- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

When Kit Russell returns to her California home from work, her roommate and boyfriend, David Scraggs, rewards her with a kiss. They go out for dinner, cuddle on a couch at home for a movie and then its off to bed. He paid for dinner, and she paid for the movie.
But theyre not married — and dont plan to be.
Mary Cumbey, a 49-year-old administrator and private-school director at Abundant Life Cathedral in Houston, lives alone. After a full day of work, she is in class until 9:30 p.m. doing course work for a doctorate in education. Meals are taken on the run. The mother of two grown sons, she says she has received "personal wholeness" through devoting her time to serving God.
"More single women are opting to remain single because theyre finding fulfillment in other ways," she says.
Last months news that just 24 percent of American households are married couples with children younger than 18 created headlines around the nation. The percentage of one-person households had shot up to 26 percent, bringing the average household size to an all-time low of 2.59 persons.
More and more Americans are remaining single — 82 million of them, to be exact. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of non-family households (where people who are not family members live together, or a person lives alone) rose at twice the rate of households of immediate or extended families, according to the U.S. Census.
In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New York and the District, the majority of households are now made up of singles. Nationwide, 52 percent of all households contain married couples.
But American society has not adjusted to the growing legions of the unmarried, says Thomas Coleman, executive director for the American Association for Single People in Los Angeles.
None of the four major presidential candidates uttered the word "single" during his campaign, Mr. Coleman said, including confirmed bachelor Ralph Nader, who ran on the Green Party slate.
"President Bush is the president of all the people," he said. "Why cant he say the 'single word? Is it a dirty word? Is he afraid?"
During the election, the AASP introduced a $114,000 advertising campaign to draw attention to unmarried, childless voters.
"Are you one of the 80 million single or unmarried adults ignored by the George W. Bush and Al Gore campaigns?" the ad asked. "How many ways are we discriminated against? Let us count them for you."
Singles often are lumped into a "high-risk" class by insurance companies and are charged a higher rate than married co-workers, says Mr. Coleman, adding they also are denied "family" discounts for roommates or partners.
"There is no federal protection against marital bias in employment, housing or business transactions," he says.
Singles constitute more than 40 percent of the adult population and 10 percent of all adults will never marry, according to 2000 census statistics.
"In our society, we consistently send the message that 'If you are not married, you have fallen short. Something is missing in your life,…" says Dorian Solot, one of the founders of the Boston-based Alternatives to Marriage Project.
People have different reasons for avoiding marriage. Mr. Scraggs says he does not wish to be a divorce statistic. He and Miss Russell are "married in [their] hearts," he says, and that is all the commitment he needs.
"The institution of marriage has become a joke," he said. "The way I grew up, if you get married, its a one-time deal. You say, 'I do, you make it work. But that has changed.
"The difference between a single person and a married person is not that much anymore. Marriage used to be a hands-off type thing. These days, I see too much of people [having extramarital affairs]."
A report just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one-fifth of first marriages end within five years, one-third within 10 years and one-half within 20 years.
Deborah Mitchel, 26, of Okemos, Mich., has been dating her boyfriend for five years and living with him for two. They had been living in the same apartment complex and decided to move in together to save on rent. Miss Mitchel plans to marry him someday, but she says that is only because she wants to have children.
"If I werent going to have children, I might not get married," she said. "Other than health-insurance benefits, theres not much reason to get married."
More than 5 million unmarried couples are living together in the United States, up from about half a million in 1970, according to the Census Bureau. Another 27 million singles are living alone — 5 million more than in 1990.
The Rev. John Peterson, director of the single-adults ministry at Christian Fellowship Church in Loudoun County near Washington Dulles International Airport, says TV sitcoms have picked up on the rise of singles and churches should follow suit. His church offers a Friday night service for singles only, attended mostly by 30- and 40-somethings who meet and greet over chips, dip and soda. It also has groups for younger singles.
"The church has led the way in leaving out singles," he said. "Its very difficult for single adults to sit through a service thats directed to families without feeling left out."
Kimberly Hartke of Reston, who married for the first time at the age of 40 and is the founder of True Love Ministries for single women, says that while it is important to include singles and accept them as they are, it is also important for singles to accept that marriage plays an integral role in society and hence comes with certain benefits.
"I think its all well and good to be happy with your singleness, but why are you trying to detract from the married people?" she said. "Singleness is not an immutable characteristic. Singles might later enjoy those benefits theyre trying to take away from married people."

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