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Of Singlism and Speculums December 26, 2011

Posted by Onely in As If!.
Tags: ,

As if a visit to the Ob-gyn weren’t enough fun already, there I was filling out the new-patient paperwork and being asked yet again to write in my marital status.

Because, apparently, whether you’re married or not directly correlates to: whether you have (or need) someone who’ll remind you to take your medicine, whether anyone is around to knock on the bathroom door if you’re silent in the tub for more than two hours, whether you’re happy or whether you’re going to kill yourself, whether anyone is beating on you or not, whether you feel lonely or not, whether you eat well or not, or any number of factors that could impact your treatment plan. Right?

Annoyed, I put “N/A” next to “marital status”, though what I really wanted to write was “loose woman”. Then I moved on to the next question, which was:

Name of spouse/parent:

Copious Readers, have you ever been asked for this information on a doctor’s form? If so, what did you do? My reaction was instant panic:

I don’t have a spouse. So if I don’t have a spouse, who takes care of me? Well, a parent, obviously, according to this question. Yet I don’t remember seeing a parent when I left the house this morning. Oh dear, did I misplace my parent?

It took me a few seconds, but eventually I remembered that I live alone and take care of myself. I’d always thought this was a perfectly valid way of life, but the doctor’s new patient form didn’t allow for this option. It seemed to imply that either you’re married, or you live with a parent.

Because marriage is commonly–albeit illogically–regarded as a gateway into adulthood, singlehood is often regarded as an extension of childhood (erego, singles must live with parents). This trope was clearly reflected in the wording of the questionnaire.

At first I thought maybe this was just their ham-fisted (a word one should never apply to an ob-gyn) attempt to determine who my emergency contact was, but no–there was another box further down soliciting that information. When I wrote my mom down as an emergency contact, I felt as if I were playing into the very single-as-childlike stereotype presented by the “name of spouse/parent” question–even though my mother lives several states away (and even though I don’t believe that there’s anything inherently childlike about single adults living with their parents anyway).

This cascade of insecurities made me ashamed and cranky. Or maybe it was the fact that I was about to have a pap smear. Which, by the way, hurt like a mother.


Photo credit: monarchmedicalproducts


1. SWF - December 27, 2011

Spouse or parent – ouch! I’ve yet to encounter that one on a form. But I definitely can relate to the ’emergency contact’ thing. I used to list my mother as emergency contact and always felt a bit like that’s just playing into the infantile-single stereotype. My brother recently moved to the city I live in and when we redid our emergency contact forms for work, I listed him instead. It kind of irritated me that I wanted to do so.

2. April - December 27, 2011

I’m all for pointing out singlism, but this time, I have a different take. Many girls under the age of 18 see ob/gyns these days, and that may have been meant for them. For myself, I would’ve skipped that, or written “n/a.”

3. Megan-Fay - December 28, 2011

I am so so so with you on the frustration of being faced with the married/commonlaw/single question on forms. I am always wondering how it is going to affect their treatment of me–will they charge me more to reflect the attitudes of society at large towards singles, will they stamp my form with the word “loser” before placing it in my file, will they assume I must be more mentally unstable, un healthier, or simply have a giant personality flaw because of my single status. Whatever the logical or illogical reason they have that query on a questionaire, it always makes me irritable.

4. Stella - December 28, 2011

It probably hurt coz you were all un-relaxed already due to their stupid form! And by the way, maybe you oughta find a new ob-gyn, I have never had one that hurt. Over here we just go to our local GP for a pap smear. Maybe I’ve been lucky but they’re not something I fear.
I am taking inspiration from you though and putting N/A down on these forms since I finally realize I don’t have to write anything- thanks for waking me up to that!

5. tehomet - December 29, 2011

Sometimes these archaic questions hang around on forms like a relic of attitudes of the past. The fact that they’re there is sexist and heteronormative. The fact that the forms aren’t revised regularly with a view to making them as efficient and pleasant to use as possible for just the kind of reasons you mention in your post is another layer of error, compounding the first.

I used to work in Human Resources and the maternity leave application form asked the husband’s name and the marital status of the applicant. FFS! I quietly edited those questions out of the form when my boss wasn’t looking. 🙂

Onely - January 4, 2012

Great job tehomet.

6. Jane - January 8, 2012

I’ve skipped those questions on forms or filled in “N/A” only to have a minor argument with the doctor’s receptionist about filling it in. It’s a little creepy. Using the line, “How will that change my treatment?” doesn’t work. It’s a weird mental holdover, I think, but it does always cause me to be a little annoyed.

Onely - January 8, 2012

Yes, I asked another receptionist in another office why they ask it, and she just said,”it’s policy” or something. (mindless drone much?) I like the way you phrased the question though.

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