Consider the shows “Friends,” “Seinfeld” and “Sex and the City.” These shows feature the lives and exploits of a group of late 20s, early 30s attractive (in most cases), successful people, all of whom are without mates. (Except for Ross, who married three times on the show. But he’s a freak.) In reality, what the shows reflect is the idea people can find emotional and mental fulfillment through a close group of supportive friends, leaving the opposite sex to be needed only for the physical pleasure.

I’m a bit younger than the women of “Sex and the City,” but am still a successful and (hopefully) attractive young woman who cannot seem to hold a boyfriend longer than Nordstrom can hold onto Manolo Blanik shoes on sale. I’m holding out to find my soulmate, not just acceptable husband material. I have a very entertaining social life, two jobs (a corporate 9-5 and one in a bar), and a wonderful group of close friends.

Apparently, I am not alone. This phenomenon is infiltrating our once bent-on-being-traditional society. Termed “the urban tribe,” these close-knit “families” consist of never married young adults who support each other and find they no longer need a partner to fulfill their emotional and social needs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the "never-marrieds" are one of the fastest-growing groups in America. Singles constitute more than 40 percent of the adult population, and 10 percent of all adults will never marry, according to 2000 census statistics.

Whereas in the past generations men and women have “settled” for good enough, now twentysomethings are putting education and career first. Marriage and babies are getting the backburner. Not only are singles waiting for marriage, they’re also being more wary of who they marry and are holding out for the proverbial soulmate. And the bustle of their daily lives, careers and entertainment will continue to fill the void until they find that person. The urban tribe allows people to find comfort in a peer group and not feel the undue pressure to marry and procreate.

Individual urban tribes will not last a lifetime, although the friendships are still maintainable on some level. As members get married, they will inevitably break up the group. As is evident on the series “Friends” and “Frasier,” urban tribes are strained and become less interesting when members marry. But until the urban tribe does break up, savor those moments of platonic bliss shared in the coffeehouse and remember: When you’re there, you’re family.

[ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CARA BAKER]

RELATED LINKS:

SEPARATE CHECKS, PLEASE, FOR THE URBAN TRIBE

RANKS OF THE SINGLES GROWING FAST

READ MORE LIFE | POST COMMENTS BELOW