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Onely Fights Office Singlism! Kind of! July 15, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings, Heteronormativity, Just Saying., Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy.
Tags: , , , ,

I forget the context of our conversation, but at one point my coworker mentioned that single people don’t have any responsibilities. Now, before you send out the tar-and-feathering mob, loyal Copious Readers, let me say that this is one of my favorite coworkers and he has a knack for making out-of-place, over-the-top generalizations. But still, I felt the need to correct his statement.

“Single have responsibilities!” I said. “I have a mortage. And. . . and. . . a cat.” I winced. The C word seldom helps in a singles advocacy argument. But in the moment, I couldn’t think of any other responsibilities! Because to be honest, I am so enamoured of my independence that the feeling of freedom sometimes overshadows my to-do list. But Lisa rattled off  my responsibilities to me later, in an email. She said we have “pretty much the same responsibilities as everyone else!” But for once I disagree with my intrepid co-blogger. I think if we look carefully at the list, we see that singles actually have more responsibilities than married people (and here we’re not even talking about the responsibilities of single parents)!

Stuff Singles Have To Do:

job (funny that my coworker missed this one)

insurance shopping (singles have fewer options and pay more for them)

taxes (singles pay more)

bills (see “insurance shopping” and “taxes”)

health (see “insurance shopping”)

friends and family maintenance (singles often have wider networks that need maintaining)

vehicle maintenance (only one car so if that goes in the shop, get out your bicycle shorts)

home and apartment upkeep (I’ve finally accepted that no one but me is going to waterproof the damn deck)

food (ok, on this one I think singles have it easier–if we want to eat kidney beans straight out of the can, we do)

and of course pets (you know, all those cats!)

So it’s all how you spin it, right?

Copious Readership, if you are single, what are your responsibilities? If you are married or coupled, how did that change your responsibilities?



1. (no)sexandthecity - July 15, 2009

umm…everything! By myself! There’s no one to fall back on for income to make the bills, support, help take care of a home. No one’s there to split the chores; every little detail is a single’s responsibility, and theirs alone. But honestly, I did nearly everything when I was living with a guy for 5 years, too. Hence me giving up the illusion that one day things would be “equal” or shared.

I think gender plays a role – like you mentioned with single parents, the responsibilities of a dad and a mom following a breakup are rarely split equally. But I know a lot of married moms who are basically single parents, too. And a lot of men who’s responsibilities LESSEN when they’re with someone, like to just number one on your list (job).

Also, the responsibility of maintaining my status as a cliche by being single with a cat. Whenever I say it, I think of Miranda in Sex and the City who panicked after her neighborlady died and since no one missed her she laid there so long the cat ate her face off. Ha! I do not, however, pour the whole bag of Friskies in the bowl to guard against that happening:)

onely - July 15, 2009

That is the best SITC episode for sure. I have decided, however, that my cat can eat me if I die, because I don’t want her to die too. Besides, at that point, I would HOPE I would be beyond caring what happens to my thighs.

2. Sixty and Single in Seattle - July 15, 2009

The basics of life — cooking, cleaning, paying bills, maintaining the bikes, and so on — must be accomplished, by however many people share the household. The more who share, the less the individual responsibility. It’s just math.
On the plus side, if you decide to let things slide, you’re letting no one else down.
Oh, a cat sounds so good! In my next rental…

3. Nikki Sommermorgen - July 15, 2009

Hmmm, this reminds me a lot of an article I read on Yahoo about half a year ago. The article was something like “10 reasons why singles have it easier during our current economic crisis”. The reasons they listed were all based on the idea that singles don’t seem to have any responsibilities. The reasons were things like these:

Singles don’t need to pay for life insurance, because if they die who cares anyway. (Well, to be fair, they didn’t phrase it like this, but they said that if you don’t have a husband or wife or children you don’t need to bother providing for them after you are gone…)
Or: If a single person loses his/her job it is not as bad as if a person with a family and kids loses a job, because if you are single you don’t have the responsibility to care for a family.

As you can imagine, I was just blown away by their reasoning. Unfortunately, I had to leave my computer before I could bookmark or comment on the article and when I returned later I couldn’t find it anymore. I can just hope that enough other people send out a storm of comments and that they took it offline. But my feeling is that – unfortunately- this is exactly what a lot of people in our society believe.

P.S.: If anybody finds the article, I would really appreciate if you gave me the link! Thanks.

Lauri - July 15, 2009

As someone who lost her job last fall (now have a new one, thankfully), and I can say it can be WORSE for single person. You have no second health care plan to jump on, you have no second income to support some of the expenses. Some companies actually laid off single employees first! So aggravating.

onely - July 15, 2009

Ick! Probably better that that one gets lost in the cyber mayhem of Yahoo. . . = )

4. Lauri - July 15, 2009

I agree that singles actually have more responsibilities, on a per-person basis than married people. I often think of how my father never really takes “stuff I have to do” into account when planning things that involve me, and I realized, it’s because he’s never done any household chores, ever. He doesn’t think of things like laundry, food shopping, cooking, cleaning, anything. Granted, most couples today probably do not have such a traditional gender split of responsibilities, but they still get to split all that stuff, at least 50/50.

5. Lisa - July 15, 2009

I am single because I have been channeling my energy toward my passions – I had hoped at some point that a relationship with a man would be among these passions, but it never panned out that way so my responsibilities became focused on my life’s goals – who can say that the goal of raising a family or keeping a marriage healthy is more important than the goals that I set for myself as a single woman without a family? I’ve found plenty to fill my days with and I have an obligation to to those things. They are:

1. Meeting the requirements of training for triathlon. One of the things I wanted to do before I was 30 was the Ironman. So you know what? I outlined a training program and I was responsible for completing workouts over the course of 36 weeks to finish an Ironman. Some women wake up at 4:30AM to feed their infant babies; I wake up to hit the pool.

2. Writing in my journal and keeping up my blog. I feel that I have an obligation to myself to continue to document my life in a way that helps me become a better person. For years I did this in my journal and it has helped me to learn from the patterns in my life. I began writing a blog because I was encouraged by friends I would share my journal entries with that I should make more of my stuff public because it was written well, raw, and meaningful. Some women have a responsibility to raising their kids to be the best they can be, to give their children opportunities to grow and to nurture healthy relationships within their family. I have a responsibility to make sure I am being the best that I can be, to provide opportunities for myself to be self-actualized and spiritually fulfilled.

3. Strengthening my career. I have a responsibility to do continue doing well at my job so I can afford to pay the higher taxes that singles pay; and to support the lifestyle that I enjoy living (paying to compete in and travel to races; wearing fashions I enjoy; going to new places and out to dinner with friends). I’m also a spinning instructor who coaches members in my gym to reach new limits within my class and in life. I encourage people to take risks on the spin bike so they can see what they’re capable of, and this translates into their lives outside of the gym, too. I have a responsibility as a passionate, motivated person to help other people be passionate and motivated in life.

Responsibilities at the age of 30 are comprised of more than just marriage and children. When you are responsible for your own happiness in life and you are out there finding that happiness all on your own, your responsibilities can become many things.

onely - July 15, 2009

A good friend of mine does triathlons–so I’ve seen how much dedication it takes. Hats off to you!

6. autonomous - July 15, 2009

Oh this one puts me into a tizzy every time!!

I thought of the old adage “two can live more cheaply than one.” Doesn’t say more responsibly. I think this should also include time. When responsibilities are divided, there is more free time, no? After the last two surgeries, I had to return to work much earlier than my doctors advised because I must protect my employment and the bills must be paid. Likewise, I don’t get extra time off merely because my kids are sick- I’m an extremely dependable and Responsible employee by virtue of my NOT having kids or spousal duties that require more time out than normal vacation/sick days allotted, nor am I exposed to as many germs and so rarely get sick.

As single people we alone are responsible for laundry, housecleaning, shopping, cooking, errands, wood-chopping/stacking, snow-shoveling, lawn/garden planting & maintenance, bug-spraying, pruning, heater filter changes, plumbing emergencies, caring for pets, bill paying, car/scooter/bike maintenance and general household/LIFE administration before/after/and around work. As singles we must be vigilant to every detail of our lives- and that means certain activities are sacrificed in order make sure the chores are done. They take time and energy which after working and errands I would rather spend with my nose in a book or at the movies or doing any number of things that those married grown-ups assume we do in lieu of “taking care of responsibilities”. No-one picks up my slack but me.

How many of us run around in the morning before work as well as after trying to get things done in order not to be hanging laundry etc. at 10:00 pm? I was watering the yard this morning at 6:30 so that tonight after errands and music lesson I can come home and mow the backyard before watering & weeding the vegetable gardens. Lunch-hour also was spent running around taking care of banking, dry-cleaning etc. because it’s payday. I will eat lunch soon, at my desk.

I have help if I really need it, of course, but it really comes down to just me. I rather like the challenge of having to work hard and make sacrifices in order to achieve certain goals- at the end of the day I have a self-respect that comes from living a life that does not involve mooching off another’s time or money.

onely - July 15, 2009

ooohhh the lawn maintenance. . . I struggle with coiling the hose. It’s a huge fight for me every time for some reason. Ok, next time someone confronts me I will be ready with my list of resposibilities! “Hoses! Snow! Bugs!” You point out that you have help if you need it, ” but. . .” I agree. The thing with living alone (or being a single parent) is that you are less likely to call on someone for help in your daily chores. If you’re married, often you can just ask them to take over for five minutes while you put your hair in a ponytail or whatever. CC

(no)sexandthecity - July 15, 2009

me too! i can’t deal with the hose, watering – never seem to be able to do it without getting filthy…and i can’t operate a weed wacker. so now i live in an apartment and someone else does all that crap. and i once fainted outside after shoveling one morning. so now i live in a state where it doesn’t snow. guess i’ve solved a couple problems, anyway… maybe dating profiles should base matches on who’ll do what chores. “COOK-CLEAN-ERRANDS seeks DISHES-MOP-BILLS”

onely - July 16, 2009

You definitely need to write Chemistry.com and suggest that. . .

autonomous - July 16, 2009

How funny- am I weird in that I like getting dirty in the garden? My help comment was made in reference to those friends who will always show up no matter what, but I’m lucky that I do currently have great housemates and so our outside chores are shared. So, while I’m not married, nor coupled, I have a responsibility to uphold my end not only to D&M, but to my landlord. The property is on a corner lot and quite large for a rental. Housemates may move soon and we’ve discussed how it’s going to be impossible for one person to maintain and still have a life! We spent an entire day just building a raised garden-box and planting our veggies. Otherwise, our living spaces are our own and therefore no-one else scrubs the potty but me.

7. Lauri - July 15, 2009

“Lunch-hour also was spent running around taking care of banking, dry-cleaning etc. because it’s payday. I will eat lunch soon, at my desk.”

I’ve always been sort of amazed by this. At my last I was the only female in the office, and there was only one other single person. I got into this conversation with coworkers- I said, “how do you never take a lunch break? don’t you have to run around to the bank and pharmacy and the post office and the dry cleaners and everything else that’s only open during business hours?” And they all said, “I dunno, my wife does all that stuff.”

I came to the conclusion that I don’t really need a husband, I need a wife!

(no)sexandthecity - July 15, 2009

ahahahahaha…no kidding! then maybe there really WOULD be half as much work!

onely - July 15, 2009

this made me laugh out loud, thanks!

8. Alan - July 16, 2009

I agree that it’s actually harder if you’re single…you have to handle everything yourself! In the near future I’m starting a new job (new career actually), and shortly afterwards I’ll have to buy a new car and move. If I had a partner they could handle one of the latter two tasks.

But I will add one caveat…you have more flexibility when you’re single. I’m planning to spend the rest of my career moving around, doing different jobs in different places, something that would be more difficult with a partner.

Lauri - July 16, 2009

well I think you only lose flexibility with a partner if that’s who you are. I know married couples that have continued with their own thing- I know 2 married couples that don’t live in the same state! Plus a lot of people who like to move and stuff end up marrying someone who doesn’t really have their own thing going on, so they are able to move around with them.

9. Singlutionary - July 19, 2009

I think that a lot of times when people say “single people have no responsibilities” they are assuming that all coupled people have children. I am not sure that this was the case in the case of your co-worker but I think really people are saying “childless people have no responsibilities.”

I also think that gender comes into play a LOT here. I think that married men tend to feel that they have additional responsibilities because they have to: keep the wife happy, be a breadwinner, mow the lawn. Before they were married they didn’t have to do any of these things and could have moved back in with their mom at a moments notice. OK. That was a huge arrogant stereotype on my part.

OK. Here is my clarification. For many people, marriage signals growing up (annoying, I know). So they get married and the feel that suddenly they have all these responsibilities that they didn’t have when they were single. This is in part because of expectations from their spouse and expectations from society. But instead of seeing it as a man vs. dude or woman vs. girl thing, they see it as a married vs. single thing.

And I think there is this cultural thing that says: Men get married and THEN they grow up. Women get married and are already grown up because it is the woman who wants the marriage (because she is already responsible and wants to make the man responsible).

10. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles - July 21, 2009

I think singles and marrieds without children (and single parents and marrieds with children) have similar responsibilities. So the question, as I see it, isn’t who has more responsibilities but who has to devote more time and energy to them. As some people said above, the more helping hands you have, the less work any one person should have to do, but the problem is that housework still divides itself along gender lines more often than not. Like (no)sexandthecity, when I’m in a relationship, I end up spending as much time on household chores as I did when single (or more of it!), which is one of the reasons that I’m now single by choice.

That said, I’d be willing to bet that the most accurate predictor of time and money spent on “responsibilities” isn’t marital status or gender but certain personality traits that tend to accompany a desire for neatness, organization, etc. I know married people (women AND men) who always eat takeout, have overgrown, unkempt yards, and leave their dirty laundry sprawled across the floor like some kind of postmodernist art. On the other hand, I know single people (women AND men) who only eat organic, have yards that look like Currier & Ives postcards, and freak out at the sight of a dust bunny.

This is somewhat off topic, but it’s interesting to me how we’ve come to equate certain kinds of drudgery with maturity in the first place. Why do we see it as an admirable trait when people “settle down” in one place and don’t move frequently? Why are we considered more “mature” when we buy instead of renting? What’s so “responsible” about cooking as opposed to eating a healthy frozen dinner? Why is it more “adult” to fold your socks instead of just tossing them in a drawer? Why is it “grown-up” to dust and vacuum every week, whether or not it really needs it?

11. Mingus in L.A. - August 3, 2009

I love to hear married people and “couples” talk about what responsibilities single people don’t have. At first it used to irk me. I mean, where do they get off!? Right?

But, I discovered something over the years. If you listen and observe you will hear what is really behind the comments.

Everyone has bills to pay, work to be done (home and/or office), family to tend to (by birth or extended), pets (if you’re into that), personal health and welfare. It’s just from married folks point of view it seems easier for single folks. For example, some would think a single person does not have to have dinner ready at the end of the day. Well, newsflash, singles eat too and in this economy we are cooking more and dinning out less. And, for those singles out there with family members close by, you know they depend on you more because they figure you’re single and therefore have more time on your hands.

When I’m asked by married folks/couples and people with kids “So, how was your weekend? Do anything exciting?” I answer truthfully and wait for the comments The comments don’t upset me anymore, I simple respond “Wow, that’s too bad. Maybe someday you will have time to enjoy yourself.”

Couples and married people who are overwhelmed (or even under-whelmed) don’t want to hear about the joys of single life…they want someone to acknowledge the life they have chosen. Not to sound mean but that someone ain’t me. I made a choice to be single, for now, and they made a choice to be married. If I can live with it..so can they 🙂

12. onely - August 4, 2009

“they want someone to acknowledge the life they have chosen.” I think this applies not only to marrieds and singles, but to many people in many situations. Oftentimes when we criticize someone’s choices it’s because–JUST as you said–we want someone to acknowledge OUR own choices. Like, “how can you stand to eat pork?” or “how can you stand not to eat pork?” (Random example)

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