When the name of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano was floated as Barack Obama's new Secretary of Homeland Security, I was exultant and said so right here in this space. It wasn't just that she was single and always had been (there are plenty of accomplished single people whose values are so dissimilar from my own that I would shudder to see them in any high post). No, I was happy because in those early reports of her potential nomination, there was no trace of singlism.
Then, yesterday morning, I got a call from Gail Collins. That should have been a totally exhilarating experience. She writes for the op-ed page of the New York Times, and is one of my very favorite columnists. (When she gets started on Mitt Romney sticking his dog on top of his car during his vacation travels, well - empathy for the dog aside - it is ROFL hilarious.) She is, in fact, a delightful conversationalist. Unfortunately, though, she had bad news for me.
It was from her that I first learned about Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell's quip about Napolitano:
"Janet's perfect for the job," he said. "Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it."
As humorist Dave Barry always said, I'm not making this up. In the year 2008, a state governor says of another state governor that she has no life because she is single. When I used nearly exactly those words in a Singled Out chapter subtitle, "You don't have anyone and you don't have a life," I was making fun of that belief! I was calling it a myth.
Some have mentioned that Rendell did not realize there was a live microphone beside him when he committed his act of singlism. I'm not sure it mattered. Too often, people who say these sorts of things do not even realize that they have said anything boorish. Singlism slips under the radar of our Prejudice Alert System. We really do need some consciousness-raising. Lots of it.
So here's the good news. Rendell did not get away with it this time. CNN's Campbell Brown, making good on her "no bias, no bull" promise, called him out on it. The Huffington Post report on the matter, just posted yesterday, has already drawn more than 500 comments.