DescriptionThe number of one-person households is rising steeply all over the world and a growing proportion of these 'new singles' are women. It is estimated that one woman in three lives on her own. This development reflects general social trends, ranging from rising divorce rates to the growing professionalization of women and their dissatisfaction with a traditional model that offers them a future organized solely around 'husband-baby-home'. At the same time, the attractions of that model still linger and the fairytale prince is by no means a figure from a story or a remote past. Even in an age in which the internet promises that love is 'just a click away', many women still wait for their prince to come.
Jean-Claude Kaufmann's sympathetic study of the lives, aspirations and sometimes despair of the 'new single women' is based mainly on an analysis of a sample of the hundreds of letters sent to Marie-Claire magazine after it published a first-hand account of the single life. Funny, touching and at times profoundly sad, the letters paint a collective portrait of the single woman and her life that is both intimate and socially significant. Kaufmann concludes by situating their stories in a broad comparative context and considering the possible impact of novel phenomena such as the recent vogue for 'mail-order brides'.
FOREWORD TO THE NEW EDITION
PART ONE: IS THERE A MODEL FOR PRIVATE LIFE?
1. LIVING ALONE: A LONG HISTORY
Great Buffalo Woman
Celibacy Becomes Legitimate
A Maid in Men’s Clothes
The World Turned Upside Down
The Nineteenth Century: The Main Trend Begins
Grisettes and Phalansteries
The American Model
The Scandinavian Model
2. A LIFE DIVIDED
The ‘Accusing Finger’
The Family: What Can Be Said and What Cannot Be Said
The Laughter of Girlfriends
A Cycle in Three Stages
3. A LIFE SHARED
Back to History
The Personalization of Feelings
A Model for Private Life
The Mother-Children Group
The Model Undermined
4. PRINCE OR HUSBAND?
Facts and Fairies
The Prince with a Thousand Faces
‘Like a Love Story’
The Prince Settles Down
When the Carriage Turns Back into a Pumpkin
The Prince Plays Musical Chairs
PART TWO: PORTRAIT OF A SINGLE WOMAN
‘The Disease of the Infinite’
From Laughter to Tears
From Diaries to Blogs
The Mirror and the Clairvoyant
6. AT HOME
Fixtures and Fittings
Wrapping Up and Regressing
Freedom from Domesticity
The Lightness of Being
7. THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Being Oneself in the Outside World
A Gloomy View of Life
9. THE INTERNET REVOLUTION
A Sudden Change of Epoch
Love is Just a Click Away
The Dark Side of the Web
Men and Women: Sex and Commitment
‘Don’t Give Up’
An Experience in its Own Right
PART THREE: THE AUTONOMY TRAJECTORY
10. BEING ONESELF
The Concept of Trajectory
The Irresistible Injunction to be Oneself
Women Who Have Broken off Relationships
The Impulse to Remain Single
The Lesser of Two Evils
Two Trajectories, Two Identities
Dinosaurs of Love and Galloping Horses
The Ravages of Love
For Want of an Alternative
Sentenced to Hard Labour
12. ‘WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING!
Flight as Therapy
The Logic of the Shell
The Paradox of Appearances
Women Can Do Anything
Autonomy with Company
DOSSIER. THE GLOBALIZATION OF SINGLEDOM: THE FIGURES
The Irresistible Rise in the Number of One-Person Households
Interpreting the Figures
A Short World Tour
A NOTE ON METHODOLOGY
Stages in the Research
“Freedom and autonomy have their glories and their miseries. Jean-Claude Kaufmann has composed a thoroughly researched inventory of both, while analysing in depth the present-day condition of women and its impact on the male half of humanity. As women replace self-effacement with newly gained self-confidence, the lynchpin is driven out of the family and the private sphere, and the hard-to-reconcile drives to autonomy and companionship result in the increasing fragility of commitments and fear of loneliness for both women and men. In masterly fashion, Kaufmann records the ongoing transformations in the human condition that follow. His findings hit at the very heart of the harrowing dilemmas which most men and women confront these days and struggle to resolve.”
Zygmunt Bauman, Universities of Leeds and Warsaw
“Anyone seeking to understand the fastest growing trend in personal life – more people living alone – should read this book. Jean-Claude Kaufmann moves elegantly between broad-brush historical overviews of changes in family life and fine-grained scrutiny of the narratives of women ensnared in the drama of these new demographics. Paradoxically, the opening up of personal choices for everybody seems to close down the options for many women, who are finding it harder to find the partners they long for.”
Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College, author of Why Feminism?
“This is a brilliant book on the everyday effects of the rise in female singledom. Kaufman provides fascinating insights into the pressures that single women experience today, from society's disapproval of female autonomy as a threat to traditional family models, to the hopes and disappointments of the modern dating world.”
Veronique Mottier, University of Lausanne
- A highly original book about one of the key social changes of our time: the growing numbers of people - in particular, the growing numbers of women - who are living on their own.
- Explores the tension between the desire of many woman to lead independent, professional lives, on the one hand, and their longing for a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Mr Right - the ‘fairytale prince’ - on the other.
- Ties in with the kinds of themes addressed by television and popular culture - e.g. Sex and the City, Bridget Jones, etc.
- Includes up-to-date analysis of internet dating and ‘mail-order brides’.
- A beautifully written and very accessible book about the changing nature of personal life today, written by one of the leading sociologists in France.