I’ve been married for 18 years. So I’m about as close to an expert on being single as a blind date is to a marriage proposal. But I know enough to say that I wouldn’t be very good at singledom.
My wife and I met in college, outside an English professor’s office. She hated the class, I loved it. That friction created a spark that’s lasted more than half our lives. At the time, our path was pretty typical: We dated for a few years, graduated school, landed jobs, got married by age 25 and had our first child before 30.
These days, the pull of the altar seems to be lessening. In 2011, the median age for a first marriage in this country was at a record high — about 29 for men and about 27 for women, according to U.S. census data. Compare that to the early ‘80s — when the median age for men was 25 and 22 for women — and you’ll understand that being single holds its own status.
The reasons are as numerous as the facets on a diamond engagement ring: More young people — especially women — are going to college and seeking advanced degrees. Increased numbers are living alone or with an unmarried partner, or living with their parents (36 percent of 18- to 31-year-olds, a record number, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center report).
Underneath the data seems to be an understanding that it’s OK — even pretty darn good — to be single. As one of the respondents to our survey on love and dating put it: “If I met someone that I fell in love with, sure [I’d settle down], but if not, I’d rather fly solo and have a very full life with my family, friends and community.”
That doesn’t mean being single is easy. In fact, one in four of our respondents rate Cleveland’s dating scene as terrible. To a married guy, such a reaction seems surprising, especially with an influx of young people living downtown and the rise of entertainment districts such as Ohio City, Tremont and East Fourth Street. Likewise, the increase in people finding a match online — 34 percent of our respondents say it’s where they met the last person they dated — creates its own issues. A 2013 Pew Research Center study found that 32 percent of Internet users think online dating keeps people from settling down, with an entire Internet worth of options and another profile just a click away.
So while marriage isn’t a piece of cassata cake, this month’s Single in the City feature reminds me how much I really got out of that college Shakespeare class.