‘Singleness can very much be a cross, a source of struggles and suffering offered up to God as you journey towards him. It’s also an opportunity, however short or long-lived, to serve God and others in a unique way,” Emily Stimpson writes in The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right. She talks candidly with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ
: There are 96 million unmarried Americans — 43 percent of adults over age 18; 24 percent are divorced, and 61 percent have never walked down the aisle. What’s that about?
EMILY STIMPSON: How long do we have? This answer could take a while. If I’m just giving you the thumbnail version, I’d say that it’s the fruit of a sick and wounded culture. Contraception, cohabitation, and pornography — not to mention the idea that love is a feeling, not a choice — all have a lot to do with the number of unmarried people in America today. So have our parents’ failed marriages and dating habits that have conditioned us to relational patterns that are anything but “for as long as we both shall live.” Consumerism, which can make us think finding the perfect mate is like shopping for that perfect outfit (and convince us to hold off on making a decision because something better might be out there) bears some responsibility, as does a vision of happiness that has more to do with dollar signs than babies. Really, put it all together and it’s amazing that as much as 57 percent of Americans are married.
LOPEZ: A book called Embracing Your Single Vocation made you cry. But isn’t that what your book is advocating?
STIMPSON: Not in the sense that book meant it! The author of that book, God bless his well intentioned heart, had this theory that if you weren’t married by a certain point in life, your 30th birthday, you should just accept the fact that you were never going to get married and try to be happy about that. My book presumes just the opposite, that most young women reading it will get married one day, only that day will come a little (or a lot) later than it did for their mothers and grandmothers. Some of us won’t marry, of course, but most of us will. (At least that’s what the statistics say.) Accordingly, the Survival Guide’s goal isn’t to encourage readers to be happy about being single forever and ever — I hope they won’t be single forever and ever — but to offer some advice that can make the single life more bearable; suggestions that can help women not only to be sane and happy but also to become the woman God is calling them to be. Whether we ever marry or not, those ideas come in pretty handy, so handing them on is what my book is about.
LOPEZ: Which idea discussed in your book is our culture most in need of?
STIMPSON: Well, on one level, I think single women need some help navigating the challenges, both practical and spiritual, that come with being single in the post-college years. When it comes to issues such as vocation, femininity, dating, chastity, work, and finances, we’re facing challenges our mothers and grandmothers rarely faced. On a deeper level, our culture needs women who can be witnesses — witnesses to the dignity and vocation of femininity, witnesses to the beauty of chastity, and witnesses to what it means to trust God in the face of suffering. Ultimately, the book is call to young single women to be those witnesses. And hopefully, it’s a help for them in answering that call.