Aside from its groundedness in research that Bella DePaulo already noted, what i most enjoyed about the book is that Eric isn’t afraid to look at the dark side of being single – or being a singleton, as Eric calls those of us who are single and live alone. The feminist Texan recounts her own experience of being totally alone when sick. Eric adds other stories and asks: What will it be like for singletons when we are too sick to care for ourselves? Will our friendship networks hold up then? Or will we fall back onto the support of our biological family?
Eric touches the fear i have felt, asks the questions i have tried to avoid asking. It is scary to face these questions! And yet there are there like an undercurrent, especially for me because i am also creating my own right livelihood, which in a lot of ways increases my reliance on others. So, Eric dares to ask the touch questions.
He doesn’t stop there, though. Eric doesn’t give the usual answers to these tough questions. He doesn’t tell me that the solution for me is to get married, to go get a job, or whatever cultural quick-fix might be thrown at me. Based on his research, he knows that singletons are here to stay. We are increasing in numbers. We won’t go away. So, instead of calling (only) upon individual solutions, he suggests cultural, social changes: Let’s redesign the way we live to provide the support, connections, and safety we all long for. We cannot legislate away singletons. We can however design our cities to allow for connections beyond family ties and we can nourish these connections by supporting them through legislation. It’s really about community building that consciously increases the responsibility we sense for each other, acknowledging our interdependence rather than pretending that we can all be an island onto ourselves. Eric provides some examples of “states and societies that […] give singletons the kinds of support that they now offer to those who are married [and are] better able to meet their citizens’ needs” (213).
I read this book as a call to recognize the importance of supporting each other for all of us. Nobody is truly fully supported unless we extend our willingness to help each other beyond biological or marital ties. This will, as Eric puts it at the end of his book, “spark new ideas about how we might better live together.” And, yes, that’s what this is all about: Not living alone but rather living our interdependence.
(You can read other reviews from the book’s tour site.)