I was on the phone with my friend Beth, a 31-year-old international sales exec at a major Hollywood film studio.
"I can't believe a four-year relationship could end with us living on two separate coasts," she said, "But he was traveling so much and I finally just told him, 'This is not what I signed up for when I got involved with you.' So, we're officially separated."
She sighed. I sighed.
If I had a euro for every time I wondered that: Why am I still single. It's a question more than half of American women ask themselves, according to a report the New York Times put out in early 2007. This data includes women who live apart from their significant others, but all independent variables aside it's a figure that's rocketed significantly in the last couple decades.
Even as those 57.5 million of us gather round cozy wine bars with our girlfriends, enjoy Bridget Jones nights in sweats on the couch, or pack four different guys into one week (yep, it happens), we're likely to be puzzled over what we may be doing wrong: "That one wearing three carats with the husband more loyal than a black lab—what does she know that I don't?"—or if we actually need partners, as tradition (and Mom) seems to imply.
Jean Twenge is a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable—Than Ever Before (Free Press, 2007) and co-author of the upcoming Narcissism Epidemic with W. Keith Campbell.
Based on recent research she has conducted to learn about current attitudes toward relationships, Twenge confirms, "There is in fact a massive cultural shift at work here." She says the number of women who are romantically uninvolved is a result of one major factor: our culture tells us we don't need relationships.