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.
Tags: single, unmarried, lonely, elena kagan, maureen dowd
Thanks to Copious Reader Rachel A. for calling our attention to this op-ed in The New York Times by one of my favorite columnists, Maureen Dowd. In it, Dowd astutely questions the (gendered) implications of calling a woman (in this case, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan) “single” versus “unmarried.” She writes:
Single carries a connotation of eligibility and possibility, while unmarried has that dreaded over-the-hill, out-of-luck, you-are-finished, no-chance implication. An aroma of mothballs and perpetual aunt.
Men, generally more favored by nature as they age, can be single at all ages. But often, for women, once you’re 40 or 50, or simply beyond childbearing age, you’re no longer single. You’re unmarried — meaning it isn’t your choice to be alone.
Intriguing as this analysis is, Dowd’s primary argument — that calling Kagan “unmarried” instead of “single” carries stereotypically sexist negative connotations — is grounded on the decidedly singlist premise that in order for Kagan to be seen as “young” and “fun,” she must also be seen as “datable” and, more importantly, looking for a romantic relationship. Here’s how Dowd puts it:
Why is there this underlying assumption that Kagan has missed the boat? Why couldn’t she be eager to come to Washington to check out the Obama-era geek-chic bachelors, maybe get set up on a date by Michelle Obama, maybe host some single ladies fiestas with Sonia Sotomayor, maybe even sign up for JDate with a new and improved job status?
Copious Readers, I’m eager to hear your thoughts!
Great Onelies in Real Time: Shanaz (YOUR RESPONSES REQUESTED) January 8, 2009Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, Great Onelies in Real Time, Heteronormativity, Profiles, Your Responses Requested!.
Tags: gay, haircut, homophobia, iranian politics, lesbian, single, singlism
This evening my hairdresser and I talked about being Onely. Shanaz likes men but is more interested in friends, her hair artistry, her daughter, her writing (Persian language commentary on Iranian politics), and just life. “I’m happiest without a boyfriend,” she says. At forty-something, she’s been married and coupled and single and even accidentally involved with a married man. And she chooses single.
But you know what’s coming next, don’t you? (more…)
We could teach Brad Pitt a thing or two December 27, 2008Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, We like. . ..
Tags: Brad Pitt, Make it Right, new orleans, people magazine, single
Just when I was beginning to feel a little bit like an underachiever, I found this bio. Check out the right sidebar, “Heart Monitor”. My man Brad has not been Onely since 1987! WtF? (more…)
Great Onelies in Realtime: Lisa December 17, 2008Posted by Onely in Great Onelies in Real Time, Profiles.
Tags: cross-country, denial, how we write history, MFA, real time, reality show, single
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Welcome to Great Onelies in Realtime, a spinoff of our long-running (one post!) Great Onelies in History series. Our inaugural Great Realtime Onely is: Lisa, coblogger on Onely.org! Ok, sure, this stinks of nepotism, but to tell the truth, Lisa and I don’t know that many Onelies–at least none who met the extensive profile criteria of 1) being willing to be written about by us (chickens!!). That’s why we always solicit suggestions from you, Copious Readers. Do you have single friends who exhibit moments of great Oneliness? Do you have heroes in politics, science, the media, medicine, social work who also happen to be Onely? Let us know!
So, here’s why Lisa is a Great Onely: (more…)
UnOnely Pleasures: Country Music December 3, 2008Posted by Onely in As If!, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, We like. . ..
Tags: alan jackson, country music, lonestar, progressive, richochet, sexist, single, toby keith
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It’s ok to like something even if it’s unOnely! Some of my best friends are unOnely. And some of my favorite music is country. I have three country music stations programmed into my car radio. Although independent-minded female singers with progressive attitudes are edging aside the good ol’ boys, the genre is still steeped in old-school heteronormative rhetoric. And I find myself rocking out to even the worst of it. Ignoring for a moment the philosophical issue of whether one can actually “rock out” to country music, here are some catchy tunes with lyrics you don’t want to listen to too closely: (more…)
Remind Obama About Singles’ Issues November 12, 2008Posted by Onely in Food for Thought.
Tags: barack obama, single, singlism and politics
Let me draw your attention to Singletude, a positive blog for singles. Singletude has an excellent post about how Barack Obama’s diversity-focused rhetoric doesn’t seem to be as inclusive of singles as it could be.
I’ll give just one example here–see the Singletude post itself for more great examples:
I’m going to pick on Obama for a minute simply because he is the favored candidate among the majority of singles. If you visit his web site and view the drop-down menu under “People,” you will see 23 special-interest demographics. One of them must be “Singles,” right? Nope. There are “Arab Americans,” “Rural Americans,” even “Sportsmen.” But no “Singles.”
But the good news is that Obama is flexible and open-minded. I am certain that if a number of Onelies (more…)
The great thing about Onely. . . November 10, 2008Posted by Onely in Everyday Happenings, We like. . ..
Tags: onely, posts, single
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. . . is that when someone says something singlist to me, or I experience discrimination because I’m single, instead of getting angry, I get excited because now I have something to post about. (more…)
Onelies save the free world! November 6, 2008Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, We like. . ..
Tags: 2008 election, barack obama, john mccain, single, unmarried women
Here’s a fun fact from Feministing.com: Unmarried women gave Barack Obama a margin of victory of more than 12 million votes.
You’re WELCOME, world!
–Lisa and Christina
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s lifestyle November 5, 2008Posted by Onely in Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought.
Tags: living alone, neighbors, single
The other day I walked from my townhouse to my car and saw people of all ages swarming over the grassy knoll in front of our street, giggling and shouting and walking and standing. I recognized a neighbor from the other end of our row of houses, who I only knew from waving distance. She approached me, a petite woman holding the hand of a little toddling girl. (more…)