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Single, satisfied, and free: Michigan author shares stories of happily unmarried women

Jan 22, 2018

 

"I think the ones that I spoke with are happier," Paraventi said about the unmarried women she spoke to in comparison to married women.
Credit Chatter House Press, 2017

Literature and popular culture haven't been particularly kind to single women. 

Just think of those common terms "spinster" or "old maid."

 

Writer Maureen Paraventi is taking that mean-spirited term and turning it inside out to come up with a modern look at women who choose not to marry.

 

Her new book is "The New Old Maid: Satisfied Single Women."

 

Paraventi, a Detroit-based journalist, novelist, and playwright, joined Stateside to share the story.

Listen above for the full conversation, or catch highlights below.

 

On how the interview process worked

 

"I started with women who have never been married, and I use the age 40 as sort of a benchmark because by 40 we've made a lot of our major life choices. And also, by 40, many people are perceived as being old maids if they haven't married yet. So I interviewed women aged 40 to 70 from all over the United States to find out about their experiences and feelings and what their lives were like as single women."

 

On the origin of negative stereotypes of unmarried women

 

"I have to think that there might be men who, at least historically, were threatened by the idea of women who didn't need men."

 

On goals of the book

 

"I think things are changing. The marriage rate in the United States is declining. I don't think marriage in any way is in danger of disappearing, but there are fewer and fewer people who are getting married, or if they do, the age at which they get married for the first time is older than it was in the past, which means we're spending more of our lives as single people. So I wanted to turn it around and say — especially once I talked to the women who are featured in the book — that the idea of an unhappy old maid is not a truthful one. There are many single people who love their lives and specifically love being single. They enjoy the freedom and the autonomy that goes along with it."

 

On pressures for women to get married

 

"These women did feel it. I felt it. You encounter people who, when you're just meeting them and they find out that you've never been married, they're astounded. I get the, 'What happened? You're so attractive, great personality. What happened?' And the implication is that I've failed somehow. I didn't snag a man. And a lot of the women in the book that I talk to have had similar reactions from people, and it's strange."

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