Discrimination. It is not just at Denny's or the Cracker Barrel.
Consider this experience described to me by a woman I'll call Shari. More than a month in advance, she called to make reservations at the upscale restaurant at an elite resort. You know this genre of restaurant - white linen tablecloths, entrees of braised buffalo shank teamed with smoked cheddar polenta and rosemary sauce, citrus creme brulee for the finale. And that's on an ordinary evening. Shari's reservations were for Thanksgiving.
There was still room in the brulee restaurant when Shari called, but not for her. She was told that she would have to dine in the casual grill, sans tablecloths - the one that features a Ben and Jerry's ice cream bar for dessert.
This wasn't racial prejudice - Shari is white. It wasn't immigrant bashing either. Nor did Shari walk hand-in-hand with another woman, into a haven of homophobes. No, Shari's "problem" was that she was a single person traveling solo. I'm not surmising this - she was explicitly informed that the formal restaurant was for couples and families only.
Can you imagine what would have happened if Shari were African American and had been assigned to the equivalent of the kids' table - and was told explicitly by the resort staff that she could not dine with the elite patrons BECAUSE she was black?
I do realize that having the resources to afford fine dining, only to be reassigned to less fine dining, is a hardship that millions of Americans of all marital statuses would love to endure. If discrimination against people who are single were of that variety only, I would not have spent the last several years of my life researching the issue. (see Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.) But there is more. Lots more.
Take pay, for instance. The cumulative results of several studies show that married men are paid more than single men. That's not because the married men are more experienced or better workers. The studies find that married men are paid more even when they are comparable to single men in their seniority and their performance. In fact, in one study that found a 26% pay advantage for married men over single men, the participants were pairs of identical twins.
Health insurance is an especially scarce commodity for people who are single. They pay more and get less. They pay more when couples pay less per person for the same coverage. In workplaces, married workers can sometimes put a spouse on the company plan for a discounted rate; when single workers cannot put another adult on their plan (such as a sibling, parent, or close friend), and when they are offered no other benefit in place of the extras offered to married workers, then single people are receiving unequal compensation for the same work.
Previously, I've written in this space about taxes that disproportionately penalize single people. In Singled Out, I also document discrimination in the housing market and in the military. I trace the handouts that go straight from government coffers into the hands of wealthy people who have married.
I don't want to turn the tables and discriminate against people who are married, or anyone else. I just think we should all be treated fairly.