As someone who has been basically single her entire life...I have first-handedly and repeatedly seen and experienced just how much single people get the short end of the stick in many social and legal situations. As today is TAX DAY, singles everywhere are paying far more than our fair share of taxes. (Something that really bugs me as a single woman, who for 8 years took care of her father and has been underemployed for 10 years, feels that the government should be thanking her for doing what she could so that the sole care of an elderly man was not dumped into the hands of the government. I have also worked with community and non-profit organizations most of my life and ALL of my professional career, giving back to the community I grew up in...where's a tax credit for that?!?!)
Some highlights of a recent report on http://onely.org are:
- The U.S. government regularly and routinely discriminates against fifty percent of our population: single people.
- Our federal code alone contains over 1,000 laws where marital status is a factor, and in most cases single people lose out.
- Some of the most egregious examples of Marital Status Discrimination occur in Income Tax, IRAs, and Social Security laws, which all largely favor married people.
Yes, legalizing same-sex marriages is part of the singledom issue, but definitely not all of it. Not all single people are gay. Some people, believe it or not, CHOOSE to be single! (Huh?!? Fancy that!) I would be one of those people. Some people are more than okay with just dating people. I have never had that nagging urge to get all dressed up in some white, frilly dress that I overpaid for and spend thousands of dollars to profess my love for another person. I tell the people I love that I love them all the time for free and would rather spend my hard-earned money on myself and my interests. Even more than that, I've had a much lesser urge to have kids! I have never liked babies and never will...and having my own, I'm sure would only magnify that if it changed anything at all. And I am not alone! I know lots of other women and men who feel the same way! Besides, at age 37, I'm pretty comfy with being able to spend my time anyway I want and not have to worry about who is going to take care of the kids or checking in with a spouse about where I'm at and what I'm doing every second of the day.
"U.S. Federal Code Title 5 Part III says: The President may prescribe rules which shall prohibit... discrimination because of marital status. Yet more than 1,000 laws provide overt legal or financial benefits to married couples. Marital privileging marginalizes the 50 percent of Americans who are single. The U.S. government is the main perpetrator, but private companies follow its lead. Thus marital privilege pervades nearly every facet of our lives. Insurance policies—ranging from health, to life, to home, to car—cost more, on average, for unmarried people compared to those who are married. It is not a federal crime for landlords to discriminate against potential renters based on their marital status. And so on." (Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/the-high-price-of-being-single-in-america/267043/ )
Really?!?!? Because I'm single, you're going to charge me more for insurance?! Without even knowing anything about me?!?! I am a much more secure investment than many of my married, breeder friends. I live a much lower-risk lifestyle. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs, I don't use my cell phone while I drive, and I'm not constantly screaming at or chasing behind kids in my car or at home. I have also experienced discrimination in the workforce because I'm single...funny, but I always thought it would work the other way!
During the time I cared for my father, I consciously took positions that I was overqualified for in order to get the flexibility in scheduling and enough time off to be able to take my Dad to his various appointments and to ensure that I was home when he needed me the most...in the evenings and on weekends. Anyone who has ever worked in the non-profit sector knows that quite often you have to work evenings and weekends. Plus, in a professional position I would not have had the choice not to travel to conferences. I love going to conferences, but because I did not have a spouse or any other kind of human assistance, I was not able to get away for those years because there would then be no one there to cook or care for my father. Since he passed at the end of '08, I have been searching to reenter the non-profit sector, to get a decent paying job, with decent benefits. Between the economy royally sucking and the fact that I was out of the professional arena, I'm having a challenging time finding an organization that will give me half a chance. Yet, when a woman has been out of the professional arena to raise children, whether she's been married or not, more people are willing to give her an opportunity to come aboard and prove herself. And chances are, she's been out of the sector much longer than I was! And she still requires much more time off than I as a single person would. If I were an employer, I'd love to have older, more experienced, single people working for me. They take less unplanned time off for illnesses, they can work more flexible hours, and, at least in my case, I am more efficient and talented than a lot of the people I've met that I've gone up against for positions.
One of the biggest things that people assume about single people is in regards to quality of life. People assume that if you are single and childfree, that you have no love in your life, that you are unhappy, that no one will care for you when you are old. Well, that's far from the truth. I am loved. I am so blessed in this area, that I literally would not be alive to write this now if it weren't for the love and support of extended family and friends. In fact, I think I have more love in my life because I AM single and that my scope of loved ones extends far beyond the scope of family. So many married people I know isolate themselves mostly to their family, especially that of their spouse and children, which leaves them in more dire circumstances when things fall apart, especially if they have relocated away from their extended family members and other support systems. As for happiness, that is something that comes from within and has no direct bearing, as far as I'm concerned, to whether or not you have gotten married and had children. If you make up your mind to be happy, you will be. Depression is a disease and diseases don't care about the superficial things...they do not discriminate. I'm happy with my life...if you think I'm not...that's your issue, not mine. And as for having someone to care for you when you're old, that's never a guarantee. Life is not guaranteed to anyone. Tragedy can take kids or a spouse away from you at a moments notice. Your best bet on having people to care for you when you're older is to work and plan and save for that day and to surround yourself with LOTS of people who care about you. It has nothing to do with marriage and biologically reproducing.
The sacrifices I made to take care of my father, were completely unnoticed by the government. We did not get adequate compensation for his burial and I was forced out of his house by Medicaid for "repayment of unapproved services." Funny, we continuously asked all of his case workers if the services were approved and we were always told they were...otherwise we would have refused them! (DUH!) Both the government and the workers from contracted agencies continuously lie to people about those services...it's all just a huge scam as far as I'm concerned. And again, they don't discriminate on if you're single or not. BUT because my father was divorced, I was not eligible to receive any benefits when he passed even though I was his sole caretaker. At one point in time, we thought that we were going to be forced out of my father's house by imminent domain issues because the City we live in wanted the property for redevelopment. (Side note, I've been out of the house for nearly 3 years and the City has owned it since I moved and STILL has not even torn the building down, let alone redeveloped it!) My father wanted me to remain living with and caring for him so he set me to work looking for an apartment or handicap-accessible house for rent. My father, at the time had JUST returned home from a two and a half month hospital stay in which he lost a leg to an amputation. He was still healing and hooked up to a wound vacuum around the clock. All of the places that we found that would have been acceptable for his needs, NONE of them would have been acceptable for a father and daughter living together. Everything was 1 bedroom apartments! EVERYTHING! (As if handicapped people only live with a spouse or alone!) It was very frustrating, and kind of frightening. It also got me to thinking about what I would ever do if I became handicapped. I know lots of single people that would not be able to comfortable live in a one bedroom apartment. Most people now want and/or need at least two bedrooms so that they can have a home office and/or a place for visitors to crash when they come for visits.
I seriously dislike the fact that as a single woman, I will earn less than a married counterpart, but spend more for insurance and rent...and spend a higher percentage of my earnings towards those things. It's a new kind of glass ceiling....and I just keep bumping my head! Shoot! With as high as the divorce rate is these days, marriages obviously aren't working out...maybe Uncle Sam should change the policies and REWARD people for staying single and not destroying lives in the name of love!...especially when "love" has nothing to do with it!
On another note, it greatly disturbs me that if, heaven forbid!, I ever have a stalker, since I am not married and do not have children, my loved ones (aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends) would NOT be protected under an order of protection that I would have from said stalker. So basically, a stalker can harass and intimidate whomever he wanted to gain access to me and/or knowledge pertaining me that I would entrust with those such people and there would be no legal repercussions that I could pursue to maintain my safety and that of my loved ones. Um...catch up with the times legal system...hello?!?!? Stalkers are crazy...which is why they become stalkers and they aren't going to care what lives they upset in the process of getting the person they want! The person being stalked should have the right to extend an order of protection to the people who are brave and caring enough to assist in protecting them! (And yes, I just learned that tidbit and I'm just as shocked as I am disturbed by it!)
Anyhow, I've rambled on enough...but seriously...there have always been single people in the world, I seriously doubt we're ever going away or disappearing completely so it is high time that the laws catch up with the times and stop legally and financially punishing people for living their big, bold, happy, prosperous, effective, sufficient, lives out loud...and solo-ly! We are out here and we are here to stay...DEAL WITH IT!
And for your own viewing/reading/researching pleasure, check out the following blogs/articles for some different points of views:
You can also search TWITTER for the hashtags #UnMarriedEquality and #SinglesBlogfest to see other things single people have written and discussed in concerns to laws and policies about being single.
Special thanks to Bella DePaulo, Cindy Butler, & especially to Eleanore Wells for including me in this day-long extravaganza celebrating singlehood!