Is staying unmarried becoming the norm for a new generation?
Easier to be Free
"People around the world are marrying later and, as that happens, there will be more and more who don't marry at all," DePaulo says. With age comes financial stability, and economics is a major factor in why so many women are staying single longer. "The surest way for women to secure their own independence is no longer by grabbing a man to marry," says Stephanie Coontz, the author of Marriage, a History and a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington. "What matters is education and access to the workforce." (Zabaldo's explanation is even more succinct: "Birth control.")
These days it's easier than ever to be unmarried and content, concurs Sherri Langburt, the founder of Single Edition Media, a marketing and media consultancy. "Women are making their own money, they're living fulfilling lives—there's no playing the waiting game," says Langburt, who married at 35 herself. "And there is a lot more support these days for women who make that choice."
One example she cites: the instant community offered by the Internet. Any woman who wonders out loud, "Can I be a single mother by choice?" will find her friends forwarding her dozens of links to blogs by women doing just that. Can I travel alone as a single woman? Check out other people's experiences on dozens of easily accessible sites. "The open flow of information has enabled and empowered so many women in this situation," Langburt says.
Hearing someone like Scandurra talk about her life, whether she's single by chance or by choice—the relaxed weekends fixing up her boat, the lively conversations over dinners with friends from every era of her life, the restful nights in a bed she has all to herself—makes singlehood suddenly sound less like a last resort and more like a resort, period . . . the high-end kind where you need reservations months in advance.
"Being able to pick up and go on a trip" is part of the pleasure of her life, Dyson says. "I like spending time the way I want to spend it and not having to negotiate with a partner." Scandurra loves feeling that her life choices—such as her decision a few years ago to become a filmmaker—are hers and hers alone to make. (Her documentary, Single, explores what it's like to be unmarried in America; it was shown at several film festivals.)
"I have never felt this overwhelming need to have people around me constantly," Roberta Codemo declares. "I'm an adrenaline and adventure junkie. I've learned to scuba dive, I know how to fly a plane, I've gone caving, hiked in the Black Hills, gotten lost and had an encounter with a rattlesnake. I do it all, and when my friends aren't interested, I go out and do it on my own."
A staff journalist for most of her life, Codemo now freelances, and she recently went back to school to study archaeology, the field in which she hopes to work someday.
"I am happy living the single life," she says. "After living independently for as many years as I have, it would be very difficult to invite someone to move in. I have my own foibles, my own personality quirks and ways of doing things. Quite frankly, I don't want someone messing with my stuff."