Posts filed under 'The singles table'
Like much of America, I have been mad at insurance companies for a long time. I was doubly mad when I turned 40 and my rates went up 35 percent. Like many self-employed professionals, I raised my deductible so I could afford to pay the monthly premiums.
I was triply mad when I went to the ER this summer after having chest pains and palpitations for days (anxiety from overwork between the books and my regular freelance workload; there, I admitted it) and my $2,000 bill was not at all covered, thanks to my newly raised deductible. (In an attempt to highlight what other single freelancers and employees were doing to get around the insurance question, I wrote an article about marrying for health insurance for ABC News.)
Well, yesterday’s New York Times article about how U.S. women who buy individual health insurance often pay significantly higher rates than their male counterparts has my blood boiling all over again. (Thanks to Gwynneth for the heads up on the piece.) Apparently, we cost more because (a) we have babies, and (b) we tend to go to the doctor more than men when we’re sick.
I recently contacted an insurance agent to help me find the cheapest yet best coverage for me. She helped me save $1,000 a year by scrapping the maternity benefits I was paying for, as I’m not looking to get pregnant. Problem (a) averted. As for problem (b), I encourage you to join (free!) the Freelancers Union, a New York-based group that’s been lobbying elected officials for better healthcare solutions for independent professionals on a national level. And of course, vote on Tuesday.
October 30th, 2008
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I bring you this interview I did with Judy McGuire (Seattle Weekly Dategirl columnist) on love in the workplace for nine-to-fivers, freelancers, and temps alike. Judy’s hot-of-the-presses book, How Not to Date, which features more women and men behaving badly than a Jerry Springer show, had me guffawing out loud. Whether you’re looking for the perfect antidote to this incredibly meaningless holiday, need a few tips on how not to behave around potential paramours, or are happily shacked up but could use a good laugh, I highly recommend it. And if you’re in New York or like getting your giggles by web radio, check out Judy’s east coast events and weekly broadcast.
Q. I can see how screwing your boss, your underlings, or anyone else on your immediate team could come back to bite you in the pants. But what if you hold lust in your heart for someone you don’t interact with on a daily basis, like Darcy in Accounting or Dirk in Marketing? Should you go for it? Any tips as to how?
A. I had a long-term relationship with someone I started off sharing an office with, so I don’t really go in for that whole “don’t poop where you eat” way of thinking. Sure, it might get uncomfortable if things don’t work out, but if you look at the bright side, the resulting drama could entertain your coworkers for months.
Sadly office party season has ended so you can’t do the tried and true drunken lurch under the mistletoe, but there’s always happy hour. Invite your intended out, ostensibly for a group happy hour, but “forget” to ask anyone else. This works best if you can catch him or her while they’re on their way out the door (thus assuring no pesky tagalongs).
Q. Any departments you should never, ever, ever touch, not even with your Mother’s vajayjay? (I’m thinking HR might be a no-no.)
A. Mining the Human Resource department for tail is definitely a bad idea, but I think fooling around with anyone in the IT department is far worse. Those techie types can hack into your email, which is a no-win for any dater. In the beginning, he can read all the mushy crap you’re telling your girlfriends about him — thus costing you any pretense of game — and then after you break up… well, that can be even worse.
Q. What if you’re a temp or contractor who’s going to be out of there in three months? Do the same rules of office chastity apply?
A. But being a temp is like being bisexual — it simply widens your dating pool. Who cares if you’re banging the boss if you’re onto the next job in two weeks? What is it my Nike sneaks are always telling me — “Just do it!”
Q. Many a nine-to-fiver meets their romantic match not at work, but through it — a coworker fixes you up, or your eyes lock across the color copier with that sweet young bike messenger. We work-from-home types miss out on all these potential cubicle hookups. Any suggestions as to how we, too, can exploit our jobs to get laid?
A. Even if we’re lucky enough to work at home in our PJs, most of us still have to either talk or email with other humans. I’ve found that married people are almost always anxious to fix a sister up. They’ll try to fool you into thinking that they feel sorry for your sad single self, but really, your uncomplicated, uncommitted sex life is utterly fascinating to them, so let them have at it. The only problem being is that they’re going to want details. “Wait, you didn’t meet him until ten! At night?!? Did he kiss you? Did you guys, you know, do it?!?!”
That can get kind of annoying, but if you’re the indiscrete type anyway, it’s a small price to pay. Plus, spilling dirty details will inevitably spice up your tragically married friend’s sex life, so you’re really just repaying the favor.
Q. You’re a freelancer who’s lucked into an invite to her star client’s annual holiday party. Do you teetotal, or is it okay to have a glass of wine or three and hit the dance floor?
A. Um, you’re asking a woman named McGuire whether or not you should drink? I’m afraid I don’t understand the question.
Want more McGuire? See her live in NY next week. Listen to her on the radio every Friday. Read her hilarious blog. And by all means, get her book!
February 6th, 2008
If you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog, you know that I’m a champion of unmarried singles and couples being treated the same as their married counterparts. Sometimes I even publish some writing on the topic. That’s why I was thrilled when Bella DePaulo wrote an entire book on the subject: Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, which is essentially a myth-busting, consciousness-raising, totally unapologetic take on singlehood. In honor of the book’s recent paperback release, I asked Bella a few questions about the unbalanced treatment of single people in the workforce. Here’s what she had to say.
Q. Can you give us some stats on how single workers are treated differently by their employers and colleagues?
A. The most important differences are in salary and benefits. Single men are paid less than married men — probably about 26 percent less — even when the single and married men have done the same job at the same level of competence for the same number of years. Now consider health care plans. In many workplaces, a married worker can put a spouse on a health care plan at a discounted rate. That can amount to a very substantial financial benefit. But the single worker cannot add someone important in their life, such as a parent, sibling, or friend, and no other worker can add the single person to their plan.
Readers of Singled Out e-mail me all the time with their workplace woes. What singles complain about most often are the expectations that they should be able to cover the holidays and the travel that no one else wants and to stay late when others go home — the assumption is that since they are single, they don’t have a life, so why shouldn’t they cover for everyone else? The other part of that issue is that when single people explain why they need to take time off, their reasons are dismissed as not good enough. So, for example, a single person can get “the look” for wanting to take some time to help an ailing friend, but their married colleague gets a pass to leave early to meet their spouse for dinner.
Q. What do you think are the biggest myths about single women in the workplace, both childfree and moms?
A. I think that childfree single women are seen as having nothing important in their lives — no important people and no important pursuits. Single mothers are seen as “at risk” for leaving the workplace on short notice to tend to their child, or not showing up on days when their child is sick. In some workplaces, colleagues and bosses look askance at single mothers, and maybe even their children. Fortunately, though, not all workplaces are like that.
Q. Do you see a difference in how single men vs. single women are treated at work by management and their co-workers?
A. In terms of salary, the data show that single men have it worse — most studies show they are paid less than comparable married male colleagues. For women, there is not much consistency from study to study.
In the culture at large, single women seem to be targets of what I call “matrimania” more than men are. Matrimania is the over-the-top hype about marriage and weddings and brides that saturates our culture. You can see it coming down especially forcefully on women by the number of bridal magazines on the shelves, unmatched by an equal number of guides for grooms. You can see it on the “reality” TV shows, in which dozens of bachelorettes vie for the attention of just one bachelor far more often that a truckload of bachelors all compete for the one bachelorette.
I think some of that special pressure on single women seeps into the workplace. I have been taken, though, by the number of single men who have told me their stories of being belittled and dismissed by colleagues. Some of the teasing they describe sounds especially nasty. One man told me about his colleagues who would bring in stories about social science findings showing that married people live longer or are happier (all grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong, as I show in Singled Out), and taunt him with them.
Q. What can singles do about those “lost” workplace rights or benefits?
A. I do think that singles should do what they can to get their issues on the table. Laws and policies can be changed, and awareness can be raised about insensitive and inappropriate workplace behaviors. I have to add a warning about this, though: Colleagues and bosses often react very badly to these topics and the people who raise them. That’s true even (or maybe especially) when the single person is clearly on the side of the angels. Lots of people in today’s society like to think of themselves as open-minded, fair, and non-prejudicial. When a single colleague points out a way in which the workplace has been unfair to singles, the people perpetrating that unfairness can suddenly feel very defensive. Their first reaction can be to lash out at the single person, rather than standing back and saying, “Wow, I never thought of that. I’m sorry. I won’t do that again.”
So another way singles can get these issues addressed is by supporting relevant advocacy groups. For example, the Alternatives to Marriage Project is very good at taking on issues involving all unmarried people (coupled and single).
When singles contact me with their workplace stories of cloddish colleagues or bosses, I often offer to send those clods a copy of Singled Out from Amazon, with no note attached. I think the insensitive ones would reconsider their behavior if they would read it. But I also warn the single worker that this is risky, because if the recipient of the book suspects that the single worker was involved, it will only make the colleagues or bosses even harder to deal with.
There are some small things that should be a bit easier to do. I actually have no problem covering for a colleague, whether married or single, as long as it is reciprocal. So when someone asks you, say something like: “Sure, I’d be happy to. I know there are times when I’ll need to leave early, and I’m sure you will do the same for me.” Then ask, when that time comes.
I also think that workplace policies should be fair for all workers. So, for example, all workers should have to cover holidays an equal number of times. And when workers have a certain number of days off, they should not have to account for what they are doing with their days off, or justify the days they want to take. That doesn’t mean that company needs are unimportant — of course they’re important — but the personal lives of single workers are also just as important as the personal lives of married workers and should be subject to no greater scrutiny.
Q. Do you see the rift of understanding about lifestyle choices and workplace inequities between singles and marrieds becoming greater or closing up the more these issues get discussed in the media and public eye?
A. I think that at first, the issue will be very hot. People on both sides will feel offended and misunderstood. It is funny that you raise this question, because just recently, I got a fascinating e-mail from a reader of Singled Out. He told me that he put together a carefully prepared audiovisual presentation on the ways in which family-friendly workplaces can be unfair to single people. One of the people in the audience stormed up to the podium, unplugged the equipment, grabbed his papers and threw them up in the air, then marched out of the room! So I think there is going to be some of that sort of thing happening, though perhaps not always so dramatically. Eventually, though, as the topic gets discussed more often online and in the mainstream media, we’ll probably be able to have more thoughtful and calmer discussions. The thing is, I’ve never heard single people say that they want more than what married colleagues get; they just want to be treated fairly. If other people can stop and hear that message, it should be hard to object to. In theory.
Q. In addition to your book, are there are organizations working for policy/workplace change and other resources you recommend singles check out?
A. My current favorite is the Alternatives to Marriage Project. There’s another group that works under the title, Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships. Their point is that even if same-sex marriage were made legal everywhere, there would still be many uncoupled people shut out of the 1,138 federal benefits and protections given to people who are legally married. As the subtitle indicates, this is a group that believes in the significance of all of our close relationships, not just our conjugal ones.
November 4th, 2007
Childless women “hostile to working mums” In the UK, with maternity leave lasting up to a year and “the right to ask for flex work” now an option, boardroom-bound non-moms see working moms as corporate enemies to be quashed like cockroaches. (I’m paraphrasing, people.) Furthermore, “the Working Mothers’ Report found that 52 percent thought it easier to blame a faulty alarm clock or heavy traffic than to admit that child-care problems had made them late.” (UK Telegraph)
Is she really going out with him? Now that women in their twenties who work full time in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis are bringing home more bacon than their male counterparts, they’re fraught with new dating dilemmas (says this article). Specifically, guys who make less and are intimidated by the fact that their girlfriend makes more, or guys who just can’t keep up financially (say, if she wants to go to a pricy restaurant and the opera but he wants to stay at home and swill beer). I dunno, even before researchers were announcing that women consistently made more than men in some age groups/cities, I developed this little dating tenet known as Don’t Date a Moocher, Slacker, Stoner, Agorophobe, or Drunkass Loser. At the same time, I’ve dated a number of respectful, respectable guys who said they’d be happy to be a stay-at-home househubby if we ever shacked up, an idea I rather like since I destest most domestic duties. And I know I’m not the only woman who feels this way. What I’m saying is, this smells like another BS “Style” section trend story. What do you think? (New York Times; now free online!)
Do working women need permission from their employers before getting knocked up? This is an older piece, but worth sharing: “The US has the most limited parental leave policies in the world; conservatives are furious about efforts to catch up.” Of course they are. Rat bastards. (AlterNet)
Too many tchochkes on your desk? Don’t expect a promotion any time soon. “If more than one in five items that adorn a worker’s office or cubicle is personal in nature, others may view that worker as unprofessional.” In case you were wondering, “this is largely an American phenomenon.” (Michigan Ross School of Business)
Mary-Kate (Needs A Steak) Olsen: I don’t just shop, I work hard. The life of a celebrity is haaa-aaard! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (Fametastic)
September 26th, 2007
As a single person whose house is always a wreck, I was totally excited for the recent New York Times article called “Wedded to Work, and in Dire Need of a Wife.” (No longer free on the Times’ site, but available via many a library database.) I related 100 percent to the opening line:
Now that women have solidly earned their place in the work force, many find themselves still yearning for something men often have: wives.
Ditto for this elaboration:
With two-income families now the norm, and both men and women working a record-breaking number of hours, the question has become how to accomplish what used to be a wife’s job, even as old-fashioned standards of household management and entertaining have been relaxed. Many men are sharing the work of chores and child care with their wives, and some do it all as single parents, but women still generally shoulder a greater burden of household business (or fretting over how to do what is not getting done).
According to 2006 survey data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in five men engages in some kind of housework on an average day, while more than half of women do.
But then the article went on to mix in the usual sad stats about how men, especially married men, fare better at work in terms of salary and promotions, and how moms get the colossal shaft in the workplace. Yes, all sick and wrong, but not exactly a news flash. And the bits about well-to-do-ish women whining about how men don’t care about a dirty house and even if a couple can afford a housekeeper, the wife is still the one who has to lift a finger to make the call to Merry Maids…? It just rang hollow for me. I mean, BFD. Cry me a river. I haven’t done a deep cleaning of my humble abode since the Reagan administration, so when my sister and bro-in-law came to visit for a week this summer I bit the bullet and called a housekeeper. Tracking down the referral from a friend and hiring a domestic fairy godmother was a luxury I felt fortunate to indulge in, not a chore.
By the time I got to the end of the Times article, which was whinging about how men with wives can throw better BBQs for their colleagues and co-workers (presumably because they have an indentured servant — aka Wife — at home) I was laughing. How hard is it to throw a freaking BBQ? In my world, the invite says, “Just so you know, I haven’t cleaned in 19 months. I bought some beer and wine and chips at Trader Joe’s. Please bring something to grill.”
Besides, unless the women the Times interviewed have shacked up with total deadbeats, 100 bucks says their partners contribute big fat chunks of non-cleaning chores to the household (as many highly functioning modern men are wont to do), whether it’s fixing broken door hinges or making bake sale cupcakes or picking up the kids from soccer practice or haggling with plumbers and electricians. It would be interesting to do a study that breaks down the various chores each partner in a domestic arrangement actually does on a weekly basis, from bill paying to home repair to kid management to cooking to negotiating property lines with the neighbors (or dealing with landlords or condo boards) and so on. It would also be interesting to include same-sex couples in this study. I bet the findings would be all over the dang map.
August 27th, 2007
…you know, that new anthology I’m in. (My essay’s called “House Without a Spouse,” and yeah, I signed the book that’s up for grabs.) Contest being held at the Modern Woman’s Divorce Guide blog. See the Summer Giveaway box on the right.
August 25th, 2007
My Oprah-style-roundtable piece on the way working women relate to each other across generations appears in the Seattle Times today. Here’s the start of the article:
Now that the country has four generations of women in the workplace, the stereotypes are piling up faster than to-do items in an overworked middle manager’s inbox.
According to the latest lore, today’s youngest workers are a bunch of midriff-baring, self-entitled whiners who demand constant praise. By contrast, their midlife counterparts are workaholic technophobes unlikely to hold open for younger women the doors they had to beat down themselves.
To hear what those in the trenches think, we invited eight Seattle area women ranging from age 26 to 63 to lunch. Excerpts from their conversation follow…
You can read the story in its entirety here. And you can share your two cents — or duke it out — with other Seattle Times readers here. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what generation I hail from, it’s X. I turn 40 this Thursday.
August 5th, 2007
A woman I’ve known for a long while recently gave me grief because (a) I bought a matchbook-sized cosmetic fixer of a house, (b) I’ve lived here two years and have yet to finish unpacking, paint the walls, and make the place sparkle like a newborn’s freshly wiped ass, and (c) my work is varied (though I believe “chaotic” was the word my acquaintance used), fluctuating from article assignments to book deadlines to one-week editing projects to four-month onsite temp gigs.
I know this woman means well and just has a hard time relating to my way of working/living and my (quasi-obsessive) creative drive, and I know I’m being overly sensitive here, but still. I went back and forth about whether to add this detail, but I think it bears mentioning: The woman in question — who, by the way, is childfree — wouldn’t have a home of her own, a housekeeper, the ability to not work for long stretches of time, and half the amenities in her life if she was not married. (I say this knowing her financial history, not as a judgment of married life.)
Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that. I’m not looking to start another careerwoman/stay-at-home-wife-slash-mom smackdown. In fact, if I ever merge households with my sweet beau, I could mayyyyyyyyybe see us trading off supporting each other so we could spend significant chunks of time focusing on our writing or whatever the heck floats out boats. (Maybe. After all these years standing on my own, it’s hard to wrap my brain around being kept or being someone’s sugar mama. But ask me if/when I get there…)
I’m saying this: Sometimes the digs against hard-working single women get really fucking old, know what I mean? And this is hardly the first time my freelance friends and I have been judged for our lack of housekeeper, breadwinning hetero bedwarmer, and predictable 9-to-5 lives. (Want proof? Read this book.)
I’m saying this, too: I’m so freaking proud to be a highly employable — and for the most part, decently paid — bootstrapping babe with multiple job skills/talents that put food on the table and insulate me with four mint-green-aluminum-sided walls. As in, you will neh-ver hear the words, “I just want to marry a rich doctor so I never have to lift a finger again,” seep from my lips. (Sorry, Grandma Etta.) So today I plan to celebrate all the self-made freelance and small-business-owning babes out there. Tonight, ladies, I raise my Roman candles, bottle rockets, and all other figurative TNT implements to you. Rock on, DIY women, rock the fuck on!
And if you need some financial inspiration, here are a couple of nifty resources I found this week:
- Fab new book! Whether you’re flying solo or shacked up, see On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance. Because, ladies, let’s be real: Financial life does not begin when you start sharing a bed with someone; it begins the second your parents cut you off. If you don’t have a financial clue, there’s no time like the present to get one.
- Fab web calculators! While researching an article on financing a career change (which I’ll link to once it’s live), I discovered that Kiplinger.com has a bunch of cool tools that can help you figure out such essentials as how long it will take to pay off your credit card debt, how much (if any) mortgage you can afford, how much raising a bundle of joy will run you, if you’re saving enough for retirement, and whether you and your sweetie can afford to jettison one of your jobs so the other can go back to school, write a screenplay, or stay home with that wee bundle of joy.
July 4th, 2007
Just a quickie to say that I’m headed down to Portland (OR) this a.m. for two Single State of the Union readings. I’ll be joined by the book’s editor, Diane Mapes, and several of the book’s contributors. Though I’m reading from my story “House Without a Spouse,” if you come to either event I’ll be happy to answer your anti 9-to-5 questions before or after the reading.
Monday, June 11, 7 p.m.
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.
Tuesday, June 12, 6:30 p.m.
In Other Words — Women’s Books and Resources
8 NE Killingsworth St.
June 11th, 2007
You know how I have an essay in a kickass new anthology, Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness? Well, if you don’t, I do. The collection is edited by the hilarious Diane Mapes, and it features uproarious stories by funny/saucy women like Margaret Cho, Laurie Notaro, Lynn Harris, Susan Jane Gilman, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Judy McGuire, and on and on and on.
Well, tonight is the book’s launch party, and I’ll be reading with fellow Seattle singlefunnywomen Litsa Dremousis, Jane Hodges, Dana Rozier, Rachel Toor, and M. Susan Wilson. The details:
Friday, April 13, 7 p.m.
4326 University Way NE, Seattle
We’re also taking this singleskicksomeseriousass show on the road. In fact, I’ll be reading from my essay “House Without a Spouse” at the following Seattle and Portland, OR, events for the book:
Thursday, April 19, 7 p.m.
Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park (N. Seattle)
Friday, April 20, 6 p.m.
Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle
Monday, June 11, 7 p.m.
Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
Tuesday, June 12, 6:30 p.m.
In Other Words, Portland, OR
For other reading dates and news about Single State of the Union, visit Diane’s gorgeous new blog.
April 13th, 2007