I have not found a wedding anniversary card that says, "So sorry you are still married." I have, though, found the equivalent "greetings" in stories supposedly celebrating Unmarried and Single Americans Week. The week is supposed to be a celebration. In fact, every year, when the Census Bureau releases its "Facts for Features" document to help journalists with their stories, the first line always begins the same way:
"'National Singles Week' was started by the Buckeye Singles Council in Ohio in the 1980s to celebrate single life and recognize singles and their contributions to society."
Over at Your Tango, however, they have a different idea. Here's their opening line:
"When you're single, it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook on dating and relationships, especially if there's been some time since your last boyfriend. But-believe it or not-singlehood is awesome, and what better way to remind singles of that than National Singles week?!"
Yes, who could ever believe that singlehood could be awesome? Or that anyone could be happy if the last boyfriend is receding into the rearview mirror? There are so many myths and assumptions in just those few sentences. Of course, the writer assumes, everyone cares about their outlook on dating and relationships. Everyone cares about how long it has been since the last boyfriend (and that there was a last boyfriend). The writer also treats the week as National Single Women's Week rather than a week for all singles.
The story goes on to offer some tips on "how you can honor and celebrate your singlehood!" My "favorite" is #8, which begins like this:
"Feeling down about being single? Work out!"
What an "honor" it is to have Your Tango assume that we are all feeling down about being single! Can you imagine parallel greeting cards for other occasions?
- Feeling down about being married? Have an affair!
- Feeling down about being a mother? Skip town!
- Feeling down about being a veteran? Lie about your service!
- (OK, readers, jump in and generate some others.)
Happily, there has been some progress on the consciousness-raising front. In my previous post, I mentioned the New York Times story in which singles' contributions to maintaining friendships, family ties, and community connections were underscored.
Here are a few quotes. (The "she" is Professor Naomi Gerstel.)
"Yet as she and other experts note, single people often contribute more to the community - because once people marry, they tend to put their energy and focus into their partners and their own families at the expense of friendships, community ties and extended families."
"'It's the unmarried, with or without kids, who are more likely to take care of other people,' Dr. Gerstel said. 'It's not having children that isolates people. It's marriage.'"
(If you can access the comments section, check it out. I was struck by how many of the comments highlighted themes we discuss routinely here at Living Single.)
Another example of a story that gets it right
about what's important about Singles Week was written by Page Gardner
(who also contributed to the Singlism book
). The short post is well worth reading in its entirety. Here I'll just share the last paragraph:
"Bottom line: the era of unmarried America is upon us. Instead of ignoring, trying to contain or discourage this emerging America powerhouse, our nation's political and economic leaders need to recognize it is in their own vested interest to respond to the needs and concerns of unmarried and single Americans and ensure every voice in our democracy is heard."
I haven't checked out all of the stories about Singles Week (and how sweet it is that there are multiple stories), but last time I looked, the enlightened ones were outnumbering the dopey Your-Tango types. Now that's something we can celebrate!
[By the way, that New York Times story is getting around. It was picked up by the Atlantic magazine wire, and various blogs and newspapers. I'm posting links to the mentions I know about on the Facebook page for the Singlism book. If you know of other links, or if you have found some particularly enlightened stories about Singles Week, please share them in the Comments section.]