25 July 2006

check box mate

i am an unmarried woman who currently has a boyfriend.

i'd like you to take a few minutes to think about that because a lot of people, including the government of canada, seem to struggle to figure out what it means.

recently, i filled out the canadian census and was miffed to discover that there is no check box available for living with one's boyfriend. you are either married or you are "common law", meaning that if you're old enough to be living together it is generally assumed that you must have lapsed into a matrimonial state, because after the age of twenty, no one is comfortable with the idea that the relationship patterns you establish early on are more or less the same ones you have for the rest of your life. there is assumed to be something shameful about not being in a formally committed relationship.

my boss, for instance, struggles with what to call my boyfriend. he knows we're not married, so husband is incorrect, but he can't bring himself to use the correct term. so he calls him my fiance. when i point out that we are not ever getting married, he reverts to the endearing tag "your whatever you call him". b-o-y-f-r-i-e-n-d. it's not difficult, people.

i have nothing against the married. some of my best friends are married. i happen not to have followed that path. when i'm feeling confident, i believe that this is because i value my independence and i don't feel it necessary to make a formal commitment to anybody. when i'm wallowing in insecurity, i believe it is because i am unlikely to find someone who'd feel comfortable making that sort of formal commitment to me. (a keen observer would note that these are not mutually exclusive, but there's no need to engage in psychoanalysis here.)

whatever the reason, there is an almost tangible stigma to being single. in fact, people are so uncomfortable with those who choose to be single that they have difficulty referring to your relationship as anything but a marriage. apparently even the government gets edgy about it, because they won't let you choose the term that everyone has used since they were teenagers to refer to their significant other. if you're old enough to be filling out the census, you're too old for a boyfriend or girlfriend, apparently.

listen to me steve harper: no troops are going to die in afghanistan because you need more definition on my relationship. so quit giving me a set of little boxes with the words that make you comfortable. as a single person, no one is going to throw me a big party for not marrying the wrong guy. no one is going to remember to send me flowers on the anniversary of the date that i kicked a manipulative ex to the curb. the one advantage being unmarried affords you in today's society is that you are pretty much free to define or not define your relationships however you please. so next time you're writing up the census, i would like to suggest that you add another check box to your list of relationship definitions: none of your business.

2 comments:

Maximum Overlord said...

Why dont they add two: "other" and "none of the above"?
Then again, I really like the "none of your damn business, narc". it just has a nice ring to it.
I got lucky and got to pick "single". I would have prefered "single, and looking"... or "Quagmire"...

DJ Tobias said...

Exactly - the census guy came to our door, and I encountered the same issue. Michelle and I are not married, and don't have plans to get married. Explaining that to the guy, and noting there wasn't a appropriate box on the form made him laugh, and he then mentioned that it wasn't the first time it had been pointed out.

... and by the way, you need to get yer arse onto slsk more often, ja?

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