n the closely-knit rural society before the turn of the century, an unmarried adult was rare. The reason for any person's single status had to be an unfortunate one. Those who chose not to marry were considered abnormal, career obsessed, or homosexual. Those whose hands were never sought were lonely losers unattractive, handicapped, deviant.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the conventional conception of the unmarried person as a lonely loser began to yield to a new conception -- the swinging single. Apartment complexes in urban centers advertised a lifestyle organized around the swimming pool and clubroom featuring nightly cocktail parties and the imagination that everyone paired off by bedtime. Magazines such as PLAYBOY and PENTHOUSE,PLAYGIRL and VIVA enhanced the image of this new single life. News magazines ran features that assumed that a rapidly growing proportion of the population would remain permanently single.
The idea gained credibility from two facts: First, the number of unmarried adults in the United States increased from 12.9 million in 1960 to 25.6 million two decades later. Second, the median age at the time of marriage, a figure that had declined steadily from 1900 to 1960, began to climb again:
increasing numbers of young adults are delaying their first marriage to their late twenties or early thirties.
Whether or not a new lifestyle of permanent single hood is emerging, substantial numbers of people are living it, at least temporarily. But contrary to the media view, there is no one lifestyle for singles. Most singles have a surprisingly orthodox lifestyle that focuses on finding a place to live, attempting to find a satisfying job, and seeking friends, dates, and ultimately a more permanent relationship. Only in fairly large citi