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Bests,Trends &Tips for Solo Living -- plus Fab Microwave Recipes

Scroll down to read all, or click on ... Barbara Kafka's Microwave Recipes for One (or Two ... Dr. Bella's Insights on Single Life & Solo Living ... 5 Money Wasters ... 10 Fun Food & Wine Matches ... A Dozen Financial Do's & Don'ts ... Sassy Stats ... 10 Tips for Hiring a Handyman ... 8 Weight-busters ... 4 Regifting Tips ... 10 Ways to Beat Cancer ... 11 Health Hazards ... 20 Ways to Brighten Your Home ... 15 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain ... Trends! ... Guys, Avoid These 9 Romantic Blunders ... 11 Ideas for Healthy Snacks ... `10 Best Holiday Toasts ... 7 Useful Party Websites ... 6 Exercises to Forget Him! ... Dating Alternatives to Dinner ... 10 Ideas to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder ... Niche Dating Sites ... Icky Bacteria Alert ... 5 Ideas for Fun Parties ... Personal Food/Exercise Pyramid  

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Our Solo Lady Microwave Recipes for One (or Two)

by Barbara Kafka

When I was introduced to Solo Lady by this site's travel columnist Janet Rodgers, I realized that I had found the perfect venue for one of my favorite areas of cooking and writing, microwave recipes for one.

The microwave oven makes it not only practical but also rapid and enjoyable to make oneself a meal after a busy day. It requires no fat, does vegetables brilliantly as well as fish, providing both pleasure and health.

I'll be adding specially chosen recipes regularly here at Solo Lady. Do try them, and enjoy!

 

http://www.popsci.com/files/imagecache/related_info_thumbnail/files/articles/BagOfRamps.jpg Spring Fish with Ramps

Well, spring finally seems to be established in New York and brings with it delicious foods. Recently I came across some ramp, the wonderful wild leek. They can be overly what I could only kindly call "aromatic" when raw. Cooking gentles them into a delight.

I paired a handful with another spring thing, small red snapper weighing about a pound and a half. It took a while to clean the ramp between washing and trimming the end; but the microwave made short work of the rest. It made enough for me and a friend; big eaters might want the whole thing for themselves. With some steamed white, new potatoes, lemon and olive oil for drizzling and a pepper mill plus a green salad, it seemed to me an elegant, slimming and simple meal.

¼ pound ramp, about a fistful, washed and root ends trimmed
1 small, whole red snapper about 1½ pounds, scaled and cleaned

Make a bed of the ramp in a roughly 8-by-1-inch microwave safe glass pan. Place the fish on top of the ramp. Cover the dish tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook on full power for 6 minutes. Prick the plastic wrap with the tip of a sharp knife to release the steam and eat or serve and eat.

*****

 

for the Holidays

If you're alone at Thanksgiving or any time I suggest that you roast a squab or a Cornish hen following the recipes in my book Roasting. All you have to do is follow the instructions and make only one bird. Double this and you can feed one other.

Start by setting the oven to 500 degrees with the rack on the second level from the bottom. Buy a can of cranberry sauce. Stick a sweet potato its skin pricked with a fork on a double sheet of paper towel in the microwave for 12 minutes. It will be done just before the squab. Sqoosh it slightly and be generous with butter. You’re done. You can buy a tart.

1 whole squab about 12 ounces
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon anise seeds
½ cup chicken stock, sterile packed organic is fine

Put the bird in the smallest roasting pan available or a pie plate. Put the anise seeds in the cavity. Place in oven breast up, legs to the rear. Roast for 16 to 17 minutes. Remove to a plate. Put pan on stove and, over high heat, bring to a boil with the stock, salt and pepper.. Scrape pan and reduce liquid slightly. Eat.

*****

 

Trout, Timely and Delicious

Last night, I made a very quick and beautiful trout dinner. Once assembled—which is a snap—it takes four minutes in a high-power microwave oven. Allow an extra minute for older ovens. I made some rice and allowed fifteen minutes for it to simmer, covered, in water pre-boiled with a little olive oil and salt. When the rice had four minutes to go, I turned on the microwave with the trout in it—perfection. It served two of us; but a hearty appetite might finish it all.

4 to 5 cups lightly packed baby spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½-pound whole trout
¼ pound cleaned medium shrimp
Juice of 1 lemon

Toss together the spinach and olive oil in a twelve by four inch microwave-safe dish. Pat spinach into a single layer. Sprinkle half of the fennel seed in a lengthwise line down the center of the spinach. Lay the trout on top. Sprinkle remaining fennel on the trout. Arrange the shrimp on either side of the fish. Drizzle lemon juice over all. Cover dish tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook for four minutes. Prick plastic with the tip of sharp knife. Remove plastic and serve.

*****

Chicken & Belgian-Endive Quick Toss

This is quick, easy, light and delicious. It can be served with rice noodles. The endive pleasantly keep a little of their crunch and the chicken is cooked through, but not at all dry. It was made in a new high power oven. Using an older oven, add a minute of cooking time.

½ pound Belgian endive cut in half lengthwise, core cut out and cut into lengthwise strips (about 3 cups)

½ skinned and boned chicken breast laid flat on cutting surface and cut into ½-inch wide lengthwise strips (scant 2 cups)
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dill fronds

Toss together endive strips with one tablespoon Worcestershire and one of olive oil. Do the same with the chicken strips. In a nine-inch pie plate or quiche dish, pat the endive into a single layer. Cover with chicken strips not overlapping. Cover dish tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook at high for three minutes. Prick plast with tip of a sharp knife to release steam. Toss all together.

Serve with soaked rice noodles if desired. Makes enough for two or one starveling.

*****

 

Salade Nicoise

          
This is a non-traditional Nicoise; but it is the way I first learned to make it years ago in Paris. I like it very much. It is a lovely cool meal for a sunny day, serving two or more as a main and several as a first.

2 eggs
¼ cup fruity olive oil
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
3 small, very ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into sixths (do not peel unless    they have very heavy skins)
1 head Boston lettuce, cored, washed and torn into 2"-3" pieces
10 leaves fresh basil, washed and dried
¼ cup Nicoise olives
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ baked potato, peeled and thinly sliced
(optional)
½ cup blanched green beans (optional)

In a saucepan, cover eggs with cold salted water. Bring water to the boil. Cover pan, remove from heat and allow to sit 5 minutes. Run cold water over eggs.

In a large salad bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Peel eggs; they should be runny in the middle. Cut one in quarters. Add to dressing with anchovies and tomatoes; toss lightly. (If
tomatoes are properly ripe, some of the juice will run into the vinaigrette).

Toss remaining ingredients (including optional potatoes and beans if desired) with dressing. Top salad with remaining egg, quartered. Serve immediately.

*****

Scrumptious Scallops

This is a light and lovely dinner for one made in a high-power microwave oven. It is particularly good in summer when really large white scallops are around. It goes extremely quickly, so be sure to bring water with salt to the boil and put some orzo or riso pasta in to boil, which will sop up the ample juices provided by this dish.

¼ teaspoon olive oil
2 ounce (large) shallot or 2 medium ones, peeled and cut across into thin slices
½ pound large scallops (5 or 6 to the pound)
A few sprigs of tarragon, enough to put 4 or 5 leaves on each scallop
3/4 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt to taste

Slick the bottom of a deep soup plate or pie plate with the oil. Arrange the shallots in a paving style round on the bottom. Put the scallops in a touching layer on top. Put tarragon leaves on each scallop. Sprinkle cumin evenly over scallops. Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for three minutes. Prick plastic with the tip of a sharp knife and remove. Spoon drained pasta into juices surrounding the scallops. Sprinkle with salt. Eat and by all means use a spoon.

*****

Luscious Artichokes

This past weekend, I found the most glorious, fat artichokes in the market. It is after all artichoke season. The weather was sweltering, and rather than eat a whole meal for lunch, I had two artichokes.

For more normal use, make one for yourself and one for a guest or to eat the following day. I simply used mayo from a jar to dip into, but a simple vinaigrette would be good. On a diet? Use balsamic vinegar.

1 lemon juiced
2 large globe artichokes, basal outside leaves snapped off and two inches cut off top of artichokes as well as the tips of the other leaves removed with a scissors

As the artichokes are cut and trimmed, rub them all over with the lemon juice. Any remaining juice can be put in the dressing. Place artichokes next to each other in a soufflé dish or other container just large enough to hold them. Cover dish tightly with microwave plastic wrap.  Microwave in a high-power oven for 4 minutes. Prick plastic with the tip of a sharp knife and remove. Eat and enjoy.

*****

Colorful Tumeric Shrimp

Turmeric is a gorgeous orangish powdered spice from a rhizome related to ginger. It is extremely healthful. The main component is curcumin. (Look it up on the Web.) Here it is paired with companionable colors of shrimp and tomato.

I like to serve it at room temperature, with half of a peeled and sliced avocado per person. It will serve two as a first course and be an ample meal for one, perhaps with some softened rice, or bean thread noodles.

2 tablespoons turmeric powder
¼ cup olive oil
½ pound raw peeled medium shrimp
½ cup basil leaves thinly shredded across
1 cup ½-inch dice tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt to taste
1 or ½ avocado peeled and sliced

Stir together turmeric and oil in a 4-cup glass measure. Cook uncovered for 30 seconds in a high-power microwave oven. Remove measure from oven. Stir in shrimp, basil and tomatoes. Cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Pierce wrap with tip of a sharp knife. Remove wrap. Stir in lime juice and salt. Allow to come to room temperature. Serve with avocado and noodles if desired.

*****

Delish Fish with Spinach & Tomato Sauce

If you have tomato sauce on hand—bottled sauce is fine—the only real work here is stemming and washing the spinach, and that’s not much. It is healthful (145 calories) and almost fat free.

I suggest serving it with a side dish of pasta with a little olive oil. Or you can accompany it with bread, a salad, and a glass of wine and still be on a diet.

½ pound spinach leaves, washed, stemmed and thoroughly dried, loosely packed (about 2 cups)
4 ounces flounder filet or other firm white fish filet
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons tomato sauce (I particularly like the Tomato Sauce Casalinga from My Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cooking)

1. Mound the spinach in the center of a 10-inch pie or quiche dish. Cook uncovered at 100 percent, for 40 seconds.

2. Remove from oven. Push spinach to the edges of the plate to form a ring. Place filets in the center. Sprinkle lightly with pepper. Pour tomato sauce over the fish. Cover the dish tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook for 2 minutes in a high-powered oven or 30 seconds longer in a 700-watt oven. Prick the plastic to release steam. Serves 1.

*****

Ginger Apple Treat

Into even the leanest life, a sweet craving will fall. Coming home one evening, I wanted something sweet but not cloying, and if possible, a little unusual. Here is the result. I loved it, quickly made in my high power oven. Add another minute for a 700-watt oven. Start it before your main course, and eat when you feel like--hot or warm.

6-ounce Granny Smith apple
2 slices of ginger root
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut pieces
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk
2-3 sprigs cilantro

Core the apple removing all seeds and membrane and 1-inch of skin from the top of the apple. Leave a thin piece of apple covering the bottom.  In an individual bowl such as a Chinese or Japanese rice bowl, put the ginger root. Put the apple on top. Stuff with walnut pieces allowing an extra bit to fall around the outside. Pour the lime juice over the walnuts and top of apple. Sprinkle on sugar. Pour coconut milk over apple. Stick cilantro sprigs around outside of apple. Put a toothpick in top of apple to hold the plastic wrap with which you will cover the apple off of the apple. Cook in microwave for three minutes. Prick plastic to release steam. Remove plastic and tooth pick. Spoon some of the liquid and cilantro into apple. Allow to cool until ready to eat.

*****

Veal Delight with Cream

Last week I promised a sinful and delicious recipe. I forgot just how healthful the microwave is. It isn't easy to make a rich main course. This is an excellent shot. I tested it in a high-power oven. If using an older oven, up the time to four minutes.

As usual, bring water to a boil; prepare the recipe; cook egg noodles and put recipe in oven.


1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon curry powder1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound veal cut in 1"- chunks
1/4 pound mushrooms sliced or coarsely chopped
1/4 pound pearl onions, peeled (the size usually found in Gibsons
4 sprigs tarragon

Combine cream, veal and seasonings. Put a row of onions inside the rim
of a nine-inch glass pie plate. Make a bed of mushrooms in the center.
Place tarragon n top. Top that with the veal and pour liquid over. Cover
tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook in microwave oven for three
minutes. Prick wrap with tip of a sharp knife. Remove plastic. Mix
together and serve over drained noodles.

*****

Healthy Heavenly Chicken and Mushrooms e

Many years ago, a Frenchman, Dr. Pomiane, wrote a book about cooking in ten minutes. He stated that when one comes in the door one should put some water on to boil even if one doesn’t know what it will be needed for. In this case, it will be needed to cook some rice to accompany the chicken. The rice takes longer to cook than the rest of the meal.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the taste that the Japanese, umame, have added to the customary Western group. It is usually cited as being present in soy sauce. I find it happily in the dried mushrooms used in this recipe, which are also aromatic. They are porcini in Italian, cepes in French and Boletus edulis most properly. They seem very expensive; but a very small amount needs to be used as they are very light in weight. For want of a better phrase, I describe the usual store-bought white mushrooms as “plain white mushrooms.” The proliferation of ingredients available to us has made nomenclature much more difficult.

The recipe is for use in a high power oven. If the oven is only 700 watts, cook dried mushrooms for two minutes and the chicken for six.

¼ ounce dried porcini
½ cup chicken stock, homemade (more about this another time) or commercial (watch when adding salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 to 5 plain white mushroom caps, about 4 ounces, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt, extra at the end if desired
½ skinned and boned chicken breast, or one each leg and thigh skinned and boned
4 ounces thin string beans (haricot verts) tipped and tailed
Black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional

Put the dried porcini and the stock in a two-cup glass measure. Poke the mushroom pieces down into the stock. Cook in the microwave for 1 minute. Remove from oven and stir in mustard and sliced mushroom caps.Place chicken in the center of a nine-inch glass pie plate. Put half of the string beans on either side. Pour mushroom mixture over chicken along with the heavy cream if desired. Cover dish tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Use two overlapping pieces if need be. Cook for Four and a half minutes. Before removing from oven, prick wrap balloon that will have formed with the tip of a sharp knife.Serve to yourself with the pre-made rice and a good glass of red wine.

*****

Spring Salmon in a Hurryg

Below I give a main course that is the essence of spring—all on one dish. It can't get much easier. Of course, if you're having company, say a friend, you don't have to abandon the handy microwave. Double the ingredients and follow the longer timing given at the end. The recipe is written both for a 700-watt oven and for the newer, high power ovens.

For One: High Power Oven

8 ounce skinless salmon fillet about 1-inch thick
¼ pound asparagus, tough ends snapped
¼ pound small white new potatoes very thinly sliced
½ lemon
Olive oil, to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper to taste

To serve 1 using an older 700-watt oven: Cook as below for 4 minutes

To serve 1 in a new high-power oven: In a 9”x9” oven proof dish or glass pie plate, put the piece of salmon to one side. Put a pile of asparagus in the center and spread out the potato slices in the remaining space. Cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Without removing from oven, prick plastic to release steam. Serve yourself drizzling everything with some olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Eat. A glass of white wine would be lovely.

To serve 2: Double ingredients. Use a rectangular microwavable dish roughly 14” long. Put asparagus in the center. Put a piece of fillet on either side. Spread  potato slices at either end. Cover tightly with plastic warp and cook for 4 minutes 45 seconds.

*****

e Barbara Kafka, our Solo Lady cooking expert, is the author of award-winning books her readers swear by, among them Vegetable Love, Roasting: A Simple Art, Party Food, Soup: A Way of Life, and The New York Times bestseller Microwave Gourmet. Vegetable Love was winner of the 2006 IACP award for Best Single Subject Cookbook, and Barbara was recently honored with the James Beard Foundation lifetime achievement award. She was a regular contributor to The New York Times and has written extensively for food magazines in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. Read more, order books or ask Barbara at bkafka.com

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Champagne with Potato Chips?
                                                                                       

Solo women, like most wine drinkers, can get intimidated by which wines to serve with which foods. But you really can drink wine with just about anything, according to a new web site devoted to food and wine pairings, www.NatalieMacLean.com. Zinfandel with your Tex-Mex? Not a problem. A little Chardonnay with your fried chicken take-out? Delicious. Pinot Noir and wild boar? Why not, says Natalie MacLean, who has included these in a free, interactive matching tool at www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher.

"The old rules about white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat just don't give enough guidance anymore," says MacLean, author of the bestseller Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. "With modern fusion cuisine and wines from new regions around the world, the choices-and confusion-are great."
   
Here are Natalie's top 10 fun food and wine matches:   
   
1.  Popcorn with Chilean Chardonnay
2.  Nachos with California Zinfandel
3.  Potato chips with French Champagne
4.  Pizza with Italian Chianti
5.  Fish and chips with German Riesling
6.  Hamburgers with Australian Shiraz
7.  Smoked salmon with Canadian or Oregon Pinot Noir
8.  Quiche with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
9.  Canned brown beans with tawny Port
10. TV dinner steak with French or Washington Cabernet Sauvignon

MacLean's matching tool pairs wines with any dish: meat, pasta, seafood, vegetarian fare, pizza, eggs, cheese and even dessert, including Jell-O and fudge (for those who like to layer their vices). You simply choose the food or wine from a drop-down menu to get the pairing suggestions. There are also lots of recipes for those planning a meal.  The matcher is updated regularly with new dishes and wines from the 87,000-plus readers who subscribe to Natalie's free e-newsletter, which offers tips on how to buy, cellar and serve wine.

Got a dish or a wine to stump Natalie? Just e-mail her via her web site and she'll suggest a match for you. Natalie MacLean has won four James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, says that Natalie "writes about wine with a sensuous obsession," and is "laugh-out-loud funny."

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Dr. Bella's Insights:

Do You Have High Blood Pressure?

I typed a few key words into Google to get a sense of the headlines. Here are a few:

1. "Happily married have lower blood pressure than singles."
2. "Marriage may lower blood pressure."
3. "Walk down the aisle for lower blood pressure, but be happy!"
4. "A happy marriage leads to low blood pressure."
5. "Happily marrieds have lower blood pressure than social singles."

Exhibit #6 comes from a pro-marriage listserv. The moderator introduced the study by noting, "This research is all the more reason to help couples learn how to get married..."

For years, I have been examining claims about the links between getting married and getting healthy. (See Chapter 2 of my book, Singled Out.) My approach is apparently different than that of many reporters: I actually go to the original journal article and read what the study really did show. Time and again, the results that make it into the media are a biased version of the actual results of the research, and in just about every instance, they are biased toward making married people look better and single people look worse.

I'll explain how that has happened with this particular study. Sometimes, though, you need look no further than the headline to realize that something is amiss. Take the very first headline, for example: "Happily married have lower blood pressure than singles." The claim is that if you compare only those married people who are happily married, to all singles (regardless of their happiness or anything else), the married people seem healthier.

HERE ARE THE ACTUAL RESULTS

Here's what I learned about the study from reading the original journal article:

Adults from the Provo, Utah community (mostly white) agreed to wear a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours. The married group was comprised of 204 heterosexuals. The 99 singles included 12 who were divorced and 1 who was widowed; the others had always been single.

From headlines such as "Marriage may lower blood pressure," you might guess that when blood pressure was averaged across the 24 hours of the study, the married people would have lower blood pressure than the singles. You would, however, be wrong. There were NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES in blood pressure between the married people and the single people.

Next, the authors looked at people's blood pressure only while they were awake. Maybe those waking hours, when married participants may have actually be interacting with their spouses, are the times when they look healthier than single people. Wrong again. There were NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES in blood pressure between the married people and the single people during waking hours.

What's left is blood pressure while sleeping. The authors looked at how much each person's blood pressure decreased while sleeping compared to when the person was awake. The married people had a greater reduction in blood pressure (not necessarily the same as a lower level of blood pressure), by about 3 points, than single people.

That is the key finding that you have been hearing all about: Married people look better than single people only if you compare reductions in blood pressure when the participants are unconscious.

I'm not saying that "nocturnal dips" are unimportant. But really, when you read those headlines, is that what you thought you were learning?

But suppose, hypothetically, that the results had been much stronger. Imagine that the married people had much lower blood pressure than the single people all day and all night. Would it then be okay to say that if you want to have lower blood pressure, you should get married?

Not on the basis of this study. Anyone who has taken a course in psychology or research methodology probably knows why. If married people differ from single people in blood pressure (or anything else), you cannot know, on the basis of this sort of study, whether they differ BECAUSE they are married. Maybe the people who got married already had lower blood pressure even before they married, and getting married made no difference.

Methodologically, there is a great way to figure out whether getting married helps your blood pressure. Unfortunately, it is unethical. You would have to assign people at random to get married or stay single.

The next best thing is to follow people over time. Richard Lucas and his colleagues have done this in a study of happiness that has been ongoing for at least 18 years. They found that people who got married and stayed married throughout the course of the study experienced a small increase in happiness around the time of the wedding. Then they went back to being as happy or as unhappy as they were when they were single. The people who married and eventually divorced did not even get the benefit of a honeymoon effect; they were already becoming less happy, not more so, as their wedding day approached.

There is no comparable study of changes in blood pressure as people transition from being single to being married (or from being married to being divorced or widowed).

WHAT'S WITH THE "HAPPILY MARRIED"?

I've already made fun of the headline claiming that happily married people have lower blood pressure than single people (whether happy or unhappy). The happy qualification covers another finding that some of the reports did mention: Unhappily married people had worse blood pressure readings across the 24-hrs than did the single people. They also had higher blood pressure during the day. Their "nocturnal dips" were not any different.

Hence, some main headings (e.g., "Good marriage equals good blood pressure") were qualified by a subheading: "Bad marriage worse than being single."

Fair is fair. The blood pressure of unhappy married people should be compared to the blood pressure of unhappy single people.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE "SOCIAL SINGLES"?

Headline #5, "Happily marrieds have lower blood pressure than social singles," introduces another factor - whether singles are "social" or not. The title of the published article poses the question, "Is there something unique about marriage?" The press release from Brigham Young University stated that "Having supportive friends did not translate into improved blood pressure for singles or unhappily marrieds." What that summary suggests is that even if you are single and you have supportive friends, you are still doomed to your non-dippy blood pressure.

Now once again, let me tell you what I read in the actual journal article. The measure of "supportive friends" was a 40-item scale. It consists of 10 items measuring your access to tangible, material help (sample item: "If for some reason I were put in jail, there is someone I could call to bail me out"); 10 items measuring whether you have people with whom you can discuss your problems (sample item: "There is really no one I can trust to give me good financial advice"); 10 items measuring whether you have people you can do things with (sample item: "Most people I know don't enjoy the same things I do"); and 10 items measuring your self-esteem (sample item: "I am able to do things as well as most other people").

Single people who had more access to support (as measured by this scale), compared to married people who had more access to support (again, as measured by this scale), had no better blood pressure readings than those who had less access to support. That's the basis for the conclusion that "there [is] something unique about marriage."

Here is the question that the study did NOT address: If you are single, and you have a close friend or a sibling or anyone else who is important to you (or if you have the number of close relationships and the degree of closeness that you desire), then how does your blood pressure compare to a married person's?

CONCLUSION

If you are single, I don't think you should decide to get married in order to lower your blood pressure. Just relax and get a good night's sleep.

Unfortunately, that probably won't work for me. I'm single, and media reports like these make my blood boil.

______

Marketing Myths About Single Boomers

One of the most significant demographic trends over the past half-century is the ascendence of people who are single. They have the power of numbers -- as a proportion of the adult population, they are closing in on people who are married. As householders, their place is dramatically different than it was a few decades ago: There are now more households consisting of single people living solo than of households comprised of mom, dad, and the kids. (And -- further attesting to their numbers -- most single people do not live alone.) Perhaps the most significant of all of these new demographic realities is the place of singlehood in our individual life stories -- Americans now spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married.

Marketers -- like much of the rest of society -- have not caught up with the changes that have made single life vastly different than it was before. They have yet to realize the implications of those changes for their portrayals of singles and their pitches to them.

At last, though, the topic is on the table. Last week, the marketing firm JWT Boom hosted a two-day conference on marketing to boomers, including a panel on single boomers. I joined Sarah Zapolsky of AARP, Deborah Blake of Pulte Homes, and journalist and moderator Jane Ganahl to discuss the real lives of 21st century boomers who are single.

I focused on six mistakes that marketers sometimes make in their appeals:

MARKETING MYTH AND MISTAKE #1: What single people want, more than any particular product, is a soul mate. Because (some) marketers believe this, they try to sell their products by selling the fantasy of getting married.

A telling example of this came from a television ad that Coldwell Banker ran over and over again a few summers ago. In it, the narrator, a realtor, said this:

"When Sylvia Maxwell was single again, she came to me at Coldwell Banker to find a new home. I searched high and low and when I found one she loved, she made a proposal to buy it. Larry was a single professor who lived next door, until one day he made a proposal of another kind. Gives a whole new meaning to 'love thy neighbor.' For almost a century, Coldwell Banker has known that real estate is only part of the story."

Visually, the ad introduces us to Sylvia and Larry. By the end, the two of them are holding hands, skipping, and frolicking through the yards of their homes, she in full bridal attire and he in his groom-ware. The bridesmaids and groomsmen follow gleefully behind them.

But never mind the visuals. What really got to me was that last line, about how Coldwell has always known that real estate is only part of the story. So I, a single woman, might go to a Coldwell Banker realtor in search of a home. The realtor, though, will just know that what I really want is a husband.

I started keeping track of all of the ads that feature weddings or brides. Setting aside the totally understandable products such as jewelry, catering, photography, and tuxedos, I also found wedding themes in ads for:

• Cereal, soft drinks, ice cream, chocolate, and cheese
• Dentistry, headache medication, body lotion, and eye drops
• Cars, clothes, and credit cards
• Beer, cigarettes, and wine coolers
• Hotels and life insurance
• Lottery tickets and motor oil. (Motor oil!)

Advertising is matrimaniacal. And yet, consider these results of a Pew Research Survey. Single people (divorced, widowed, always single) were asked:

• Whether they were already in a committed relationship, and
• Whether they were looking for a partner.

The most common answer, given by 55%, was that they were not in a committed relationship and that they were not looking for one.

Related to the mistake of seeing singles as more concerned about getting married than anything else is the vision of singles as living a narrow, constricted life, as if they were waiting to find "The One" before buying homes or traveling the world or pursuing their passions. That's MARKETING MYTH AND MISTAKE #2.

An example comes from advice offered by a boomer woman who is most certainly not leading a stunted or timid life. I'm talking about Suze Orman. In The Road to Wealth, she began a sentence like this:

"If you are a single person, a one-bedroom condo may seem ideal now."

I was excited. I thought she was going to continue by saying that I would soon discover how much I would love having more space, so I should just go for it right from the beginning!

But no. Instead, she continued the sentence this way:

"but if you hope to get married and start a family in the next few years, you'll need more space pretty quickly."

Suze Orman was thinking like the realtor who tried to sell me a town house or condo, after I had come to an open house because I wanted a house. Many singles have told me similar stories. When realtors lead their single clients to smaller and cheaper places than the clients were seeking, they are doing something extraordinarily rare in the business world -- working against their own self-interest.

MARKETING MISTAKE #3 is to portray singles in demeaning and dismissive ways. Here I think single men have it at least as bad, if not worse, than single women.

Remember the "lost another loan to Ditech" campaign? That ad featured a doughy man with ill-fitting suits and pudgy ringless fingers who worked for Ditech's competitor. So pathetic was the guy that even his therapist got his loan from Ditech. One of the ads ends with the hapless bachelor emitting a plaintive wail, "Mommmm!" He's a mama's boy, but even his mother has gotten her loan from Ditech instead of from her own son.

MARKETING MISTAKE #4 is to act as if single people do not even exist.

• Think of all the ads that list prices "per couple."
• Think of all of the greeting cards that express "our" congratulations or "our" condolences.
• Or consider the Magellan catalog. It tries to tempt me to buy a colorful luggage strap with the promise of solving that pesky problem, "Which bag is ours?"

Again, by assuming that people come packaged in couples, these businesses talk past the very people who may be interested in their products. There are millions of us, and those numbers just keep growing.

MARKETING MISTAKE #5: Peddling insecurities

Insecurities are for kids. Many single boomers are living their lives fully and unapologetically. Unless you want to alienate them, speak to their strengths and their real life needs and interests.

MARKETING MYTH AND MISTAKE #6: Assuming that single people "don't have anyone."

The belief that single people are "alone" and "don't have anyone" has been battered by one sociological and marketing study after another. Many single boomers may live alone but they have important people in their lives. Singles are more likely than married people to help, encourage, and spend time with their neighbors and friends. They are also the ones who more often visit, support, advise, and contact their siblings and parents.

Results of the Boomer Heartbeat study, recently reported by JWT and C & R Research, also demonstrated the important places of friends in the lives of single boomers. Whereas married couples with kids spend only 16% of their time with friends, single boomers without kids spend 28% of their time with friends. This is not because kids take up so much time. Boomers whose kids are no longer at home (the empty nesters) still spend only 15% of their time with friends. Even more strikingly, single boomers with kids at home spend about the same amount of time with their friends as do single boomers without kids (29%). The explanation that spending time with friends "compensates" for not having a spouse also won't fly (even apart from the fact that it is insulting). Married couples without kids also spend 27% of their time with friends.

The difference, I think, is that people who are single (along with married couples without kids) are not taking their cues about how to live their lives from advertisers or from conventional wisdom. Single boomers are myth-busters. They know that friends are not "just" friends. Single boomer women, in particular, will reward those who recognize the important place of friends in their lives. (What do Sex and the City, the Golden Girls, and even the "Desperate Housewives" - who spend a lot of their time out of their houses and their marriages - have in common? The friendship among the women is the emotional core of the shows.)

Single boomers, though, are often alone in one important way: They alone control the purse strings.

Can you hear me now?

(This appeared in Psychology Today)

_____

Myths About Single Women

To suggest on the evening news that the growing ranks of singles are comprised of women who wish they were anything but - well, it smacks of 21st century backlash. The myth that people who are single are interested in just one thing - getting coupled - is just one of the pervasive misunderstandings about people who are single that I describe in SINGLED OUT: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. (Too bad David Brooks had not already penned his "Elusive Altar" op-ed before I wrote my book. That way, I could have added to my list of myths his pronouncement that singles are "trapped in a no man's land between solitude and marriage" and often "slide into parenthood." Don't try to picture that last part.)

Another myth is that single people are alone and "don't have anyone." That one comes packaged with the fear that as the number of single people increases, our sense of community will decrease; we will become a land of isolates, all bowling alone.

In fact, though, just the opposite may be true. In two national surveys, Americans were asked how often they help, support, and get together with siblings, parents, friends, and neighbors. People who had always been single were the ones holding their communities together. They tended to the important people in their lives more often than the currently married or previously married people did.

The myths about single people have largely gone unrecognized and unchallenged. Perhaps as a consequence, we have workplace policies in which the only employees eligible to add an adult to their health care plan at a discounted rate are those who are married (or, sometimes, have a domestic partner). If single people "don't have anyone," then they have no use for the benefits that come with the married worker's package. Same for Social Security. The benefits accrued by married workers go to their surviving spouse. Those earned by single workers go back into the system.

Beliefs and practices that stigmatize people who are single have a long history. But a new day is dawning. Statements made to and about single people that can be misconstrued as pejorative - even if the intention was anything but - have suddenly become politically risky. Just ask Barbara Boxer.

Getting it right about people who are single is a task with a great big payoff, especially for the left. Single women are predominantly progressive in their values and in their votes. But they do not yet vote in the same numbers as do married women. It is time for the party of the future to roll out the red carpet for women who are single. Just don't expect them all to stride down the runway in Manolo Blahniks.

*****

Star Couples Who Don't Need to Marry

A reporter called me recently and reeled off a list of celebrities. Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and Jessica Lange were just the first few. Others in the category included Brad Pitt, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, David Letterman, John Malkovich, Tina Turner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. You can probably think of others. They are, of course, celebrities who are coupled but not married.

Here are the questions I was asked: Are these unmarried celebrity couples afraid of commitment? Are they afraid of the failure that would darken their reputations and their souls if they were to marry and then divorce?

So here was a bouquet of celebrities, all talented, many extraordinarily altruistic, and this reporter's first thought was to tie them all together with a ribbon of fear. Her second thought was to put them on the defensive. Like the nagging relative or the smug married friend, this inquiring mind was asking of each of these unmarried couples, "So why aren't you married?" The question is the equivalent of asking married couples when they last had sex.

When I see skilled, successful, and selfless people - whether coupled or uncoupled, famous or unknown - my first inclination is to think of them in terms of their strengths. So here, on behalf of unmarried couples (personally, I'm happily single), are some unapologetic, nondefensive answers to the clunky "why aren't you married" question that should never have been asked:

• We are secure in our relationship. Our love does not need to be propped up by a legal contract.
• We don't want Rudy or Mitt or McCain or any other government official hanging out in our bedroom. Maybe they like threesomes but we don't.
• We don't want Pat Dobson or Tony Perkins or the ghost of Jerry Falwell or any other religious representatives under our covers. We may be spiritual, we may even be religious, but we are not so sure that we are going to find divine revelations coming from the mouth of Jimmy Swaggert.
• We have our principles. If people of other sexual orientations cannot marry, then we won't either. We do not want to be part of any club that would have only us as members.
Our principles extend beyond same-sex marriage. Even if any adult could marry any other adult, many millions of single people would still be excluded from the 1,138 federal benefits and protections awarded solely to married people.
• All those Bachelor reality shows, all the television dramas that build predictably to a wedding, all the cries for ever more tax breaks for married people - all this matrimania makes us skeptical. If marriage is so great, why does it need all these cultural and government subsidies?
• We just love it way too much when people ask us why we're not married.

So now that the cloddish question for the unmarried couples has been asked and answered, let's turn to the married celebrities. It's your turn, Larry King, Jay Leno, Ted Koppel, Chris Matthews, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and all the rest: Tell us, when did you last have sex?

*****

14 Thoughts on National Singles Week

Today is the start of National Singles Week, September 21-27 (sometimes called National Unmarried and Single Americans Week), but don't expect to find any greeting cards to celebrate it. That's okay about the cards - I don't care about them. But I do care about increasing awareness of the truth about single life. We need National Singles Week because we need consciousness-raising.

1. We need it because living single is how we spend the better part of our adult lives. Americans now spend more years unmarried than married. But even if we spent only a sliver of our lives single, we should be able to use that sliver to pick any door or puncture any myth.

2. We need it because what it means to live single has changed dramatically over the past half-century, but our perceptions have been left in the dust. Bogus stereotypes rule, and they need to be dethroned.

3. We need it because fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you are a plastic Barbie or Ken doll or you play one on TV. If you are a real person, you are no more likely to live happily ever after if you get married than you were when you were single. We need to know that.

4. We need it because the media has grabbed onto the Marriage Myth Express and taken it for a long and silly ride. I don't just mean the dopey shows like The Bachelor or the Bachelorette. The press does us wrong even in reporting the news. As I've been documenting on this blog, on the Huffington Post, and in Singled Out, media descriptions of the latest scientific studies consistently add a little glitter to the any results that look good for married people, while batting away any promising findings about single people.

5. We need it because our educational institutions - those colleges and universities that should be at the leading edge of scholarship and critical thinking - have been just as smitten by the marital mythology as the rest of society. Those bastions of higher learning are filled with courses, degree programs, textbooks, journals, endowed chairs, research funding and all the other components of the intellectual industry that is the study of marriage. As for the other 42% of the adult population, we're still waiting for the scholarly spotlight to shine as brightly on us.

6. We need it because we are shorted on the 1,136 federal benefits, protections, and privileges that are available only to people who are legally married. We need it because there is housing discrimination and there are tax penalties and pay disparities linked to marital status.

7. We need it not just for the privileges and protections but also for the opportunities to give and to care. Because I am single and don't have any children, no one can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for me if I fall ill. That's a missing protection. But I also can't take time off under the same Act to care for a person who is important to me, such as a sibling, a nephew, or a close friend.

8. We need it because there are more than 92 million of us, and even without any of the opportunities offered to married people by policies such as FMLA, we are doing more than our share. In some significant ways, more of the work of holding together our networks, families, and communities, and sustaining intergenerational ties, is done by single people than by married people.

9. We need it because we have untapped political potential. We don't vote as often as married people do. Lately, we've been on the leading edge of national sentiment. We realized that the nation was headed in the wrong direction before other people did. We need to be heard.

10. We need it because if single life were taken more seriously, then the relationship life of all people, single and married and everyone in between or on the side or undecided, would be expanded and enriched. Follow the finger of married people as they point to an important person in their life and you will end up staring at a spouse. Follow the finger of a single person and you may find yourself gazing at a close friend or a sibling or cousin or a mentor or a neighbor. Look more closely at that person and maybe you will newly appreciate the importance of the entire category that person represents. Friends are hardly "just friends."

11. We need it because single people who live solo can show us that living alone is not the same as feeling alone. They remind us of something that is too seldom acknowledged in a society that so celebrates the buzz of social life, something that people of all marital statuses can appreciate - that solitude can be sweet.

12. We need it because the de-stigmatizing of single life does not undermine marriage, it strengthens it. When single people can live their lives with all of the same respect, benefits, protections, and opportunities as people who are married, then those who want to marry are free. They can pursue marriage for the right reasons - not to run away from the stigma of being single, but to embrace the attractions of being married.

13. We need it because, when it comes to kids, love is the answer. Single parents can give quite a lot of that. Add all the other important people in the lives of single parents and their kids, and then you truly have a whole lot of love.

14. We need to value single people because that's what progressive nations do. They look for the people who have been marginalized and diminished, and invite them into the center of society. That way, we can all live happily ever after.

Happy Singles Week.

*****

Single Boomers: Marketing Myths and Mistakes

One of the most significant demographic trends over the past half-century is the ascendence of people who are single. They have the power of numbers -- as a proportion of the adult population, they are closing in on people who are married. As householders, their place is dramatically different than it was a few decades ago: There are now more households consisting of single people living solo than of households comprised of mom, dad, and the kids. (And -- further attesting to their numbers -- most single people do not live alone.)

Perhaps the most significant of all of these new demographic realities is the place of singlehood in our individual life stories -- Americans now spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married.

Marketers -- like much of the rest of society -- have not caught up with the changes that have made single life vastly different than it was before. They have yet to realize the implications of those changes for their portrayals of singles and their pitches to them.

At last, though, the topic is on the table. Last week, the marketing firm JWT Boom hosted a two-day conference on marketing to boomers, including a panel on single boomers. I joined Sarah Zapolsky of AARP, Deborah Blake of Pulte Homes, and journalist and moderator Jane Ganahl to discuss the real lives of 21st century boomers who are single.

I focused on six mistakes that marketers sometimes make in their appeals:

MARKETING MYTH AND MISTAKE #1: What single people want, more than any particular product, is a soul mate. Because (some) marketers believe this, they try to sell their products by selling the fantasy of getting married.

A telling example of this came from a television ad that Coldwell Banker ran over and over again a few summers ago. In it, the narrator, a realtor, said this:

"When Sylvia Maxwell was single again, she came to me at Coldwell Banker to find a new home. I searched high and low and when I found one she loved, she made a proposal to buy it. Larry was a single professor who lived next door, until one day he made a proposal of another kind. Gives a whole new meaning to 'love thy neighbor.' For almost a century, Coldwell Banker has known that real estate is only part of the story."

Visually, the ad introduces us to Sylvia and Larry. By the end, the two of them are holding hands, skipping, and frolicking through the yards of their homes, she in full bridal attire and he in his groom-wear. The bridesmaids and groomsmen follow gleefully behind them.

But never mind the visuals. What really got to me was that last line, about how Coldwell has always known that real estate is only part of the story. So I, a single woman, might go to a Coldwell Banker realtor in search of a home. The realtor, though, will just know that what I really want is a husband.

I started keeping track of all of the ads that feature weddings or brides. Setting aside the totally understandable products such as jewelry, catering, photography, and tuxedos, I also found wedding themes in ads for:

• Cereal, soft drinks, ice cream, chocolate, and cheese
• Dentistry, headache medication, body lotion, and eye drops
• Cars, clothes, and credit cards
• Beer, cigarettes, and wine coolers
• Hotels and life insurance
• Lottery tickets and motor oil. (Motor oil!)

Advertising is matrimaniacal. And yet, consider these results of a Pew Research Survey. Single people (divorced, widowed, always single) were asked:

• Whether they were already in a committed relationship, and
• Whether they were looking for a partner.

The most common answer, given by 55%, was that they were not in a committed relationship and that they were not looking for one.

Related to the mistake of seeing singles as more concerned about getting married than anything else is the vision of singles as living a narrow, constricted life, as if they were waiting to find "The One" before buying homes or traveling the world or pursuing their passions. That's MARKETING MYTH AND MISTAKE #2.

An example comes from advice offered by a boomer woman who is most certainly not leading a stunted or timid life. I'm talking about Suze Orman. In The Road to Wealth, she began a sentence like this:

"If you are a single person, a one-bedroom condo may seem ideal now."

I was excited. I thought she was going to continue by saying that I would soon discover how much I would love having more space, so I should just go for it right from the beginning!

But no. Instead, she continued the sentence this way:

"but if you hope to get married and start a family in the next few years, you'll need more space pretty quickly."

Suze Orman was thinking like the realtor who tried to sell me a town house or condo, after I had come to an open house because I wanted a house. Many singles have told me similar stories. When realtors lead their single clients to smaller and cheaper places than the clients were seeking, they are doing something extraordinarily rare in the business world -- working against their own self-interest.

MARKETING MISTAKE #3 is to portray singles in demeaning and dismissive ways. Here I think single men have it at least as bad, if not worse, than single women.

Remember the "lost another loan to Ditech" campaign? That ad featured a doughy man with ill-fitting suits and pudgy ringless fingers who worked for Ditech's competitor. So pathetic was the guy that even his therapist got his loan from Ditech. One of the ads ends with the hapless bachelor emitting a plaintive wail, "Mommmm!" He's a mama's boy, but even his mother has gotten her loan from Ditech instead of from her own son.

MARKETING MISTAKE #4 is to act as if single people do not even exist.

• Think of all the ads that list prices "per couple."
• Think of all of the greeting cards that express "our" congratulations or "our" condolences.
• Or consider the Magellan catalog. It tries to tempt me to buy a colorful luggage strap with the promise of solving that pesky problem, "Which bag is ours?"

Again, by assuming that people come packaged in couples, these businesses talk past the very people who may be interested in their products. There are millions of us, and those numbers just keep growing.

MARKETING MISTAKE #5: Peddling insecurities

Insecurities are for kids. Many single boomers are living their lives fully and unapologetically. Unless you want to alienate them, speak to their strengths and their real life needs and interests.

MARKETING MYTH AND MISTAKE #6: Assuming that single people "don't have anyone."

The belief that single people are "alone" and "don't have anyone" has been battered by one sociological and marketing study after another. Many single boomers may live alone but they have important people in their lives. Singles are more likely than married people to help, encourage, and spend time with their neighbors and friends. They are also the ones who more often visit, support, advise, and contact their siblings and parents.

Results of the Boomer Heartbeat study, recently reported by JWT and C & R Research, also demonstrated the important places of friends in the lives of single boomers. Whereas married couples with kids spend only 16% of their time with friends, single boomers without kids spend 28% of their time with friends. This is not because kids take up so much time. Boomers whose kids are no longer at home (the empty nesters) still spend only 15% of their time with friends.

Even more strikingly, single boomers with kids at home spend about the same amount of time with their friends as do single boomers without kids (29%). The explanation that spending time with friends "compensates" for not having a spouse also won't fly (even apart from the fact that it is insulting). Married couples without kids also spend 27% of their time with friends.

The difference, I think, is that people who are single (along with married couples without kids) are not taking their cues about how to live their lives from advertisers or from conventional wisdom. Single boomers are myth-busters. They know that friends are not "just" friends. Single boomer women, in particular, will reward those who recognize the important place of friends in their lives. (What do Sex and the City, the Golden Girls, and even the "Desperate Housewives" - who spend a lot of their time out of their houses and their marriages - have in common? The friendship among the women is the emotional core of the shows.)

Single boomers, though, are often alone in one important way: They alone control the purse strings.

Can you hear me now?

*****

Divorce and the Environment: A View from 2016

A global trend of soaring divorce rates has created more households with fewer people, that, in turn, take up more space and gobble up more energy and water.
-- National Science Foundation.

Mitt Romney lost his 2008 Presidential bid. He tried again in 2016 and fared a bit better, especially after his speech in which he proudly heralded the ways in which his religious beliefs differed from other people's. "Some are intent on establishing households comprised of just one man and one woman," he lectured. "They are wrong."

"I am a Mormon and Mormons have a long, rich history of living with many people under the same roof. We marry again and again and again," he said, "and we stay married each time."

Harvard is now a commuter college. The Class of 2008 refused to leave campus, lest they sully the earth with homes of their own. Instead, they sauntered into Dunster House and Wigglesworth and Weld, sleeping as many to a room as public ordinances would allow. The Class of 2009 was inspired and followed suit, as did the Class of 2010. Eventually, the only new students who could be admitted were those who already lived close enough to the Yard to bicycle to classes.

Adults who came of age in the second decade of the 21st century nursed a grudge that was unique to their generation. As children, they really did believe that their parents had stayed together, through all those years of sniping and backstabbing, for their sake. Now they know the painful truth. Mom and dad were not protecting them; they were saving the planet.

The Roses are now at peace. No, they are not dead - that was just the sensationalist Hollywood ending. It turns out that the marriage evangelists of the George W. Bush era were right - sometimes you really can just work things out. It has been decades since Oliver flattened Barbara's beloved Kitty-Kitty under the wheels of his Morgan Roadster, and she, in turn, chopped, pureed, and seasoned his dog Bennie into a tasty pate.

Truth be told, Oliver does not have the energy to wage war any more. His second bout of chest pains was no false alarm. He could have salvaged a reasonably healthy heart if only he had allowed the attendant to whisk him at once into the waiting ambulance. But precious time was lost as he pleaded for reassurance, between desperate gasps for breath, that the trip to the hospital would not increase his carbon footprint.

At Southfork, the stately Dallas ranch, "Who shot Bobby" wasn't the real mystery after all. No one had ever thought to wonder about all those Ewing children who stayed at the homestead, even as they grew up and married and remarried. That just seemed like tradition. It took the groundbreaking work of a cultural studies professor at Southern Methodist University to uncover the shocking truth: J. R. was just pretending to be a big, preening oil man. In fact, the Ewings were early environmentalists.

Back in the real world, the generations of couples who declined to divorce have shuttered one business after another. Few had realized that it wasn't interest rate cuts, but second and third and fourth marriages that had kept the economy humming. Oh sure, there are still caterers and wedding planners and florists, but the movers and shakers have headed to the real growth industries, such as the design of toilets that keep on flushing even after the fourteenth and fifteenth household members have taken their turns.

The housing market has skidded to a standstill. Row upon row of sprawling homes have been left vacant, as their occupants scurry to find rooms to share in solar-paneled abodes.

In Vegas, the Elvis wedding chapel has been converted to a commune.

Homelessness has doubled every couple of years, but it is no longer a problem. People who sleep under the stars are the new environmental heroes.

One more divisive issue has also been put to rest. No one spars about immigration any more. Mexicans continued to cross the border for a while, but upon seeing so much squalor, most of them turned around and went back.

*****

Which Cities are Best for Singles?

The Census Bureau released the latest figures showing a notable decrease in the percentage of married-with-children households. The report focused on the change since 2000, but the demographic revolution that is positioning people who are single in the center of society has been ongoing for decades. In 1970, there were more than twice as many married-with-children households than 1-person households. Now there are more of the latter. That means that if you were to knock, at random, on the door of any American household, you would be more likely to be met by a single person living solo than by mom, dad, and the kids.

The age at which Americans first marry (among those who do marry) has never been higher. The divorce rate continues to be high, remarriage happens less quickly than it once did (if it happens at all), and women continue to outlive men. All this adds up to a greater number of single people at every stage of the lifespan. It also results in one of the most telling statistics about singlehood in contemporary society: Americans now spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married.

Singlehood is no longer the place where people mark time until they find The One (or The Next One). More and more, people are living their single lives fully, rather than trudging through a phase they regard as merely transitional. A recent Pew survey asked legally single people of all ages whether they were already in a committed relationship and whether they were looking for one. The biggest group, 55%, was comprised of singles who were not in a serious relationship and were not seeking a partner.

That contemporary singles are living their lives rather than putting them on hold is also evident in other lifestyle statistics. There is a remarkable uptick in home ownership among single people (especially single women). Solo travel, and travel with friends, are fast-growing pursuits, too. Two national surveys have shown that single people add to the cohesiveness of society. Compared to married people, singles are more likely to visit, contact, advise and support their parents and siblings, and they are also more likely to encourage, help, and socialize with their neighbors and friends.

Conventional wisdom about single people is mostly wrong (as I discovered in doing the research for my book, "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After"). Take, for example, the popular features about the best this-or-that for people who are single. Forbes published one just a few weeks ago. It was called "Best Cities for Singles." But look at the criteria that get a city on the Forbes Best list. One is the number of active online dating profiles for people in that city. Another is nightlife, which includes the number of bars and nightclubs per capita. These seem like criteria you would use if you wanted to become unsingle. Other indicators, such as culture and the cost of living, seem more pertinent to the priorities of people who want to live their single lives, and not just escape them.

The "living your single life" criteria would produce a different ordering of cities. Boston, for example, ranks 11th overall out of the 40 cities that Forbes evaluated. But if online dating were removed from the equation, Boston would look a lot better; it was 35th on that measure.

So here's my question: What makes an area a good place to live for single people who want to live their single lives and not just become unsingle? What criteria should be used? How might the criteria differ (or would they) for singles of different ages, income levels, and life situations?

Below, I'll describe some of my own initial ideas on the topic. But if you would like to suggest your ideas without reading any of mine, then just skip to the comments section. Or, since comments will be closed at some point, feel free to send your thoughts to me at depaulo [at] psych.ucsb.edu with the subject line BEST FOR SINGLES. I will study your suggestions, then see if I can find any sources of funding or resources to research the best places to live as a single person.

My first thoughts start here:

Single people vary in all sorts of ways. (How could they not? There are more than 90 million of them in this country alone.) The one thing they all have in common is what defines them - they are not married. There are practical, social, and economic implications of marital status.

Being single is not the same as being alone. Singles often have whole networks of people who are important to them. But what they probably don't have is someone who is more or less obligated to be at their service when they need practical assistance - for example, to drive them to the shop to pick up their car, or to pick up some groceries when they are down with the flu. I love living near Santa Barbara because the people at my car repair place always offer me a ride, and if I don't feel like waiting for that to happen, I can just walk a few blocks to a bus with a convenient and inexpensive route. Santa Barbara also has a reasonably priced door-to-door service for groceries and other items if I ever need someone to get them for me.

Most single people do not live alone, but the many who do are paying for mortgage or rent, utilities and all the rest, on just one paycheck. Singles also miss out on the cheaper-by-the-couple specials offered by many businesses, and they are excluded from 1,138 federal provisions. Plus, single men are often paid less than married men, even when their accomplishments and seniority are the same. (I've described these economic implications of marital status in more detail in Chapter 12 of Singled Out.) So cost of living is important to many (though not all) singles.

I appreciate Santa Barbara for its bountiful farmers' markets. There, I can buy exquisite produce in the precise amounts (often small) that I want. I am not penalized, as I am in so many supermarkets, for buying in small quantities when the "family sizes" are much more economical.

One of the criteria for the Forbes ranking is the percentage of singles in each city. In fact, Forbes counts that twice as much as any of their other criteria. This seems to be another "good for becoming unsingle" marker, and it is sometimes discussed that way. I like places with other single people, too, but more for their potential as friends. In fact, what matters to me is not so much marital status per se, but openness to relating as an independent person. My close friends who are married tend to be those who are not glued to their partners. In those relationships, my friend and I are both interested in spending one-on-one time with each other, and the married person's spouse does not have a problem with that.

Adults who are single, regardless of their age, are no longer unusual. But different places seem to have different attitudes toward singles, especially singles who, in other people's opinion, are at an age when they "should" be married. Forbes ranks cities on how "cool" they are. I want to know how cool they are with singles. As a single person, I'd want to stay away from cities that tend to fly into moral panics about people who are not the same as everyone else. I'm also fond of places that are not totally obsessed with couples and weddings - matrimania, as I like to call it.

I have not spent all that much time in Seattle, but my impression is that it is not a very matrimaniacal place, and quite welcoming to singles. I have a copy of the February 2007 issue of Seattle Metropolitan magazine. February!

How many magazines, in February, have kissing couples gracing the covers of a special Valentine's Day issue? Not Seattle Metropolitan. Their cover story is about comfort food, and the 73 top spots for finding it. (Seattle ranks 8th in the Forbes list of 40. Like Boston, it too would have done better - for people who want to live their single lives and not escape them - if online dating were excluded as a criterion. Seattle ranked 20th in online dating.)

Forbes gives credit to cities that have a vibrant nightlife. Many singles enjoy nightlife even if they are not looking to become unsingle. Personally, what I love about the Santa Barbara area is its daylife. There are so many places I can go on my own and not feel self-conscious (though I'm not particularly prone to that feeling). There are beaches to walk, spectacular hiking trails, farmers' markets, coffee shops, bookstores, and lots of events featuring authors, lecturers, and political activists.

There's so much more to say, but I've already written plenty. Now I'd love to hear from you. (And, of course, feel free to circulate this to others who may want to contribute their thoughts.)

*****

Marriage as a Treatment for Depression

The headline on MSNBC was catchy: "New treatment for depression - marriage." It was also irresponsible.

I spent years checking out claims like this while working on my book, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. At the urging of readers who had noticed this latest bit of matrimania, I checked out this pronouncement, too.

The MSNBC article was based on a study appeaedr in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The authors described their work accurately and carefully. MSNBC reported it selectively.

First, here's what MSNBC got right. In the research, adults who started out single were interviewed in the first year of the study and then 5 years later. Both times, depression was measured on an 84-point scale. The people who were married by the time of the second interview scored about 3 points lower on the depression scale (out of the 84 points) than those who stayed single. That's an overall average. Breaking it down, the singles who started out depressed and then got married scored about 8 points lower in depression; those who started out happy scored about 2 points lower.

Now here are a few points from the original report that did not make it into the storyline whereby marriage is touted as a "new treatment for depression."

1. At the very longest, the people in this study were married for 5 years. This is important. Consider, for example, the results of a study in which people reported their happiness every year for 18 years (here and here). Those who got married and stayed married enjoyed just a small increase in happiness (about a quarter of a point on an 11-point scale) around the year of the wedding. Then they went back to being as happy or as unhappy as they were when they were single.

2. MSNBC does not happen to mention that the people who married and then divorced within the 5-year period were excluded from the calculations. Do you think the people who got divorced were becoming less depressed as a result of marrying? Neither do I. The 18-year study of happiness reported some relevant data. On the average, the people who married and later divorced did not even get a small blip in happiness in their newlywed year. Instead, they were already becoming slightly less happy (rather than happier) as their wedding day drew nearer.

3. The people who were classified as depressed were about 20% of the people in the study. The other 80% were the ones who scored just 2 points lower on depression (out of 84) after they married. Here is a comment in the authors' own words: "Those with average levels of marital happiness who were not depressed prior to marrying do not experience significantly better psychological well-being than their continually never-married counterparts."

4. Here's something else from the authors: "In most cases, above-average marital happiness is necessary for conferring the psychological benefits of a transition into marriage." (So, getting married decreases depression as long as you end up in a marriage that is happier than most.)

5. Based on an interview with one of the authors, MSNBC suggests that marriage may provide "the companionship and emotional support needed to help alleviate depression." But if it is companionship and emotional support that is key, then wouldn't a close and caring friendship provide that?

So let's see. If you get married, you may end up less depressed if you start out among the 20% most depressed people to begin with, if you don't get divorced, if you end up in a marriage that is happier than most, and if no one asks how you feel after the first few years, and no one compares the marital relationship to any other relationship that offers companionship and emotional support.

On these grounds, you want to quit therapy, toss your meds, and just get married? I don't think so.

Exaggerated claims such as this MSNBC headline (that shot to the top of the most e-mailed stories) are obviously obnoxious to single people. But they are unfair to married people, too. Teeing up a fortune cookie expectation - Get Married, Be Happy - is setting readers up for disappointment and disillusionment. People have their reasons for marrying, but trying out a "new treatment for depression" is unlikely to be one of the sensible ones.

*****

The New SAT (Singles Aptitude Test) -- Help Create It!

I like to think of what I do as myth-busting and consciousness-raising. I use science to shatter stereotypes about single people. But science can seem sober, and consciousness-raising by traditional means can come across as rather earnest, especially in this brave new and edgy world of blogging.

So how about humor? Can you help?

Here's what I have in mind. I want to create a new SAT - the Singles Aptitude Test. The point isn't really testing, though the items actually will have correct answers. The new SAT will be an instrument with "attitude" (maybe I should call it the Singles Attitude Test), taking the conventional syrupy wisdom about marriage and transforming it into a new and hipper brew. Think of it as a subversive guide for the single and savvy.

Don't look for the final product in Tests and Measurements catalogs. It is more likely to end up in one of those little novelty books that proliferate around the holidays.

Here are my first 10 items. The answers are at the end.

Test yourself, then go at it. Improve my items, add your own, create new categories or better titles for my categories, or just lurk and enjoy everyone else's contributions. Keep sending your suggestions long after this post disappears from the front page of the PT blogs - I'll still find them. Do you have some clever friends who may have some witty and brilliant additions? Then click on the share/e-mail icon and send this post to them.

Enjoy!

Singles in the Movies

1. In Mona Lisa Smile, Julia Roberts, the new college teacher, arrives at the residence where she will be staying with the other female college professors. The person who greets her explains the rules for the coming year, including, "no hotplates and no male visitors." What did Julia say in response?

A. But I have a boyfriend!
B. Not even if he is my brother?
C. What if I get married?
D. I don't think I can go a year without a hotplate.

 

Singles in Music

2. In song lyrics, Billy Joel once swooned, "I love you just the way you are." What is his relationship to the woman he described in those lyrics?

A. They have long since divorced.
B. He never knew her; he just admired her from afar.
C. They have been married for decades.
D. She died; he remarried.

 

Singles in Toyland

3. The male doll who was created to stand alongside Barbie was Ken. What happened to Ken?

A. It turns out that real girls just weren't that into him.
B. After many years and many make-overs, Barbie ditched him.
C. He was a bit of an embarrassment to Mattel.
D. All of the above.

 

Singles in Children's Books

In the book, The Paper Bag Princess, a dragon destroyed the princess's castle, incinerated all her clothes, and took off with the prince she planned to marry. The princess, now wearing just a paper bag, outsmarted the dragon and rescued the prince. The prince scolded the princess, saying, "Elizabeth, you are a mess! You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess."

4. How did the princess respond?

A. She said, "Ronald, your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince but you are a bum." She skipped into the sunset and never did marry the prince.
B. She apologized and explained why her clothes were dirty.
C. She cried, then the prince apologized and they got married and lived happily ever after.
D. She persuaded the prince to go to couples counseling, then they got married and lived happily ever after.

5. What was the fate of the book, The Paper Bag Princess?

A. It was popular among hippie parents for a while, but then went out of print.
B. It has gone through more than 40 printings.
C. It was remaindered after a year.
D. It was banned from more than a dozen grade school libraries.

Singles in Politics

6. In 2001, this President said he would give $1,100 to any unmarried presidential employee who married within one year. Also, a symposium was held in the capital of his country to "enhance awareness" in the young men and women of his country of the "social, moral, religious and health benefits of early marriage." Who was this President?

A. George Herbert Walker Bush
B. Saddam Hussein
C. George W. Bush
D. Jimmy Carter

7. In 2005, Florida Republican Party leader Jim Stellings lashed out in court at a political rival. Stellings thought his rival had defamed him, and complained, "That's unconscionable...I believe in family value." Why was Stellings so upset?

A. His rival falsely accused him of having cheated on his wife.
B. His rival said that Stellings plays footsie with other men in public restrooms.
C. His rival said that Stellings had been married six times; in fact, he had actually been married five times.
D. His rival said that he cursed at a colleague in the halls of Congress.

Truth or Truthiness?

8. Which of the following quotes really did appear in print?

A. From a story titled, "Husband tried to put spark in marriage": "A man who said he threw a live electrical wire into his wife's bath hoping a near death experience would save their marriage was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide Wednesday."
B. An advertisement: "Large, old couch. Beige. Pretty ratty looking, really. Comes with chubby hubby and remote control attached. $3,500/firm."
C. Both statements.
D. Neither statement.

The Wisdom of Single People

9. In an interview in 2004, a Newsweek reporter said to Lauren Bacall, "You're 80. You look fabulous. You seeing anyone?" What did Bacall answer?

A. None of your business.
B. I'm Lauren Bacall - what do you think?
C. Well, I'm talking to you and I'm looking out the window and I'm waiting for my dog to come back from her walk. She's the one I see the most and I'm very happy with that.
D. I'm dating two celebrities; each is sure he is "The One."

 

Name That Single Person

10. Three of the following four men were married. Which one was single?

A. Dennis Rader, the BTK killer, who bound, tortured, and killed at least ten people.
B. John Wayne Gacy, who murdered thirty-three men and buried many of them in the crawl space under his home.
C. Ken Lay, one-time Chairman of Enron, accused of criminal behavior in the downfall of the company
D. God

 

ANSWERS. 1d. 2a. 3d. 4a. 5b. 6b. 7c. 8c. 9c. 10d.

*****

Notes from a Single Voter -- Court Me

I'm single. Always have been. I'm also an educated and informed participant in the political process. Even when all of the candidate choices are dismal, I still show up at the polls and cast my ballot for the least disappointing person. But millions of other single people do not seem to share my enthusiasm.

To many progressives, it is exasperating, frustrating, and bewildering that so many single people are with them on the issues but just don't vote. I think there are lots of reasons for this, and I've written about some of them during the 2004 campaign and in my new book, Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. Here, I want to take you through a brief tour of some of this season's political outreach, narrated from the point of view of someone who is single. I hope you will start to see how even those candidates and groups whose positions I (mostly) favor and respect do not seem to have much respect or concern for me.

Here's what I hope is appealing about the suggestions I will make today: The interested candidates need to invest no extra time or money to implement them. All they need to do is rewrite their campaign materials so as to include all of their constituents, not just the married ones. (Oh, and when they claim to value human values and not just "family values," they should mean it.)

Exhibit #1. In a recent e-mail, Patty Wetterling let me know that Minnesota firefighters, police, and nurses stood at her side at the state Capitol. She promised to continue to "fight to keep children and families safe." Did she really mean to imply that she was concerned with the safety of all of her constituents, as long as they were not single people without children? Why not pledge to work for the safety of every single person in her district? (Double meaning intended.)

Exhibit #2 (a collection that just keeps growing). Earlier in the year, Bob Menendez posted a blog on Give 'Em Hell Harry in which he proclaimed that he was "Standing Up for Working Families." At the website of the Democratic Party, I learn that the "Bush Economy Fails Working Families." Over at the home page of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, I find the "2006 Fight for Working Families Headquarters." Why don't we all declare our support for workers instead of "working families"? The trite byte isn't even sensible; employers don't hire working families, they hire workers.

Exhibit #3. Consider, too, the deeply shameful television ad designed to smear Harold Ford. Watching the scantily clad white woman wiggle and wink as she asked the black candidate to come hither was excruciating. But something else alienated me, too - the implication elsewhere in the ad that the only candidates worth supporting are those who are devoted to the elimination of the so-called "marriage penalty." The mantra-like pledges to relieve married people of their burdens, without any comparable concern for single people, would be off-putting even if the "penalty" really did fall disproportionately on married people. It doesn't.

Exhibit #4. Here's another e-mail I got. It seems to be from the Phil Angelides campaign, but the sender is not Phil but Julie. It begins, "Dear Bella, I have been married to Phil Angelides for 24 years." So the message seems to be, "Vote for Phil Angelides; his wife thinks he's great." Or maybe it is even simpler: "Vote for Phil Angelides; he's married."

I understand the temptation to reach for the images of the sturdy "working families" or the warm and fuzzy loving wives. Married people are the low-hanging fruit. They vote more often, and that tastes good now. But is this a wise long-term plan for a party that wants to sustain itself for decades to come?

Maybe candidates and parties figure that since most people eventually do marry, their appeals to marriage and traditional family will reach single people once they have become unsingle. Or maybe they believe that most single people want nothing more than to be married, and so singles will identify with the matrimaniacal messages on the basis of their longing.

Wrong.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project surveyed thousands of American adults late last year (2005). They found that the biggest group of single people, 55 percent, said that they were not in a committed relationship and that they were not looking for a partner. And while it is true that most Americans do try marriage at some point in their lives, there is another statistic that I find even more compelling. On the average, Americans now spend more of their adult years unmarried than married. It is now marriage that is the transitional stage - connecting one singlehood to the next - and it is transitional only for those people who do marry.

The rising tide of single people has been building for decades, and it has not yet crested. The current mid-term campaign will be over in days, but the importance of people who are single to politics and to our nation will long endure.

*****

Issues of Women Working Outside the Home

One of the biggest shifts in the past few decades: "the number of women working outside of the home has almost doubled," according to CNN.

This is, indeed, a demographic revolution well worth examining. The issues it raises are significant. For example:

earning enough to live with dignity? How many are working more than one job and still not making ends meet? And what about the women in the workforce who are doing fine economically - what are the societal implications of a class of women who are no longer tethered to men for economic life support?

And what about the quality of the workplace? How has it changed for women - and men - who have children and want to care for them? Can workplaces become "family-friendly" without also becoming hostile or unfair to workers who do not have partners or children? Have employers come to recognize and respect a panoply of important people and passions in their workers' lives, and not just the ones packaged in conjugal boxes?

Those are just a few of the deeply important questions that could be posed in a piece about the doubling of the number of women in the workforce. But they are not the questions that interested CNN.

Instead, the segment opened with a 39-year old woman who had achieved a high level success as a corporate executive. CNN introduced her not to praise her but to pity her. You see, she has started to hear "the loud tick tock of her biological clock." So she has left the executive suite for a job "which allows her more time to date."

Enter the one and only person CNN has invited to comment on women in the workforce - author Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Look no further than the dust jacket of her book, Creating a Life and you will get a good sense of what she is about: "The more a woman succeeds in her career," Hewlett claims, "the less likely it is that she will have a partner or baby." Hewlett trotted out for CNN the same dire statistics she peddled in her book.

There is only one problem with Hewlett's claims: They are wrong. Women with outstanding accomplishments on the job are no less likely to marry and then have children, if that's what they want, than women whose workplace achievements are more ordinary. (For a particularly insightful and thorough debunking of the Hewlett book, buttressed by evidence from a nation-wide study of 33.6 million women, see Garance Franke-Ruta's article in The American Prospect.)

Back to the one woman CNN has found who was once an executive but is now seeking marriage and children. The reporter asked her what she might do if she does not find the right man in five years. "I think I would be very open to single motherhood," she replied.

Wrong answer! The voice-over tells viewers what she was supposed to say: "What she really wants, though, is someone with whom to raise a child."

The reporter takes it from there: "What's your perfect kind of guy? We might be able to find him for you with this broadcast."

So there you have it. CNN, the so-called liberal network, takes a story about women's march into the workplace and turns it into a dating game.

Successful single women have long been the targets of scare stories warning that their fancy jobs won't love them back and their high-powered eggs will shrivel and die if they don't hurry up and procreate. (I discuss this in more detail in my book, Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.) CNN perpetrates these backlash myths under the banner of balance. How difficult it is for these women with their career successes to have it all, sighs the network.

I think the concept of "balance" has been under-analyzed and overrated. Stereotypically, balance is something that dedicated career women do not have, and will not have until they have added a spouse and children to their lives. But what about the women (and men) who do not want to follow someone else's script for a neatly-proportioned life, and want to tip their own scales toward the pursuit of social justice or scientific discovery or an understanding of the human condition?

And what about the trade off between individual balance and the greater good? Take former Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, for example. When she walked away from her lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, she said she wanted to spend more time with her husband, whose was in poor health. Perhaps in doing so, she achieved greater balance in her life. Maybe she also deserves credit for being a caring spouse. Surely her husband benefited from her decision. But what about the nation? As one who believes that our country would have been far better served by the decisions of O'Connor than by those of her successor, I am saddened by her balance. I wish Sandra Day O'Connor were single, and dedicated her time to serving the cause of justice for as long as she lived.

*****

Passionate Pursuit

At dinner, Brenda mentioned that she had been talking about me with some of my other friends. They were "concerned." They have been, for years. They are all academics, with the comfort and job security that comes with tenure. I have no regular source of income. They are all homeowners. I rent. They have all spent more than a decade here in California, and have the networks of friends and neighbors that come to surround people who settle in and stay a while. I'm a relative newcomer, and knew no one very well when I first arrived for what was supposed to be a one-year sabbatical.

Not long ago, I had what they had. I had a university job, with tenure. I lived in the same small town for more than two decades. I had circles of friends and a home that I owned.

Then I walked away from it all to pursue my passion - the study of the place of people who are single in contemporary American society. I live in that place, and I have all my life.

For many years, I kept a private mental inventory of observations that seemed worth pondering. For example:

• A colleague and I were hired at the same time, in the exact same position, and continued working for years. He can leave his Social Security benefits to his spouse when he dies; mine will go back into the system.
• Candidates stand aside a spouse, as if to say, "Vote for me - I'm married!" But what I really want are candidates whose devotion is to the welfare of the people they are serving.
• Couples treat themselves to wedding spectacles that honor no boundaries of extravagance or self-indulgence; yet it is single people who are stereotyped as selfish.

I also clipped headlines trumpeting the transformative power of matrimony. Citing the latest studies, they announced that miserable and immature single people would become happy, healthy, and long-living pillars of the community, if only they would wed. Then I tracked down the professional journals and read the original research reports. I discovered that just about all of these matrimaniacal claims were grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.

I started to go public with my once-private collection, discussing, debating, and publishing what I had found. Some of the reactions to my work were immensely gratifying. Others were not. Colleagues protested that I could not study singles impartially because I was single; they had no problem with the legions of married people who study marriage. A job that I coveted was dangled before me - with the stipulation that I expunge from my application materials any mention of my interest in singles. A listener who had just heard me on the radio e-mailed to suggest that I get a tubal ligation.

I hate being criticized, but the more people disparaged me and my message, the more determined I became not to be dissuaded. If that meant forsaking a guaranteed paycheck in order to devote nearly all of my time to this new passion, then so be it.

I guess that's why my friends seem to think I'm fearless. Aren't you scared, they ask, over and over again. They know I'm stealing from my savings to pay the rent, at a time in my life when I should be building, not depleting, my retirement funds.

I work for hours, seven days a week, but almost nothing I do feels like work. I don't own a home, but I'm still in the beach house I rented when I first arrived, and I can see the Pacific Ocean from my desk.

What's so fearless about that?

*****

The Real Scoop About Marrying After 40

Newsweek, it turns out, was just kidding about the terrorists. Twenty years ago, the magazine infamously quipped that 40-year-old women who had not yet married were "more likely to be killed by a terrorist" than to ever get married. The news was considered traumatic. In 1986, a therapist told Newsweek that "everybody was talking about it and everybody was hysterical."

Now Newsweek has recanted. The chances of marrying after 40 are actually much higher than the initially reported 2.6%.

Newsweek wants to know why they were so wrong. I have a different question: Why did it matter? Even if the original statistics had been true, why should that have been a cause for trauma or hysteria? At my age (52), the chances that I will ever be a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker are surely less than 2.6%, but that awareness does not send me scurrying fretfully into the offices of a therapist. The myth about low marital odds can have the power to incite panic only if it is co-dependent on a second myth that is even more pernicious -- that life as a single person is shameful and sad.

It isn't. But Newsweek has yet to get that part of the story straight. In its pictures and in its prose, Newsweek is still peddling the myth of the poor single women, who -- even if they thought they were happy -- really did not know what true happiness was.

The morality tale of the virtuous married people and the clueless singles is unfurled through the words of a handful of women who had been interviewed as singletons for the 1986 story, and then again in 2006.

Take, for example, the story of Penny Sohn:

Then, in 1986, she was totally "focused on her career" as a director of the NJ Department of Higher Education. Friends used to comment on her glamorous life.

Now, in 2006, she is married with children. According to Newsweek, Penny now "realizes that family, not work, is what constitutes a person's real legacy." Adds Penny, "Now I really do know what I was missing."

Or consider Laurie Anderson:

Then, in 1986, she said: "I have a meaningful life with meaningful relationships."

Now she's married and she's "ecstatic" -- in fact, she wishes she'd married earlier.

Sally Jackson's life lessons are also celebrated.

Then, 20 years ago, she was described as the "President of a successful public-relations firm," and enjoying her "charming 18th-century cottage overlooking Ipswich Bay."

Now Newsweek quotes her as saying that "it is much more fun" to be married. In fact, the caption next to the picture of Sally and her husband says "pure bliss."

So, in twenty years, Newsweek has gone from terrorist sensationalism to marriage triumphalism.

The myth of marital superiority will not be lost on those who merely flip through the pages of the magazine, looking at the pictures. Five big pictures, sometimes sprawled across two pages, show women who have married. Their husbands are right there with them, as are their children, if they have any, and even a pet. There are also smaller pictures of the women and their husbands on their wedding day.

The last two pictures are of women who stayed single. They are squeezed onto one page. The bigger picture goes to the glum-faced Nancy Rigg. In a quote next to her picture, she says that even if she lives to be 100, she will still be open to the possibility of marrying. Of all people in all the pictures -- 18 of them, if you include husbands and kids -- the ever-single Nancy Riggs is the only one who is not smiling or kissing.

The other single woman posed a real problem for Newsweek. The magazine could not get Lillian Brown to bemoan her single status, nor to pine for a partner, either then or now. Instead, she talked about how happy she was with her friends, her child, her grandchild, and her life. Plus, when they took her picture, she had the audacity to smile! What was Newsweek to do?

They showed her! They literally stuck her in the basement corner. Her picture is in the very bottom of the last page of the story, right next to the binding. The important people in her life are not included. Lillian, Newsweek is telling us, is single: by definition, she is alone.

If scientific studies really did show that marriage transforms people from miserable singletons into blissfully happy couples, then Newsweek would have every right to rub it in. But they don't. On average, people who marry and stay married show a small blip in happiness around the time of the wedding, but then they go back to being about as happy as they were when they were single. As for the people who marry and then divorce, they are already becoming a little less happy as the wedding day approaches, a trend that typically does not reverse until about a year before the divorce becomes final.

In touting its marriage triumphalism, Newsweek was missing out on the better part of our adult lives. The magazine is right in claiming that most people (probably about 90%) eventually do get married. But that statistic hides a more significant one: Americans now spend more years of their adult lives single than married. People who do marry often don't get around to it for a good long while, and then, many do not stay married for long. After divorce or widowhood, remarriage (especially for women) is hardly inevitable.

Newsweek spells out its moral for us: "The real story of this anniversary is the unexpected happily-ever-afters." Newsweek was referring to the women who were single two decades ago, and now are married. I think they've still missed the real story: Often, the women who are living happily ever after are -- and always have been -- single.

*****

If You Dine Alone, What Will People Think of You? (Part 1: See If You Can Predict the Results)

On a beautiful summer evening at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, back when I lived on the East Coast, I stopped for dinner at an outdoor café. My server lingered a while each time she appeared, offering conversation along with the refills of my iced tea. I wondered - did she think I was uncomfortable dining alone?

In fact, I was feeling serene. I had spent a busy, boisterous day with three guys I adore - one of my brothers and his two sons. They had already left. I wanted to stay and savor in solitude the warm breezes, fresh seafood, and the parade of people passing by.It wasn't just my server who seemed surprised and a bit protective of her lone diner. The hostess who seated me also did the solo-diner double take, glancing an extra time or two to see whether there really was someone else with me, who had just wandered off for a moment. At least she did not ask the "just one?" question. (Nor did a spotlight follow me to my table, as happened to Steve Martin in The Lonely Guy.)

While people-watching, it struck me that no one else seemed to be at the Inner Harbor on their own. I observed intently for 20 minutes, and never spotted even one person who seemed to be there without another person or group alongside them. Wasn't there anyone else within driving distance of the Inner Harbor who would have enjoyed heading off on their own to saunter around on such a perfect evening? I have always thought it odd that in a nation supposedly known for its rugged individualists and daring adventurers, so many people seem reluctant to venture on their own into safe and comfortable places such as restaurants and movie theaters.

When I first looked for research on the topic, I didn't find much. There was a study published in 1981 that reported that people seem more distressed at the prospect of walking into a restaurant alone than walking into an empty room alone, staying home alone, or living alone. Why the hesitation?

The celebrated sociologist, Erving Goffman, offered one explanation: "To attend alone is to expose oneself as possibly not being able to muster up companionship." Yeah, I know. You didn't need a sociologist to tell you that if you go out to dinner on your own, other people will think you are a loser.

I'm a social psychologist, though, and a numbers-loving one at that. No matter how strong my intuition may be, and how many others may seem to agree with me, I want to see the relevant research. What do other people really think when they see someone dining alone? Continued at: http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/200804/if-you-dine-alone-what-will-people-think-you-part-1-see-if-you-can-predict_____

If You Dine Alone, What Will People Think of You? (Part 2: The Results)

Thanks to all who predicted the results of the study that asked, "If you dine alone, what will people think of you?" A variety of suggestions were offered. My colleagues and I - before we actually conducted the study - thought all of your predictions seemed plausible.

Well, all except one: the one that was correct! "Adora" nailed it when she said, "It is probably no big deal if you dine alone."I don't mean that no one ever has a snide thought about a person who is dining solo. The shoppers who commented on our photos did have some unkind things to say about the solo diners, including the very remarks that some of you predicted. But, they also made many neutral and positive observations.

Most importantly, the people who commented on the pictures were no more likely to say anything negative (and no less likely to say anything positive) when the person in the picture was dining solo than when the same person was with other people. We looked at all sorts of factors to see if they mattered - for example, was the person in the picture a male or a female? A younger adult or an older one? Were the people making the comments male or female? Single or married?

No matter what we included in the analyses, the answer was always the same - there were no consistent differences in how a person was judged depending on whether that person was dining solo vs. with one or more other people.

Let me explain. Some negative comments were made about the solo diners, as we anticipated. For example, people said things like, "He is lonely," "Doesn't have many friends," "She looks depressed." But look at some of the other comments we got:

"Enjoying a few good peaceful moments."
"She just wanted to eat by herself."
"Wanted to relax."
"Traveling."
"He seems to be enjoying his dinner."
"Wanted time to ponder."

And my favorite: "He is secure."

For comparison, let me tell you about some of the comments that were made about the pictures that showed one man and one woman dining together. We expected those pictures to elicit mostly kind words. We did get some positive comments. For example, people said that the man was out to "dinner with his wife for fun;" or that the two are having a "fine, quiet conversation

Others said that "they are very close," or that "they enjoy spending time together." But now look at some of the other comments that were made about the male-female pairs: They went to dinner "to have a talk because their relationship needs some mending."
"She is upset."
"He thought he liked her."
They wanted to "get away from the children."
She went out to dinner with him "out of obligation - she's married to him."

We found the same mix of some positive, some negative, some neutral comments for all of the different sets of diners we studied - same-sex pairs, one person sitting across from a male and a female, or a male and a female on each side of the table.

Two of the people who commented on Part 1 of my post made an important observation. "Terry" and "Ladyexpat" said that by showing people photos of solo diners and asking for comments, we were creating a focus on the solo diners that may not occur naturally. Maybe when people go out to dinner, they just pay attention to their own dinner (or dinner companions), and hardly even notice the other people in the restaurant.

There is some great research relevant to Terry and Ladyexpat's point. I think that work may also help to explain why people are reluctant to go out to dinner on their own, even though they are probably not going to be judged any more or less harshly than if they were went out to dinner with other people. The studies were conducted by Thomas Gilovich and his colleagues to document what they call "the spotlight effect" - "people's tendency to overestimate the extent to which their behavior and appearance are noticed and evaluated by others." Continued at: http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/200804/dining-alone-part-2-here-s-what-people-really-do-think-you

(If you have a question or comment please go to our SL message board and communicate with Dr. Bella! Or write her at, sololady@sololady.com)

Bella DePaulo Bella DePaulo is our Harvard-trained Solo Lady psychologist, and the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Five Money Wasters

by Aleksandra Todorova
SmartMoney.com

Feel like your hard-earned cash leaves your wallet faster than it should? Don't blame the lattes. Chances are you're blowing through money in much more substantial ways, from paying too much for your car to forking over insurance premiums you could easily reduce.

So forget about penny-pinching. Here are five major ways solo women and all folks waste their money. Stop wasting money in these areas and you'll never fret about your latte spending again.

New cars Because cars depreciate fastest during the first two or three years of ownership, that new-car smell probably costs you 30% or more than if you bought the same car used, says Philip Reed, consumer advice editor for the car information Web site Edmunds.com. "People who have money and are good with money frequently buy used because they understand how much they're saving," he says. On top of that, used cars typically have lower insurance premiums, mainly because they cost less, Reed explains. Click here for advice on buying a used car.

Regular cost:
A 2007 Ford Escape XLT 4dr SUV can be yours for $22,280 MSRP, according to Edmunds.com. Smart savings: At Edmunds.com's used-car listings, we found a 2005 Ford Escape XLT for less than $16,000 -- a 28% savings. The same model certified costs roughly $18,000, still 19% less than this year's model.

Brand Names At the drug store or supermarket, some brand items are simply not worth buying. The generic versions are just as good and cost much less. This can be anything from bananas and paprika to most over-the-counter medications. The secret: Generic items are often made using the exact same formulas as the brands you like. In some cases they're even made by the same companies. But since drug stores and supermarkets don't have to advertise these products, generics are much cheaper. Click here for some specific examples.

That said, not all generic items are worth buying. The classic example: paper goods. Because the cheaper generics are made with fewer fibers, they're often thinner and hold less liquid. Click here for a list of generic items that aren't worth the savings.

Regular cost: At Walgreens, a 100-count bottle of Bayer aspirin costs $6.50. Smart savings: Walgreens generic aspirin is just 99 cents. You save: 85%. Not Using Benefits Granted, we're paid to work, so the workplace isn't your logical money pit. Answer this, though: Are you taking advantage of all benefits your employer offers?

We don't just mean your 401(k), but perks with more immediate gratification, too. Take your flexible spending account, which lets you use pretax dollars for medical expenses, including over-the-counter medications. If you're in the 25 percent tax bracket, you'll save $25 out of every $100 you spend. These days, almost all employers -- 96 percent -- offer FSAs, according to consulting firm Hewitt Associates. Many employers also offer dependent care spending accounts to set aside pretax dollars for child care, and have transit programs that do the same with commuting expenses.

A few more perks to consider: group purchasing discounts, such as group auto insurance (35 percent of employers have them, according to Hewitt) and group home owners insurance (34 percent). Additionally, 22 percent of employers offer entertainment discounts, such as cheaper museum admission or movie theater tickets.

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fe A Dozen Financial Do's (and Don'ts)

We take the advice of the experts at Wachovia bank, to make sure we single women make the most of our money for future tax breaks. And when possible, consult a financial planner:Six Do's:

1) Instead of selling property, swap it. You can defer capital gains on real estate by reinvesting in a new property. Especially important if you're newly solo, when you may want to downsize to someplace more appropriate.2) Consider tapping your IRA early, without paying a penalty. Normally, tapping money from an Individual Retirement Account or other retirement account before age 591/2 prompts a 10% penalty. But that won't happen if you meet the requirements of a little-known IRS provision called Code 72t. There are several conditions, so consult a financial pro.3) Monitor proposed tax law changes. Investors and homeowners need to follow them closely. 4) Consider consolidating your retirement accounts. One IRA account will make your funds easier to manage, and offer broad investment options. But watch out for lost tax advantages. Consult a tax advisor.5) Update your will. Especially if you have gone through recent changes such as divorce or widowhood. Talk with your attorney about updating the language and provisions to make the most of new exemptions. 6) Check your designated beneficiaries. Make sure the info reflects your current family situation, and that designations support your objectives.

Six Don'ts: 1) Don't get stuck paying credit card interest. Nothing is more difficult to get out of. If needed, rates can be lower with a home equity loan, and interest may be deductable. 2) Don't chase investment trends. Think long-term.3) Don't forget to rebalance your portfolio at least once a year. Allocations shift with the markets, so make sure your holdings haven't gotten away from you. 4) Don't neglect reviewing your insurance coverage needs to reflect your current situation. 5) Don't ignore international equities. Overseas investments could help buoy your portfolio if the US market turns bearish.6) Don't shirk your retirement accounts. Contribute the maximum to 401(k)s and IRAs.

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f Sassy Stats for Single Women

Divorce Gene?

Men with a variant of the "divorce gene" tended to score badly on a questionnaire designed to assess how well they bond with their partner and were more likely to report having suffered marital difficulties.

The discovery raises the possibility that scientists could one day develop drugs to target the gene in an attempt to prevent marriages from falling apart.

Hasse Walum and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, used Sweden’s Twin and Offspring Study, which includes data on more than 550 twins and their partners or spouses. They looked at a protein in the body which responds to a chemical called vasopressin, which is central to human bonding.

The researchers then compared the genes in that area to men’s scores on the Partner Bonding Scale, which is designed to estimate the strength of a person’s attachment to his or her spouse or partner. They found that men with one version of the gene had low scores and were less likely to be married.

The wives of those who were married were also less satisfied with their marriage than women whose husbands did not have that genetic variant. Those with two copies of it were twice as likely to report having had a marital crisis in the past year, the team report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Women married to men who carry one or two copies of (the gene) were, on average, less satisfied with their relationship than women married to men who didn't carry it," said Mr Walum, a postgraduate student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

"There are, of course, many reasons why a person might have relationship problems, but this is the first time that a specific gene variant has been associated with how men bond to their partners."

Earlier research on the same gene in prairie voles showed that boosting levels of vasopressin in the brain made the animals more monogamous. Humans, like the voles, are unusual in tending to pair off and remain faithful as fewer than five per cent of mammal species are habitually monogamous.

Mr Walum stressed that the gene could not be used to predict with any real accuracy how someone is likely to behave in a future relationship.

But he added: "The fact that the corresponding gene has proved important for similar behaviour in voles makes our findings even more interesting, and suggests that the thoroughly studied brain mechanisms that we know give rise to strong bonds between individual voles can also be relevant to humans."

Previous studies of twins suggest that both the tendency to be unfaithful and the likelihood of divorce are more likely to be inherited than major illnesses such as high blood pressure and cancer. Scientists hope that greater knowledge of the effect vasopressin has human relationships will lead to a better understanding of what causes diseases characterised by problems with social interaction, such as autism.

How Is Your Ex Still In The Picture?

Results:

Almost half, 44% said “I tolerate my ex for the kids and try to act civil.”

21% said, “He’s not – want him cropped out.”

13% said “Love my Ex, just not the way I used to.”

9% admitted, “He’s on my speed dial; old habits are hard to break.” 

8% noted, “We still share some of the same friends”

6% did say they would “recommend my Ex for a date.”

Visit www.firstwivesworld.com for more polling results on other topics

Divorce Poll

On the heels of Christie Brinkley's divorce settlement, www.firstwivesworld.com targeted the 30 million women transitioning through divorce with a poll that asked... 

Should a husband who cheats be allowed joint custody?

Results:

A whopping 60% agreed that “yes, he’s still their father” and should be allowed joint custody

15% said “No, he should be punished”

15% said “Only if the other woman isn’t with kids for at least six months”

8% said “If he’s apologetic and financially generous”

2% said “If the other woman isn’t as good looking as me”

 Fun Facts About Men and Their Mothers

-- 72 percent of mothers of high-achieving men worked outside the home after they had children.

-- Among those men, 75 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Men are more attracted to women who are successful in their careers."

-- Men who grew up with working moms were almost twice as likely to marry a woman who makes $50,000 or more per year.

-- 62 percent of high-achieving single men disagreed with this statement: "Women who are stay-at-home parents are better mothers than women who work outside the home."

-- 75 percent of the high-achieving men disagreed with this statement: "It is usually better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family."

"These young men saw their mothers as smart women who could choose to work outside the home, and now that they're making decisions about what they want in a wife, it seems that they are choosing similar types of women," said graduate student Christie Boxer, who assisted with the research.

Time Off is Good Medicine

Recent studies published in the British Medical Journal and featured in Time magazine reveal strong evidence:

•    Chronic work-related stress caused can nearly double your risk of heart disease and diabetes
•    Long-term exposure to stress at work appears to have a direct adverse effect on the autonomic nervous system
•    An annual vacation of at least two weeks can cut the risk of heart attack in men by 32% and in women by 50%

Looks?

A recent survey by the Connecticut firm, Prince & Associates, showed that two-thirds of 1,134 people polled nationwide would marry an average-looking person they liked if they had money — and by money, they meant in the ballpark of $1.5 million. Survey respondents had incomes between $30,000 and $60,000, the national median.  Russ Alan Prince, who studies the wealthy, explains the phenomenon simply: "People want to have the good life."            

But the survey respondents were savvy enough to know that money can't buy them love: A full 43 percent said they expected they'd probably end up divorced from their dreamed-of money mate.

Women were more likely, overall, to consider money in the marital equation. Nearly three-quarters of surveyed women in their 30s said they'd marry for money, compared to 41 percent of men in their 20s.

Brette McWhorter Sember, a former divorce attorney and author, says while, obviously, no one ends a healthy marriage thinking they'll marry up, it's her experience that divorced women particularly do shoot higher, financially, the second time around.           

"I don't think that we can attribute this to greed — I think you ought to also consider the statistics that show that women who divorce are thrown into financial difficulty, as opposed to men who generally come out of it just fine," Sember says. "The experience of being practically destitute can be a powerful motivator."            

Divorced women who are thrust into paycheck-to-paycheck living aren't the only ones with an eye on financial assets while dating. Men whose income has become diluted by child support and alimony also realize the power of a partner's financial finesse, says Pat Nowak, author of "The ABCs of Widowhood." Some 61 percent of men in their 40s said they'd marry for money in the Prince & Associates survey.            

"So finding someone to date, with substantial resources, is now considered quite acceptable," Nowak says. "Why be poor when you can combine assets and live the life you previously did?" (from Divorce360.com)

 

Yoghurt Info

Of those who eat frozen yogurt, ice cream or gelato, two in three young adults and seven in 10 of those who have at least one child at home said they'd prefer to enjoy it at a shop where they could be with friends and family and have fun.

When asked which flavor they would choose if they could only eat one kind of frozen yogurt, ice cream or gelato for the next month, nearly two-thirds still stuck to the old favorites – chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla – in that order.

Down There

According to a durvey launched by Vagisal, vaginal discomfort has a significant "emotional toll" on women: 80 percent feel frustrated, 68 percent suffer increased self-consciousness and 29 percent get angry.

Increasingly Solo

Based on an analysis of Census data and trends, BusinessWeek magazine projects that by 2010 nearly 30 percent of American households will be inhabited by someone who lives alone.  By then, married couples with kids will drop to 20 percent. 

This shift in lifestyles and household arrangements, including the boom in solo senior living, is bound to have an effect on American society -- socially, economically, and politically. Perhaps some of the current challenges faced by solo seniors will become less daunting as government agencies and private businesses pay more attention to those who are home alone.

Can a Season Save a Relationship?

Trish McDermott,  world-renowned authority on romance states that  “statistically, your relationship is most likely to end in the different seasons as follows: Spring 15 percent, Summer 23 percent, Fall 23 percent, Winter 38 percent.” So, if your relationship survived winter, the odds are in your favor to survive spring and move forward.

About Cheating Husbands

The average (infidelity) case is wrapped up in four to eight hours,” explains Thomas Martin, a private investigator and former federal agent with the FBI.  Here are some statistics based on his 38 years and 30,000 marital surveillance cases:

  • 1. Who’s hiring him?  80% of his clients are women, only 20% are men.
  • 2. What happens next?   A total of 65% of the women, who have caught their husbands cheating, divorced them.   Of all the cases that he handled, 100 percent of all men who have caught their wives cheating have divorced them.
  • 3. Who gets caught?  About 80 percent of the 25,000 men who we had followed were caught easily. Many men don't think that their wives will call a PI and have them followed," Martin said.
  •  4Unexpected news?   Out of all their cases, about three percent of spouses have been caught with same sex partners.  
  • 5.  Stern warnings? Eight of his clients over the last few decades have died from AIDS contracted from their cheating spouses. "The first thing I tell them once they are done crying is, 'Get your ass to the doctor,'" he said.

Disordered Eating

Self, one of the least culpable among women's glossies and certainly deserves credit for undertaking the following study with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now, brace yourselves for the results of this survey of 4,023: Sixty-five percent of women ages 25 to 45 engage in disordered eating, "such as skipping meals or cutting out food groups." (If skipping a meal doesn't register as particularly unhealthy, note that these are cases in which the women say it's "associated with emotional and physical distress.") In addition, 10 percent of women report behaviors consistent with anorexia, bulimia and binging. Other findings, as summarized by the press release:

--67 percent of women (excluding those with actual eating disorders) are trying to lose weight
--53 percent of dieters are already at a healthy weight and are still trying to lose weight
-- 39 percent of women say concerns about what they eat or weigh interfere with their happiness
--37 percent regularly skip meals to try to lose weight
--27 percent would be "extremely upset" if they gained just five pounds
--26 percent cut out entire food groups
--16 percent have dieted on 1,000 calories a day or fewer
--13 percent smoke to lose weight
--12 percent often eat when they're not hungry; 49 percent sometimes do

Cynthia R. Bulik of the UNC School of Medicine added a rotten cherry to this sickening sundae: "More than 31 percent of women in the survey reported that in an attempt to lose weight they had induced vomiting or had taken laxatives, diuretics or diet pills at some point in their life. Among these women, more than 50 percent engaged in purging activities at least a few times a week."

What Would People Do to Save Their Marriage?

Divorce360 commissioned a Roper poll to find out what people would do to save their marriages. If you're divorced you might have tried one of these:

  • 85% of people who have thought about divorce at some point are willing to make an effort to save their marriage. Nearly 10% would change religions, (Like Katie Holmes did for Tom Cruise before they married).60% would go to counseling.46% would move.35% would ignore the possibility that their spouse was cheating.
  • 30% would reconsider their desire to have or not have children

Odd Stats of Interest to Solo Women

$201: Average amount spent by men on dates every month.

380,000: Women who are stalked by husbands or exs every year

2.2 million: Marriages that take place in the US every year (that's 6,000 a day)

5.5 million: Unmarried couples living together

10 million: Membership total for match.com

$2.4 billion: Jewelry merchandise sold in the US in 2/2004 (from Florida International Magazine, 2/2006)

***

Here are more odd stats from the 2007 OkCupid.com survey of 5,000 singles:

- Be courteous, and wear deodorant: 46% of singles say body odor is the biggest first date no-no.

- No need for a sobriety test: 42% of singles don’t drink on a first date.

- Failure to Launch, Part II?: 27% of singles want to know right away if their date still lives with their parents.

- Loose lips, better dates?: 82% of singles would rather have a date who talks too much than doesn't talk enough on the first date.

Healthy Men

For those of you single women who seek a healthy guy: from Men's Health Magazine, 2007,

Countries Where Men are Well-Fed:

Portugal, Spain, Canada, Italy, Greece

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10 Tips for Hiring a Handyman

Solo women often need a bit of help around the house, let's face. Ask previous clients these questions before hiring to be sure you get the best possible handyperson:

1. Were you able to communicate well with the contractor?
2. Were you satisfied with the quality of work?
3. Were you satisfied with the contractor’s business practices?
4. Did the crew show up on time?
5. Were they comfortable with the trades people the contractor subcontracted to?
6. Was the job completed on schedule?
7. Did the contractor fulfill his or her contract?
8. Did the contractor stay in touch throughout the project?
9. Were the final details finished in a timely manner?
10. Would you use the contractor again without hesitation? If the answers to any of these questions leave you feeling a bit queasy, keep looking before you turning your home – and home life – over to a crew who may leave you with less than you expected.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program’s website at www.moneypit.com

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Eight Ways to Keep Off Weight

Break Through Your Plateau by Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS When you're trying to lose weight, the question isn't whether or not you'll hit a plateau, it's when. Plateaus are like bad weather on a long hike: it's inevitable that you'll run into it, but knowing that in advance won't make it one bit less frustrating or annoying when it happens. Cheer up, solos! Since plateaus are as common as rain, we have a pretty good idea what to do about them. At least one of the following techniques should help you break through a plateau and start losing again.

1. Be a Calorie Detective
When clients tell me they've stopped losing weight, the first thing I ask is this: how many calories a day are you eating? Calories have a way of creeping up while we're not paying attention. Be brutally honest with yourself: how muxh are you eating. Using a food diary for a while is a great way to monitor this. And yes, sodas and alcoholic beverages count! A good calorie goal for dieters is your target weight times 10.

2. Change It Up
When you're not making gains in an exercise program you change your routine. Same holds true with your eating plan. Low-carbers could go higher carb for a few days, high-carbers might switch to a plan like Atkins or South Beach. Varying calorie intake may have a positive effect: If you're averaging 1,500 calories daily, try dropping to 1,200, going up to 2,000 and then dropping back to 1,500. You get the idea. Your body's gotten comfortable, so it's time to shake things up.

3. Try a Temporary Ban
Food sensitivities can cause weight gain and bloat, and the frustrating thing is that most of us don't always know which foods are the culprits. So play the odds. Highest on the list of "usual suspects" are grains (wheat in particular), dairy and sugar. Temporarily ban all three and see what happens.

4. Take Your Workout Up a Notch
Forget the "fat burning zone." High intensity intervals -- 30 to 60 seconds -- are the wave of the future. If you're accustomed to level three on your cardio machine, ramp it up to level 6 for a minute then slow down, catch your breath and repeat. Ever see a sprinter with love handles? Training like a sprinter will lower your body fat faster than any technique I know of, plus it'll boost your metabolism and lower your weight.

5. Strength Training
If you're not strength training, start now. And if you are, ramp it up a notch. Muscle is your greatest ally in breaking a plateau. Unfortunately many women train with weights too light to produce the metabolic boost they need. Don't be afraid of heavier weights. They should be heavy enough that you can only do between 8 and 12 reps.

6. Up Your Protein
Studies show that higher protein diets make it easier to lose fat. Protein boosts the metabolism (in one study as much as 100 percent for 24 hours), and increases satiety, making it more likely that you won't overeat. A higher protein diet could be just what you need to break that plateau.

7. Try a Detox
Unsupervised fasting is a really bad idea, but the idea of giving your system a rest makes sense. Try a "smart fast" of nothing but fruits and vegetables for a couple of days. The added fiber is always helpful, and the massive amount of nutrients and phytochemicals is like "spring cleaning" for your metabolism.

8. Take Inventory
Other things besides diet and exercise could be stalling your weight loss, such as stress, lack of sleep or medication. Take a look at what else is going on in your life that might need attention. Sometimes when you clean up the problems in one area of your life, problems in other areas just naturally take care of themselves.

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50 Ways to Slash Medical Bills

Living alone makes it especially important d

by Cybele Weisser and Amanda Gengler, with Asa Fitch and Daphne Mosher

1 | ASK FOR A DEAL The rate that your doctor charges isn't set in stone. According to a 2005 Harris Interactive poll, about two-thirds of adults who negotiated for lower prices with a hospital or dentist succeeded, as did three out of five adults who bargained with their doctor. If you're paying out of pocket or face a high deductible, call your insurer's customer service number and ask about the rates it pays physicians in your area, which are typically lower than the sticker price set by providers. Then ask your doctor if he'll accept a similar amount.

2 | GET THE FACTS The more you know about the real cost of your care, the better you'll be able to negotiate discounts. Costs for 30 common hospital procedures can be found at cms.hhs.gov/HealthCareConInit, the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or you can pay $7.95 for medical cost reports from HealthGrades, a ratings company. Large insurers like Aetna, Cigna and United Healthcare have also begun to post rates online for members, though not for every area of the country.

3 | PAY UP FRONT, IN CASH Most doctors lose thousands each year on unpaid bills and spend thousands on credit-card processing fees. If you're footing the bill, laying out the bucks in advance of treatment can get you a 10% discount on your bill, says Pam Deloney of the American Private Physicians Association.

4 | LOOK FOR MISTAKES As many as eight out of 10 hospital bills contain errors, increasing the tab by 25% on average. Keep a log of every test and medication you get, and check it against your medical file, which you can order from the hospital's billing office. If you spot an error, send a certified letter requesting a corrected bill, and a copy of all documentation to your insurer.

5 | CHECK UP BEFORE YOU CHECK IN Radiologists, anesthesiologists and other specialists don't always accept the same insurance as the doctor who admits you to the hospital. Call your doctor to get the names of the medical providers who will be involved in your treatment, and verify with your insurer that they're in the network.

6 | TRACK YOUR SPENDING Do you know when you've met your deductibles or how much money is left in your health FSA? Programs such as Quicken's Medical Expense Manager ($50 at quicken.com) can tell you and also alert you to potential savings such as overlooked tax deductions and possible billing errors.

7 | FOLLOW DOCTOR'S ORDERS Roughly half of all patients don't follow instructions about taking medicine, which results in 10% of hospital visits a year, according to the Merck Manual of Medical Information. Simply doing what you're told can save you your out-of-pocket share of the average $8,200 cost of a hospital stay.

8 | EQUIP YOURSELF Hospitals charge a significant markup on equipment like crutches or braces, so you're almost always better off buying them on your own.

9 | SEEK SMART COUNSEL If you're seeing a mental-health therapist every week, you're probably footing much of the bill: Most health plans limit coverage to 30 visits a year. You can cut the cost by going to a certified counselor or clinical social worker (average fee: $90 an hour) instead of a psychologist (around $120). A recent survey found no difference in effectiveness.

10 | VISIT A RETAIL HEALTH CLINIC Got an earache or upset stomach? Visit a walk-in clinic found at retail stores like CVS and Wal-Mart. Cost: about $25 to $100 for treating minor ailments, or about 25% less than the cost of care in a doctor's office, according to insurer HealthPartners. (But only 40% take insurance, so you may have to pay full price rather than just a co-pay.) Bonus: No appointment is necessary, and patients are usually in and out within 15 minutes.

More Tips

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Four Tips on Regifting

Regifting was coined on a Seinfeld episode. Is it acceptable, as a busy solo woman, to do it? According to Regiftable.com, regifting is ok, but certain conditions apply:

  • Never regift one-of-a kind items.
  • Only new, unopened gifts in good condition should be regifted.
  • Make sure you are careful. Don't regift to the person who gave it to you, or to someone who knows them!
  • Your intentions

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10 Proven Ways to Beat Cancer

A new, comprehensive scientific study lists 10 major factors to help avoid cancer. As solo women, we need to take special care of ourselves and head off problems with prevention!1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
2. Be physically active daily for at least 30 minutes
3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar and fat, or low in fiber)
4. Eat more variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans
5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats
6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day
7. Limit consumption of salty foods and food processed with salt/sodium
8. Don't use supplements to protect against cancer, opt for a balanced diet
9. It's best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months
10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention

And researchers also suggest against smoking or chewing tobacco in any form because of the increased risk of cancer and other serious diseases.

For the complete report, visit The World Cancer's Research Fund Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

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Eleven Health Hazards -- And How to Prevent Problems

As in the article above, about preventing cancer, we single gals especially need to take care of ourselves and avoid medical problems. So to make sure you're not hurting your health, check these out.

Skipping Flossing. It's important to floss, says Dr. Kimberly Harms, a dentist from Farmington, Minnesota, because otherwise you're allowing a little bacterial infection to fester in between your teeth and gums.You might not see the negative effects right away, but over time, your teeth and gums will decay. This can lead to cavities and gum disease. It can also eat away the bone that keeps your teeth in place, which will eventually result in a loss of teeth.

Not Using Sunscreen. A nice tan may sounds like a good way to show off your last beach vacation, but that tan could cause skin damage -- or worse. More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Go to the Doctor. You know you've got your physical coming up, but your boss needs that report ASAP so you cancel the appointment to get your work done. Or maybe you're just scared of your diagnoses.It's not uncommon for people to skip a doctor's visit, according to King. But, you may be putting yourself at risk for something that could be easily treated, and the longer you wait, the harder it will be. "A lot of people just don't think about preventative health," King said. "Do you have the immunizations you need? Have you had cancer screening?"

Stressing. Though stress is often seen as an emotional or mental condition, there is a physical component to it as well. Feelings of aggravation and nervousness cause the release of adrenaline, which increases a person's heart rate. Stress can also cause chest pain, high-blood pressure, headaches and difficultly sleeping.

Overusing Antibiotics. These problems can compound, according to King. It can become a nasty cycle, where stress leads to more problems, which, in turn, leads to more stress.Over medicating goes hand in hand with the overuse of antibiotics, the often life-saving drugs that fight bacterial infections. Antibiotics, however, don't fight viruses."People want a cure for everything, but pills don't cure it all," McDonald said. Many patients demand antibiotics from their doctors. If the physician won't write the prescription, some go so far as to get the drugs from the Internet.Instead of making people feel better, the overuse of antibiotics simply creates strains of bacteria that are resistant to drugs

Overmedicating. Whether it's high blood pressure, trouble sleeping or difficulty keeping cholesterol levels down, doctors have good intentions when they fill out a prescription slip. But, seven, 10, 22 medications later, you could start your own pharmacy from the number of pills you take every day. Plus, there is always a risk of a drug interaction between prescriptions or with an over the counter medication or even with some foods. Dizziness, nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort are just some of the side effects of too much medication. "They actually create health problems by using too many prescriptions," said Dr. William McDonald, a family physician with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Massachusetts.

Overdrinking. Most studies show that one drink a day, like a glass of red wine, may be beneficial for your heart. But, more than that and you start to run into complications like liver disease, high-blood pressure or a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, which occurs when the heart is weakened and can't pump blood efficiently And skipping a glass of wine one day doesn't mean you can drink two the next. "You can't ... say I'm not going to drink Monday through Thursday and then have five beers on Friday," King said.

Over-Processed, Fatty Foods. Eating healthy is usually easier said than done. Whether it's a lack of time, a lack of food knowledge or a lack of motivation, Americans consistently reach for processed foods when it's time to refuel.Food choices are not without consequences. Too much sodium, which is a staple of processed foods, can lead to high blood pressure. Fast food joints churn out products with massive amounts of fat and cholesterol, which turn your heart into a ticking time bomb.

Unsafe Sex. The risks associated with unprotected sex are also well documented. You can expose yourself to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV."It's playing Russian Roulette," King said. "You don't know. It's not like you can ask. A lot of times they don't even know.

"Sedentary Life Style. The more you move, the longer you can expect to live, says Dr. Tim Komoto, a family physician from McGregor, Minnesota. A lack of exercise, on the other hand, leads to obesity, which can, in turn, lead to other problems such as diabetes and osteoporosis.Research has also shown that a sedentary lifestyle causes heart disease and even cancer. It can even lead to depression. But, don't despair, taking a half-hour walk every day can be enough to help you strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, decrease your cholesterol levels and shed some extra pounds.And the worst of all:

Smoking. Cigarettes have a long list of downsides that include causing lung cancer, stroke and emphysema. "It's probably the most damaging thing we can do to our bodies," said King, who noted that cigarettes are one of the most addictive products out there today.Despite this, the American Lung Association estimates that approximately 45 million people in the United States alone smoke and about 438,000 Americans die every year from smoking-related diseases.

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Twenty Ways to Brighten Your Home

As a single woman with lots to do, you seek little changes with big impact. Here are 20 easy ways to turn so-so space into your dream home.

Tabletop Tricks

1. Be creative with silk roses. Make an impromptu table runner by scattering a layer of petals over a console or a dining room table. 2. Dine with dish towels. A great napkin substitute, they'll bring fun and color to your table. 3. Give your kitchen table a lift -- it's easy with a new set of place mats. 4. Table trick of the trade: Fill a wooden or metal bowl with fresh lemons or green apples.

Fake It

5. Paint a faux kitchen rug. The braided look is warm (but, in this version, not fuzzy). Bonus benefits: It won't stain or slip. 6. Fake a crown molding. Apply stamped-metal appliqués in a classic motif like fleur-de-lis or stars, from Architectural Products by Outwater. 7. Use mirrors to increase the feeling of intimacy. In a large living room, angle a wall mirror downward so it reflects the seats -- not just the tops -- of furniture. (To create that outward tip, hang the mirror from a slack wire that's attached to the frame at its midsection.) Cozier now? That's because the reflection gives you the sense of a lot more furniture in the room. 8. Fake a new fridge. Freshen its front with appliance epoxy paint. For a chic facade, try Rustoleum's appliance epoxy in Stainless Steel.

Quick Fixes

9. Bring on the baskets. They're the secret to containing shelf clutter, says interior designer Mary Gilliatt. 10. Get into mood lighting. Dimmers are easy to install, and they help you set the scene for your space -- a cozy conversation in the living room or a quiet meal for two in the dining room. 11. Hide the home gym. All it takes to conceal your treadmill is a beautiful screen.12. Trash the can. Retire the metal wastepaper basket and use a pretty hamper as a rubbish bin instead.

Artful Solutions

13. Give your address some dash. Replace the plain (and probably faded) numbers on the front of your house with a distinctive ceramic plaque from Santa Barbara Ceramic Design. You can grout the number tiles yourself, or they can be mortared-to-order.14. Group botanical prints or photos as a collection for big impact. 15. Support your artist-in-residence. Have three or four of your child's drawings or paintings professionally matted and framed. Arrange them on one wall. As a collection, they'll look striking and surprisingly mature. 16. Make your own wallpaper from old magazine covers, vintage sheet music, gift wrap, maps (road or nautical) or even a stash of beautiful wine labels: Use craft glue or rubber cement to adhere the covers or labels to the wall, smooth with a ruler, let dry for 24 hours and top with two coats of water-based paper polyurethane for a waterproof finish.

Décor

17. Scour flea markets for pitchers and vases of different shapes and sizes; display them together. 18. Make wall space your showplace. Instead of paintings or prints, hang shelves to display keepsakes and collectibles. 19. Hang paper lanterns in a family room or a hallway; unusual colors and sizes will cheer up the space.20. Stripe it rich. Blinds.com offers colorful designer blinds that match hues in most of Sherwin-Williams's paints.

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14 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

by Robert Reames

- Don't wear elastic pants - especially at holiday parties. This will encourage overconsumption.

- Partner up with a date or a friend at holiday parties. Keep an eye on each other as to not overconsume or eat foods that you normally would not eat.

- Chew sugar-free gum or mints at all get-togethers so you won't overeat.

- Make the holidays about family, friends and rekindling friendships. Keep in mind what the holidays are all about: focus on the camaraderie with the folks you love - not on gorging yourself.

- Limit or avoid alcohol. Consumption of alcohol will lower inhibitions, lower your metabolic rate and cloud your judgment - all of which will likely result in excess eating.

- Don't miss workouts during the holiday season. Ultimately, schedule some extra workouts during these weeks. - Work out ON the holidays. Celebrate the days with activity and movement. Don't be sedentary.

- Get at least 8-9 hours of restful sleep nightly. Sleep deprivation will cause cravings for excess sugar and starch. During these days you want to avoid cravings, since you will be encountering a lot more of these types of foods at parties and get-togethers.

- Position yourself away from the food at holiday parties.

- Eat BEFORE you go to parties, so you won't be hungry. And be sure not to skip meals during these weeks as this will also encourage overconsumption.

- If it's a potluck, bring something that you can eat.

- Eat sitting down, and eat slowly.

- Make a deal with yourself: I will not overconsume or eat foods that don't meet my standards for optimum health during the holiday season. Always set standards high for the "fuel" that you put in your body!

- Take one day, one holiday party at a time. If you happen to overindulge (which you won't!) once, then let that be and move on to the next day. Then regain your momentum for optimum choices.

- And keep in mind: it's all about choices. Make the right choices so you don't fall behind and have to play catch-up in January.

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Trends for Solo Living!

Have you heard about FoodTees? (www.FoodTee.com) And new to the FoodTee Market are tank tops, yoga bags, and more than 15 new designs. FoodTee products are designed to let people express their unique healthy living values with food images and entertaining sayings that are available on shirts for adults, children and toddlers, as well as on baby organic onesies, totes, aprons and yoga bags.

Some of our most popular images are Celery / Stalker; Cherries / No Sugar Added; Tomato / Locally Grown; Cauliflower /Flower Child; Raspberry / All Natural; Peapod / Live Green; Carrot / Bite Me; Doughnut / Think Before You Eat; Broccoli / Tree Pose. You have to at least take a peek--they really are adorable--and they promote better health (www.FoodTee.com). In addition, a portion of the proceeds are donated to help promote healthy school nutrition education.

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Take Note Of These Nine BIG Romantic Blunders

Solo women. copy this list for your male relatives and friends. And give it to your significant other in case you can't tell him yourself!

Hey Guys, Do Not:

**  Buy her an appliance (no blenders or dishwashers)
**  Buy her clothes ( the exception is some romantic lingerie as long as you don't spend more than two hours in Victoria Secret, ok, four hours)
**  Go dutch
**  Give her cash (no matter how nicely you wrap it)
**  Get married on Valentine's Day (thinking you can save a gift every year)
**  Get your secretary a Valentine's gift also (in fact, never ever do this or you are in very big trouble)
** Give her anything weight related (no diet books, no gift certificates for liposuction)
**  Ask for a divorce (it will kill the mood!)

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Quick Ideas for Healthy Snacking

by Amy Lippman

The truth is that our society doesn’t make it easy to be healthy – especially in the snack category. At practically every street corner it’s easy to find cookies, chips, and ice cream. It’s not so easy to find snacks that are made from whole foods (grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits, etc.) 

I've struggled at times with coming up with snacks that are healthy, tasty, and satisfying.  My clients and I find that we are able to stay on track and have fewer cravings when we keep healthy options on hand (at home and work).  

Here's a list of my favorite snacks:  

  • Greek Yogurt (I like Fage brand, with some fruit, honey, or agave nectar.)
  • Hard Boiled Eggs with sea salt (Choose free range if possible.)
  • Amy’s Organic brand Frozen Burritos
  • Amy’s Organic brand Canned Soup (I like the heartier ones like split pea, lentil, and black bean.)
  • Brown rice crackers with Guacamole
  • Sprouted Grain bread or English muffin with almond butter or peanut butter.
  • Hummus with baby carrots
  • Apple or celery with almond or peanut butter
  • Handful of almonds and a piece of fruit
  • Quesadilla made with a sprouted grain tortilla, cheese, salsa, and black beans
  • Fig Newman’s (They are the more natural version of fig newtons.)
  • Sweet Potato (You can bake a bunch of them when you’re home at night watching TV.)

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10 Perfect Holiday Toasts (Not Cheers!)

1. Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. --Hamilton Wright Mabie

2. May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart. -- Inuit prover

3. May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions. -- Joey Adams

4. May all your joys be true joys, and all your pain, Champagne. --Anonymous

5. Here's to holly and ivy hanging up, and to something wet in every cup. -- Ogdan Nash

6. If you can't be merry at Christmas, then you can drive the rest of us home when we are! -- Mark Bromberg

7. Here's to us that are here, to you that are there, and the rest of us everywhere. -- Rudyard Kipling

8. In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, and never want. -- Irish toast

9. Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better [person]. -- Benjamin Franklin

10. As you slide down the baniters of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way. -- Anonymous

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Useful Party Websites

These sites offer everything you need, from invitations to decorations, to budget planning -- perfect helpers for a busy solo woman.

www.plumparty.com -- www.iomoi.com -- www.etsy.com -- www.jamaligarden.com -- www.chosencouture.com -- www.foryourparty.com -- www.thefrontdoor.com _____

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Six Exercises to Forget Him

Doctors agree that exercise can rival drugs or therapy when it comes to the mild or moderate depression single women get at the end of a relationship. Just 30 minutes of aerobic activity, done three times per week, can cut mild depression in half.

But take it slowly. "It's important not to overtire yourself," say editors at WebMD. Start with simple activities such as walking, bicycling, swimming or jogging.

Six Ways Fitness Can Heal Heartache
People split up for various reasons. But there's a fitness solution for every kind of breakup:

1. He cheated on you: Break out the gloves. Turn your vengeful feelings into something productive. Sign up for a martial arts, tae bo, boxing or kickboxing class to channel your aggressions

2. He's just not that into you: Get a little self-esteem boost. Try the bikini workout. Strip aerobics will make you feel sexy and give you the confidence you need to go back to dating.

3. You're a commitment-phobe: Do a half-marathon and turn your desire to run away into a real workout.

4. Zzzz... he was a snoozer: Try a trendier, multifaceted workout like Budokon (a favorite of 'Friend' Courteney Cox) -- an invigorating blend of martial arts, yoga and meditation.

5. You have different musical tastes: So his favorite band is Mili Vanilli but you like Green Day. Seek out music-related workouts where you'll find like-minded souls. Many gyms offer hip-hop and Latin dance classes. Some cities even offer punk-rock aerobics.

6. You want a baby, he's not ready: Channel your inner kid by skipping, jumping rope and trying a game of kickball.

Margit Detweiler is the former editorial director of AOL Diet & Fitness/Health

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Instead of Dinner Try This...

Singles Alternatives for Dating & Eating

by Lisa Cericola, courtesy of Match.com's Happen magazine


1. Pick your own produce: No matter where you live, chances are there's a local farm with fruit that's ripe for the picking, whether that means Washington state apples or New Jersey tomatoes. An afternoon at a "pick your own" farm is a memorable way to spend time together outdoors -- and depending on how much you gather, you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor long after the date's over. For an ultra romantic twist, pack a blanket, a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers and turn your harvest into a happy hour. To find a farm near you that offers this option, log on to www.pickyourown.org for nationwide listings.

Personals AOL

2. Greenmarkets: Treat your senses to a stroll through a greenmarket. Not only are outdoor markets a fun place to people-watch, you and your date can fill up on free samples of farm-fresh produce, locally made cheese, and fresh baked goods. And if you're still not full after making the rounds, there's no better spot to pick up a delectable picnic spread to share together. The USDA's agricultural marketing service has national listings for greenmarkets. Log on to www.ams.usda.gov and click on "Farmers Markets."

3. Dessert bars: Why waste time with dinner when you can skip straight to dessert? Instead of hitting up a bakery with little to no seating (and even less ambiance), enjoy a romantic meal of shared sweets at an all-dessert restaurant. From the cozy Chocolate Room in Brooklyn (www.thechocolateroombrooklyn.com) these spots are popping up all over the country, offering an entire menu of mouthwatering creations, candlelit tables, and often "dessert flights" with wine or liquor pairings. To find one in your area, log on to www.openlist.com and search for "dessert" under your city for listings. And if the trend hasn't spread to your town, head to any top-notch restaurant towards the end of dinner time, skip the main course, and dig into something sweet!

4. Wine flights/beer tastings: Toast your relationship and try something new by indulging a wine flight (samples of a variety of wines versus ordering a whole bottle). Not only can you sample wines by the region, many wine bars are also offering flights based on season (hint: think rosés this summer). If beer's more your thing, there are all kinds of varieties to sample, from pilsners to lagers, at a local brewery or beer festival. Search www.localwineevents.com for wine and spirits lists; www.beerfestivals.org has a calendar of events and www.beertown.org has a searchable directory of breweries.

5. Food festivals: There's no better way to show your civic pride than stuffing yourself with weird and wonderful regional specialties. From Plant City, Florida's annual strawberry festival, to Memphis' world-renowned BBQ Fest, to the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, there's a festival for every imaginable taste. If you're new to your area, it’s a great way to get familiar with local culture; if you’re both natives, you'll have a great time daring each other to try garlic ice cream or fried pickles. Search for a food festival near you at www.foodreference.com



6. Amusement parks: Who doesn’t love hot dogs and cotton candy? Aside from the roller coasters and carnival games, you and your date will feel like kids again by indulging in fair food. Log on to www.nightcoaster.com for park listings by state. Just make sure you go on the Tilt-o-whirl before you pig out on funnel cake.

7. Tea shops: Forget coffee; tea houses are the newest way to get your caffeine fix. Whether you like it brewed hot with a side of finger sandwiches, served over ice with citrus slices, or studded with slippery tapioca pearls (called boba, or Taiwanese bubble tea), a teashop is an inexpensive date and a refreshing alternative to the traditional coffeehouse (added bonus: No coffee breath). For a comprehensive listing of teahouses nationwide, go to www.teaguide.net.

8. Tapas: Don't want a long, formal meal with someone new? Then try tapas, appetizers that offer a few morsels you and your date can share -- a surefire conversation starter for first dates. Traditional tapas draw from Spanish flavors, but this popular way of dining has spread to Cuban, French, and even Japanese cuisine. Log on to www.openlist.comand search for "tapas" under your city for listings, or just stick to the appetizer menu at your favorite restaurant.

9. Food tours: Put on your walking shoes and get ready to discover a side of your neighborhood that you've never seen before. Culinary tours are a fun way to explore different areas of a city through their restaurants and food shops. Dig into gumbo on a walking tour through New Orleans' French Quarter, sample authentic grits in Charleston, or taste Chinatown's rich culinary history on a cook's tour of San Francisco. To see if culinary tours are available in your area, contact your state's tourism board.

Lisa Cericola is a freelance writer in the New York City area. Her favorite non-dinner date is called "pie for dinner."

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10 Ways to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

    by Dian Larkin

Scientists and medical professionals now recognize a light-and-warmth deprivation syndrome (SAD), and offer mood-boosters for the doldrums. And those of us living on our own can use them! clock1. Re-create sunlight. Full-spectrum fluorescent lights (www.lightforhealth.com) offer the benefits of basking in sunlight.2. Get outside. Take morning or mid-day walks.3. Get busy. Participate in community activities, enjoy friends, cultural events, museums, shows.4. Feel the burn.  Step up your exercise regime. Physical activity stimulates mood-restoring chemicals.  Consider purchasing an indoor exercise video if you don't already have an exercise program (visit www.fitbuy.com for ideas); refresh your nutrition practices, visit www.eatright.org, www.MyPyramid.gov, and review our links article on the new and improved food pyramid.5. Keep it simple. Don't overdo. Balance activity with rest. Minimize rushing around; relax with quiet time, mediation and music; avoid stress.6. Keep it fresh.  Soothe your nerves with live plants, flowers and candles in your home; shine and sparkle your house with aromatherapy and citrus-based cleaners.7. Rise and shine. In winter, early-morning light is preferable to later daylight.8. Let the sun in.  Keep drapes and shades open during the day at home or at work. Sit near windows, take minute breaks to gaze outside, use lots of indoor lights on gray days.9. Take a break.  Consider taking your vacation in winter instead of summer, or make weekends into mini-vacations. Visit day spas (see our day spas links) or join a group. In the New York region, Wild Earth Adventures leads hikes and wilderness trips, all difficulty levels, full winter schedule, www.wildearthadventures.com. Tulsa has a year-round activity club offering trips, tours and activities, singles welcome! www.tulsaskiclub.com. Look for excursion tours or activity clubs in your neck of the woods.10. Pamper yourself.  Review our day spa links, and supplement massages, manicures and facials with long, hot soaks in the tub.  Treat yourself to special bath products. Visit www.fantasybath.com for handmade products, and www.forbiddenlavener.com, www.bathbybettijo.com, www.crabtree-evelyn.com     For more information visit www.nmha.org, www.ncpamd.com/seasonal.htm, or http://familydoctor.org. Also visit www.healthy.net and www.wholefoods.com, for these and more health hints.

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A Sampling of Niche Internet Dating Sites

Internet dating has become the go-to way for singles to meet the most people in the shortest time. All of us know success stories, and all of us know of the popular sites, such as eharmony.com, and match.com.

But many solo women don't know about the dozens of niche dating sites—sites targeting special interest groups. And hundreds of other sites offer dating services as an option if not a focus. If you have a special interest or want to meet people in a special group, Google that interest or group and you might find several sites where you can find a date. As usual, use caution and don't send money without checking the site out as carefully as possible.

Here are samples of a few niche dating sites:blacksingles.com, singleparentmatch.com, largefriends.com (for singles who are heavy or enjoy dating heavy people), datemypet.com (for single pet lovers), gothicmatch.com (for singles who want to date others in the Gothic lifestyle), whispers4u.com (for people who are disabled),. relationships.com (for Christian singles), ldsmingle.com (for Morman singles), jdate, (for Jewish singles), farmersonly.com (for farmers, ranchers, and "country folk"), udate.com (for singles who just ended a previous relationship).

Online Personals Help
- Online Dating Safety
- Profile Tips & Techniques
- Photos Tips & Techniques
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Those Icky Bacteria on Your Bags and Luggage

As solo women we are often stuck with having to place our luggage, purses and packages in a bathroom stall or other unsanitary places. Read on: A health team went to a local mall and took samples from the bottom of 50 women's purses. The purses were swabbed with cotton swabs along the entire bottoms and placed into special containers. The swabs were then processed at a local laboratory.

The health report also showed where women usually place their purses, including: public restrooms (on the floor beside the toilet), kitchen counters and kitchen tables, on tables and chairs in restaurants. The results of the laboratory tests: one out of four purses — E Coli! Other extremely serious bacteria also were listed, including Hepatitis.

The report recommended we should daily wipe our purses (particularly the bottoms) with a disinfectant wipe, and be extremely careful where we place our purses. Most important, don't place your purse on a table (anywhere) where you will eat, or on a kitchen counter, and do not put it anywhere close to a toilet. (Remember, when you flush a toilet, the spray goes a distance that is unrecognizable by the human eye.)

Wash your hands as often as you can! Keep an antibacterial hand sanitizer cleaner (no water needed) in your purse and use it often! And as soon as you get home, immediately wipe your purse with a disinfectant wipe. To check it out further: http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/purse.asp

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flow       Great Parties? Here's Five Ways How!by Dian Larkin

Single women often have to do it all. Follow these links and your parties will come together wonderfully (and, hurray, you're doing it on your own!).      

Create a special theme. Visit http://interiordec.about.com,  www.decorations.com, www.vermontcountrystore.com, www.butterbeantrading.comwww.candlesacrossamerica.com and www.greatoccasions.com for wonderful ideas. For gourmet cooking gadgets and implements, visit http://cookingnaturals.com.

Get an overview.  Visit www.chatelaine.com/foodrecipes, www.ehow.com, www.bhg.com (Better Homes and Gardens) and www.here-now.org for recipes, party ideas, and last-minute stress-busting tips.

Finalize your guest list. Determine how many children and adults will attend, and consider seating arrangements. Ask about special dietary needs and plan to accommodate them (it's ok to ask guests to bring some of their own special items).

Plan your menu. Visit www.foodnetwork.com again for fabulous menu suggestions.

Learn to delegate. Assign dishes and other chores to those who offer.

For an excellent, detailed schedule of exactly what to do next, when, and how to do it, together with lots of recipes and great ideas and visit www.foodnetwork.com.For planning office parties, visit www.ehow.com and www.quintcareers.com.

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     Your Personal Food and Exercise Pyramid

Remember the old food pyramid? The one that required 85 daily servings of fat and carbohydrates? It appears many of us did eat all our vegetables, and then some, as America is now the land of the obese. Our heft may be due, in part, to vague "one size fits all" food pyramid guidelines shoved down our throats (literally!) by experts of yesteryear.

In response, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture, www.usda.gov), and The American Dietetic Association (www.eatright.org) restructured the food pyramid, culminating in the creation of MyPyramid (www.MyPyramid.gov), a free government service providing an individualized daily nutrition and exercise tool.

Acknowledging that every body is different, MyPyramid adjusts for age, gender, activity level and lifestyle. Use MyPyramid Tracker to develop your interactive eating and exercise plan. (www.MyPyramid.gov, http://www.mypyramidtracker.gov/www.MyPyramidTracker.gov).


Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips, 1st Edition (Special-Interest Titles)

 

 




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