The subject of singles
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The subject of singles

A friend once told me that the world is like Noah’s ark: You’re expected to travel in twos. It would also appear that it’s cheaper to travel in twos.

Last month, a fellow single told me that she decided not to go on a cruise because of extra charges imposed on people traveling alone. When she had finished adding it up (proportionally higher room, meal, activities fees, etc.), her cost to go on the same cruise as her married friends was $1,500 higher. Hardly seems fair.

I tried to figure it out. The cruise ship had a single room, so it’s not as if she would have been taking up space that might be charged to two people. Also (trust me), this woman would not eat two people’s worth of food. No matter how I viewed the matter, it didn’t make sense.

Historically, great men and women have been celebrated for their own accomplishments. We know that George married Martha, but it’s George’s behavior as general and president that we’re taught about in school. Was there a Mrs. Maimonides? A Mrs. Rashi? And what do we know of the men privileged to be married to the great suffragettes of the early ‘0th century?

The point is, couples are made up of individuals. How does one value each of them? Are they worth more together, or individually? If we follow the lead of the cruise line, each is worth less, when considered together, than they would be if unattached. On the other hand, the enhanced monetary value of the single is, by its nature, discriminatory. Truly, a puzzle.

Which leads me to another issue. When singles and couples interact (assuming that financial considerations make it feasible to do so), does the financially comfortable single grab the paycheck, or at least split the bill; or does the bill automatically (with a little help from the waiter, who is inevitably, if inadvertently, complicit in the single/couple psychodrama) go to the male of the couple? And what if the single just wants to treat?

Singlehood is a learning experience. Just as in marriage we learn to share tasks (and even, blessedly, get rid of those jobs we hate because our spouses hate them just a little bit less than we do), one now has to learn to do everything that needs doing — and even learn what it is we need to learn.

For example, it’s no big deal to visit a fence outlet, choose a fence, and have a salesman come and measure your property (although it all seems so final — you can’t really change your mind about where the gate should go after the thing is put up). But then you find out that you need a building permit from your town. And the town, in turn, requires that you bring in a copy of your survey, which is probably — but not necessarily — attached to your deed, which you then need to locate. (While you’re locating things, it’s helpful to find out where your main telephone, power, and water lines reside. Hopefully, one manages to do this before there’s a leak, power outage, etc.)

And what about driving to new places? Some driving is mandatory — after all, if one needs to visit one’s grandchildren, then it has been decreed. But what about optional trips with friends? Do you flip a coin to see who will drive to Tarrytown for an enticing afternoon at a crafts fair? (After all, what if Mapquest is wrong — which it was — and you have to make a split-second decision about crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge?)

It may just be that a book of "singles etiquette" is sorely needed. Any thoughts on these matters would be greatly appreciated.

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