The Single Folks’ Hall Of Fame
Who says only the hitched can be happy? These people—from George Clooney to Oprah—prove you can be amazing all by yourself.
nce upon a time, living “happily ever after” meant finding your Prince Charming or Princess and being saved from a life of loneliness. Thankfully, the fairy tale is being rewritten, and we’d like to salute that fact. More men and women are single: 95 million Americans, to be exact, which is a whopping 43 percent of the population. They’re finding happiness, success and, yes, sometimes also love—all while flying solo.
Your own firsthand experience has undoubtedly acquainted you with some of the benefits of flying solo. “When you don’t have that automatic Friday night date, it’s a push to go out and figure out what gets you excited,” explains Sasha Cagen,
author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. “It’s good to have the time to figure out what you love to do outside of work and romantic relationships.”
|“I’m happy for people who want to be married, but it’s not my thing.”|
But if you’re not a believer yet, then look at these seven amazing singles. From celebrities you may not have guessed were unattached to ordinary people doing extraordinary things, our Single Hall of Famers prove that you don’t have to be hitched to have a happy ending.
There was a time when Diane Keaton felt she had to find a man. The Oscar-winning actress, who leapt to stardom as the charmingly neurotic Annie Hall in the ’70s, has said that there’s a certain point in all our lives when we’re biologically driven toward the opposite sex: “You dream about men, you love them, you’re excited by it, and I don’t feel that way now.”
Why the change of heart? With a relationship record that has included the notoriously high-maintenance Woody Allen and Warren Beatty, Keaton, 60, says it was a combination of age and experience. Her true loves now, she says, are adopted children Duke and Dexter, and she considers “mother” the greatest role of her life.
With 40 films already under her belt and several comedies in the works, her acting career — usually centered on playing strong, quirky women — is showing no sign of slowing down. When she’s not acting, Keaton serves on the board of the Los Angeles Conservatory, a group dedicated to making sure the city’s architectural gems grow old gracefully—much as she’s doing.
Bill Hemmer has never been content to settle—when it comes to his love life or his career. His decade of reporting, first for CNN and now for Fox News, has included memorable stints in Kuwait and Afghanistan. But it’s not just his reportorial skills that have earned him all his fans… he’s easy on the eyes, too. When asked about his leading-man good looks, he jokes that his ears — and his listening skills — are his best features.
Hemmer, 41, doesn’t ever seem to sit still, filling his downtime with skydiving, bungee jumping and other extreme sports. He’s said that he’d love to get married and have kids—but he isn’t rushing love. “If it happens, great,” he’s said. “If it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to force it.” And — newsflash — it certainly seems that more and more other single people have adopted that same attitude in recent years.
If you think journalism and politics are still a man’s world, don’t tell that to Maureen Dowd. The only female columnist at The New York Times, the 54-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner has tackled every topic from former President Bill Clinton’s presidential scandal to the evolution of the gender wars, in the process earning the nickname “The Cobra” from Dubya. Even those on the receiving end of her barbs can’t help but acknowledge the charm and Hollywood-style sex appeal of the feisty redhead. Former boyfriend and West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin called her “a dream girl… like she stepped out of a movie from the ’40s.”
Though she earns praise from presidential press secretaries and ex-boyfriends, two groups you might not expect to have anything nice to say, Dowd holds fast to the belief that she doesn’t need a man in her life. “Men used to be necessary in terms of reproduction and refinance,” she said when promoting her book Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide, “but we don’t need them for that anymore. They’ll be necessary like ice cream is necessary.” Which isn’t to say that love and relationships shouldn’t be enjoyed—just that this is one woman, like many other single people, who you’ll never find sitting home by the phone.
Even when his only acting credits were cheesy sitcoms and B-movies, George Clooney turned heads. These days, though, he also makes people sit up and listen. Over the past decade, Clooney has evolved from sexy actor to sexy and powerful actor, producer and director, not to mention Oscar winner. Between making movies that make people think to his political activism in troubled regions such as Darfur, he has become one of the leading liberal voices in Hollywood. You may love it or you may hate it, but you have to admire a man who stands up for what he believes—and actually manages to effect change.
But one role he swears that he’ll never reprise is that of a husband. His four-year marriage to Talia Balsam ended in 1993, and he famously told Barbara Walters that he’d never marry again. “I love women, I love their company,” he’s said. “But after going through a marriage which turned out to be a disaster and some other relationships which I thought would turn out but didn’t, obviously you begin to doubt whether you’re really cut out for long-term commitment.” So be it.
San Francisco Chronicle writer Jane Ganahl is not only a keen observer of single life—she’s also a champion of it. In her critically acclaimed column, Single-Minded, the 40-something Ganahl sings the praises of flying solo by reminding readers that their
unmarried status allows them to have more room in the tub during bubble baths, buy the flowers they really like and do exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it.
|Middle-aged doesn’t mean dead or even dormant.|
“Should I be down in the dumps, lonely or ashamed on V-Day?” she mused recently about the holiday that single people are supposed to dread. “Nah, it takes too much effort. I’d rather do what I’ve done in other boyfriend-free years: Have lunch with girlfriends and have a really nice spa treatment.”
Other issues she explores in her column range from the political impact of the growing numbers of unmarried voters to the dating guides that make being unattached sound like a disease. “Yes, the world is finally catching on to the fact that middle-aged doesn’t mean dead or even dormant,” she writes in a recent piece. “I think for many, what comes next is a more fulfilling life—where being single is not considered a problem to be fixed.”
Tall, blonde and beautiful, actress Charlize Theron is known as much for her glamour as for her willingness to discard it for choice movie roles. Conventional wisdom would say that she could have her pick of husbands… but walking down the aisle isn’t a goal of hers. The 30-year-old Oscar winner says you don’t need a marriage ceremony or certificate to have a great relationship. “I’m happy for people who want to be married, but it’s not my thing,” Theron said recently. “I don’t need to wear a white dress and throw a big party. To me, that’s like a premiere.”
Theron, who’s been in a serious relationship with actor Stuart Townsend, says she would like to have a family someday. But, weary of media speculation over whether she and Townsend will tie the knot, she told Extra that they would marry only when the U.S. government grants gay and lesbian couples the right to wed as well. “We’ve decided that we’re going to use that in a positive way,” she said. “So the day that law gets passed, then we’ll get married.”
Possibly the best-known woman in America, Oprah Winfrey embraces her single status. While marketing consultant Stedman Graham has been her steady for 20 years, Oprah says marrying him would jeopardize the relationship. “Stedman’s a traditional black man,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times recently, “but I’m in no way a traditional woman.” With a daytime talk show that’s topped the ratings for two decades, O magazine, cable’s Oxygen Network, an impressive acting and producing resumé, a charitable foundation that has channeled millions into social causes and her status as the first female African-American billionaire in the U.S., that’s an understatement, to say the least.
Questions about whether she will ever get married have, at times, become a national obsession. But Winfrey says that people don’t actually care about her relationship; they just want to see an extravagant wedding. “They want to see doves fly,” she has said. “They want to know what you wore, how much you spent on the cake, who came.” But she says the world “is catching on to what I already know: A piece of paper does not define a life.” One look at her intelligence, creativity and generosity shows what does.
Sue McHugh is a former reporter for the Associated Press who now freelances for magazines and university publications.