Monday, July 02, 2007

Is There Hostility Toward the Unmarried?

And should there be a name for it? These are questions asked by Ann Althouse in an interesting post today. I weighed in with my thoughts:
I don't know if I sense a hostility toward the unmarried. But there often is a shameful disdain.

Unmarried people often face the same disdain shown toward the long-married who have no children. People in both categories often seem to be seen as being less than full adults, sometimes as self-indulgent and immature.

Single and marrieds without children from among my parishioners and friends (and extended family) have reported running into this disdain and I've observed it up close.

Why do these attitudes exist?

Well, it can't entirely be explained by saying that married people (with children) are miserable and resent the "freedom" they see in the lives of singles and marrieds without children. I, for one, am happy in my nearly-thirty-three year old marriage and thoroughly enjoyed raising our two children.

Nor do I think that the disdain of singles is related to the suspicion of homosexuality. If anything, long-term singles are often seen by the people holding to the attitudes we're here describing as being asexual.

There is, I think, a more simple explanation. Some people feel that adults have to go through certain proscribed life-hoops in order to truly be considered an adult. They tend to believe this all the more if they have, in fact, gone through those hoops, no matter the quality of their marital or family relationships. They see themselves as part of an adults' club and looking down their noses on those who haven't gone through the hoops is one of the "privileges" of membership.

The phenomenon, disdain of singles and marrieds without children, is real. If you come up with a term, maybe you can copyright it.
What do you think?


Kev said...

Fellow Althouse commenter here. Thanks for posting this; I think you had the best explanation on the entire thread for these feelings.

Healthy Living said...

I am not sure it is disdain, per se, but your choice of that word, in itself, is telling. I think it is a primate group issue: primates are group animals, and if you are not typical, or "the norm", then others don't know how to act. In beginning language class, for example, Spanish, you learn the routine, "Como estas? Muy bien, gracias". Saying to a middle aged man, or woman, "Do you have kids"? Has a prescribed response, "Oh yes, two. Do you?" and that allows social intercourse to proceed in a non-threatening way. Or, more simply put, "stereotypes save us all a lot of time (and stress)".

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