Negative ideas about what it means to be single and other annoyances abound in a world that still can’t acknowledge that we singles are the emerging majority.
Diego Cervo / 123RF Photo
Enjoying a mix of freedom and responsibility as single adults, we are challenged daily to be good sports. Taking one for the team and bowing to what has been the majority rule has been a gracious “given” over the years. But now, even with our growing singular demographic, it seems we singles are being increasingly ignored, dismissed, or pushed to the sidelines by retailers, hotels, restaurants, and the coupled people of the world.
If you consider the traditional family and marriage benefits offered by insurance companies, employers, civic groups, and entertainment venues that have historically sided with Great Aunt Gertie in the opinion that we should all be married right now, the surge in singlism, a word coined by singles expert Bella DePaulo Ph.D, is publicly accepted discrimination.
Some people will always think a single person has more time, energy, and approachability in social situations, and they may not realize how often singles are asked to stop what they are doing to help others further their own agenda in the workplace, relationships, or in public.
The other day, while I was contributing to my local economy (i.e. shopping), two ladies approached me, chatting happily, one pushing a stroller with a sleeping child in it. I was heavily laden with large art canvases, carefully balanced so I could reach that one perfect piece in the back, when the lady pushing the stroller greeted me.
“Excuse me” she began, sweetly, “But is that yours?” She pointed to a large toy in the middle of the aisle, blocking one of the two passages available to her. Without taking my eyes off the canvas and glass frame I was about to drop, I mustered a smile and said, “No, it isn’t.”
I braced myself for what was coming next, because it has happened so many times in public that I can anticipate each syllable before it falls from the lips of the person addressing me. Then she said it.
“Well, could you move it for me?”
I looked at the second lady, who was holding only a blankie (I hope it belonged to the stroller passenger, but since they thought the toy might belong to me, who knows?) and said, “Well, you’ll have to wait a minute while I put back all of these paintings.”
I thought there might be a chance she would get the hint that her request was ridiculous. Suddenly, I was awash with feelings of servitude, and Cinderella flashbacks.
As I fumbled with the frames and eventually cleared a path for the ladies and their cargo, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had used the specially assigned parking spaces near the store entrance, right next to the handicapped spaces.
This was not a family-specific store, yet there were newly installed parking signs reserving front row spaces for “Families with Small Children.” I had wondered about the enforcement of such signs. They’ve been cropping up in recent years at major retail chains, next to the federally enforced handicapped spaces. Are families now considered nearly handicapped?
When private, family-oriented businesses such as daycare centers post toddler drop-off signs or minivan zones for Mommy & Me classes, I think singulars understand there are insurance and social safety issues being addressed. Certainly, a target demographic is being invited to return to those establishments, and we understand the general marketing concept.
Why then, is my parking structure, which links a shoe store (without kids’ shoes), drug store, fitness center, and nightclub, reserving all the primo spaces for families, and expectant mothers? Is the nightclub organizing play dates? Do expectant mothers really spend that much on shoes while their feet are swollen?
When couples begin family life, isn’t handling kiddies in social settings and balancing an abundance of kid paraphernalia part of the deal? Or, can singles expect that every parking lot is going to err on the side of insurance risk, and keep pushing the majority of (single) drivers back into traffic?
Worded differently, I would say they are kicking us to the curb, but those spots are reserved for loading and unloading only.
The public image of single adults is usually one of rambunctious, outgoing, carefree partiers or conversely: lonely, selfish, or picky people. Either way, we’re now considered a group who can hike a bit more to get to the businesses we patronize, or we can be patronized by business owners until we become half of a couple, and bring them double the dollars.
Some of the very best hotels, spas, and tourist destinations cater to couples, offering double occupancy deals in a world filled with singles. Sandals Resorts offer romantic getaways when you’re part of a couple, but otherwise, it’s hard to imagine scraping rose petals off the bed by yourself, and ignoring the ads for couples massages, two-for-one excursion passes, or dinner for two deals.
You don’t have to go to Sandals to feel awkward as a single soul. In every city, restaurants often place single patrons at unsavory tables, or ignore special requests because single diners signify a lesser total on the tab. Maybe they should consider that single patrons usually dine in less time and should be considered for twice the usage of the same table.
If healthcare rates, insurance premiums, employee benefits, and bulk grocery pricing don’t irk you already, how is it that the stereotype of singles having the time, energy, and approachability to meet strangers in a market doesn’t equate to being valued in the economic marketplace?
Apparently old ideas die hard and singularity is still seen as a temporary demographic, and therefore not an economic group to be seriously considered in boardroom decisions and marketing campaigns (matchmaking services excluded). The marketing moguls have been listening to the Great Aunt Gerties of the world, believing that we’ll all be married soon and nobody is single by choice.
Overall, I don’t think a few parking signs will create havoc or begin an uprising from the nearly 100 million single adults in America, but my list of things I have to deal with, or love to hate, as a busy single person is growing.
I’ve considered ordering a “singles only” parking sign or two (because they’re cheaper in multiples, of course – ugh) from one of those online sign companies. I could proudly post it in front of my car when I park in the nether regions of any lot, and feel like I am a preferred customer.
I might use the second one in the bedroom … still deciding.
J.C. Russell has contributed to entertainment and print media as a humorist and a single lifestyle expert. Besides writing, her varied background includes TV casting and development, teaching, and business management. In 2009, J.C.’s “Single Life” stories on the national page of examiner.com debuted as the number one relationships column.