If you've ever had your mother, or maybe an elderly aunt, utter the dreaded question, "So, are you ever going to get married?" you might be part of a hot new statistic.
So-called "never-marrieds" are one of the fastest-growing groups in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 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 less than 30 years, the number of people who have never walked down the aisle has more than doubled, as the median age of marriage has reached a historic high: 25 years for women, and 27 years for men.
Why is America becoming more and more a nation of singles?
"People are being more demanding. It's a soulmate or nothing, when a generation ago, less than half the people said something similar to that," relationship therapist Laura Berman told Good Morning America
In a 1965 survey, three out of four college women said they would marry a man they didn't love if he fit their criteria in every other way. Not anymore.
A recent Rutgers University study found 94 percent of people between the ages of 20 and 29 agreed to the statement: "When you marry, you want your spouse to be your soulmate, first and foremost."
In addition to that, modern women are able to support themselves, and do not need men for their money, Berman said. Some are buying homes for themselves.
"They need a man for enhancing their lives, but not for creating them," she said.
Gillian Thomas, a 33-year-old attorney in Philadelphia, is part of the growing demographic. Attractive and successful, she has simply not found the right person to marry, and sees no reason to settle for less.
"I feel internal pressure to find a soulmate and I think we all do," Thomas says. "I don't think it's just women. I think that in this sort of post-feminist generation we all feel like we can have it all."
For single urban dwellers like Thomas, between the ages of about 25 and 39, amorous relationships come and go. As these singletons search out a soulmate, friends may become a support group.
Singles often lean on a tight-knit "family" of friends, who do everything from helping to paint each other's apartments to taking vacations together, said freelance writer Ethan Watters, a single 37-year-old.
He has dubbed these groups "urban tribes," and is writing a book on the subject. But only the name is new.
The comfort of these "urban tribes" may delay marriage, but they don't rule marriage out. Indeed, there may be some good news for those who wait, Watters says. As the median age of marriages has risen, statistic say that divorce rates have leveled off. Could the urban tribes be on to something?
Despite the fun, these statistics on singles give rise to the question of bearing children. Are biological clocks still ticking, despite the longer wait to marry?
"The urge to have children persists with or without a mate," sex therapist Dr. Jennifer Berman said. "The reason that people are getting married has shifted between this generation and our parents. More women are focused on careers and they want to get those in order before they think of children."
It is not just women who are hearing the tick-tock either. After decades in which men had the statistics in their favor, the dating pool demographics have reversed. For those between the ages of 30 to 44, the number of men and women are even, and in some cases.
Men who are looking for younger mates may be headed for trouble. Men in their late 30s and early 40s will outnumber women five to 10 years younger by two to one, by 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Watters, who is engaged to be married, said that for he was sometimes worried about his single status. Now he wonders what will happen to his urban tribe. But he doesn't know what will happen after he marries. "The tribe fulfills a function that's specific, when you need a group, and it doesn't last forever," he said.