two of us. G sets o f f the interaction with some powerful, self-depreciating remarks about how she personally i s fe e l i n g about not having married and about not having been involved recently i n a sexual relationship. Contrary to the stance taken by most single people, these remarks could be heard as an admission of c u l t u r a l incompetence - a confession that at least some of the derogatory stereotypes about single people are, i n fa c t , true. In face to face i n t e r a c t i o n , such an admission or confession has the e f f e c t of threatening the equilibrium of an 24 exchange. In Goffman's terminology, i t i s a threat to face. Goffman (1967:5-45) i n his paper "On Face-work" defines, "face" as "...the p o s i t i v e s o c i a l value a person e f f e c t i v e l y claims for himself by the l i n e others assume he has taken dur-ing a p a r t i c u l a r contact. Face i s an image of s e l f delineated in terms of approved s o c i a l a t t r i b u t e s . " The means by which people make the i r a c t i v i t i e s consistent with face, Goffman e n t i t l e s "face-work". Such means, or "face-saving practices", consist of culturally-determined, t a c i t behaviors which operate to counteract incidents which are a poten t i a l threat to face. They are attended to i n v i r t u a l l y every occasion of talk. The maintenance of face, notes Goffman, i s a condition of i n t e r a c t i o n , not i t s objective. 68 In t h i s i n t e r a c t i o n , G's remarks are seen as face-threatening. Had that threat remained unresolved, the i n t e g r i t y of the occasion would have been jeopardized. G's guests would have been placed i n the position of attending to an admission of incompetence by t h e i r hostess, and the i n t e r a c t i o n would have taken quite a d i f f e r e n t turn. However, in the i n t e r e s t of face-saving G quickly picks up on that p o s s i b i l i t y and restores face by correcting her remarks (about "waning" and being "stupid and naive"). She also points to an extenuating circumstance -the fact that she has been "deprived" - to explain why she feels t h i s way about herself, i . e . because she has been deprived of an intimate r e l a t i o n s h i p those feelings are understandable. She also attempts to make l i g h t of the situation, . (perhaps to attenuate the depression she i s displaying) by t a l k i n g about her feelings laughingly. G also affirms her competence i n a more po s i t i v e way by noting that she could "give a l o t to a r e l a t i o n s h i p . " This indicates that she believes she i s capable of establishing an intimate r e l a t i o n s h i p and that she i s a marriageable person. Face-savingly, V acknowledges that G does have the p o t e n t i a l for that and reinforces her claim of worth and competence. Following that exchange, G employs what Goffman would c a l l the aggressive use of face-work, by stating "maybe I I purposely did that on my own." However, she l a t e r admits herself that she thinks " i t ' s p a r t l y also chance." While she gets b r i e f statements of agreement by V and B, what follows i s a clear difference of opinion among the four friends. C takes l i t e r a l l y G's assertion that she may be unmarried by choice and states on two occasions that G has chosen her l o t . G continues to assert that she i s single "by chance" and angrily raises the extenuating circumstance that she has not "met anybody", i . e . met anybody who would be suitable as a mate. C also continues to hold her l i n e . While apparently taking i t for granted that G i s a marriageable person, she asks her accusingly i f she has t r i e d to meet ("searched for") a potential mate. When G attempts once more to affi r m her competence by confirming that she has t r i e d to meet poten t i a l mates, B then suggests that perhaps she has not done the "work" necessary to a t t r a c t such persons ("but have you been receptive 25 at singles bars?"). The interactions above provide for a display of the asses ment of accounts for having never married. The former o f f e r s an acceptance, and the l a t t e r two a r e j e c t i o n . The accounts themselves might be thought of as the two c l a s s i c explanations for having never married: (1) that one chooses to be single, and (2) that one has not met the "right" person. A second feature of the process of assessing accounts for having never married i s that a second assessment i s done. There i s the notion of an underlying reason for one's choice to be single or for the extenuating circumstances that resulted i n singleness. This generates a retrospective assessment of those accounts to determine whether they, i n fact, o f f e r the " r e a l " 25 What constitutes that "work" w i l l be discussed i n Chapter V in the section "Meeting People". 70 reason for having never married. Attempts are made to explain why i t i s that c e r t a i n people choose to be single, or why i t i s they never "meet anybody" or have not met the "right" person or the "time" has never been "right". Below i s one participant's formulation of that notion: J: I keep wondering i f there are some things that I'm doing that I don't know about that are blocking me from possibly experiencing a wonderful married r e l a t i o n s h i p . . . Somewhere there's that fear...that i f I'm not l i v i n g a f u l l l i f e because of something I'm doing and not just because of an accidental occurrence - I keep thinking - i f that's true I want to know about i t now! It's almost as though I do believe...that popular stereotype that people have of single people. that b a s i c a l l y the reason why they're single i s because they're not well adjusted and they have some interpersonal problems and - you know - i t ' s a flaw. And so some of that I guess I accept or consider that they might be r i g h t . (M 38) N: They probably are. (M 31) Laughter Reflections on that notion (however serious or l i g h t -hearted) are formulated as exposes - as admissions of personal idiosyncrasies, values, short-comings, i n h i b i t i o n s , fears, and the l i k e . In short, they are q u a l i t i e s which are considered to be incompatible with taking the i n i t i a t i v e to marry. For example: I'm an only c h i l d and I've thought that I should be more aggressive and part of my problem i s that I do hold back. (F 35) Maybe we're hesitant about the emotional commitment. (M 33) 71 Maybe I'm slow i n development compared to other people. (F 30) The thought of a bad marriage scares the h e l l out of me. (F 38) I couldn't put up with t h i s nonsense - t h i s man-woman business -where they sort of were a l l over you. I wouldn't have made a nice wife. (F 58) , Inte r a c t i o n a l l y , such formulations generate a s e l f -examination - a kind of soul-searching for the d i s t i n c t i v e features of the single personality and character. Members ask how they are d i f f e r e n t from people who marry, and then they ask whether those differences have motivated them not to marry or whether they are consequences of having not married. To con-clude t h i s chapter, I s h a l l present four excerpts of talk i n which several of those d i s t i n c t i v e features (or consequences) are i d e n t i f i e d and examined. The f i r s t i n t e r a c t i o n i d e n t i f i e s a biographical fact that many single people speak of - that of a preoccupation with t h e i r education and careers: J: Do you think people were busy getting an education or establishing themselves i n t h e i r work? (F 38) 0: I wonder I wonder (M 33) J: That you just don't ah 0: You don't lay the groundwork for meeting people. • • • J : Well I often thought l i k e I took nursing f i r s t and went to university after and I often thought gee I was r e a l l y f o o l i s h . I I wish I had gone to university f i r s t sort of thing and taken nursing after because i t seemed l i k e I was always so busy and my main inter e s t was uh I was motivated r e a l l y to get what I wanted from university. Whereas other people had gone and done things the other way around. I 72 always thought that and maybe a l o t of people - their prime concern was to esta b l i s h themselves and then by the time you've established yourself so many of the people are off and married or gone...and there you are - well established ha ha...but where are a l l the people. Laughter Now I'm going to l i v e ! 0: By myself ha ha ha ha Laughter J: You go to the Blarney Stone or something and who do you find there - not the ri g h t ha ha sort of people ha ha. V: Yeah I think that's r i g h t . A g i r l who was here a couple weeks ago was tal k i n g about a friend who has been going to university for years and years and she i s about forty now. ...and she i s very depressed because I think she thought that Laughter as you said that she'd get a l l her education and then get out and do i t . But she forgot that she'd be middle-aged. (R) Laughter This i n t e r a c t i o n depicts a common p l i g h t of the single person -that of ordering p r i o r i t i e s and dealing with each one i n d i v i d u a l l y . What these people suggest i s that such an approach to l i f e planning leaves the single person out of step with other members of the community. Consequently, the single person, they suggest, perhaps does not develop cert a i n s o c i a l s k i l l s ("you don't lay the groundwork for meeting people."), or finds when he or she i s "ready" to look for a mate that no one i s available - everyone else has already "settled down". A second widely-acclaimed feature of the single l i f e s t y l e i s that of being active or busy. Many people note that they over-book themselves with commitments involving work, sports and other leisure-time a c t i v i t i e s , courses, and so on. Many 73 say they are seldom home. T h u s : 0 : I s t i l l wonder why we huh keep o u r s e l v e s as busy as we d o . (M 33) L : Yeah i t c o u l d be an escape - you know. (F 35) 0 : S u b c o n s c i o u s l y L : Yeah o r y o u ' r e a f r a i d to be w i t h y o u r s e l f or something so you keep p u s h i n g y o u r s e l f i n t o a c t i v i t i e s and keep y o u r s e l f g o i n g . 0 : Mmm hmm L : I d o n ' t f e e l t h a t way but perhaps maybe s u b c o n s c i o u s l y . 0 : Yeah I 'm t h i n k i n g the same s o r t o f t h i n g . You because uh you mentioned where do you go to meet p e o p l e - a l l o f us c o u l d go out and meet p e o p l e i f we r e a l l y p u t our minds to i t . W e l l hhm go to the p l a c e s we d o n ' t r e a l l y want to go but p e o p l e are t h e r e i f you wanted to meet them. (L : Mmm hmm) And i n your o f f i c e e t c e t e r a and be more a g g r e s s i v e or t h a t i f you wanted to r e a l l y go out and meet p e o p l e . (L : Mmm hmm) But e i t h e r we 've we 've a d j u s t e d to the p o i n t of view t h a t we d o n ' t r e a l l y want to go out or e l s e we uh I d o n ' t know. I d o n ' t know. I t would be an i n t e r e s t i n g t h t h i n g to see whether we d o n ' t want to or we want to b u t j u s t h a v e n ' t got the energy to do i t or we j u s t d o n ' t c a r e a n y -more. (L : Mmm hmm) I I d o n ' t know. V : I know I 'm t i r e d o f a l o t of f a i l u r e s . (F 36) L : Yeah you g e t t i r e d of a l l these r e j e c t s . 0 : I t h i n k t h a t ' s t r u e I t h i n k t h a t ' s v e r y t r u e . Y e a h . V : W e l l r e j e c t s - or whoever - on w h o e v e r ' s s i d e , uh 0 : T h a t ' s r i g h t - yeah V : I f i n d t h a t to - uh 0: I t g e t s t o be a b i t o f a d r a g a f t e r a w h i l e . V : So you pursue t h i n g s you know you are g o i n g to a t ha ha ha be s u c c e s s f u l 74 In t h i s rather complex i n t e r a c t i o n , a number of d i s t i n c t i v e features of the single personality and l i f e s t y l e are displayed. F i r s t , there i s the notion that there i s a motive underlying the pace at which many single people manage thei r l i v e s . While i t i s not confirmed, i t i s suggested that single people may not want to be alone, i . e . single, and so they avoid facing that r e a l i t y by "keeping busy". Then a second motive i s offered in O's lengthy, introspective statement about meeting people. He suggests that single people could meet people (I.e. meet someone to marry) " i f we r e a l l y put our minds to it.',' While he draws no conclusion about his i n i t i a l query, he does suggest that perhaps single people r e a l l y do not want to marry and so they "keep busy" to avoid situations which might lead to intimate involvements. A motive to explain why some single people do not a c t i v e l y e s t a b l i s h s o c i a l contacts i n the i n t e r e s t of meeting a mate i s also offered. That^motive i s based on an apparent series of " f a i l u r e s " i n establishing intimate r e l a t i o n -ships and the subsequent reluctance to place one's s e l f i n a position of v u l n e r a b i l i t y once again. The following interaction was preceded by a discussion about over-extending one's s e l f during the week with job r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s and other commitments and not having the energy or the motivation to make plans for the weekends, i n other words - to get out and "do things" and "meet people". This, too, i s a widely-acclaimed feature of the personality and l i f e -s t yle of the never-married. 75 L: I just want to come home and close the door and take the phone o f f the hook and just be by myself. And not have to talk to anybody sometimes - I'm that t i r e d . And Saturday I just want to putter and I don't want to be ah committed to anything unless I suddenly f e e l l i k e i t . . . . (F 44) S: I wonder whether we over-compensate you know - our careers for a relat i o n s h i p when we don't have one. Because I know I can do that. But you know when I'm going out with somebody who i s intere s t i n g I always have the time. Ha ha So I f e e l you know I do over-compensate for that. (F 35) L: Oh sure I I'm S: So I f e e l you know I do over-compensate for that you know// when I don't have a relationship going. L: Or i f somebody phoned you and said would you l i k e to do such and such you would probably suddenly be very a l e r t and very anxious to go. But to sort of work up the energy to do i t yourself maybe ah S: That's r i g h t . L: Yeah that's true. S: And i t ' s probably a bad habit that we a l l get into you know male and female. That you know we do get lazy maybe and don't want to sort of make the e f f o r t because i t i s an e f f o r t to sort of get out of our ruts. You get comfortable i n them. V: Yeah one evening somebody said you have to - i t takes a l o t of energy to be a successful single ha ha. (R) S: Sure i t does yes I think that's quite true. As well as ind i c a t i n g the lack of energy and motivation to i n i t i a t e s o c i a l a c t i v i t i e s and' make new s o c i a l contacts, L introduces another d i s t i n c t i v e feature of the single personality - that single people often prefer t h e i r own company, that there are many times when they choose to be alone. S responds by examining L's account of being t i r e d and overworked for an 76 u n d e r l y i n g m o t i v e . She suggests ( l i k e 0 and L i n the f i r s t i n t e r a c t i o n c i t e d i n t h i s s e c t i o n ) t h a t perhaps s i n g l e p e o p l e o v e r - i n v o l v e themselves i n a c a r e e r to f i l l a gap i n t h e i r l i v e s - a gap t h a t i s l e f t when they " d o n ' t have a r e l a t i o n -s h i p g o i n g . " S i n g l e p e o p l e are a l s o i d e a l i s t i c about what they would want i n a mate and the k i n d o f r e l a t i o n s h i p they would s e t t l e f o r . As one 36 year o l d woman s t a t e d : "I want i t t o be v e r y s p e c i a l . " In the l a s t i n t e r a c t i o n i n t h i s s e c t i o n t h a t i d e a l i s m and i t s consequences are e x p r e s s e d : V : I f i n d I meet a l o t of p e o p l e who j u s t d o n ' t seem to s u i t my v a l u e s . (F 36) L : I t h i n k I 'm a l i t t l e b i t f u s s i e r now than when I was younger because I ' v e got more d e f i n i t e i d e a s l i k e i n the p e r s o n I want to m a r r y . Whereas when I was younger I r e a l l y d i d n ' t have t h a t many i d e a s . And maybe t h a t ' s my problem too l i k e you V . I ' v e got you know l i k e you have y o u ' v e got too many e x p e c t a t i o n s o f the k i n d o f p e r s o n you want t o (marry ) . (F 35) 0 : I t h i n k most o f us have h i g h e x p e c t a t i o n s o f a a spouse to be - and i f we keep s e a r c h i n g we may f i n d one a t n i n e t y . . . . Maybe w e ' r e t r a p p e d by our own f i n i c k i n e s s or - (M 33) As a f i n a l comment on the t o p i c o f a s s e s s i n g accounts f o r h a v i n g never m a r r i e d , I would l i k e to p o i n t out t h a t many o f the q u a l i t i e s p r e s e n t e d i n these i n t e r a c t i o n s c o u l d p o t e n t i a l l y have been heard as d i s p l a y s o f incompetence or c o n f e s s i o n s t h a t the d e r o g a t o r y s t e r e o t y p e s about s i n g l e p e o p l e are t r u e . I n t e r a c t i o n a l l y , however, t h a t was not the c a s e . In each account o f a p e r s o n a l i d i o s y n c r a s y , e x p e r i e n c e , or v a l u e , t h a t q u a l i t y was heard as a f e a t u r e of the s i n g l e p e r s o n a l i t y , o r 77 as a consequence of the single l i f e s t y l e . Through t h e i r c o l l e c t i v e self-examination of motives that might explain having never married, the establishment of a f f i l i a t i o n s among members, and the locating of consequential and d i s t i n c -t i v e features of that membership, the participants provide for a display of co-membership i n the category of having-never-married . To summarize, i n t h i s chapter I have i d e n t i f i e d the o f f e r i n g of an account for having never married as one of the demand c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of membership i n that s o c i a l category. An account i s demanded on the basis of the never-married individual's potential incompetence i n a society where marriage i s the dominant and favored r e a l i t y . Accounts for that status provide for a display of c u l t u r a l competence by affirming a number of society's values and b e l i e f s - including marriage -the value of which i s supported at least i n p r i n c i p l e . Many people speak boldly of choosing not to marry, others speak of extenuating circumstances whereby they have never met the "right" person. There i s a tendency to examine such accounts for underlying motives or more covert explanations for not marrying. These accounts provide for a display of the d i s t i n c t features of the single personality and some of the consequences of the single l i f e s t y l e . 78 C h a p t e r V ACCOMPLISHING HAVING-NEVER-MARRIED In i n t r o d u c i n g t h i s c h a p t e r , I would l i k e to r e t u r n to the e s s e n t i a l d e f i n i n g f e a t u r e of h a v i n g - n e v e r - m a r r i e d - the f a c t o f b e i n g u n c o u p l e d and c h i l d l e s s i n a w o r l d where the m a j o r i t y o f a d u l t men and women m a r r y , produce c h i l d r e n , and e s t a b l i s h a l i f e s t y l e based on f a m i l y r o l e s , o b l i g a t i o n s , and a c t i v i t i e s . T h a t l i f e s t y l e i s the dominant r e a l i t y . The i n d i v i d u a l who has never m a r r i e d , of c o u r s e , l i v e s i n a w o r l d p e r i p h e r a l to t h a t r e a l i t y . Put s e n t i m e n t a l l y : The w o r l d i s d i v i d e d i n t o c o u p l e s , and so b e i n g s i n g l e can f e e l l i k e p l a y i n g m u s i c a l c h a i r s and e v e r y t ime they s top the m u s i c , y o u ' r e the one who's o u t . ( S h a i n , 1973:125) T h i s c h a p t e r f o c u s e s on the a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e o f l i v i n g a s i n g l e l i f e i n a c o u p l e ' s w o r l d . I t c o n s i d e r s h a v i n g - n e v e r -m a r r i e d as an a c c o m p l i s h m e n t . In the p r e c e d i n g p a g e s , h a v i n g - n e v e r - m a r r i e d has been examined i n terms o f commonsense knowledge which l o c a t e s , d e f i n e s , j u d g e s , and accounts f o r t h a t s t a t u s . As w e l l , i n C h a p t e r IV the a c t i v i t y o f a c c o u n t i n g f o r h a v i n g never m a r r i e d was i d e n t i f i e d as one o f the demand c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f t h a t s o c i a l e n t i t y . T h i s c h a p t e r c o n t i n u e s t h a t d i s c u s s i o n o f the demand c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f the phenomenon of h a v i n g - n e v e r - m a r r i e d . Those I have i d e n t i f i e d as the most o u t s t a n d i n g a r e : (1) " d o i n g t h i n g s a l o n e " , (2) " b e i n g on your own" , and (3 ) "meet ing people". In discussing each I s h a l l elucidate the s p e c i f i c a c t i v i t i e s for which those phrases are a gloss, present a selection of member's formulations about the necessity to comply with those demands, and explicate some of the methods by which they are accomplished. 1. Doing Things Alone While there are many a c t i v i t i e s of everyday l i f e that are performed by one's s e l f , c l e a r l y they do not a l l belong i n the category of a c t i v i t i e s constituting "doing things alone". To i l l u s t r a t e : a c t i v i t i e s such as shopping for clothes, d r i v i n g to work, reading a book, and going on a business t r i p are usually performed alone. That they are performed alone, i . e . without the companionship of others, i s commonsensical and taken for granted. I t i s not an observable and reportable fact. However, there i s another category of a c t i v i t i e s the doing alone of which i s an observable and reportable f a c t . Included i n that category are: going to the theatre, a concert, or a movie; going to a party; going to a restaurant or a bar; going skiing; going on a vacation; eating alone; sleeping alone; and spending one's birthday or Christmas Day alone. Normatively, these a c t i v i t i e s are shared - either with family members, friends, or acquaintances. When they are not shared, when they are engaged i n "alone", i t i s noticed, and there are consequences. One i s the necessity to account for that a c t i v i t y . For example: 80 While I was having Sunday brunch with friends in a rather formal restaurant a fellow came i n by himself and sat at the next table. When the waitress came to serve him, she said, "Is i t just yourself?" This encounter indicates the feature that engaging i n such an a c t i v i t y "alone" i s not a normative occurrence. I t i s both noticeable and mentionable. One would not hear a comparable statement addressed to more than one person i n a similar setting; e.g. "Is i t just the four of you?" Another consequence of doing such a c t i v i t i e s "alone" i s that such behavior may be seen as odd or unusual. Hence, one may be judged as someone who has no friends, has been rejected, i s a recluse, and so on. I t may be q u a l i f i e d as "too bad", "pathetic", "embarassing", "brave", et cetera. Being alone tends to make people - both those who are "alone" and those i n t h e i r presence - f e e l uncomfortable. We try not to stare at the person "alone", but we do wonder. The quotation below further provides for the meaning of "doing things alone". I t i s an excerpt from a Christmas l e t t e r (dated December, 1976) I received from a married fri e n d of mine. I'm also active i n the Women's Guild at the school. Last Sat. we had our annual Holly B a l l - a grand and lovely party. Only E got sick and I had to go alone ! Can you imagine? Fortunate-l y , I was with 2 other couples who were great company! I had to go as I was Treasurer of the event. In analysing t h i s account i t i s , of course, s i g n i f i c a n t to note that my friend mentioned that she went to the b a l l alone. (The emphasis i s hers.) She did not simply mention that she 81 went to a "grand and lovely party" over the holidays. The statement "Can you imagine I" stresses the impact of t h i s s i t u a t i o n on her (although one can only speculate on what her exact response was). She then made i t available that her "going alone" was legitimate i n that "E got sick". Had she not added th i s fact, i t may have been seen that her "going alone" was an indica t i o n of a problem i n their relationship -given the commonsense knowledge that married couples normally go to Christmas parties together. She also gave an account of why she "had to go" which serves to legitimate her going to such an event "alone" (and, i n c i d e n t a l l y , to ensure her com-petence as a wife i n the l i g h t of the fact that she chose going to a party over staying home with her sick husband). It i s another feature of "doing things alone" that one might i n fact do them with other people. In my friend's account of going to a b a l l "alone" that actually happened ("I was with 2 other couples..."). Nevertheless, i t s t i l l holds that she went "alone". The experience of "doing things alone" i s , of course, l i f e as usual for the never-married. While the solo perfor-mance of a c t i v i t i e s such as those c i t e d above may be noticeable and reportable, i t i s nevertheless a consequence of being single that some or a l l of those a c t i v i t i e s w i l l be performed "alone" at certain times. It might be said that the never-married, at least on some occasions, have no choice i n the matter. Furthermore, with regard to certain a c t i v i t i e s i t 82 becomes the norm that single individuals w i l l commonsensically do them "alone". That they "do things alone" becomes taken for granted. Hence, i t would then be noticeable and reportable that they engaged i n a cert a i n a c t i v i t y "with someone" (as i n , "Guess what - V was with someone at the Christmas party"). Formulations about "doing things alone" q u a l i f y the impact of that demand c h a r a c t e r i s t i c on the never-married i n d i v i d u a l . T y p i c a l l y , they note both p o s i t i v e and negative viewpoints. F i r s t , on eating "alone": When I was at home dinner was always at 6:30. Now I eat at 7:30, I eat at 9:00, I eat at 6:00. It just depends - whenever the urge i s there. (M 33) When I'm eating at home I go through stages. Some nights i t w i l l be awful meals - soup and sandwiches - ugh - Other nights I think,"Well I'm r e a l l y going to do i t up r i g h t . " I get out a l l my fancy st u f f - as i f I had company - flowers, candles, wine. And then i t ' s back to soup and sandwiches. (F 35) And, on sleeping "alone": J: The thing that I f i n d hardest to adjust to - sometimes at night when I go to bed I get t h i s weird f e e l i n g and I think to myself, gosh, i s i t going to be l i k e t h i s forever? Am I always going to go to bed by myself - nobody to give me a hug// (F 32) V: Oh great! (F 34) Laughter Next, two opinions on going out "alone": I can remember walking up and down in front of the club house of a s a i l i n g club I joined wringing my hands, sweating and saying, "Well I've got to go i n . This i s stupid. I've paid my fees just l i k e everybody else. This i s an open night for members and I'm going i n damn i t a l l . " And when I got in i t wasn't half as bad as I thought i t would be. (F 42) 83 Oh yes. I much prefer to go to the theatre alone. If you i n v i t e someone they just spend the time coughing and sneezing and fidgeting. And they want to ta l k . It spoils the whole thing. (F 70's) As these formulations indicate, there i s no clear consensus on the subjective meaning of "doing things alone". For one i n d i v i d u a l the act of engaging i n a p a r t i c u l a r a c t i v i t y "alone" w i l l be perceived as negative, while for another the same a c t i v i t y w i l l be seen as p o s i t i v e . Another feature of "doing things alone" i s that among the a c t i v i t i e s in that category there exists a hierarchy. By that I mean there exists a rationale which legitimates the doing of an a c t i v i t y "alone" despite i t s accountable status. In short, some a c t i v i t i e s may be more "acceptably" performed "alone" than others. Below i s a display of that hierarchy and i t s concomitant legitimating rationale: C: I think one thing that's hard i s deciding that you do have to do things by yourself and you have to go places by yourself. That.was one d i f f i c u l t y I had. I s t i l l have d i f f i c u l t y with that. I don't l i k e doing things by myself or going places by myself. (F 34) V: Like i f you were in v i t e d to a party and somebody said bring someone along, would you go on your own? (R) C: Oh I'd do something l i k e that. But I wouldn't go to the theatre by myself. V: Oh r e a l l y . R: Oh! (F 7.0's) V: Oh I would. V: Unh unh. Never. (F 38) 84 V: I think that's one of the safest things to do. (R) V: I'd never go to the theatre by myself. C: I have.to r e a l l y talk myself into going skiing by myself. V: Oh I've done a l l of those things for years. (R) C: Cause I just see a l l those things - l i k e half of doing that i s sharing i t with somebody and I just s t i l l have quite a b i t of d i f f i c u l t y with that. L: I agree with you i n that respect. I f i n d i t much more fun to go with someone and share i t with but i f you haven't anyone to share i t with I'm not about to s i t at home by myself and miss out on -the opportunity to involve myself just because there wasn't anyone to go with. Mind you i t took me a long time to come to that too. (F 42) Clearly, no hard and fast rules emerge from t h i s i n t e r a c t i o n which attempts to resolve the impact of "doing things by myself" (which I take to be synonymous with "doing things alone"). While i t does display that there i s indeed a r a t i o n -ale which legitimates "doing things alone", i t does not provide for a consensus about what exactly that rationale i s . It appears that i t i s up to each i n d i v i d u a l to develop his or her own system of determining which a c t i v i t i e s may and may not be performed "alone". By examining the commonsense knowledge displayed i n the in t e r a c t i o n , I have explicated what appear to be at least part of the legitimating rationale for "doing things alone": (a) The opportunity to involve oneself: I take i t that t h i s refers to leisure-time or s o c i a l a c t i v i t i e s which might add in t e r e s t and stimulation to one's l i f e experiences. It i s implied i n fr's statement that the consequences of doing an 85 a c t i v i t y "alone" are not as great as missing out on opportunities.to s o c i a l i z e . (b) The opportunity to s o c i a l i z e and perhaps "meet new people": I have i d e n t i f i e d t h i s point on the basis of C's willingness to go to a party alone, and on the basis of my own commonsense knowledge about the a c t i v i t i e s which occur at parties attended by single people. (What i s a gloss for "meeting people" w i l l be explicated l a t e r i n t h i s chapter.) (c) Whether or not the primary a c t i v i t y i s considered to be sharing: I t i s t h i s point which C seems to be p a r t i c u l a r l y concerned with. Obviously, she would not engage i n any a c t i v i t y "by herself" that she considered to be one that i s shared. (d) Whether or not companionship i s wanted: While th i s rationale i s not c l e a r l y stated, I have i d e n t i f i e d i t as s i g n i f i c a n t on the basis of V's apparent surprise at C's statement about not going to the theatre by herself, and her comment about doing " a l l of those things (alone) for years". I suggest that her apparent willingness to engage i n such a c t i v i t i e s indicates a choice and not that companionship i s not available. (e) The v i s i b i l i t y of one's "aloneness": This point I have explicated on the basis of the statement about the "safety" of attending the theatre "alone". I assume that assertion i s a reference to the fact that one's attendance at the theatre i s not noticeable and reportable. I t i s a legitimate a c t i v i t y because at such an event one i s not l i k e l y to have to account 86 for attending without a companion. (I have never heard the person s e l l i n g t i c k e t s say, "Is i t just yourself?" However, one would have to provide an account for attending "alone" should he or she meet an acquaintance - p a r t i c u l a r l y i f that person said, "Who are you with?", or i f they displayed d i s -comfort with the fact that one appeared to be "alone".) In opposition to the v i s i b i l i t y of attending the theatre "alone" would be, for example, a dinner party to which f i v e married couples and one single person were i n v i t e d . I t i s at an event such as that where the single person's status would be most v i s i b l e and most open to being accounted f o r . In the hierarchy of "acceptable" and "non-acceptable" a c t i v i t i e s one may do "alone", I suspect that occasions such as the l a t t e r would receive the least legitimacy or approval. In sum, i t would seem that single people weigh the negative consequences of "doing things by themselves" or "alone", 1. e. the fact that they may have to account for their actions, or w i l l be seen as a "reject", "lonely", or whatever, against i t s r e l a t i v e merits or p o s i t i v e consequences. They then must decide which has more significance i n terms of t h e i r own value system, th e i r i n t e r e s t s , t h e i r goals, t h e i r self-image, and the l i k e . 2. Being On Your Own In one sense, the term "on your own" i s used synonymously with the terms "doing things alone" or "by myself", or "going out alone" - as i n "I went to the concert on my own", i . e . by 87 oneself or without a companion. In another sense, the term i s used somewhat d i f f u s e l y to refer to a state of being -to the state of being unpaired, either temporarily or permanently. Although t h i s i s somewhat speculative, i t seems that used t h i s way the term i s a euphemism for having-never-married. It i s considered more p o l i t e and discreet to say, "She i s on her own", rather than "She never married", or "She i s s t i l l s ingle". On the other hand, i t also o f f e r s the notion of a burden - that a l l the r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s and challenges of l i v i n g l i e on the shoulders of one person, that one i s " a l l alone", and perhaps (although not necessarily) lonely. As such, i t has the e f f e c t of suggesting that "being on your own" i s undesirable and unwelcome, and that i t warrants sympathy or concern. Another way i n which the term i s used i s i n reference to "going out" with companions, but not with companions of the opposite sex. For example: A female friend (38, never-married) and I went to a concert together. During intermission she saw some people with whom she was acquainted. (I believe they were former students.) After speaking to them, she remarked, "Wouldn't you know I'd run into them when I'm on my own." In t h i s context, even though my friend was with a companion, she considered herself "on her own" - presumably because her companion was not a male. (Incidently, t h i s usage i s also employed by married people, i . e . in situations where one spouse engages i n some a c t i v i t y without the other, or where married 88 individuals of the same sex "do something" together, without t h e i r spouses.) In what follows I s h a l l use the term "on your own" i n the sense that i t refers to a state of being. I s h a l l f i r s t discuss some of the consequences of that state and then examine "being on your own" as an accomplishment. One consequence of "being on your own" arises from a feature of the commonsense knowledge provided by the society about the phenomenon of singleness. Given the fact that the permanent pair i n g of adults i s the favored r e a l i t y , i t i s "commonsensical" to assume that individuals who are not paired (1) would prefer to be paired, (2) are available to assume a paired status, and (3) are, i n f a c t , at a l l times doing work to f a c i l i t a t e t h e i r taking part i n that favored r e a l i t y . As a consequence of being understood "commonsensically", the single i n d i v i d u a l i s vulnerable to being paired unwillingly or unwittingly. This results i n the experience of being paired by others when one would prefer to be "on his/her own", being paired with someone who was chosen by a t h i r d party, being approached by another person who does want to be paired ( i . e . "hustled"), and being accused of attempting to " s t e a l " the mate of another. In discussing the consequences of being single, one 5 8 year old woman who i s a nurse mentioned that even now when an older, single male i s admitted to her ward the younger nurses hint teasingly that there i s an unattached man on the ward she should go and meet. 89 Probably the most negatively-charged and humorous experience? r e s u l t i n g from t h i s "commonsense knowledge" about singleness i s that of b l i n d dates. These arranged meetings are generally of two kinds: (1) where married friends " l i n e up" or "match up" t h e i r single friends at dinner parties or other informal occasions i n th e i r homes, and (2) where single friends c a l l up at the l a s t minute and say, "How would you l i k e to go out on a b l i n d date? So and so has a friend in town." Just as every never-married person's biography includes a l i s t of people he or she might have married, so does i t include a l i s t of b l i n d dates - the worst, the ni c e s t , the funniest, and so on. When I was nursing i n Toronto I went out with a b l i n d date once and everybody was just elated...and he was absolutely a dud as far as I was concerned. (F 53) Admittedly, some of these experiences do turn out to be enjoy-able and are welcomed; some even lead to marriage. But for the most part such offers are not well thought of and most single people note with r e l i e f that t h e i r occurrence takes place i n one's twenties and early t h i r t i e s and not so much after age 35 or 40. There's the expectation that one should be married. I remember bli n d dates and arrangements set up by my married s i s t e r and married friends. "You'll just love her," they'd say. So you go and you don't "just love her" and everybody feels uncomfor-table. (M 38) It seems that married people have a d i f f e r e n t perception of these arrangements, as the following field-note suggests: 90 N (married fr i e n d of mine) almost always i n v i t e s an unattached man when she i n v i t e s me to dinner. One time when she did not she t o l d me l a t e r she had,asked J but he was busy. Interestingly, my fr i e n d on the occasion that she did not i n v i t e a single male provided an account to indicate that she had t r i e d . That she deemed t h i s necessary, I suggest, i s based on the notion that married people have an obligation to t h e i r single friends at least to introduce them to any unattach-ed men or women they know. (A second explanation for t h i s i s perhaps inherent i n the nature of occasions such as dinner parties, i n that guests tend to be i n v i t e d i n p a i r s , or i n equal numbers of men and women.) The field-note below i l l u s t r a t e s the enactment of the three "commonsense" precepts about having-never-married noted above: It was the f i r s t night of our vacation. The four of us women were the f i r s t of our group to arrive for dinner. The restaurant empty, we chose a table for eight and placed our-selves on alternate chairs. A good way to meet people we noted with laughter. Next to arrive were several couples and two fellows, one appeared to be i n his t h i r t i e s and the other i n his f o r t i e s . Two of the couples jokingly remarked on the scene and pressured A, the older fellow, into s i t t i n g with us. Reluctantly, t h i s conservative-looking, middle-aged man attempted to conform to the expectations of his married friends. They sat at nearby tables and i n "good fun" made periodic i n q u i r i e s to see how A was making out with the four women. We didn't have much i n common with A and I don't think he was very comfortable. Nor did he seem to enjoy the scene nearly as much as his companions. In t h i s s i t u a t i o n , A was coerced into joining a group of single people - presumably because he too was single. The fact that they were strangers was i n c i d e n t a l . In the eyes of his married friends, the top p r i o r i t y for A was to "meet new people" while on vacation, and esp e c i a l l y females. That he may have preferred to share dinner with his friends and t r a v e l l i n g companions rather than a group of strangers was overlooked e n t i r e l y by his married friends. A second consequence of "being on your own" i s the expectation that one i s a "swinger" - that the stereotype i s true - a l l single people love big par t i e s , singles bars, and scenes l i k e the one depicted above. To i l l u s t r a t e : At a l o c a l s ki resort I met a man of about 50 who was recently divorced. He talked of changing his image - by wearing his hair longer, growing a beard,and buying flashy clothes. He expressed surprise that my companions and I (five single women between the ages of 35 and 45) were not "out on the town" on a Saturday night. While the never-married may go through a stage where thei r s o c i a l l i v e s do f i t the stereotype, most admit that they soon t i r e of that feature of the i r l i f e s t y l e . The following i s a formulation about the experience of being over t h i r t y and going to a singles bar: When I go back to those places, I think my God I was i n t h i s place ten or f i f t e e n years ago! And things haven't changed. You're going back to i t again and you f e e l as though you're not progressing or growing. You're on that same old treadmill. (F 36) It i s also assumed that single people l i k e to be around a l o t of other people - they do not enjoy being alone: J: I was in v i t e d to a New Year's Eve party t h i s year and I knew one person out of a hundred. And I do not meet people e a s i l y . I spent a very miserable New Year's Eve to the point where at f i v e to twelve I t r i e d to sneak out the side door. And I got caught. (M 35) R: You were going to stay and enjoy yourself even i f i t k i l l e d you. (M 36) J: I do not enjoy being at. parties l i k e that. I resent being inv i t e d and then not being introduced to people. The only thing I was introduced to was the r e f r i g e r a t o r and I made good use of i t ! I would now l i k e to discuss "being on your own" as an accomplishment. I t was noted i n Chapter I that singles' advocate Margaret Adams (19 76) asserts that individuals who never marry (or those who were married for a short time only) possess a degree of s o c i a l independence, personal i n t e g r i t y , and s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y that i s independent of the need for the t r a d i t i o n a l support system of marriage and the nuclear family. They do not seek external support on a long-term basis and they r e s i s t opportunities to involve themselves i n relationships which might lead to marriage. In the l i g h t of being understood in terms of the three "commonsense" precepts noted above, for the i n d i v i d u a l who prefers to be "on his/her own" that becomes a p r a c t i c a l accomplishment. It i s a demand c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of singleness to do work to display one's autonomy, i . e . to "do being on your own". This involves developing strategies to prevent one's involvement i n situations such as that experi-enced by A i n the field-note above. In the inte r a c t i o n below, the participants themselves explicate t h e i r own methods for accomplishing that task: 93 R: Do you suppose many people ah consciously or maybe subcon-sciously ah weave the i r ah work l i f e and so on i n order to avoid commitments of Qan intimate] type? purposely ah l i v e away out of town so they don't have to join the usual after-work crowd for a beer or whatever happens? You know, for example, I catch myself doing that at times -just avoiding a sit u a t i o n that that upon r e f l e c t i n g upon i t l a t e r on I f e l t Jesus you know did I cop out of that simply because there are going to be people there I might you know get on with or whatever - simply because I wanted to ah go f i s h i n g or go skiing or do something else e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t on my own.... And I catch myself... trying to i d e n t i f y my motives for not going to that party or not doing this or that - am I purposely screening out s o c i a l contacts? (M 37) J: Yeah that's a conscious l e v e l sometimes with me. Like i f -I know sometimes I just don't want to get involved with anybody ri g h t now and so you stay away from th I stay away from that. Lastly, I would l i k e to discuss a second type of s o c i a l setting where the single i n d i v i d u a l may be seen "commonsensi-c a l l y " , i . e . s o c i a l occasions where there are an equal number of men and women. The data on which the discussion i s based arises from the occasion of a brunch, hosted by a married couple and to which two married couples, one single man, and myself were in v i t e d . At one point one of the married female guests asked me the question, "Are you from Winnipeg too?" In making sense of this statement, I made the commonsense assumptions that (a) the single male guest and I were i d e n t i f i e d as a couple, and (b) that he must be from Winnipeg. I simply re p l i e d face-savingly that I was not and stated where I was from. I did not make any reference to the fact that he and I were not coupled or that I had attended the occasion "alone". 94 Had I done so would have r e s u l t e d i n consequences f o r the i n t e r a c t i o n , e . g . she most l i k e l y would have been embarrassed and a p o l o g e t i c f o r m i s t a k i n g my i d e n t i t y , u n c o m f o r t a b l e s h o u l d the s i n g l e male o v e r h e a r our c o n v e r s a t i o n , and so o n . L a t e r , I d i d "work" to make the knowledge of my a c t u a l i d e n t i t y a v a i l a b l e . F o r example, I d i d not spend a l o t o f t ime t a l k i n g to or b e i n g near the s i n g l e man. When we d i d t a l k , I made a p o i n t o f d o i n g " g e t t i n g a c q u a i n t e d " by i n t r o -d u c i n g such t o p i c s a s : "What p a r t o f town do you l i v e i n ? " , "Oh do you have a swimming p o o l i n your b u i l d i n g t o o ? " , and "How l o n g d i d you work up n o r t h ? " . These were s a i d a t t imes when I knew I would be o v e r h e a r d . A l s o , a l t h o u g h not f o r t h a t s p e c i f i c r e a s o n (I d o n ' t t h i n k ) , I was the f i r s t to l e a v e . A n d , o f c o u r s e , I l e f t "by m y s e l f " . T h i s s e t t i n g c o u l d a l s o be seen as a type o f o c c a s i o n where-by m a r r i e d f r i e n d s at tempt to "match up" t h e i r s i n g l e f r i e n d s . As s u c h , i t p r o v i d e s f o r a d i s p l a y o f another method whereby s i n g l e i n d i v i d u a l s may do " b e i n g on your own" . T h i s i n v o l v e s s t r a t e g i e s which w i l l i n h i b i t or p r e v e n t e i t h e r member of the twosome i n q u e s t i o n from succumbing to t h a t p o s s i b i l i t y . W h i l e I am not s u g g e s t i n g t h a t such was the i n t e n t o f my m a r r i e d f r i e n d s , I n e v e r t h e l e s s d i d work to make i t c l e a r to a l l p a r t i c i p a n t s o f the o c c a s i o n t h a t I was not " t r y i n g to meet someone". One method o f d i s p l a y i n g t h a t was to not spend more t ime t a l k i n g to the s i n g l e male guest than any o t h e r g u e s t . A n o t h e r was to p r e s e n t the same a f f e c t to a l l g u e s t s . By t h a t I mean I was not o v e r l y f r i e n d l y or f l i r t a t i o u s w i t h the single male guest. A t h i r d method was to leave f i r s t , thus placing other p r i o r i t i e s ahead of "getting to know him better" Had my intentions been otherwise I could, for example, have l e f t when he did and suggested i n private that "we should get together sometime". 3. Meeting People While i n apparent contrast to the previous top i c , the task of "meeting people" i s a further consequence of the s i n g l l i f e s t y l e . Before enlarging on that I would l i k e b r i e f l y to note some of the uses of the term "meeting people" and the related terms "meeting new people", "meeting someone/anyone", and "meeting someone/anyone new". "Meeting people" can refer to introductions, encounters, establishing acquaintances, and establishing potential companionships. The notion of "meeting new people" implies the l a t t e r . Often, i t i s used i n the context of meeting people who might add a new perspective or some kind of stimulation to one's l i f e s i t u a t i o n , to help an i n d i v i d u a l (or a couple) get out of a rut, a l t e r his or her d a i l y routine, or even l i f e s t y l e (e.g. "I need to get out and meet some new people"). To "meet anybody/anyone/someone" (as in "Have you met anyone l a t e l y ? " or "Did you meet anybody at the party?") refers to meeting an i n d i v i d u a l of the opposite sex to whom one i s attracted and who might become an intimate friend or mate. To "meet someone new" refers to meeting an ind i v i d u a l i n that same category. I t i s often used, as the term "meet new people", to imply the desire to add a new 96 perspective or stimulant to one's d a i l y routine or l i f e s t y l e . The quotations c i t e d below indicate the various contexts in which these terms are used by the never-married: Our Friday and Saturday nights are generally spent as relaxing nights. We're with ourselves rather than out and looking. Unless you r e a l l y want to force yourself - to go where you come i n contact - i t ' s very d i f f i c u l t to meet people i n the normal routine of our l i v e s . (M 34) Sometimes I get t i r e d of making the e f f o r t of going out and meeting more people. I say Oh jeez why don't I just get married and forget about t h i s r a t race of being single. (F 34) I pursue my own interests period. If you meet people - okay -that's great. And, i f you don't - well - you enjoy yourself anyway. I don't f e e l that a whole weekend was a write-off i f I went skiing and didn't meet anyone. (F 36) One of the advantages of being single i s that you meet so many d i f f e r e n t types of people and have the opportunity to do so many d i f f e r e n t things. (F 50) In the context i n which the term "meeting people" i s used i n these formulations i t i s a gloss for meeting other single people, p a r t i c u l a r l y other single people who are a v a i l -able for companionship. In short, people with whom to share those s o c i a l a c t i v i t i e s which when performed alone are noticeable and reportable. Also, i t may refer to meeting people of the opposite sex who might be available for intimate friendships and sexual r e l a t i o n s . And, i t may refer to meeting people who might be considered as marriage partners. The task of "meeting people" then i s no small matter for the never-married. That i t occupies such a prominent po s i t i o n as a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c feature of the single l i f e s t y l e seems to be explained by at least three factors. The f i r s t arises as a consequence of a feature of marriage and the relat i o n s h i p between and among married couples. Since singleness i s very much a temporary status for the majority of in d i v i d u a l s , for those who remain single, companions are frequently " l o s t " through marriage or comparable intimate involvements and the concomitant differences i n l i f e s t y l e . Below are some formula-tions of the experience of losing those companionships: A big thing with single people i s that married couples exclude the i r single friends - except for certa i n important or special times. Your very best friends can be married - but they don't think of i n v i t i n g you to the i r a c t i v i t i e s . (F 50) J: Over the years as each friend got married slowly but surely you found yourself not being in v i t e d to the par t i e s . You heard about them afterwards. And they'd say, "Oh we didn't think you'd be interested because we're a l l old married couples." (M 34) S: I used to f e e l hurt and then I discovered they were r i g h t . I wasn't interested. They were a l l old married couples. (F 32) As these comments indicate, couples tend to "do things" with other couples. Thus, on most occasions considered for "couples only" the single person i s excluded (although c e r t a i n l y single people do esta b l i s h good friendships with some married people and at times do "do things" with them). As well, couples usually "do things" with each other. The single person does not have such a " b u i l t - i n " companion and must continue to engage i n the ongoing task of seeking new companions, i . e . "meeting people" - people to "do things" with and people with whom one might esta b l i s h friendships that take the place of a spouse. A second explanation of thi s task seems to l i e i n the 98 dating patterns of single people or i n the patterns of t h e i r heterosexual relationships. Naturally, these relationships tend to be temporary. Hence, acquaintances made through those involvements tend to be temporary also. In the course of the single person's normal routine, with the exception of a few close friends, most people come and go. They do not become long-term associates. Lastly, the task of "meeting people" seems to hold such prominence because of the desire of some individuals to establish intimate relationships - either i n the form of a f f a i r s or marriage. Should one wish to meet such a mate i t i s necessary that he or she continue to c i r c u l a t e i n s o c i a l settings where such persons are available and, at a l l times, be open to opportunities to "meet new people" on the o f f -chance that one of them might turn out to be Mr. or Ms. "Right". As a task, "meeting people" i s of major significance i n (a) structuring the s o c i a l l i f e of single people, (b) characterizing the talk about being single, and (c) assessing the competence of the single i n d i v i d u a l . The field-note below i l l u s t r a t e s the f i r s t of those points - the significance "meeting people" can claim i n structuring the s o c i a l l i f e of the never-married. It i s based on an observation made while I was on a skiing holiday with three other single women. I t describes an actual occasion on which two single people "met someone". 99 On the way to the bar after skiing A, B, and C began discussing the l o c a l restaurants. We decided on one and i t was e s t a b l i s h -ed that the three of us would have dinner together that evening. (D had already met someone.) After being i n the bar for an hour or so A, who had been ta l k i n g to a fellow she had met, to l d B and C she was leaving and announced she was going to dinner with X. That l e f t B and C to dine together. Later, when we were a l l back at the Lodge, B approached C and said A's date had c a l l e d and asked i f she could arrange a b l i n d date for his f r i e n d . B was i n v i t e d . B and C discussed the dilemma, with B noting that the way things had been going with her l a t e l y she deserved and needed such a break. Both agreed that i t was more important that B accept the i n v i t a t i o n than to carry on with her previously-made plans to have dinner with C. This account displays not the actual methodology by which A "met someone" but rather the method by which she c a p i t a l i z e d on that f a c t and i t s significance for A, B, and C's previous arrangement. When A announced to B and C that she was going to dinner with X she did not o f f e r an explanation. It was understood commonsensically and taken for granted by a l l three women that i t i s pe r f e c t l y normal to cancel a previous arrangement with one's female friends should the opportunity to go out with a man a r i s e . An explanation was not required. For B or C to have said something l i k e , "What about our plans for the three of us to dine together?" would have been inappropriate. Later, when B had the opportunity to "meet someone", again that was given p r i o r i t y over the pr i o r arrange-ment between B and C. I t also took precedence over the fact that i t would leave C "on her own" and could p o t e n t i a l l y require that she go out to dinner alone. Meeting people i s perhaps the most frequently recurring 100 of a l l topics of conversation about the single l i f e s t y l e . "Where do you go to meet people?" they ask over and over again. "There would be a l o t less singles i f there were more places to meet," they lament. Or they say that while they would l i k e to "meet more people" they are not prepared to force themselves, i . e . put the same time and energy into i t that they did i n the i r twenties. They welcome companionship but for the most part they s o c i a l i z e with a few close friends. They do not have the motivation or the stamina to c i r c u l a t e and "meet new people" as an end in i t s e l f . As a task, then, "meeting people" i s not always as easy as i t was for A and B on the occasion described above. Said one pa r t i c i p a n t : I wouldn't mind having another a f f a i r sometime. But who do I ever get to meet? (F 50) Now of course i n an urban setting the average person probably meets people he or she does not know almost everyday. What i s p a r t i c u l a r l y problematic i s meeting the r i g h t kind of person: Where do you go to f i n d single men i n t h e i r t h i r t i e s that are sane?...I mean... they're either divorced or i n the throes of divorce or they're quite happy and they don't want to get into any sort of l a s t i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p . (F 35) "Meeting people" i s i d e n t i f i e d as a challenge. It i s perceived as a task that i s d i f f i c u l t and arduous. In the words of one par t i c i p a n t : V: I noticed you said you have to get out and meet people 101 continually. Do you think that's one of the problems of being single - that you're always on the move, always tryi n g to meet people? (R) S: I t i s one of the challenges I think. I think i n some ways i t ' s harder to be single. Like I mean in terms of - you've got to put out more energy to meet people and do things. Whereas I think i f you were married you can get into a l i t t l e comfortable thing where you've always got someone to do something with. You have to work hard at being a successful single. (F 34) V: That's r i g h t . "Meeting people" may also be regarded as a p r a c t i c a l accomplishment. While the potential for "meeting people" i s always present i n the course of pursuing the a c t i v i t i e s of everyday l i f e (from buying milk at the corner store to attend-ing a party), i t cannot be accomplished without doing a p a r t i c u l a r kind of work. In the following i n t e r a c t i o n , one type of that work i s elucidated: J: Or i n a hospital and a single person comes along you know and somebody w i l l end up going out with them but r e a l l y as you say i s one aggressive - does one even - i t ' s quite easy to get into a conversation with people...but i f you are very business-like and say good morning they don't know who you are or anything else. But people could r e a l l y ah s t a r t conversations or t h i s sort of thing. (F 38) V: And some people do. (R) 0: I think that's your communications business. (M 33) J: Yeah r i g h t i t gets back to that. 0: Maybe we've we've forgotten how to communicate//on that basis. J: Yeah r i g h t . And then you see somebody else and you say gee she's dating so and so and you say oh well he's kind of nice (laughingly). V: Ha ha ha 102 0: Why aren't I? J: Yeah why aren't I? But then you look back and you think well you aren't because you barely said h e l l o , goodbye, or t h i s sort of thing. He may have looked at you but you didn't say anything or do t h i s and you're very business-l i k e and that's why r e a l l y . This conversation makes "meeting people work" v i s i b l e i n i t s absence. I t explicates one method by which the single person may do "not meeting people" (or "being on your own") and provides an i l l u s t r a t i o n of how doing "a routine encounter at work" could have become doing "meeting someone". Given that there are a variety of a c t i v i t i e s that can be described as "meeting people work", those a c t i v i t i e s can then be used as evaluative c r i t e r i a on which to judge the actual performance of that work. It may be said that the competence of the i n d i v i d u a l as a single person may be assessed on the basis of his or her performance of "meeting people work". The terms of that assessment include (1) motivation - " A l l of us could meet people i f we r e a l l y put our minds to i t " ; (2) aptitude - "Maybe we've forgotten how to communicate on that basis"; (3) s k i l l - " . . . i s one aggressive?"; and (4) success -"...she's dating so and so". The following i n t e r a c t i o n , an excerpt from a lengthy and animated conversation among three friends (see footnote 2 3), provides for an elaboration of that p a r t i c u l a r "work" which constitutes doing "meeting people". I t also provides for a display of assessing the competence of the single i n d i v i d u a l on the basis of one's performance of that "work". Prior to 103 t h i s dialogue G had attempted to account for her having never married by noting that she had not "met anybody" (see pp. (65-67), implying that for the l a s t two or three years her s o c i a l l i f e has been such that she has not met any men to whom she i s attracted or who are available to est a b l i s h an intimate re l a t i o n s h i p . Her friends confronted her about the v a l i d i t y of her account and made the claim that the " r e a l " reason she has not "met anybody" i s because she has not done the appropriate "work". They conclude that that must have been G's choice. G objects. Some two hours l a t e r , that difference of opinion remains unresolved: G: Okay what about the person who doesn't have a man and hasn't had a man for a couple years now? What do you think about that kind of person? (F 36) B: Yeah but you see G I agree//with C. (F 31) C: I think then you don't want one. (F 30) B: Yeah I agree with C to the extent that you can't want one that badly because G I mean I've got to you've got to be r e a l l y honest. You.do not go out and meet them. C: You don't. G: That's r i g h t I don't go uh where do I - supposed to go? B: Okay okay I don't l i k e singles bars//any more than anybody else but I go. C: There's a l l sorts of places. G: A l l r i g h t you t e l l me where I'm supposed to go. C: I've never been to a singles bar. V: Where else besides singles bars? (R) G: Okay t e l l me where. 104 C: Oh take a t r i p by yourself. G: ( ) C: Seriously. C: Go to a night school course. B: Have you gone skiing t h i s winter? C: BUT NOT A COURSE THAT CONTAINS WOMEN. G: I have skied by myself there i s no skiing. B: When was the l a s t time you took a course at the university? I've met many//single persons at the uni v e r s i t y . C: By yourself. G: Okay but I okay I've gone//to taken a l l kinds of courses. V: Ha ha heh he C: Yeah but what kind - a course that will//have men i n i t ? B: At UBC At UBC? You have not. G: No I haven't// C: Not a nursing course//a course that has men in i t . G: Yes I did I took a course about China. B: Oh G not going to a seminar on China. Take a univer s i t y heh ha course. You know a study course. C: Okay I met my husband on the t r a i n . / / I met I met G: Okay but but bloody well why should I go and do something that I'm not//interested i n doing? B: When was the l a s t time you slipped a l i t t l e paper under the doors of people i n your apartment saying l i s t e n I'm having an open house come on up? There are single guys in t h i s apartment. I t r a v e l up with them on the elevator. G: The guy next door i s about 22 years old (V: Ha ha heh) the guy beyond that i s about 18 years old. B: No but I'm just saying that there are ways that you can meet them you know there are ways. 10 5 C : I f you d o n ' t l o o k - i t ' s l i k e I was s a y i n g the o t h e r n i g h t you have t o / / p u s h g u y s . G: I had the guy n e x t door come and l i f t my put my s t a c k my uh B : Have you t o l d your f r i e n d s l i k e M ' s husband t h a t y o u ' d / / l i k e t o meet somebody - to i n t r o d u c e you to G: Sure I have sure I have sure s u r e . "We d o n ' t have any male f r i e n d s . We d o n ' t know anybody s i n g l e . " C : They d o n ' t e i t h e r . M a r r i e d p e o p l e d o n ' t . G: Sure I have but I 'm not I r e f u s e to take a course t h a t I 'm not i n t e r e s t e d i n . I have taken s a i l i n g - I ' v e done s k i i n g , I ' v e t a k e n s k i i n g l e s s o n s , I ' v e taken s k i i n g and I ' v e s k i e d . C : Yeah but then i t ' s what you do on the s k i s l o p e s . G : Okay I ' v e b l o o d y w e l l s a i d to L I 'm g o i n g s i n g l e and I ' v e gone up (the l i f t ) by m y s e l f . C : But then have you knocked a guy o v e r on the h i l l ? G : Ah come on n o w / / ( ) C : AH NO I ' M SORRY MEN NEED PUSHING. I DON'T CARE//who they are they need a l i t t l e p u s h i n g . G : Ah J e s u s C h r i s t . V : Ha ha ha C : They need t o know t h a t you c a r e (G: W e l l I'm) t h a t y o u ' r e i n t e r e s t e d / / t h e y ' r e not g o i n g to f a l l over y o u . They r e a l l y a r e n ' t . G : I ' M NOT SURE IF I ' M INTERESTED OR NOT. In the p r o c e s s o f c h a l l e n g i n g and d e f e n d i n g an account f o r h a v i n g never m a r r i e d the p a r t i c i p a n t s o f t h i s i n t e r a c t i o n p r o v i d e f o r a d i s p l a y o f the a c t i v i t i e s which c o n s t i t u t e the p r a c t i c a l "work" by which "meet ing p e o p l e " i s a c c o m p l i s h e d . In t h e i r d e t e r m i n a t i o n to m a i n t a i n t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e l i n e s the members produce an e x h a u s t i v e l i s t of those s p e c i f i c -106 2 6 a c t i v i t i e s . This commonsense knowledge thus provides an inter p r e t i v e schema or an assessment t o o l by which the competence of the single i n d i v i d u a l to do "meeting people" may then be evaluated and judged. The "work" by which "meeting people" i s accomplished seems to be of two kinds. The f i r s t refers to the deliberate attending of s o c i a l occasions or settings i n which unattached men are l i k e l y to be present - bars, ski slopes, university courses (but not nursing courses), and so.on. The second refers to getting acquainted a c t i v i t i e s whereby one at least catches the attention of those unattached men. In B and C's cross-examination of G to determine the actual cause of her "not meeting anybody" they exhaust the f i r s t type of "work" by l i s t i n g v i r t u a l l y a l l the settings known i n which to "meet someone". As a l a s t resort, they look to the second kind of "meeting people work". "Yeah but i t ' s what you do on the s k i slopes...men need pushing... they need to .know that you care," counsels C accusingly. Although i t i s not s p e c i f i c a l l y stated, I would suggest that t h i s encounter also provides for a display of some of the actual a c t i v i t i e s implied in the "hard work" and "energy" that i t takes to be a "successful single". What constitutes "hard 2 6 Probably the only method not covered i s that of "meeting people" i n the work set t i n g . That p o s s i b i l i t y a c t ually was mentioned l a t e r in the conversation, when G noted that there was not even anyone at work she could develop an intimate relationship with. She stated, " A l l the men i n our depart-ment are younger than I am. And I'm talking about the goddamn staff-men - not the internes and residents." 107 work" and the output of "energy" i s the maintaining of the motivation to pa r t i c i p a t e i n each and every one of the a c t i v i t i e s noted above and the constant necessity to apply the correct s k i l l s so as to c a p i t a l i z e on a l l possible opportunities to "meet someone". It should be noted that t h i s explication by members of thei r own methods for "meeting people" was constructed by women. The terms "energy", "hard work", and "successful single" were also coined by women. (I do not r e c a l l the use of any of these terms by men.) I would suggest that t h i s difference i s a r e f l e c t i o n on the s o c i a l structure of intimate male-female relat i o n s h i p s . I am r e f e r r i n g p a r t i c u l a r l y to the so c i a l organization of dating and the established differences in power between the two sexes. Men have been a l l o t t e d the active r o l e , women the passive. T r a d i t i o n a l l y , men have had the power to make i n i t i a l acquaintances and to i n i t i a t e relationships a c t i v e l y by asking women out. They also have had the power to decide whether to continue a rel a t i o n s h i p or not by deciding whether or not to see a p a r t i c u l a r woman again. The outcome of i n i t i a l encounters and the future of poten t i a l intimate relationships i s seldom a mutual agreement by two equals. Often i t i s not discussed at a l l . Men say, " I ' l l c a l l you" (whether they mean i t or not). Women wonder i f they did mean i t and wait passively by t h e i r telephones to f i n d out. Or they resort to the i n d i r e c t methods of at t r a c t i n g the attention of men that are c i t e d i n the above i n t e r a c t i o n . The "energy" and "hard work" that women speak of, I am arguing, i s 108 an expression of the i r powerlessness and disappointment i n heterosexual rela t i o n s h i p s . I suggest that G's response to the confrontation by B and C (in both the inter a c t i o n above and the one c i t e d on pp.65-67) - the swearing and the defensiveness, the self-depreciation, the angry claim that she has t r i e d a l l those methods to "meet someone" are, at least i n part, an expression of the f u t i l i t y of such e f f o r t s v i s - a - v i s the high investment women place i n the achievement 27 of intimate relationships. In t h i s chapter, having-never-married has been regarded as an accomplishment. I have i d e n t i f i e d three of the most outstanding consequences of l i v i n g a l i f e s t y l e that i s peripheral to and not determined by one's membership i n a nuclear family. Those consequences I have c a l l e d the demand ch a r a c t e r i s t i c s of having-never-married. In discussing each, I have presented a selection of formulations which describe the actual experiencing of those consequences, and I have explicated some of the methods by which the various tasks inherent i n being-an-individual-who-has-never-married are accomplished. Adams (1976:156), i n discussing the passive role that f a l l s to women i n heterosexual relationships, notes that t h i s powerless-ness, reinforced by the emphasis women place on sexual achieve-ment "deters women from complaining about these d e f i c i t s and leaves a gradual accumulation of suppressed anger to b u i l d up, which, i f not discharged, i s converted into depressive, s e l f -c r i t i c i s m . " She further notes that, "When [sexual r e l a t i o n -ships]* do not work out successfully, as i s t h e i r frequent wont, the i r f a i l u r e i s attributed to t h i s powerlessness, and the breakup of the a f f a i r i s experienced as a re j e c t i o n of the passive by the active partner, rather than a mutual agreement between equals to go thei r separate ways. The end r e s u l t i s often a disproportionately acute sense of disappointment and loss." 109 Chapter VI CONCLUDING REMARKS This study i s a display of the s o c i a l organization of the phenomenon of having-never-married. I t i d e n t i f i e s the essent i a l defining features of that phenomenon i n th i s society and depicts these from the perspective of the commonsense knowledge of men and women over the age of t h i r t y who have never married. Singleness i s recognized and made sense of as the antithesis of marriage. Marriage, the production of children, and the establishment of a l i f e s t y l e which i s generated out of b e l i e f s , values, and norms about family r o l e s , r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , and a c t i v i t i e s i s the dominant and favored r e a l i t y . An addi-t i o n a l feature of that r e a l i t y i s that i t i s c l e a r l y defined through the process of i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n . In contrast, there i s no i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n of singleness. The features which define that status are generated out of the interpretive schema which defines marriage and the nuclear family. Hence, singleness has been defined t r a d i t i o n a l l y i n terms of what i t i s not. Furthermore, i t i s that in t e r p r e t i v e schema which provides the c r i t e r i a whereby formulations about having-never-married are understood, and by which that s o c i a l entity i s located, assigned a r a t i o n a l i t y , accounted for, and experienced. This report has focused on the v i s i b i l i t y of the 110 phenomenon of having-never-married i n the world of everyday l i f e , the process by which members define or assign a r a t i o n a l i t y to t h e i r status, the methods by which members (and to some extent, non-members) account for t h e i r status and the values they project in doing that, and some of the most widely-acclaimed demand c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the single l i f e s t y l e . Emphasis has been placed throughout on formula-tions which provide for a display of members' commonsense knowledge of these four topics. Notably, formulations about the various b e l i e f s , values, and experiences relevant to these topics vary with age, sex, i n d i v i d u a l differences i n personality, values, and l i f e h istory. In the array of formulations presented, I have made an e f f o r t to present, where possible, both p o s i t i v e and negative viewpoints, an equal number of responses from men and women, and responses representing a l l age groups of the membership. Cle a r l y , and as a r e f l e c t i o n of the lack of i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n , there i s no unanimous agreement on the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features of the single l i f e -s tyle nor on the subjective meaning those features have for the in d i v i d u a l who has never married. This study also examines the p o s s i b i l i t y of defining the phenomenon of singleness as a s o c i a l e n t i t y i n i t s own r i g h t . To that end, I have attempted throughout to present those c h a r a c t e r i s t i c features and affirmations which might constitute a d e f i n i t i o n of that status independent of the i n s t i t u t i o n of marriage and the family. Such features include: the independent nature of single i n d i v i d u a l s , the value they place on personal I l l f r e e d o m , t h e i r i d e a l i s t i c b e l i e f s a b o u t permanent s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s , t h e c h o i c e n o t t o m a r r y and n o t t o s eek c o m p a n i o n s h i p on an u n c o n d i t i o n a l b a s i s , t h e e s t a b l i s h i n g o f f r i e n d s h i p s t h a t t a k e t h e p l a c e o f f a m i l y s u p p o r t s y s t e m s , t h e acknowledgement t h a t t h e i r s i n g l e n e s s may w e l l be a p e r -manent s t a t u s , and t h e b e l i e f t h a t t h e i r l i f e s t y l e i s " b e t t e r " t h a n i t w o u l d have been had t h e y m a r r i e d on any one o f t h o s e o c c a s i o n s when t h e y had t h e o p p o r t u n i t y . And y e t , i t i s c l e a r t h a t e v e n t h e s e d e f i n i n g f e a t u r e s may be l o c a t e d and g i v e n m e a ning o n l y t h r o u g h t h e i n t e r p r e t i v e schema o f . t h e i n s t i t u t i o n -a l d e f i n i t i o n and t h e commonsense knowledge o f m a r r i a g e and f a m i l y l i f e . I n d e e d , were i t n o t f o r t h e s e i n s t i t u t i o n s , t h e phenomenon o f h a v i n g - n e v e r - m a r r i e d w o u l d n o t be a s o c i a l r e a l i t y a t a l l . BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Margaret. Single Blessedness Observations on the Single Status i n Married Society. New York: Basic Books, 1976. Bach, George R. and Deutsch, Ronald M. Pairing. New York: Avon Books, 1971. Bequaert, Lucia H. Single Women, Alone and Together. Boston: Beacon Press, 1976. Berger, Peter L. and Luckmann, Thomas. The Social Construction  of Reality. Garden C i t y , N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971. Bernard, Jessie. The Future of Marriage. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1972. Bradley, Buff et a l . Single: L i v i n g Your Own Way. Don M i l l s , Ontario: Addison-Wesley, 1977. Brown, Helen Gurley. Sex and the Single G i r l . New York: Bernard Geis, 1962. Cicourel, Aaron. Method and Measurement i n Sociology. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press, 1964. . Cognitive Sociology: Language and Meaning i n Social Interaction. Baltimore: Penguin Education, 1973. Daniels, Alan. "Some Bitter-sweet Reflections on Being Single and Over Thirty," The Vancouver Sun. 2 5 March 19 78, p. B4. Edwards, Marie and Hoover, Eleanor. The Challenge of Being  Single. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1974. Erikson, Erik. Childhood and Society. New York: W.W. Norton, 1963. F a i r l i e , Henry. "Lethargic, Boring, Dreary, Corrupt," The  Vancouver Sun. 10 December 1977, p. A5. Garfinkel, Harold. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967. Gilder, George. Naked Nomads Unmarried Men i n America. New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1974. Goffman, Erving. Stigma Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. 113 Goffman, Erving. Interaction Ritual Essays on Face-to-Face  Communication. Garden C i t y , N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1967. Havighurst, Robert J. Developmental Tasks and Education. New York: David McKay, 1952. H i l l , Richard J. and Crittenden, Kathleen Stones (eds.). Proceedings on the Purdue Symposium on Ethnomethodology. Purdue: Purdue Research Foundation, 196 8. Marx, Karl and Engels, Frederick. The German Ideology. London: Lawrence and Wishard, 1965. O'Brien, P a t r i c i a . The Woman Alone. New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1973. Program, Centre for Continuing Education. Vancouver: The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, F a l l 1977. "Quirk of Fate Kept Him Single, Reader Writes," The Vancouver  Sun. 1 A p r i l 1978, p. B4. Schutz, A l f r e d . The Phenomenology of the Social World. Evanston, 111.: Northwestern University Press, 1967. . Collected Papers:!. The Problem of Social Reality. Ed. M. Natanson. The Hague: Martinus Nij h o f f , 1971. Scott, Marvin B. and Lyman, Stanford M. "Accounts," American  Soc i o l o g i c a l Review. Vol. 33 No. 1, February 1968, pp. 46-62. Shain, Merle. Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1973. S t a t i s t i c s Canada. 1976 Census of Canada. Population: Demographic Characteristics (Marital Status By Age Groups, Chart 3) . S t a t i s t i c s Canada. V i t a l S t a t i s t i c s Vol. I I . Marriages And  Divorces 1974 . "-. Starr, Joyce R. and Cams, Donald E. "Singles i n the C i t y , " Society, February, 1972, pp.43-48. Stein, Peter J. Single. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976. Stoddart, Kenneth. "The Facts of L i f e About Dope: Observations of a Local Pharmacology," Urban L i f e and Culture, Vol. 3 No. 2, July 1974, pp. 179-204. 114 Sudnow, David. Passing On The Social Organization of Dying. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967. Timson, Judith. "Alone i n the Crowd," Maclean's, (June 12, 1978) , pp.59-61. Turner, Roy. "Words, Utterances and A c t i v i t i e s , " Ethno- methodology , Ed. Roy Turner. Baltimore: Penguin Education, 1974. . Lecture Notes from Graduate Seminar, 1977-7 8. Yates, Martha. Coping: A Survival Manual for Women Alone. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976. Zimmerman, Donald H. and Pollner, Melvin. "The Everyday World as a Phenomenon," Understanding Everyday Life,- Ed. Jack Douglas. Chicago: Aldine Press, 1970. 115 APPENDIX I Percentage Distribution of Males and Females In Each Ag» Group by Marital Status, Canada, 197S Repartition en pourcentage des hommes et des femmes de chaque groupe d'age selon I'etat matrimonial, Canada, 197S UM\93 — K o m m i i 60 40 S ing le tnaver married) Ce l iMtat fBS {juntos m » r i 6 ( e ) s ) Miriete>5(1, Ags group Groups 0 0 40-44 3 5 - 3 9 30-34 2 5 - 2 9 mill • Fcmal*i — F t m n i M 40 60 I L _ Veuls — V e u v M D i v o r c e d 0 i v o r c e ( » ) » (1} Includes separated. — Comp'end les personnel separ£«». 1976 CENSUS OF CANADA, POPULATION: DEMOGRAPHIC  CHARACTERISTICS, Marital Status by Age Groups, S t a t i s t i c s Canada, Chart 3. 

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