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    Rethinking the “Gift” of Singleness

    April 12, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    I married fairly young. Technically, I was 22, but I turned 23 during our honeymoon week. I became a mom right after my 24th birthday. Needless to say, it never really dawned on me to question the rampant singleness found in our culture, even though it effected–and still effects–some of my dearest friends.

    However, had I remained single until now, I would have done exactly what Debbie Maken did. I would have done research. Lots of research. And then I probably would have given all the answers away for free on my blog instead of being smart about it like Mrs. Maken and getting a book deal out of it!

    But enough about me.

    Really, I am writing about a book that I am reading, Maken’s Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness. I will attempt to review it a bit as I go, but I would highly suggest reading this book, even if you are already married. {In fact, if you buy or borrow it and read it with me, I could end up hosting an online book group of sorts!} The reason for reading this is simple: Maken is making the case for marriage. She is revealing yet another symptom of the devaluing of marriage in our culture: perpetual singleness. And she is also helping me realize how important it is to have compassion on my still-single female friends who wish very much to be married one day, but they feel like a princess surrounded by a sea of toads.

    If you are looking for another feel-good book on singleness and marriage, think again. Maken is a former attorney, and it takes some time to absorb all that she has written in regards to the history of marriage and singleness. For instance, did you know that, in early America, single people were not allowed to live on their own? Did you know that a bachelor that attempted to live alone was considered to be nursing some sort of secret sin and if he did not find a family to move in with or take a wife, he could be sentenced to time in the House of Corrections {aka “jail”}, as in the case of John Litleale of Haverhill, Massachusetts? I didn’t either.

    But Maken explains all this and more. She writes,

    Early Americans did not think the single status or life anything to be glorified, but rather something that a “real” family should absorb, so that no one would have to suffer the infirmities of singleness, nor its vices. They wanted to restrict the negative consequences associated with singleness–loneliness and the anonymity needed for the continuation of secret sin. I suspect that the Puritan living patterns not only emanated to the surrounding public what was normative but also had the effect of limiting the choices of single men, with marriage being the most viable option. A young man like single John would much rather quickly grow up and take a wife so he could be king of his own castle than be treated as an immature child in another man’s domain.

    Maken’s point, as she details the history of singleness in her book, is that society used to be on a woman’s side when she was single. Society’s laws and culture did everything possible to influence men to take a wife and have a family. Society pushed men, directly and indirectly, to step up, grow up, and be what God designed them to be: loving husbands and fathers. With society now looking with indifference, or even admiration, at bachelorhood, single women find it much more difficult to find a mate in a timely manner. And, as Maken puts it, as a woman, you can’t get married when nobody’s asking.

    Overall, this is {so far} a great book. I keep stealing glances at it whenever I find the time. Chapter Four, The Lack of Male Leadership: The True Cause of Protracted Singleness, contains some thoughts I disagree with, and I will try to tackle that in my next post. However, I think that Maken’s good thoughts so greatly outnumber the bad that it is well worth reading.


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