Matt Story is a 47-year-old Laguna Hills plumbing contractor who has never been married.
"People assume that I'm gay, a momma's boy, socially maladjusted--or all three--just because I enjoy living alone," he says.
Story says he leads a normal, active life, enjoys children, pets and women, but prefers to remain unmarried because he likes the autonomy being single gives him. "Luckily, I have finally found a woman who feels as I do. In fact, we joke with each other that the perfect marriage would be not only separate bedrooms, but separate houses ," he quips.
One need not be a nit-picking fussbudget or a social malcontent to prefer single life over married life.
"Forty percent of the adult population of the United States is simply not suited to marriage--not psychologically disposed to it," says Norton F. Kristy, a psychotherapist who claims a large Orange County audience for his twice-weekly radio program on KFMB radio. "These people are not, in general, social misfits. Yet, society often thinks they are simply because they choose a different path in life. They are happier in relationships that are elective, rather than structured as in marriage."
Michele Lamb, 22, of Costa Mesa is a tall, attractive young woman who has her sights set on a real estate career. She says she has plenty of dates but a degree in real estate acquisition has supplanted any desire for a "Mrs." degree.
"My mother was raised to find a man who would take care of her--she married and divorced three times looking for that--and she never found 'Prince Charming.' I don't look at men as meal tickets. I can count on myself for financial and emotional security." Though she believes that she will someday marry, "I'm in no hurry at all," she says.
Kenneth Fineman, director of psychological services for a Huntington Beach-based medical group and associate professor of clinical psychology at UC Irvine, believes that early psychoanalytic literature has set a precedent that has been accepted by society, which is that once a certain age, a person should want to settle down and choose a mate.
"Choosing a single life style, be it short-term, long-term or forever, is an option a person might choose for any number of healthy reasons, all of which might make a great deal of sense," Fineman contends. "There is a pervasive assumption in our society that anyone who doesn't want to marry is strange, which, of course, is not true."
Many singles simply never feel the urge to marry. Others, such as Leigh-Ann Jensen of Dana Point, have experienced a change of attitude toward marriage. She is the single mother of two daughters who are now grown and themselves married. Divorced for nearly 20 years, she no longer has any interest in remarrying. "I married at 18 with no goals and very little self-confidence. When my children were young I wanted to remarry so that we could be a real family again. But after 10 years the girls were growing up. I started concentrating on my career."
Jensen maintains that she enjoys her life alone. "I share my life when I can and want, rather than because I feel I must."
Assumptions people make about her life style don't bother her. "I used to be very sensitive if men implied there was something wrong with me because I've been single for so long. Now I let people think whatever they like. I don't care anymore."
Kristy contends that most people are not brave enough to follow their own natural rhythms and instead follow the lead of others. "It is entirely possible for a single person to identify himself or herself as an autonomous individual without necessarily being selfish or narcissistic, yet people assume that those who do not wish to marry are therefore unable or unwilling to share. I have not found this to be the case," he said.
Concentration on self-development, education and career are often best done without the responsibility of another person, according to both psychologists.
"People who give thought to where they want to be in the world and take the time to develop themselves often form the most enduring relationships once they decide to marry," Fineman said.
Mickey Friberg, a theatrical agent who lives in Coto de Caza, was 40 years old when he married.
Why did he wait so long? "Simple, I never fell in love until I met my wife. We have two kids and a great life, but I wasn't ready to settle down until six years ago."
Does he miss being single? "I loved being single, and now I love being married. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing."
Even for those wedded to single life, the decision to go it alone has its disadvantages.
Claire Fischer, 33, a Tustin-based trial attorney, concedes: "When I experience a victory in court--or a defeat--I have no special man to share it with, and that can be lonely. But I also have no one to have to cook for if I don't want to, and no one telling me how to spend my money. You can't have it all."
Evan Cummings is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.