Unmarried, never married, not involved.
How do YOU define "single"?
by Janet Jacobsen
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, weve 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
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 weve sponsored over the years, weve 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 Alzheimers 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 didnt 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 someones
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 wed just
tell they couldnt 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 thats some of why Im 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.
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 Im 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 Americas singles.
Its 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
Many singles wont 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.