Are You Single?
Are you divorced? Widowed? In a relationship but not engaged or married? Not dating at all?
With so many ways to be single how does one define the term single anymore?
“Are you single?”
It seems like a simple enough question, but it’s actually one that’s fraught with complications. There are just too many ways to be single.
We think we know what it means to be single, right? It means you’ve never exchanged the “I do’s” with the one you say you love, who either wore a dazzling white gown or an uncomfortable tux before a bunch of sobbing relatives followed by a huge, expensive party at which the band or DJ played “Brick House” at some crucial point during the night. But, it’s also the go-to term for people who were married and are now divorced or widowed, although they can also call themselves, well, divorced or widowed.
Well, if they can crash the single party, what about those who have a steady partner or who live with a significant other? Are you still single in those circumstances?
Depends on whose definition you’re going by — legal, social or your own.
The legal definition of “single” means you are not legally married right now. Yes, that includes the widowed and the divorced, although they are often asked to define themselves as such on census forms and other documents
That’s the first dilemma. A new layer of semantics happens when we look at how we define “being single” as a society and by our own definition.
If you live with someone — not as roomies but as sweethearts — you’re pretty much going to be viewed by others, even mothers disgruntled with the whole shacking up thing, as being coupled. More important, you’ll also see yourself that way, too. When you’re cohabiting, you’re no longer hitting the latest hot spot looking for The One. You’ve taken yourself off “the market.” Same with couples who are in committed relationships but live apart. Regardless; on paper you are single. You haven’t put a ring on it, as Beyonce suggests.
So what about the unmarrieds? Since 2001, the third week in September has been celebrated as National Unmarried and Single Americans Week. According to the group behind the celebration, unmarrieds are people who have never been married, divorced or widowed. In other words, the “real” singles. But, is there something else going on besides such labels? Yes, according to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who looked at being “single” versus “unmarried” and argued that there’s a distinct difference:
“Single carries a connotation of eligibility and possibility, while unmarried has that dreaded over-the-hill, out-of-luck, you-are-finished, no-chance implication. An aroma of mothballs and perpetual aunt. … Men, generally more favored by nature as they age, can be single at all ages. But often, for women, once you’re 40 or 50, or simply beyond childbearing age, you’re no longer single. You’re unmarried — meaning it isn’t your choice to be alone.”
So, how do you view yourself — single or unmarried, and why?
About the Author:
Vicki Larson is a longtime journalist, freelancer, blogger and columnist who has been married and divorced twice, once in her 20s and once as a mother in her 40s.
She is the lifestyles editor and writer at a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper and has been a featured blogger for the Huffington Post’s divorce and wedding sections; columnist for Mommy Tracked: Managing the Chaos of Modern Motherhood and ModernMom.com; contributor to the anthology “Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex and Work in Our 40s,” a fundraiser for breast cancer; and a chronicler for The Working Chronicles, a national project that explores what Americans think about work. She blogs at the OMG Chronicles, which has a Facebook fan page, and is on Twitter, @OMGchronicles.
A co-parenting mother of two sons, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.