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updated 10/11/2011 5:05:08 PM ET 2011-10-11T21:05:08

“I’m single and loving it.”

When this phrase is uttered by a woman, it often induces a disbelieving eyeroll and an under-the-breath “yeah, right.” And if the woman in question is in her late 30s or beyond, forget about it — the traditional wisdom is that she must be an animal hoarder who’s simply undesirable.

But according to a new report — and our own TODAY.com readers — we live in a brave new world where it's entirely possible (probable, even) for women to be single by choice and happy about it.

A recent Atlantic Monthly article takes a deeper look at the institution of marriage and why a growing number of women are putting it off or forgoing it altogether. Author Kate Bolick, who shares her own story as a 39-year-old single woman, appeared on TODAY Tuesday to discuss her article, saying, “Today marriage is an option, not a necessity the way that it once was, and that’s revolutionary.”

The number of single adults rose to 50 percent in 2010, compared to 33 percent in 1950, according to census data. And, Bolick writes, “according to the Pew Research Center, a full 44 percent of Millennials and 43 percent of Gen Xers think that marriage is becoming obsolete.”

Bolick says the numbers reflect a cultural shift based on factors including women’s financial freedom due to success in the workforce, increase in college education, technological advances in how we conceive children and the acceptance of "hookup culture," to name a few.

We posted the video of Bolick’s show appearance on Facebook, and were blown away by the response from readers sharing their take on whether women could be single and happy. While some of you were skeptical of Bolick and the concept that someone like her is content (is she lying about being happy?), a majority of you said yes, not only did you believe it, but that you were living proof:

Karen ChattertonI wear a wedding band with holes where eight diamonds used to be — I call it my "Happily Never After" ring. After spending my 20s & 30s looking for Mr. Right and my 40s lamenting that because I had a shelf life I probably would never marry, I finally realized in my 50s that I was happier and more successful than most of my married friends.

Shelley WeaverI love being single. I think that if you can't be happy being single then you won't be happy with someone either. One's happiness should never depend upon another.

Tara BroadwayI'm 33 and have been single most of my dating age. I dont think I have to have a man around or get married. Men are too much stress and I enjoy doing things alone.

Robin Kay SackevichI am absolutely happy being a single person. I have some great friends but I enjoy my alone time. Often I go out to dinner alone and to the movies alone. There is no shame in being single. Actually I think I am much happier NOT being in a relationship.

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Joyce ColónSingle life is THE BEST!!! Don't have to answer to anybody; don't have to clean up after anybody; Can go where ever you want to! I am a secure person and have no problem being alone at restaurants, movies, etc...in fact I prefer exploring my surroundings on my own. That way I can take my sweet time and not have to worry about anybody else!!

Another group of readers say they once chose marriage, but are now happily single after divorce:

June StedingYes. I am 62 and have been single most of my life by choice. I married at 28, divorced at 36 and never remarried. I don't think I could or want to ever be married again.

Heather NicholsAfter marrying the man of my dreams and having him walk away from my children and I, I am totally happy being single because I never want to hurt like that again. You choose what makes you happy. It doesn't have to be some guy that makes you happy. My job makes me happy. My kids make me happy. My dog makes me happy. This gorgeous weather makes me happy. Happiness should never be dependent on another person.

Tami ConnerSingle by choice, tried the married life, didn't like someone trying to control my every move and thought. Independent women don't HAVE to have a man in their life to be happy. Those that are posting that it is impossible to be happy without a man/partner/whatever are wrong, it IS possible.

A few of you were candid about the hardships of being single and while you’re making the most of being on your own, it’s more an issue of circumstance than of choice.

Thea BryanWhat choice do you have? If you're single, you can't exactly go buy a spouse. You have no choice. I've been single for four years, few decent eligible men out there. I've had maybe three dates where I would have liked to hear back from them, but didn't. What do you (do)? Embrace singledom and live your life.

Chandra JohnsonI am single and not happy about it! lol... I try to make the best of it. It seems to me that if you have been married and had an unhappy marriage, you are happy once you are single. Since I've never experienced true love, I feel very cheated and unhappy with my status.

Tami St John RankinI was never really able to "embrace" it. "Accept" it, maybe. But, each time I got to that point, an irresistable guy would pop up out of nowhere!

Debbi Adams Brookslove being independent but gets lonely.

What do you think? Scroll down to take our poll and join the conversation on Facebook.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Vote: Do you think a woman can be single and happy?

Video: Single ladies embrace independence, happiness

  1. Closed captioning of: Single ladies embrace independence, happiness

    >>> a new spin on romance, dating and what some are calling the end of traditional marriage . "today" national correspondent jenna wolfe has details. good morning.

    >> good morning to you, ann. decades ago there were a lot of women who actually married young, had children, and took care of the house while their husbands brought home the paycheck. a lot's changed since then and a new report says more women are choosing to be single and loving every minute of it. all the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies

    >> reporter: in hollywood single celebrities seem to lead bold, powerful and glamorous lives but what about real women , single in their 30s, 40s and beyond?

    >> i'm single. i'm happy. my life is filled with love and friends and family and good work that i love.

    >> reporter: meet maria magenti, a successful screen writer in her 40s splitting time between los angeles and new york. maria is single, by choice.

    >> my identity is not predicated on being in a relationship and joy is not predicated on being in a relationship, so i have a good identity and i have a lot of joy in my life.

    >> reporter: marie is not alone. in this month's issue of "the atlantic" author and single woman kate bolik explores the changing role of marriage in today's society. she writes "it's time to embrace new ideas about romance and family and acknowledge the end of traditional marriage as societiest highest ideal." maria agrees.

    >> i'm not bothered by being single because i don't consider that a negative fate.

    >> reporter: so why are more women choosing to be single? according to kate bolik, a major factor is the rise of women in the workplace, "as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind." so instead of marrying down, women choose to stay single and successful.

    >> i wanted to be a writer. i wanted to have freedom. i've wanted to live all over the world and that's what i've done.

    >> reporter: and experts agree, sarah brokaw is a therapist and author of "fortytude, choosing to make the next decades the best years of your life."

    >> i have not been married, don't have kids and sit back what have i accomplished if i did not reach the traditional milestones? the way i look at accomplishment is to have a real sense of curiosity about life. i'm every woman

    >> reporter: for now maria and her single friends plan to enjoy life and if love comes along, well, who knows.

    >> if there's any man who can keep up with me and is a gutsy loving man, i'd love to meet him.

    >> research shows that marriage is declining in the united states , according to the census bureau . in 2010 , 50% of the adult population was single compared to 33% back in 1950 . ann?

    >> all right, jenna wolfe , thank you so much. as you just saw kate bolik wrote her own story about being single. dr. janet taylor is a psychiatrist. good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> married house holds in america dropped to a record low of 48% in 2010 , according to the census bureau and today 50% of the adult population is single compared to with 33% in 1950 . why according to your research is marriage on the decline, kate ?

    >> well, as men have been declining, women have been ascending.

    >> what do you mean declining?

    >> well, employment rates are down. they're not as educated as women are. women are outearning men in terms of college degrees and post graduate degrees and meanwhile women have more earning power than they ever have before so we are about to reach economic gender parity which radically changes her arrangements and romantic arrangements.

    >> changes what we look at in terms of how we look at men, no longer looking at men to support us.

    >> exactly.

    >> looking at men for?

    >> today marriage is an option. it's not a necessity the way that it was once and that's revolutionary

    >> this is true in your own life?

    >> yes, yes. i'm single. i'm 39. i always thought i would get married because that's what people do and then somewhere in my early to mid-30s i realized not only was i not married but that i didn't mind, that i had chosen that way, and that i loved my life the way that it is. it was something i hadn't envisioned for myself, but then here i am living it and loving it.

    >> so you're seeing this as an opportunity?

    >> yes.

    >> it is.

    >> yes. yes, for myself or for women in general?

    >> for women in general?

    >> i think it's an opportunity for women in general and also for marriage as an institution, that women in general have more choices than ever before. they don't have to get married. they don't have to be with someone they don't want to be with. they don't have to make compromises and the way that changes marriage is we're marrying later. that's happening statistically. we're more ready for marriage. we're choosing marriage pause we want it to be, we want to be with someone we want to be with rather than having to.

    >> we're also, if this is really true then we're choosing it with a lot of heavy emotional struggle because you know first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby with the baby carriage , that's what we've been taught, the song we've been singing.

    >> that's the old paradigm. more women are choosing is with emotional contentment because choice is a key word , it confers control and confers saying i'm not going to -- i'm not going to be bothered by my circumstances. i'm going to take action and have stronl social networks and feel happy about the choices i have as a woman who works and can take care of family if you choose to. being single doesn't have to be a deficit. it's a choice that many women are thriving as kate 's article pointed out.

    >> they're not as concerned about the idea of security in the end or being alone , which is another big issue that people seem to have. what are your thoughts about that?

    >> yeah, the fact that i can provide my own security is really important and as far as being alone goes, i don't see myself any more alone than someone who is married. i have strong friend networks, strong family networks that will continue to strengthen through time.

    >> it's not a knock against marriage.

    >> right.

    >> it's saying if you are single that it doesn't have to be something that is looked upon so negatively and more importantly that has to come from you yourself and you look at how you've attained and you look at the choices you have made and saying i'm happy and there'at's okay.

    >> some people are going to feel better about being single.

    >> exactly.

    >> george clooney was right, is right. kate balick and dr. janet taylor thank you very

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