Single? Don’t Be! (Or, Christina becomes a Onely Hero) May 1, 2011Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought, single and happy, Singled Out, STFU.
Tags: heart-to-heart dating service, not bitter, single, singlism sucks
Since starting Onely, I’ve become attuned to the subtle singlisms of society. But what I call “attuned,” some people might call “bitter.” Singlists (people who regard singles as less worthy than couples) commonly use “bitter” to describe those of us who question our culture’s unconditionally pro-coupling status quo–whether our tones are calm, vehement, or vituperative.
So I tried very, very hard to keep my voice friendly and upbeat when I called the Heart-to-Heart dating service to tell them that one of their advertisements was singlist. I think I was successful in my efforts to stay nice, but I certainly had no success convincing the representative that the ad was problematic.
Here’s what happened:
While sitting at a stoplight on a busy road, I noticed outside my driver’s side window one of those signs with the little metal sticks for legs, as you might see advertising politicians before an election. But this sign was for a dating service. It said, in big red letters with a heart where the “O” would be (awwww),
“Single? Don’t Be!
If you’re reading this book, you probably already see the problem.
Don’t be single! In common usage, “Don’t” precedes an action/situation that makes your life or others’ lives unsavory. (Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t eat the yellow snow.)
Don’t be single! There are better ways to be!
I don’t hate dating services. They can connect people who want to find life partners or people (like me) who just hope to go out and have fun. But I’d prefer that the services advertise themselves without denigrating any particular group. It would be so easy:
“Single and looking?
Heart to Heart! (###-###-####)”
Easy! So, I called them. To tell them how, by changing two words, they could make the world a little less singlist. The call Did Not Go Well.
As I’ve said, I was so very nice. I greeted the rep and said I wasn’t actually calling for a date, but rather with an idea for their advertising. I said, more or less, that I felt their ad made some uncomfortable assumptions about single people and that there were other ways to communicate their message without assuming that being single is an inherently bad thing. I suggested, “Single and looking to find a partner?” (which isn’t pithy, but that’s why I’m not in advertising).
At first, she didn’t understand. I tried to explain my point several times, in several ways, all of which were perky and positive (I thought). At some point I said something about them “trashing singlehood,” and that resonated with her. She said, “Ohhhh, I see what you’re saying!”
Success! No, wait, not so much. What follows is a loose transcript of the conversation, in which she dug in her heels and defended Heart-to-Heart’s advertisement as if it were her dissertation. I typed as she spoke. (Please note that I couldn’t type fast enough to record all her words, but I got the gist.)
In her first breath, she said: “[The text on the sign] is what we want to say. . . Single is a problem. . . If you’re single and not happy, we can partner you up. . . In today’s economy two incomes are better than one.”
Wow. I had to decide which of these ignorant statements to address. I chose “if you’re single and not happy, we can partner you up.”
Patiently, I tried to explain that the whole problem was that they didn’t specify “single and unhappy,” or “single and looking for someone,” but instead, they just said “single.”
She replied, “If you’re not looking to find anyone, then don’t call us.”
That’s absolutely fine, I said, still optimistic. But they didn’t say “call us if you’re single and looking to find someone.” They said, “don’t be single.” In choosing these words, I explained, they were trashing all single people, even those who didn’t consider their status a problem.
The rest of her words speak for themselves:
“The reason that we trashed [singlehood] is we don’t want people to be single. We want people to think about being single to think about being alone. . . so we are trying to trash it. . . And we are getting tons of calls and people walking through our door – so it’s working for us.”
I took a deep breath, maintaining my cool. I didn’t want to give her a chance to call me bitter. So I said, in the sweetest tone I could muster (while making white-knuckled throttling motions with my hands), “Well, it’s something to think about!”
And she said, “Well, thanks for your input. I’ll pass it on to our management.”
HAHA! Just kidding. No she didn’t. She actually said: “Ok, but it’s working for us so I don’t think we’ll even give it a thought.” (The emphasis this time is mine.)
But it’s too late. My phone call made her think about it. And even though she’ll try to dismiss it (perhaps she’ll complain about “that bitter single woman” to her colleagues and friends), my complaint was voiced. That’s progress, and that’s why I’m not bitter.