This post is inspired by another post on Tango.com where it was noted that this new Google+ site doesn’t have “divorced” as an option for a relationship status. I tend to think that was not an oversight and also probably a good idea.
It led me to ponder something that really bothers me. What should my relationship status be on social networking sites?
Here’s the technical truth: I am not dating anyone, casually or seriously, no one, nada, nothing. BUT, I had been married for many years, had children, and my divorce is final, done, released from the bonds of matrimony, papers signed and stamped. So ordered. That said, what box should I check in the cyber-world, what boxes should there be, what do I say when meeting someone? What exactly is my relationship status?
We all know what “Married” means. I’m not married. Next . . .
Single? The meaning of this word has changed in usage. Some very young people might not even know that traditionally single meant unmarried, period. Didn’t matter if you were in a committed, monogamous, serious relationship or even engaged. If you aren’t married, you are single. Thus, it was a term reserved for adults of marrying age. It wasn’t a relationship status, it was a marital status. Now the word is used to describe one’s availability for new dating/romantic/sexual relationships.
But in this society is a woman allowed to say single if she’s been down the aisle? Ironically, it’s okay to say single all you want if you’ve been around the block many times, or have a string of horrible failed relationships, but once down that aisle, you are forever DIVORCED, according to social networking.
Yet “Divorced” is not really a relationship status at all, really. I mean if I say divorced I am really talking about how one — not even my last — relationship ended. To be fair, if I have to check “Divorced” and constantly reference the end of that relationship, shouldn’t others have to say how their last major relationship ended? For example, there should be boxes for broken engagement, runaway bride, kicked out, restraining order, etc. . . ?
Isn’t “Relationship Status” supposed to be a description — a snapshot of the here and now? Isn’t it just asking whether you already have somebody or if are open to meeting someone? The Facebook dude Mark Zuckerberg created the site while he was in a four-year, private, residential university. No undergrads were married or divorced in his demographic, so the whole marital status thing was completely irrelevant to the original Facebook users, and its concept.
Who can forget that scene in the film “The Social Network” where Zuckerberg has the realization that what was missing from Facebook was the “relationship status” option, and he says,
“This is what drives life in college: Are you having sex or aren’t you? It’s why people take certain classes and sit where they sit and do what they do … that’s what The Facebook is gonna be about.”
Duh. That’s what social networking is about. But again, the category “Divorced” does not give any information about whether I’m having sex or am looking to do so.
But can I check the Single box if I’m divorced?
Do I want to?
Does it negate the fact that I was married? A marriage which yielded children?
Am I selling myself short by checking Single and not acknowledging that I have in the past committed to a relationship (read: gotten someone to marry me)?
Actually, I think this is more of an issue for older men. Women are leery of a man past his mid-thirties who has never married, wondering either what’s wrong with him or assuming he is afraid to commit. Although, I guess a woman benefits from checking Divorced if she wants to sidestep the “Spinster” label or false Lesbian rumor — which is sometimes the unspoken assigned fate or status of an older unmarried woman. Sigh.
Or does Single mean never married? Suggesting someone who is single is somewhat virginal, pure? Well, if it does, let’s just call it that. But I still don’t think that’s the point. And never having walked down the aisle does not mean you’re a virgin. I mean you can tell your mother that, but c’mon folks.
For “Sex and The City” fans, remember when Miranda, a never married mother, was shopping for her wedding dress and instructs the saleswoman, “I said, no white, no ivory, no nothing that says ‘virgin’. I have a child. The jig is up.” ? Well, I have children. The jig is up. I’m not virgin. I was, however, married before I had them, and my Ex-husband is their father. So according to my mother I should get credit for not having been an “unwed” mother, or not being part of the stereotypical baby mama/daddy drama. Okay, but all of that relates to the status of my relationship with my children’s father. It’s not my current relationship status? Must I forever be defined by my relationship with him? humph. I don’t want to stamp my forehead or profile or chest with “Failed Marriage” forever — or until I marry again. That’s just not fair.
The Divorced option shouldn’t even be there. Really, it doesn’t make sense. My Ex-husband is also divorced, obviously. Yet he has remarried. So how can his relationship status be married while mine is divorced? No! No! No! He’s married, I’m single. I mean someone can be divorced or widowed previously and yet currently be in a relationship, engaged, married or completely available. I should be able to wave my naked left hand and do Beyoncé’s Single Ladies dance even though I was once married, just as he has been able to have a wedding and sport a new ring even though he had been married before — and the social networking sites should acknowledge both my new singleness and his new marriage — without reference to our past divorce.
In conversations in real life I prefer to tell people I’m single and then add as part of conversation, yes, I have children, and yes, I’m divorced. For a minute I thought I should create a new status, “Dwingle” — it would acknowledge an earlier marriage (for the children’s sake), but still sounds almost single. But really, the last thing any of us need is another relationship status, another option, another box to check.
I think I’m going to refuse to reference my failed marriage as my calling card. It’ll come up in conversation, but I don’t have to wear it as some sort of a badge or sign. The ring is off. It’s done. I mean there are some “never-marrieds” who have just as much baggage as I do that they don’t have to check (pun intended, get it?).
All in all, Zuckerberg’s initial simplicity, me-thinks, was right, except for the word “single.” I suggest we all use, simply:
In a relationship
Not in a relationship
As a bonus, these categories work whether one is gay or straight. And, they give an out to the people who have a friend with benefits, but don’t know what to call it. A “Married” option is really redundant, because if married, one is, by definition, in a relationship and therefore it doesn’t need to be there. Jokes abound, though, “Yeah, I’m married, but it’s not a relationship” or “Dude, you’re not in a relationship, you’re married.” So why not just keep the married option? Well, then it raises the whole marriage equality issue and whether the state the gay couple is in permits same sex marriage, or whether there was a civil union, etc. Really none of that matters when the information truly sought is current availability, so why open up the marriage option at all, to anyone? (Answer: Married people would freak if it wasn’t there. Gay or straight, many people want to acknowledge their marriages. Whatever. )
Well, that’s it, that’s all. Either a person is available now or not. The sites don’t have to provide a box for every possible scenario or every past event. We aren’t talking about filling out tax returns, passport applications, or federal background checks here. It’s freakin’ social networking!!! But unfortunately now, a simple, “Not in a relationship” seems never to be an option, and “Divorced” often is. For me? I guess I’m just Single, or Dwingle or damn it Divorced, if you force me to say, or depending on my mood. Geesh.
Just Me With . . . a relationship status question.