Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Apparently people of my generation look at the word "single" differently than people of earlier generations.

I spent the New Year's weekend in West Virginia with my mom and grandmother. I am not sure how the conversation was initiated; I sort of tuned in halfway through to my mom and grandmother talking about how the "kids these days" don't define "single" the same way that they do. According to mom and grandma, you are single until you are married. No ifs ands or buts. I was confused.

"So do you consider Teresa to be single?" I asked.

Teresa is my sister. She and her boyfriend are celebrating their third anniversary today in the home they own together with the dog and cats they adopted together. However, they are not married and therefore both mom and grandma consider Teresa single. I found this a little confusing.

"Do you go around telling people that Teresa is single?" I asked.

Apparently, mom does. That seemed strange to me. In my mind that is like denying her relationship with Mike in someway or passive-aggressively indicating you wish Mike didn't exist. However, it is nothing of the sort. Mom likes Mike. They are just not married, so they are single.

It doesn't work that way for me. If someone was to say to me, "Hey, your sister is hot. Is she single?" I would most definitely say no. If I said yes, I would be indicating that she was available in some way, which she obviously is not.

I also do not consider my littlest sister single. She has been with her boyfriend for at least two years, which is outside my definition of single. In fact, anyone with a significant other they consider their boyfriend or girlfriend would be outside of the single definition for me.

I am not sure if the two are linked, but I feel like the social networking sites I am on (read: facebook) cover all the possible relationship options that I am familiar with using. You are only single when you don't fit into any of the other options. Whereas mom and grandma would consider everyone single who didn't fit into the married category, though I suppose they would make room for engaged. I am curious if this is a pretty standard generational discrepancy in word usage or if there are regional or religious elements that come into play as well.

— Sara


Teresa said...

I know the religious thing is a big factor in Mom insisting that I am single. I'm a sinner, but not free for the taking! I just don't see a need to put my relationship on hold because I can't afford a wedding. I have spent a lot of time in life preparing to live and not actually living. So Mike and I are living life and sharing it. We will get married, we're just not jumping into it. The only time I consider myself single is on my tax return!

Obnoxious Marriage Celebrant said...

In Australia, Teresa will be regarded as a single sheila eligible for entering 'The Farmer wants a wife' competition. he he

However the commonwealth says you're in a defacto relationship and so as good as married if been living together 12mths+.

They could always bus it to Mexico and get hitched on a warm beach so mama can stop saying you're 'not married'.

Olaf MacDonald - from Farmer wants wife. said...

I think its more a universal maternal concern regarding the cow and milk debate, rather than religious, God forbid.. and a Moo moo here..moo moo there

Lani Wendt Young said...

Talofa from Samoa, Sara - My name is Lani and Im a writer who's been commissioned to write a book about the tsunami. It will be launched at the one year anniversary and coincide with national memorial events. Its a non-profit project, funded by Mr Hans Joe Keil - one of the Assoc. Cabinet Ministers.

Ive always enjoyed reading your blog and i would like to ask your permission to draw on some of your observations/insights post-tsunami? Also, I would like to see if I can interview the Principal/or staff of your old school about their evacuation experience?
If possible, could you please email me at OR
Thank you
Lani Wendt Young

Barb Carusillo said...

Interesting blog Sara. I am making no comments on anyone's cohabiting status when I say single/married/engaged. That is just the definition that everyone I imagine over 45 was raised with. You are either married, single or engaged. So, someone who is not married, or engaged, is single. That is how it was always defined, it is just come to my attention over the last 10 years that is not how you younger folks view it. I have picked it up from conversations, and the media, that younger folks don't consider anyone in an exclusive relationship as "single" any more. That has just struck me as strange. And as you observed, your grandma had no clue young people thought that way. She was flummoxed. To her, until Teresa and Marian are married, they are single. Has nothing to do with religion really, it is the legal definition.

whatever said...

I agree, you're single if you're not married, divorced if you are divorced, widower/widow if your spouse is dead. Right on Barb, nothing to do with religion!!!