Except around April 15, the singles penalty I hear about most often has nothing to do with taxes. Instead, singles tell me about all the many ways they pay more per person than married people do for health insurance, club memberships, car insurance, professional membership fees, and of course, just about everything related to travel. The "single supplement" usually comes in for special scorn.
Well, the week of good news (here and here) is continuing. A big story in Adweek (a leading trade magazine in the advertising industry, one of my brothers tells me) is titled "The Power of One" and begins with reports of cruise lines that are offering solo travelers their own rooms, with no extra charge.
A key theme of the story is that singles are a huge demographic, yet they are mostly ignored by advertisers and marketers. In a way, it could be a good thing if professionals are spending less of their time trying to separate singles from their money, or trying to lure them into buying stuff they don't want and don't need.
But I do care about the neglect or misrepresentation of singles for other reasons. When ads or greeting cards or anything else are written in the language of couples ("We wish you a happy birthday!"), singles are rendered invisible. Writing singles out of the script is a way of saying that the 104 million unmarried Americans do not really exist, or do not actually matter.
When singles are considered inconsequential, then they get the bad deals, such as the single supplement and the supermarket "specials" that offer you lower unit prices for giant-sized portions.
Of course, I also deplore the many ways that singles are pitied, mocked, and otherwise dissed in ads, as I described here. Those kinds of ads reinforce stereotypes and caricatures, and deserve to be mocked mercilessly (here's a great example of a parody).
Here are some highlights from the Adweek story (other relevant links are in the story):
My one disappointment with the story: Toward the end, it perpetuates the stereotype that singles are self-centered, don't sacrifice, and spend all of their money on themselves. I took apart that claim, with data, in this post as well as in Singled Out.