It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman of a certain age must be desperate to get married… right? Well, I’m here to tell you that braving your 30s and 40s without a partner can actually be a good thing. Like our girl Jane Austen, who never married, being single has plenty of perks that aren’t talked about often enough.
All the Single Ladies
The term “spinster” isn’t used very much these days, but it’s a mildly derogatory way to refer to a woman who has no chance of getting married–on par with “old maid.” If you’ve indulged in any historical romances (hello, Bridgerton!) then you might have also heard of a woman who failed to secure a husband referred to as “on the shelf.”
Fun, right? Well, being a spinster wasn’t necessarily bad in the Medieval period. Spinsters were women who spun yarn and sold it to support themselves. They didn’t need no man because they made their own money. The textile industry was just getting started back then, and cloth was a valuable commodity where every step had to be made by hand, from carding wool to spinning it, then weaving or knitting the yarn into cloth, and finally dyeing it using natural pigments.
Until the Industrial Revolution, these “cottage industries” were pretty much the only way a single woman could support herself. In a period of history where most women were little more than commodities to be traded in marriage–if they were lucky–then being an independent woman with a small home business was an appealing alternative. Sounds a lot like the modern single woman of today, doesn’t it?
The Secret to a Longer, Happier Life?
If you look at a chart of the average age of marriage over the last 150 years in America According to research done by Business Insider, as recently as the 1960s, “half of 21-year-olds and 90% of 30-year-olds had been married at least once. In 2019, only 8.0% of 21-year-olds and 51.2% of 30-year-olds had been married.”
While women are still more likely to be younger than men when they tie the knot, the average age has been increasing for the last seventy years. It’s increasingly common to wait until your 30s–or even 40s–to settle down. And a growing number of women aren’t settling down at all. Multiple studies have shown that single women have greater levels of self-reported happiness than their peers with partners. Not only that, but single women live longer, too.
The benefits of being single aren’t limited to Western cultures. Worldwide, married women are expected to perform the lion’s share of both the physical and emotional labor at home, including housework and child-rearing, while also holding down a job. As a 2019 report by Joseph Chamie for YaleGlobal claims: “Single women generally experience fewer stresses and compromises than married women. Furthermore, single women feel more empowered, enjoying greater personal autonomy and freedoms than married women largely because they don’t juggle challenging multiple roles at work and home.”
Single women also tend to get more exercise, enjoy better sleep quality, have more active social lives, and carry less credit card debt. As Louise Signore told CNN in 2019, the real reason she made it to her 107th birthday isn’t diet or exercise. “I think the secret of 107: I never got married. I think that’s the secret. My sister says, ‘I wish I never got married.’”