Go to hell, Facebook relationship status.
The only time I ever contemplate the benefits of marriage is when I’m filing taxes. April 14 rolls around, and while I’m in a flurry of panic trying to find all the W-2s and 1099s and 1099-Bs and NCC-1701-Ds…oh, wait. A gal can dream, though, right? At least about the post-currency society that logically can’t require one to file federal taxes?
Anyway, once I finally get my important financial documents from out of the sock drawer and the bookshelf and that impossible-to-reach area under a car’s front seat and dutifully enter all the information in to the IRS’ consistently malfunctioning e-file form, I have to consult a tax table to figure out how much I owe. Which is generally twice as much as a married couple filing jointly would have to pay. Which makes me call up my first ex-husband and say, “Hey, you want to get married for real this time? Not because I secretly think we’re in When Harry Met Sally, mind you, but because we have the major common interest of being cheap?”
But then I file the taxes, get a nice return, and generally forget the whole mental lapse ever occurred. The only other time I get prickly about my single status is when I’m on that social-media giant that I love to hate but just can’t quit: Facebook.
Mind you, it’s not the pictures of newly-engaged friends and their newly-engaged ring fingers that get me. Nor is it the pictures of happy couples kissing, making out, or feeding each other tidbits on the beach, although it is a good thing Type I diabetics can’t go on to develop SuperDiabetes (special powers include peeing acid and gargling water straight from the faucet!).
Nope, what gets this Master in Linguistics (Georgetown ’09, if you want to imagine me stroking my goatee while I sip a Scotch on the rocks in a tweed jacket) is the constant nagging on Facebook’s behalf every time I go to update my About page: “Add your relationships.” It’s accompanied by a sad gray cartoon heart, in case I stupidly thought my primary relationships were supposed to be with my friends and family.
Since I’m not married/divorced (well, technically speaking)/widowed/engaged/complicated (at least, not with anyone else)/in an open relationship, my default choice for this particular box that Facebook wants to reduce me to is “Single.” The status itself, as my blog’s very nature should suggest, is not what I have a problem with.
What jerks my inner linguist’s chain is the word itself. Like people who assume that I am “childless” instead of “childfree,” missing something when in fact I feel my own life is more fulfilled by not having that quality, that word implies a lack. Granted, there is nothing inherent about “single” that suggests an absence–it’s not as if Facebook decided that “loveless” and/or “hopeless” would be more suitable to describe somebody who is not romantically entangled.
But try explaining that to society at large. The connotations of “single” imply one who is waiting, one who is missing a key element, one who is looking for that element to be complete. Hell, it used to be that when someone ended a relationship on Facebook, what would pop up in your News Feed would be, “[Name] is no longer in a relationship,” accompanied by a cartoon icon of a heart with a crack down the middle. Even the networking site’s goddamn icons make it clear that you are a broken person if you aren’t attached at the hip!
Right now, my relationship status is blank. Even though the utter lack of a definition seems as though it should indicate more restlessness with my lacking love life, a sure sign that I am open to changing that relationship status to something a little more…relationship-y, the void invites fewer questions and come-ons than decisively marking “Single” likely would.
But I do consider myself open to making a decisive mouse-click on an appropriate choice. It’s just that no such appropriate choice exists, as far as I can see. There is no word in American English, the land of rom-coms and Disney and Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress, that satisfactorily describes someone who lives contentedly without a partner.
It’s a provable fact that I’m not the only writer on WordPress. I’m certainly not the only one who invents words from time to time. So surely there has to be someone out there who can think of a concise equivalent of “childfree” for singles-by-choice, an equivalent that could then be applied to social media; after all, it’s not official unless it’s on Facebook. And if that official standing goes so far as to influence the IRS to change its policies, I will declare a total victory.