Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Something’s been on my mind – for years, actually – that I finally want to rant – er, comment – about.
Both Republicans and Democrats are constantly talking about The American Family. The Family is brought up whether the context is positive or negative. Regardless of how one’s political views define Family, that’s the “unit” that seems to be of greatest political and social concern.
But please note: not everyone is part of a Family, no matter how you define it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a full 42% of adult Americans are single, including those who are divorced. Now, I’m sure a fair percentage of these single people are single parents with children (= family), singles straight or gay who are co-habitating (also = family) and single adults still (or again) living with their parents, which also = family.
However, a considerable number in that 42% are just plain single – living alone or in institutions, which in no way = family. Many are women, elderly or both. But the point is, we, too, are Americans, with a combination of special needs and, to a considerably lesser extent, particular advantages. The problem is that as a group, we’re not really recognized; we just plain don’t count.
I am a completely single person. I have no parents, extended family, children, or significant other. I’ll be 60 in less than two months and live alone. If I were hospitalized and didn’t have a legally-designated health care proxy, there are circumstances (the most dire) in which none of my friends would be allowed to visit let alone advocate for me, because those privileges are reserved for Family Only. If I were institutionalized – a nursing home, a prison, whatever – I would be treated (mistreated) differently than residents with Family.
If I had home health care, regardless of the behavior/treatment of my aide, there would be little monitoring or other supervision. If I were under the supposedly protective auspices of a city-run Adult Protective Services agency, which often takes advantage of their clients and have been frequently sued for this, I’d be screwed by them – especially if I didn’t have the capacity to speak up for myself. If I dropped dead in my apartment, no one would know about it until the smell disturbed the neighbors. In all the circumstances noted here, single = nobody’s looking out for you and you are extremely, particularly, singularly vulnerable.
As a single, competent person, it’s my responsibility to put in place as many legally protective measures as I can; I’m in the process of doing just that. I’ve seen several single, older people fall off the grid and literally disappear. It’s a very real thing, a very frequent thing. Single people – whatever their age, health status, and even (often especially) financial status, are the most vulnerable – particularly the very rich and very poor.
And, if government speech is anything to go by, single people are not on our representatives’ or leaders’ radar. That’s not a good or fair or even cost-effective state of affairs. I encourage you to remember this the next time you hear one of these people talk about The American Family. And while you’re at it, keep your single friends in mind. It’s lonely, wearying and worrying to be single in a nation so solely focused on The Family.
Posted by MizB at 8:10 PM