Society has always looked at single women with a mixture of pity, apprehension, fascination and at times a wee bit of jealousy as if they might be threatened by ladies who don’t sport Mrs. before their names and whose left hands are sans a wedding ring.
Believe me, I’ve had plenty of men and women (mostly women) who look at me with a wee bit of side-eye and I’ve felt the sting of their judgments. So I was pretty happy to find Rebecca Traister’s book All the Single Ladies where she examines the various experiences of single women and how they are woven into the history of American society, both in the modern age and days long ago.
Today there are more single women than married women, much of this is due to women having more options than older generations when it comes to education, careers, sex and children. Women are holding off on getting married until they are older and have gotten an education and have established some semblance of a career or some type of work history. And despite much pearl clutching, most single women do end up married and having children, often before they are in their thirties.
All the Single Ladies is a combination of statistics, anecdotes, historical facts and a variety of personal stories from a wide variety of single ladies, some by chance, some by choice and some by circumstance.
Each chapter of All the Single Ladies covers a wide range of topics regarding lasses who haven’t found their Mr. or Ms. Rights (but perhaps have found a quite a few Mr. or Ms. Right Nows.) Singles ladies are dissected from the past, the present and in the future realm. Singles ladies of all stripes are considered amongst Ms. Traister’s well-written prose. This includes never married, divorced and some widowed ladies. She examines single ladies and their pursuits to achieve both educational and career success. She tells stories of women and their friendships with each other and how they evolve as they get older and arrive at different benchmarks in their lives, both professional and personal. Traister covers women as single mothers and those whose lives aren’t always so rosy and glamorous. She examines single ladies impact on American society, much of it very positive, and how society often views single ladies, sadly, much of it not so positive. And yes, Traister covers, or should I say uncovers, single ladies and their sex lives. And believe me, single ladies have been doing the horizontal sweaty long before the sexual revolution and pretty much having a grand old time, too!
If I do have any problem with All the Single Ladies, it is this. Traister does a little too much of what I call, “Me and My Friends Journalism,” meaning a majority of the women she interviews are very much like herself—college educated, middle class and of the professional caste. Nothing wrong with any of this, I’ve been all three at various times of my life. Furthermore, a majority of her subjects live on either the left or right coast (probably mostly the right—mostly New York City). I would have liked to have read more stories from women of color, non-college educated women, recent immigrants, women wearing collars both blue and pink, and places in the USA that the mainstream media ignores. Hey Ms. Traister, did you know my ‘hood, Milwaukee, was just named one of the best food towns in the country?
Milwaukee isn’t all about cheese. Well, actually Milwaukee is a lot about cheese. We even have artisanal cheese.
But I digress…
Still, I think Ms. Traister (who recently found a husband to “put a ring on it”), offers a very well-researched, thoughtful, witty, and empathetic tome on one of the most misunderstood demographics around—single ladies, not all of them, but definitely a notable bunch.