(A guest blog by Lisa and Christina from Onely)
We (Lisa and Christina, co-bloggers at Onely) both identify as white, middle-class, heterosexual women who are single and happy. We’re tired of cultural stereotypes that suggest we’re not supposed to be.
According to a U. S. Census report published last July, single people comprise 92 million, or 42%, of the American population (though several other sources put the number closer to 50%). 54% of us are women, 60% of us have never been married, and 40% are divorced or widowed (note that these breakdowns do not account for those who wish to be married but are refused that right by the law). 30.5 million, or 27%, of the U. S. population live alone, and 12.9 million of the general public are single parents. Singles comprised 36% of actual (not eligible) voters in the 2004 presidential election (numbers weren’t readily available for the 2008 election).
We define “single” as anyone who is unmarried: including coupled-but-not-married and domestic partners; anyone who identifies as GLBT and are either legally unable to marry or refuse the institution of marriage altogether; those who identify as polyamorous or asexual; divorcees and widowers; single parents; and, of course, anyone else who is just plain single. (Note: When we refer to the social [as opposed to legal] stigmatization of singles below, we’re referring more specifically to anyone who is uncoupled.)
In the PWI spirit, we’ve asked (and answered) a few questions to highlight the material, social, and legal restrictions habitually placed on adult singles, more often than not in favor of those who are married.
What if married people were treated by the media, friends, and family like singles (in this case, uncoupled singles)? They would encounter statements such as:
- “Don’t worry, you’ll get a divorce someday!”
- “Oh, you’re married? I’m so sorry!”
- “You’re so great – how come you’re still married?”
- “It’s okay to be married for a while, but eventually you need to grow up and become single.”
- “You’re so lucky to be married and not have as much responsibility.”
- “But don’t you feel bad not having a life, seeing as you’re married?”
- “When are you going to get a divorce?”
- “It’s so sad having to come home to a house with someone in it all the time.”
- “Well, I would’ve invited you to book group, except you’re married and I thought you wouldn’t want to be around all those happily single people.”
- “What’s a beautiful woman like you doing married?”
What if married people were treated by the government as singles? They would have to:
- Fight to be recognized as a legitimate and powerful voting bloc, no matter how much of the American population they represent.
- Lose the 1,138 federal provisions that currently accommodate married people on account of their marital status in the distribution of rights, benefits, and other legal privileges.
- Come to work even if their spouses, children, or parents are sick and in need of their help. After all, they don’t get to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Leave medical decisions for their loved ones to doctors and immediate family not related to the able spouse.
- Live in the barracks like every other soldier.
- Give up that extra cash-per-month and increased housing allowance that the military currently grants married soldiers.
- Testify against their spouses in court instead of being granted immunity.
What if married people were taxed like singles? They would have to:
- File individual returns only and never gain a tax “bonus” for filing jointly with a spouse.
- Pay income tax on their spouses’ employment benefits.
- Give up as much as 60% of their assets to the government in death taxes.
- Lose all social security benefits when they die.
- Give up benefits for those children living in the household who do not meet the criteria for a “qualifying dependent,” or those children who are not related to their caregivers by blood or marriage.
What if married people were paid and treated in the workplace like singles? They would:
- Make, on average, 26% less than they currently do; they would be paid the same as everyone else regardless of their marital status.
- Not be able to negotiate salaries and other work-related perks using marital status as a factor.
- Be expected to stay late and work during the holidays, just like everyone else.
- Have to give up vacation privileges (or implied benefits that assume that single people are not as invested in their families and personal lives as married people must be) – singles like to travel just as much as, if not more than, married people do!
- Have to pay for expenses related to whole-family relocations due to work.
- Encounter no support from employers in helping spouses find jobs.
What if married people had access to the same health and other insurance policies as singles? They would:
- Be unable to add anyone, even spouses, to their employer-provided health care plans.
- Have considerable trouble paying for independent health insurance, especially if the married people work part-time or if they freelance.
- Have to decide between buying a high-deductible, bare-bones health plan and no plan at all because they can’t depend on their spouses to help them afford the low-deductible, full-coverage model.
- Pay more for car insurance, especially if the married couple is young.
- Have access to only limited options when it comes to life insurance; there’s only one or two plans in which married people can invest through any given company, whereas singles get many options.
What if married people were treated like singles in the marketplace? They would have to:
- Convince real estate agents to sell to them by promising to pay on time, not relocate, and generally be financially responsible.
- Also have to convince real estate agents that they really do want to look at the spacious house with the view, instead of the tight quarters that real estate agents insist would “be just right” for the married people and their families.
- Pay more for travel packages so that single people could receive single-traveler discounts.
- Pay more than singles for club and gym memberships, so that singles could reap the benefits.
- Purchase single-serving sizes of food at the grocery store in order to receive a decent discount.
- Dine alone so as to get the better deal at restaurants (especially large chains that cater to the singles population, like Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s).
(Many thanks to the following blogs and resources for providing much of the above information: see the Alternatives to Marriage Project; Bella DePaulo’s Living Single Blog; Rachel’s Musings; National Singles Association; American Association for Single People; Reuters and U.S. Census Bureau; and Cracked.com)