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Singles Scene News
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Scottsdale AZ 85271
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Unmarried, never married, not involved. How do YOU define "single"?
by Janet Jacobsen
March/April 2004

What does the word “single” mean to you?
The question comes to mind as the American Association for Single People (AASP) begins to gain more na-tional publicity for its causes. But as part of its work AASP champions the rights of people who are cohabitating; thus their definition of “single” is simply “not married.”


In our work with singles over more than three decades, we’ve focused on people who might be called “single single”: those who identify themselves as single and do not at the time have a significant romantic relationship.

Legally single?
This has been a tricky issue at times. Some married couples separate but then are involved in divorce proceedings for several years. At what point are they “single”?
Some people would say not until the divorce is final. But for the various singles events we’ve sponsored over the years, we’ve taken the position that if you are living single, and are honest about your situation in any developing relationships, then you are single enough for us.
A few years back we had a long series of letters to the editor about a man whose wife had developed Alzheimer’s while in her late 40s. She was institutionalized and no longer knew him. He had no plans to divorce her, but wondered if it would be all right for him to attend singles events. The vast majority of our readers felt he should be considered single - as long as the special circumstances of his “singleness” were made clear if he began dating.
There are those, however, who feel this is absolutely inappropriate, that a person who is still legally married should not present themselves as single by attending singles events. And some people also contend that anyone who has been married should not present themselves as single, but only as “divorced” or “widowed.”
I was married at 18 and divorced at 21 with no children, and I suspect that it was about ten years after the divorce that in most cases I stopped filling in the “divorced” blank and indicated myself as “single” instead. The divorce simply didn’t define me in any way, except for some ancient Social Security and college records.

A significant other at home?
Running singles dances, we were occasionally confronted by someone’s discovery that a person attending the dances was in fact “living with someone” - not roommating, but cohabitating. If this proved true when we asked them about it, we would ask that they not attend the dances again until they were available. (Married people we’d just tell they couldn’t attend.)
Singles go to singles events in large part to meet people who are available for dating. Having a “significant other” waiting for you at home is not sufficiently “available,” in the minds of most singles.
So that’s some of why I’m sur-prised that AASP has chosen to include the cohabitating in their definition of single. “Legally single but cohabitating with a significant other” is simply not what most people mean by “single.”

Differing interests
Perhaps AASP assumes that single singles see the interests of people cohabitating as important in their own futures. But in fact most singles marry eventually, and even many of those “single again” will ultimately remarry. So I’m not sure that legally extending the rights and benefits of marriage to people who are cohabitating is a primary - or even peri-pheral - concern to America’s singles.
It’s probably about time we had a national organization advancing the inter-ests of singles. However, we can tell you that singles are a hard group to serve, since so many view themselves as only “temporarily” single.


Many singles won’t commit to attending a singles event far enough in advance to qualify for an early-registration discount. How many will be willing to join a political organization for singles?
Maybe it all depends on how you define “single.”
See AASP info at unmarriedamerica.org.