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Free as a bird and loving it: Being single has its benefits

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  • Free as a bird and loving it: Being single has its benefits

    Free as a bird and loving it: Being single has its benefitsBy Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
    Being single means bucking the pressure to join the married half of U.S. society.
    Despite lavish celebrity weddings, a multitude of dating websites and stacks of self-help books about finding your soul mate, singles are a growing segment of the population — and increasingly say they are perfectly happy with their singlehood, thank you very much.
    The Census Bureau reports about 97 million unmarried Americans ages 18 and over in 2006, the most recent numbers available. That represents 44% of Americans 18 and over; a quarter have never been married; 10% are divorced, 6% widowed, and 2% separated.
    "It's probably the best moment for singles in our history … because of the attitudes of popular support and the numbers," says Pat Palmieri, a social historian at Teachers College at Columbia University, who is writing a history of singles in America since 1870. She is 60 and has never been married.
    Young adults are delaying marriage and have a longer life expectancy, experts say, so more Americans will spend more of their adult lives single. As their ranks multiply, singles aren't waiting for a partner to buy a home or even have a child. They've decided to embrace singlehood for however long it lasts.
    "I don't have to be dating someone to be happy," says Jennifer MacDougall, 26, an office assistant in Wilmington, N.C. She says her friends share her outlook.

    "When I was younger, I thought that was how it worked. You went to college and got married. When I got to college, I realized that was not how it worked and not how I even wanted it to work. I wouldn't mind being married someday, but I want to feel comfortable with myself and what I'm doing."
    That attitude may arise from the frenetic quality dating takes on after college, says Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project, a research initiative at Rutgers University.