starshine%20mug.jpgYou haven’t met Summerland resident
Bella DePaulo. But you know her.

Unmarried and living alone with no significant romantic partner
in her solitary life, it stands to reason that she is a sad, sad
woman with an unhealthy collection of cats and a desperate desire
to be cuddled. This, however, is why her irrepressible grin, over
tea on a recent morning, is a bit disconcerting.

“I can’t stop smiling,” confesses Bella, 53. “I wake up every
day and I’m just so happy. It’s January and the sun in shining! I
love my single life!” Frankly, how dare she?

A social psychologist and visiting professor at UCSB, Bella has
authored the new book
Singled Out
, a potentially controversial read that exposes
the ways society stereotypes and stigmatizes its non-coupled
citizens. With more than 40 percent of the nation’s adult
population single, she says, it’s time to update our cultural
outlook on people who aren’t part of a tender twosome—and stop
assuming it’s a pitiable existence that longs for a romantic

Bella’s voice goes positively sing-songy with glee when she
describes her days: reading the New York Times, strolling
to the post office, perusing the farmers markets for her dinner
menu. Still, strangers believe that because she’s single, she must
be lonely and miserable. Anti-social and un-date-able. Fastidious
and commitment-phobic. Or worse.

In September, Bella appeared on CNN to discuss her book. The
interview had scarcely begun when fellow guest Janice Crouse, a
spokeswoman for the ultra-conservative Christian organization
Concerned Women for America, accused her—on national television,
mind you—of being a big ol’ tramp.

“She said, ‘You’re just pro-single because you want to have
wanton sex!’” Bella says, laughing. “It was kind of like ‘Where am
I? This is CNN!’”

Ms. Crouse aside, Bella believes society isn’t trying to be
unfair to singles; it can’t help itself. “These are the habits
we’ve come into and nobody’s questioned them,” says the
Harvard-educated Pennsylvania native. “It’s just so overlearned.
It’s automatic.”

I tsked with empathy as Bella lamented pay discrepancies between
single and married workers. I gasped in horror when she told me
realtors tried to sell her a small condo rather than the affordable
but sizable home she wanted, saying it was “too much house” for
her. I muttered appropriate curses when she explained how recent
studies linking marriage with happiness and longevity are “all
grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.” But then she started
picking on us married folks. And I got quiet.

“I’m not anti-coupling or anti-family,” swears Bella, but she
does like to chide ring-wearers for buying into and perpetuating
“matrimania.” “Coupledom is a valuable relationship but we’ve gone
overboard,” she says.

If you don’t believe her, flip on the TV. “It’s kind of expected
now that a series is going to culminate at the altar—like
Friends. It was supposed to be about friends! Sex and
the City
was about these smart, sexy, independent women—and
they all ended up cooing couples!”

What’s more, when it comes to dismissing singles as “lesser”
citizens, couples can be the worst offenders. We invite our single
friends to dinner, then tell them “We were thinking of Chinese”
rather than asking “What do you feel like eating?” We allow them to
sleep on our sofa rather than make up the guest bed for them.
And—jeez, when she puts it this way, it sounds kind of awful—we
expect our single colleagues to work later at night so we can get
home to our partners.

Still, Bella insists she’s not bitter. She always figured she’d
get married one day, but never really felt the urge. Now she
wouldn’t dream of it.

“I have friends that I care deeply about and I’m close with my
family,” she says, “but I love my solitude, too. My single life
gives me generous allotments of both solitude and sociability.”

And for the record, she doesn’t own a single cat. Or, for that
matter, a married one.

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