Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Can Single Men and Women Be Friends?, Part I

Every two minutes, someone somewhere in the U.S. asks, "Can men and women really be friends?"

Well, okay, I don't know the stats on how often this question pops up, but I'll wager it's frequently. From the workplace to the college classroom to movies starring Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, men and women have teamed up, tested the boundaries of the buddy system, and sometimes crossed them, either to their newfound joy or lasting regret.

For singles, cross-gender friendships are a sensitive issue because neither friend comes with a "strictly off-limits" prohibition in the form of a wedding band. So, in theory, the door to greater intimacy is always ajar if not wide open. But in practice, quite a few singles would prefer that their friends not have benefits attached.

So can they practice what they preach? Can males and females have friendships unchanged by their differences below the waistline? Singletude takes a stab at the answer:

(Note: The following scenarios are based on heterosexual cross-gender friendships and may have a very different dynamic for people of other orientations.)

When Single Men and Women Can Be Friends

1. Big Brothers and Kid Sisters

This is the male/female duo that best approximates the annoying but affectionate sibling dynamic you grew up with. They pick on each other, play hard together, occasionally open up to each other, and, at the end of the day, have each other's backs. There's also not an ounce of attraction between them.

While anecdotal evidence and some research suggests that men are less likely than women to dissociate attraction from friendship, there really are guys who want to sleep with a particular female friend about as much as they want to have a prostate exam. Okay, probably most guys would rather be felt up by a friend than a latex glove, but the fact of the matter is that, despite the steady diet of stereotypes most women have been fed, men don't want to rummage around in the pants of every woman they'll ever meet. Some of those pants are filled with bodies that certain men don't find attractive. Or the man might have no complaints about a woman's body, but her personality fails to fire a response more passionate than his interest in beer and baseball.

In friendships like these, in which the thought of exchanging saliva leaves both parties pickle-faced with disgust, a purely platonic relationship is quite plausible.

2. Ex-lovers With No Regrets

I would venture to say that most exes can't be friends. (We'll talk about why next time.) However, the exception to this rule is when neither partner is pining for the lost relationship and both are, in fact, glad it's in the rear-view mirror.

This can happen in the rare event that two lovers mutually agree to end their romantic relationship. (I'd like to emphasize the word "rare" in the preceding sentence. Rare, rare, rare. Rare.)

It can also occur in the more common break-up scenario in which, after a one-sided disappointment, the wounded party heals, moves on, and wonders what the heck he or she ever saw in that lousy ex-lover who is now a terrific platonic friend. These friendships seem to be especially workable when both exes have committed to new romantic relationships and aren't as susceptible to loneliness or misplaced nostalgia.

Again, if both parties really don't harbor lingering romantic feelings--and I know from experience that it is possible to completely outgrow such feelings--then a friendship based on shared history, mutual understanding, and respect for each other's divergent life paths is entirely doable.

3. Not-Worth-Its

This is the schizophrenic category, the one that covers tenuous friendships that may be here today and lovelorn tomorrow. These are the opposite sex friends who kinda sorta feel attracted but know it would be foolhardy to pursue whatever may or may not be between them. It might be that the attraction isn't strong enough to risk the friendship, or maybe they both know their irreconcilable differences would tear them apart as a couple faster than the bonds of friendship could stitch them together. Either way, they've both entertained the idea while drinking alone in unattractive, puffy slippers on a Friday night and have concluded that it's not worth it.

If Not-Worth-Its commit to upholding the boundaries of their friendship, they have a good shot at maintaining it. But there's the ever-present danger that they might succumb to their attraction and curiosity in a weak moment.

Now that we've visited some scenarios in which men and women have a good shot at sustaining a friendship, you may be wondering when it's not advisable to have opposite sex friends. I know it's an effort, but contain your curiosity, dear readers. The answer is forthcoming next time!

Do you have opposite sex friends? In your experience, what makes a good foundation for a cross-gender friendship?

Fun Link of the Day

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Singles and Alcohol Abuse, Part II

There’s no doubt that alcohol is the centerpiece of many a single’s social life. Last time, Singletude listed some signs that a drinking habit has crossed into the danger zone.

But what about the rest of us who drink responsibly? What are we to think of the effects of alcohol? Every time we turn around, the FDA or some university is spouting statistics about why alcohol is or is not good for us: “Drink up that red wine! It’ll keep your heart healthy! But be careful of the tannins.” It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, whether or not you just tipped back a shot of tequila.

Here, then, are some pros and cons stacked up against each other so you can weigh them in the balance and decide for yourself:

(Note: In most studies, moderate drinking is defined as no more than one or two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women.2 One drink equals 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor.3)


Pros: Moderate drinking can protect against cancers of the pancreas and kidneys (a 30-66% decrease), as well as against Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a 27% decrease).6

Cons: Compared to those who don't drink, people who have more than three drinks a day increase their risk of colorectal cancers by 26%, and women increase their risk of breast cancer by 30-41%.1,5 Alcohol can also contribute to cancers of the liver, pancreas, mouth, throat and uterus.1


Pros: Moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, and sudden cardiac death by 25-40%2, with the decrease in cardiovascular disease perhaps as great as 70%.5,6 It can also cut in half the chance of stroke due to blood clots1 and decrease the risk of high blood pressure by about 15%.6

Cons: Alcohol can increase the risk of stroke due to hemorrhage.1 More than two drinks a day can also double the risk of high blood pressure1,5,6 and lead to cardiomyopathy2 and sudden cardiac death.3 Even those who drink only once or twice a day are prone to abnormal atrial rhythms.1


Pros: Imbibing in moderation has been shown to lower one's risk of dementia and Alzheimer's by up to 75 or 80%.4,6 It's also associated with a decreased incidence of Parkinson's disease.6 Moderate drinkers are less likely to develop cataracts7, macular degeneration, and hearing loss.6

Cons: Alcohol has been shown to disrupt sleep.2


Pros: Seniors who have two drinks a day are 22% less likely to have hip fractures.1 Moderate drinkers are also less likely to develop osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.6

Cons: Seniors who have more than two drinks a day are 18% more likely to suffer fractures.1 In addition, those who consume five or six drinks within two days are twice as likely to suffer from gout.1


Pros: Those who drink moderately are less likely to develop digestive problems including duodenal ulcers6 and gallstones.3 Furthermore, there is a decrease of 30-60%6 in the incidence of diabetes.3,4

Cons: Consuming at least five drinks a day can lead to hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.2,5 Heavy drinking can lead to pancreatitis.3


Pros: Moderate drinking can reduce the risk of kidney stones and cancer (by 30-66% for cancer).6

Cons: None with moderate drinking.


Pros: None with moderate drinking.

Cons: Alcohol has been associated with miscarriage and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.3


Pros: Studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption decreases overall mortality rates by 20-30% as compared to heavy consumption and abstinence.6

Cons: None with moderate drinking.

In all cases, the risk-benefit ratio changes with age. At age 30, risks outweigh benefits because one's chance of developing conditions like cancer and heart disease are naturally lower. By age 60, benefits outweigh risks.2

What other health benefits or risks can you think of for moderate drinking? Do you know anyone whose health was positively or negatively impacted by alcohol? What are your drinking habits? How do you recommend that other singles approach alcohol?


1. USA Weekend
2. Harvard School of Public Health
3. MayoClinic
4. Medical News Today
5. UptoDate Patient Information
6. State University of New York - Potsdam
7. HealthMad

Fun Link of the Day

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Singles and Alcohol Abuse, Part I

Did you know that singles tend to drink more heavily than married folks? (See "Sources" below.)

It's not hard to imagine why. What do you do when you go over to a friend's house to watch the game? Have a beer. Where do you go to meet other singles? The bar. If you get together with a colleague, how do you talk shop? Over a drink. Alcohol consumption is part and parcel of our social gatherings, especially when we're young and aren't expected to put a baby to bed at nine o'clock or wake up in time to ferry the kids to school. In very young singles (teens to mid-twenties), alcohol is often more than a backdrop to social ritual; it is the ritual. If you don't participate, you're voted off the island.

According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of young people who had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days was 46% at age 18 and 71% at age 22. Although these percentages fell somewhat with age, they remained high throughout the twenties, thirties, and even forties, dipping no lower than 56.7% among the 40-44 age group. The greater problems for adults beyond the college frat party days were binge drinking, defined as "five or more drinks on the same occasion...on at least 1 day in the past 30 days," and heavy use, defined as binge drinking on five or more days in the past 30. Of adults in the 21-25 age group, 29.3% were binge drinkers and 16.7% heavy users, and of those aged 26 to 29, 26.4% were bingers and 11.9% heavy users.

Since Chardonnay with dinner and Guinness at the sports bar are cultural institutions, it can be difficult to pinpoint when alcohol use becomes abuse. Is it when you get drunk once a week? Twice a week? Once a day? Is it okay if you get drunk but don't black out or have a hangover? Is it acceptable if it makes you late to class but you're still an A student? How about if it wreaks havoc with your relationships but you're the top performer at work? Alcohol abusers are notoriously defensive of their nightly bottles, but many times they don't realize they have a problem. Here are some signs and symptoms of a drinking problem:

1. Disobeying Doctors' Orders
By the time a heavy drinker develops alcohol-related health problems, a diagnosis of alcoholism is a no-brainer. But even before the liver rebels, alcohol abusers may reveal themselves by drinking when a physician prohibits it because of its impact on another health condition or on medication.

2. Slacking Off at Work or School
If someone is spending more time pouring over a bottle than over tomorrow's presentation, there's a problem. Anytime one's performance at work or school starts to suffer, that's not a good sign. And just because you can still ace that exam or lead your management team doesn't mean you're okay to have another round with your friends. If a boss, teacher, or other authority figure is displeased because you've been tired, irritable, tardy, or a no-show, your position in the workplace or classroom is in jeopardy even if you can still pull off your assignments.

3. Financial Insolvency
When the problem gets really bad, those who suffer from alcoholism may forget or be unable to pay the bills. Or they may spend so much of their pocket change at the bar that they run out of cash for necessities. If a heavy drinker is in financial trouble, it's time to get help.

4. Driving Under the Influence
Whether or not they get caught, people who drive while intoxicated show poor judgment and an inability to drink responsibly. While nonalcoholics may make this mistake on occasion due to immaturity or impaired reasoning, repeat offenders may have a deeper problem.

5. Risky Business
Driving under the influence is only one risk that an alcohol abuser may take. Problem drinkers might engage in other dangerous activities. These can land on the wrong side of the law, such as theft, vandalism, fistfights, trespassing, and drug use, or they may be personal risks such as gambling, unprotected sex, or life-threatening dares.

6. Personality Change
People who have a problem with alcohol are often noted to undergo a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality transformation when intoxicated. They may lash out physically or verbally, hit on anything that moves, or generally behave in ways that would make their sober alter egos blush (naked table dancing to the tune of ABBA comes to mind). They may also forsake their friends and family for a crowd more supportive of their habits and react angrily to anyone who suggests that naked table dancing is best left to Lindsay Lohan.

7. Secrets and Lies
Alcoholics may go to great lengths to keep their drinking under wraps. They may drink alone, hide secret stashes, or travel out of town to a bar no one knows. If someone asks if they've been drinking, they might deny it or downplay it.

8. The Highlight of Their Day
Alcohol abusers may schedule their days around their favorite activity. Anytime they invite you out, liquor must be on hand. They may plan drinking and recovery time into their daily routines.

9. Thinking Through a Fog
Heavy alcohol users may black out and forget entire drinking episodes. Hence, they may be mortified when you remind them of the naked table dancing. Or they may just deny it or offer excuses. "I wasn't myself" is a favorite.

10. Dependent Behavior
As alcohol abuse crosses the line to dependence, alcoholics may not have the willpower to resist drinking (or stop drinking once they've started) and may need greater and greater quantities of alcohol to obtain the desired effect.

Not all alcoholics will exhibit all of the above symptoms, and some non-abusers will occasionally use alcohol irresponsibly, especially when young. Be alert for a consistent pattern of multiple signs and symptoms. Also be aware of what an alcoholic or alcohol abuser doesn't have to be:

--A secretive drinker
--A social drinker
--Wild, loud, or violent
--A "loser"

For more information on alcoholism and a complete screening test, check out the following guides:

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Early Signs of Alcohol Problems
Symptoms of Alcoholism
About Alcohol Abuse

Do you or does a single you know struggle with alcohol abuse? What other signs and symptoms of alcoholism can you think of? At what point do you think frequent drinking becomes alcohol abuse?

Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Single Adults
Effects of Early and Later Marriage on Women's Alcohol Use in Young Adulthood
Families As a Cause of Alcohol Problems
How to Tell If He's the "Marrying Kind"
Why Marriage Matters
Women and Substance Abuse
Maturing Out of Problematic Alcohol Use

Fun Link of the Day

Elsie Sleeps Through Bring a Friend to Singletude Day

Singletude owes an apology to those of you who sent a link to your friends for Bring a Friend to Singletude Day only to have them find on arrival that there was no post to comment on. There is no one to blame for this but myself.

My round-the-clock schedule took its toll on me last night, and when I was about to post, I...fell asleep. Yes, that is the ignominious crux of it.

So we'll chalk up the first ever International Bring a Friend to Singletude Day to a false start and try again in a few weeks. (Of course, if anyone's friend shows up here today or in the days ahead, I'll show you some link love anyway.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tax Tips for Single Filers, Part II

In Tax Tips for Single Filers, Part I, we covered some winning strategies for single filers when taking exemptions and deductions. Today, the series continues with more tips to ensure the IRS takes a nibble instead of a chunk out of your income.

4. Invest wisely.

As a single, you are a one-income family. Unless you marry, you won't be able to rely on someone else's pension or Social Security. So it's imperative that you prepare yourself for retirement now. That means investing wisely, part of which is keeping as much of your investment as possible in your pocket and out of the government's. Here are some things you need to know about reducing the tax burden on your investments:

A. Stocks, Bonds, & CDs

This may seem like a page out of Investment for Dummies, but some people get complacent while their securities are plumping up every year at no charge to themselves. When it's time to dig into the cash cow, they forget that that money is going to be added to their annual income for tax purposes. That means if they're teetering on the brink of a higher tax bracket, that cash-out could propel them over the edge. Furthermore, if you want to profit from lower tax rates on long-term capital gains, you must hold an investment for at least a year, beginning the day after you buy it.

If your company has given you restricted stock, you have the option to pay tax on it within 30 days by making the 83(b) election or hold off until it becomes transferable, in which case, if the stock has appreciated, your taxes will be substantially higher. The 83(b) election can be a gamble if the stock does not appreciate, but if you have a reasonable expectation that it will, paying now and reaping the benefits later just makes sense. Restricted stock benefits are usually executive territory, but it never hurts to be prepared. :)

Or maybe bonds are more your style, but you bought them at a premium. If so, you can amortize the premium, which means you can deduct it from the taxable interest the bond generates. Be careful, though, as you travel through the labyrinth of laws on amortization lest you lose the path to a deduction.

Now a word about dividends: If you're interested in buying shares in a company that pays dividends, timing is everything. Every time the company announces that it will pay out a dividend (often quarterly), it sets a date called the ex-dividend date. If you purchase shares on or after this date, you will not get the dividend for that quarter, and you will pay a lower price per share because of it. However, if you buy before the ex-date, you will pay more and get the dividend...and then have to pay taxes on it. This wouldn't be so bad except that after the dividend is paid out, the value of the security falls by the amount of the dividend. The result is that you get nothing more than what you put into it, and you get taxed on it. And perhaps feel a little foolish.

This is a particularly effective way to screw yourself if you're buying the dividends as part of a mutual fund at its year-end payout, when the stocks have been appreciating all year. In this scenario, the long-term shareholders make out good, while someone who buys in just before the dividend pays taxes on an appreciation they never saw. If your brain looks like an egg on drugs after reading that like mine does after writing it, see this page for a better explanation.

Oh, and another page out of Investment for Dummies, The Collector's Edition: If you earn dividends from stocks, bonds, or CDs, you will pay taxes on those dividends even if they get rolled over or reinvested and you never see a penny. I've overlooked this leetle fact once or twice myself, so it can even happen to clever people. ;)

B. 401(k)'s

Be aware of the differences between a traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k). The former allows you to contribute tax-free, but this is deceptive since you'll be taxed when you withdraw the money, probably at a higher rate than when you deposited it. The latter doesn't give you a break upfront, but you can withdraw at retirement without taxation. For young singles who don't bring home a hefty paycheck now but might by retirement, the Roth 401(k) is the better deal.

If you're quitting a job with an outstanding 401(k) loan, pay it off before you go and not just so your boss will give you a good reference. If you don't, for legal purposes it will be as though you simply withdrew the cash, and that means you'll get hit with all the relevant taxes and, if you're under 55, a 10% penalty.

In a breakthrough for singles, anyone who inherits a 401(k) from someone other than a spouse can now roll it over into an IRA. That means you can pay tax on the inheritance over the course of a lifetime instead of in one lump sum! (This is a perfect example, by the way, of how the reality of changing demographics can trickle down to the Senate floor.)


For singles of this generation, who face a bankrupt social security system, the phaseout of pensions, and unstable 401(k)'s, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is your best shot at building a nest egg. When it comes to taxes, traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs work like the 401(k) accounts described in B., so again, the Roth is recommended for younger singles with as-yet-unfulfilled earning potential. Plus, you can deduct up to 50% of the first $2,000 you deposit, which just might be the biggest deduction you take off anything, ever. :)

D. Annuities

An annuity is a bit like an IRA or 401(k) underwritten by an insurance company and is an especially good idea for singles who don't have an employer-matched retirement savings account at work. One of the best features of an annuity is that retirees can deduct the money they paid into it once the annuity pays out.

5. Go with a pro.

To play the stock market, you have to know the rules, and most of us don't have time to read the rule book. That's why you can deduct investment management fees for brokers, trustees, or other individuals who fit the bill. (What is and is not tax-exempt here gets complicated, so read this before you deduct willy-nilly.)

When tax time rolls around, unless your finances are very straightforward (think 1040EZ), swing for a professional accountant instead of using TurboTax or a tax preparation service like H&R Block. A CPA can help you find your way through loopholes that faceless tax prep firms might be unaware of or, worse, might be too careless to investigate for you. In addition, a certified accountant can advise you on long-term financial planning strategies. Don't worry. You can deduct his fee next year!

Can you think of any other tax breaks for investments or for the use of professional advisers? Do you know of any tax tips for single filers not mentioned in Part I or Part II of this series?

Fun Link of the Day

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Singles Are Healthier Than Unhappily Marrieds

Breaking news, singles! This study on the correlation between marital status and blood pressure has been making the rounds of the online news hubs, so if you haven't read it, point your browser there.

We've been force-fed a lot of propaganda about how marriage guarantees a longer, healthier life even as many of us singles have stood on the sidelines of marital feuds and wondered how the heck those couples could sleep at night, let alone outlive us. Well, the scoop is that a marriage certificate doesn't mean squat if the relationship isn't fulfilling. In fact--surprise, surprise--it's better to be single!

The researchers measured blood pressure in 204 married partners and 99 singles and collected measures of marital satisfaction and adjustment from the couples. As expected, higher levels of marital satisfaction and adjustment were associated with lower blood pressure. But the big news is that couples who scored poorly on marital satisfaction and adjustment had blood pressure levels that rose through the roof, surpassing those of happier couples and singles. In fact, the dissatisfied couples had blood pressure readings that hit the danger zone!

The bottom line: It's much better for your health to be single than to be unhappily married.

For singles, this isn't news. It's something we've known all along. Not that we're running around pumping our BP monitors like some people check their BlackBerries, but we've likely seen our coupled friends stressed over everything from infidelity to who's going to cook tonight, and in the meantime, we've been retiring each evening to a comfy couch, a free remote, and a bed that no one has to make in the morning. Since most of us have been in relationships, we can also contrast our currently unruffled emotions with the bumpy ride we took through the final stages with the ex. What a fun house.

You can't argue with the facts about a good marriage. There is a lot of evidence that happy partnerships boost disease-free longevity. Yet, for some reason, whether self-righteousness, denial, envy, bitterness, or fear of those who are different, society has insisted for some time that all marriages have this protective effect, while we singles, floating along without the pressures of spouse and kids, are doomed to ill health. That's counterintuitive, and now we also know it's blatantly false.

For me personally, one of the unsung advantages of singlehood is the even keel of a predictable, stable emotional rhythm. Even in the best relationships, it seems the heart is always somersaulting over the ups and downs of coupled life--the spats, the misunderstandings, the doubt and rejection. When I'm single, I may miss out on the highs of romance, but I certainly don't miss the lows of heartbreak, and while an absence of the former won't kill you, the latter can by depressing your immune system, elevating your blood pressure, and increasing your risk of heart attack.

Instinctively, I think we've always known that it's better to be single and happy than married and miserable. But it's nice to have it validated anyway.

Do you think it's healthier to be alone than to be trapped in a bad marriage? Have you been healthier as a single than you've been in unhappy relationships?

Fun Link of the Day

Friday, March 21, 2008

International Bring a Friend to Singletude Day

Announcing the very first International Bring a Friend to Singletude Day this Monday, March 24, all day long! That's right, now's your chance to introduce your single acquaintances to the Singletude community! Make them prove their loyalty to you by suffering through my lengthy posts at your side. ;)

Here's how it works: If you know anyone who could benefit from the blogs and/or discussion at Singletude, send them a link on Mon., March 24, asking them to read a post that interests them and comment on it, mentioning who referred them. (You can recommend a post to them if you like.) Anyone who brings at least one friend to Singletude will be acknowledged in a thank-you post with a link to your blog or web site. I will also give a shout out to the friends who showed up, with backlinks to their blogs or web sites. Plus, I will read and leave a comment on your blog/site and your friend's blog/site. What sayest thou to that? :)

Fun Link of the Day

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to Forgive

Today, I had the pleasure of reading Symphony of Love's sentiments on forgiveness and was inspired to address the topic (and free you from more, er, taxing matters for the day). We're often urged to let go of the past and cast off our anger, hurt, and resentment, emotions that have no place in the present. According to conventional wisdom (and medical research), holding a grudge can spiritually and physically damage the one who bears it. It can also make for some really cheesy Japanese horror, but we're going to nip that in the bud before you go there.

As singles, we see people come into and out of our lives as we transition through stages that may be less stable than if we lived in a fenced-in yard with 2.2 children, a chocolate lab, and a minivan. Lovers come and go, friends get married and move away, coworkers leave for better bonuses. Sometimes we watch them depart with hard feelings.

Few would deny that it's important for our own wellbeing to forgive, but it's easier said than done. For all the touchy-feely spiel about forgiveness, seldom do we get definitive, concrete suggestions for putting it into practice. Today, Singletude rises to the challenge with a list of steps to not only talk forgiveness but feel it:

1. Realize what's done is done.

Break the cycle of why's and what-if's by accepting that whoever wronged you can't change the past, no matter how he or she regrets it. Understand that the event itself is history and that only your obsession with it can impact the present.

With that in mind, consciously decide to move beyond the transgression and reclaim your future from the memories so that every time they haunt you, you purposefully shift your attention to something worth your time. Pick up a book, turn on the TV, get out of the house and meet up with a friend. Find some way of distracting yourself until the memory fades into part of your ancient history--not forgotten but not revisited with a gleam in your eye every night while watching The Godfather.

2. Express yourself...

"...hey, hey, hey, hey." Oops, sorry. Guess you discovered my Madonna mix tape, heehee.

Seriously, sometimes the roadblock to forgiveness can be removed by a simple apology, but many of us neglect to ask for one. Often, we expect the transgressor to come begging if he or she is really sorry, but sometimes the offending party assumes we want to hear from them like we want to hear The Spice Girls' Greatest Hits. Other times, he or she isn't even aware that a line has been crossed.

If the idea of approaching the "traitor" makes you want to throw up, maybe it's because you need to swallow your pride. Contact the one who hurt you and be truthful about how upset you are. (A face-to-face meeting is best, a call is second choice, and an email should be your last resort.) Explain why their actions hurt you and directly ask for an apology. You may be surprised by how quickly one is forthcoming...and by how easily it dissolves your anger.

3. Send it in a letter.

Or don't. Send it, that is.

If your relationship is beyond repair, or if part of you can't accept an apology even though you want to, you still need a way to burn off that excess bitterness. Try composing a letter to the person who slighted you, venting all your rage, disappointment, and pain. At the end, declare that despite all these offenses, you're now going to close this chapter of your life and move on. Then, symbolically bury or burn the letter, releasing your pent-up emotion and freeing yourself from tangible ties to the traumatic event.

Go ahead...burn, baby, burn. Smokey the Bear will look the other way, I promise.

4. Walk the walk... someone else's shoes, that is. Whether or not you iron out your interpersonal problems, it will help you shake off that negative energy if you can imagine yourself out of the mind of the victim and into the mind of the perpetrator. (Yes, you can watch a few episodes of Law & Order to get you in the mood.)

If you were your betrayer, what thoughts and feelings would be coursing through you at the moment of betrayal? Ask yourself what motivated your formerly trusted friend, paramour, relative, or associate to hurt you in the way he or she did. Was the wound inflicted an aberration, perhaps provoked by undue stress or a misunderstanding? Were there any alternatives to hurting you in the way he or she did? Might you have done the same thing if the tables were turned? What was your own contribution to what transpired?

The more you ponder these questions, the more obvious it may become that the person you've wasted so much time hating could've been you under different circumstances. We all make mistakes, and as a great teacher once said, let he who is without blame cast the first stone.

5. Accentuate the positive.

If you want to patch things up with the doer of bad deeds, you need to reframe him or her as the same person who held a special place in your life long before forgiveness was needed. Make a list of all the reasons you love this person, from the time she drove three hours to commiserate with you when you lost your job to the extra tickets he always slips you to shows at the club he manages. Chances are after you read over the list, you'll feel a lot less like putting a horse head in his or her bed and a lot more like going out for a drink to resolve your differences. Even if you don't want to rekindle the relationship, focus on the good that came out of your pain.

I know what you're thinking: "Elsie, I'm all for the positive and such, but I'm not a masochist!"

To clarify, I don't mean that you should celebrate what you suffered but that you should take stock of what you learned from it. For example, maybe you're harboring resentment toward your boss because he hinted that you were next in line for promotion, but then you were passed over. Instead of dwelling on how your boss crossed over to the dark side, use his indirect feedback to analyze how you can improve at work so that you'll land the coveted position next time. Or perhaps you can't let go of your wrath at an ex who cheated. Rather than continue simmering about it, think of how fortunate you were to have found out she was unfaithful before you made a deeper commitment. After all, that's not the kind of person you'd want for a long-term partner.

Even if you follow these guidelines to the letter, be prepared to have bouts of misery over whatever it is you're trying to forgive. The memories will rush over you in a tide of emotion...but then recede. The more you practice the steps above, the more your anguish will be an outgoing tide. You won't forget what happened, but the memories of it will cease to be salt in your wound until your response to them is no more or less intense than memories of what you ate for breakfast. At last, the tide will turn, and the incoming waves will be ones of peace, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Have you ever had difficulty forgiving someone? What techniques did you use to expel the negative emotions and forgive? Do you believe that it's always best to forgive, or do you think there are some circumstances in which we shouldn't?

Fun Link of the Day

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tax Tips for Single Filers, Part I

Yesterday, Singletude outlined five ways in which singles get the short end of the tax rebate carrot. But enough of the negativity. The question is: What can we do about it?

Short of writing your senator and taking up the torch for tax reform, there's not much you can do to ensure that you get as big a slice of the tax return pie as a married couple. This really is a case of two against one. But you can be a savvy filer who knows his or her way around the tax code and takes advantage of every deduction open to you. Here are some opportunities to make your deductions stretch, three today and two tomorrow:

1. File as a head of household if you can.

The difference between a single filer and a head of household is that the latter has paid more than 50% of the cost of his or her home maintenance and has supported at least one dependent for over half the year. Heads of household are entitled to higher deductions and lower tax rates than those who file single, so it pays to find out if you meet the qualifications.

2. Take as many exemptions on your W-4 as you can.

If you're single and have no kids, claim one exemption for yourself. If you claim zero, you'll get a windfall in the spring, but that's because you let the government borrow your money for a whole year interest-free. You don't really want to fund some morally bankrupt politician's very own night with "Kristen," do you?

3. Deduct, deduct, deduct!

Yes, it's a pain in the brain to do the math; but no pain, no gain in the bank account. Here's what you should deduct:

Educational Expenses

Now here's one that affects millions of singles. If you're paying off student loans, you can deduct all or part of the interest if you earned less than $70,000, even if your parents helped you out with the payments.

Or maybe you took college courses this year. If so, you could be eligible for the Hope Scholarship or Lifetime Learning Credit. The first is for students in their first two years of college and provides for a deduction of up to $1,650 if your income was less than $57,000. The second applies to all other students, including graduate and returning students, and allows for up to $2,000 in deductions with similar income restrictions. If your income disqualifies you from either of these, you can take a tuition deduction of up to $4,000 if you earned less than $60,000 and up to $2,000 if you earned less than $80,000.

Finally, if you're not a student but a teacher, you're entitled to claim up to $250 of your out-of-pocket expenses for your classroom.

Medical and Dental Expenses

Obviously, you'll want to claim any medical bills you paid out of pocket, but you can also claim the long, dusty miles you drove to visit your favorite doctor. Check out the IRS's standard mileage rates for 2007 to calculate your deductions.

You can also get a break on purchases prescribed by a physician, and I'm not just talking contacts and Miracle-Ear, although medical devices and equipment are included. If your doctor advised you to start a weight-loss program or get an air purifier, that's a deduction.

In addition, you can deduct your health insurance premium if you purchased your own plan or contributed to it with taxable income (that is, if you weren't covered by an employer who deducted any required contributions directly from your salary).

Sound too good to be true for a country in health care crisis? There's a catch. For this deduction to work, your total expenses must be 7.5% or more of your adjusted gross income (AGI). (Note: AGI is tough to calculate, so sit this one out and let the professionals go to work.) However, if you're self-employed, there's a sweet spot for you--you can deduct your insurance premium, no matter how much you made.

Job-related Expenses

Falling under the category of Miscellaneous Deductions, these must amount to more than 2% of your AGI when added to your other miscellaneous items. They're tricky, ambiguous deductions and should be verified with an accountant when in doubt. For instance, you can deduct the purchase and upkeep of a company uniform but not of street clothes worn to work. You can deduct miles traveled to a job interview, but if you're hired, you can't deduct the same trip as a daily commute. Here's a general rundown of what you can deduct:

--Job-seeking expenses, including mileage costs
--Tools used on the job
--A computer or cell phone if your employer requires you to use it for business
--Specialized clothing or uniforms that you only wear to work
--Union dues
--Subscriptions to professional journals
--Continuing education in your field

Again, there's a lot of room for interpretation and, thus, a lot of room for error, so be careful. For more detailed info on the above deductions, go here.


It's said that with freedom comes responsibility, and this is true for no one as much as the self-employed filer. The deductions available to an independent contractor could be a post unto themselves and are beyond the scope of this blog. There are stringent regulations regarding the separation of personal and business use of rented spaces, equipment, transportation, etc. If you're self-employed or thinking of becoming self-employed, you can read an overview here and here.


If you've relocated for a job (not just because you didn't care for it in sunny Michigan anymore), you can take deductions on expenses your employer didn't reimburse if your new office is 50 miles further from your home than your last place of business. Moving expenses are a bit of a gray area, but you can usually deduct:

--Travel for yourself and any dependents accompanying you, including pets
--Accommodations en route
--Storage of shipped items for a limited time

For fuller descriptions of these deductions, read this.


Guess what? If you perform as a sword swallower at circus sideshows on the weekend or sell your postmodern trashcan sculptures at the flea market, this counts as a hobby, and you can deduct associated expenses. The catch? You have to actually make money off the hobby (no, writing in your journal doesn't count), and you can't deduct more than you earned.

Charitable Contributions

If you have a soft heart for PETA or the Red Cross, make sure Uncle Sam doesn't take advantage of your goodwill. Get a receipt for your donations and tell the IRS, "Paws off!"

Note that this deduction also applies to expenses incurred in volunteer work. So if you had to, say, buy a dorky uniform that makes you walk like a penguin or drive a considerable distance to the soup kitchen, deduct the Mumble jumpsuit and the mileage.

Energy-efficient Transportation

Got ethanol? If you need a new car, make it a hybrid. Until 2010, you can save up to $3,000 in taxes depending on the fuel efficiency of your new ride.


Fond of poker? Blackjack? Slots? Like it more than your poker face warrants? That's why you can deduct your gambling losses. But hold 'em, Tex. You can only deduct losses from your winnings (meaning that, yes, you have to win), and you can't deduct more than you won. You'll also have to be an immaculate bookkeeper to prove how you hit the jackpot and how you got rivered.

Casualty and Theft

If you had the misfortune to be a victim of crime this year and suffered a loss of substantially more than $100, you can deduct the market value of your stolen property minus $100.


Perhaps you're wondering why this isn't classified as Casualty and Theft. If you got divorced and the courts didn't like you, this one's for you.

Legal Advice

If you ran into trouble with the law this year, you might be able to deduct the cost of that speeding violation or the pliers you bought to break into your neighbor's basement. Just kidding. You can't do that. But if you hired a lawyer to resolve specific issues, such as a job or--ironically enough-- tax dispute, the government may show you some sympathy.

State and Local Taxes

Finally, you did know that you can deduct your taxes from your taxes, right? If your state, county, and/or city charge(s) income tax, deduct it from your federal tax. OR, if you sprung for that yacht this year, take a deduction on your sales tax instead. If you own a home and paid property tax, this is the place to deduct it, too.

Exhausted? Well, we're just getting warmed up. Tune in again for more tax tips for the single filer!

What other deductions do you take as a single filer? (Since this is a boring question, also tell us a good joke to cheer us up when we're frowning over our W-2's.)

Other Sources
Tax Savings for Single People
Tax Rate Schedules for Single Filers
How to File Taxes as a Single Person
Screw Uncle Same--Take Your Tax Deductions
We Know: 10 Common Tax Deductions (You May Have Forgotten to Take)
Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions You Can Take on Your Federal Income Tax Return
IRS Tax Deductions--7 You CAN'T Take
Taxes and the Network Marketer

Fun Link of the Day

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Singles Penalty: Tax Code Discrimination

Welcome to Singletude! Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit' time! With your host, Clever Elsie! {cue bouncy music that sounds like it's laughing at our misery}

Yes, income tax is one issue on which Singletude has difficulty being a positive blog. But optimism will prevail, even in the face of the overt discrimination we'll acknowledge today.

Move over married couples. You're not the only demographic that has a corner on tax code bias. In fact, marrieds mostly make out good on April 15, and it's singles who feel the pain in their pockets on Tax Day. Here's why in plain, simple, non-jargonistic language (which is not because Elsie thinks you're a simpleton but because she isn't Clever enough to explain it in jargon):

1. The tax rate for singles is higher across the board than it is for marrieds in the same tax bracket. This article has an example of a single and a one-income couple, both earning a total of $100,000 a year. The married man or woman is taxed at 25%, but the single has to fork over 28% just because he or she has committed the crime of singleness. That's a nest egg of $4,125 more a year for the married couple to buy a used car, hire a housekeeper, or go vacationing in the Caribbean. Doesn't sound much like justice for all.

2. If you're a single parent, you're entitled to a Child Tax Credit of up to $1,000 per child. But that credit phases out when your income hits $75,000. However, if you're married, your family can earn up to $110,000 before you're ineligible. Let's go over this again in case you're as confused as I am: If Person A and Person B each have two kids, Person A is entitled to more government handouts because Person A has more money and a spouse. Something here doesn't compute, and I don't think it's my underwhelming math skills.

3. If you're a single parent whose child lives with you less than half the year, you can't claim him or her as a dependent even though you may be covering half of his or her expenses. If your child splits his or her time equally between you and your former partner, the partner with the higher income gets to claim the child. Again, what's wrong with this picture? It's as if Dali thought up our tax system.

4. You can usually file as head of household, a move which saves you big, for any dependent you support, including kids, parents, siblings, extended family, and even domestic partners. But there's a catch. If your state outlaws cohabitation, you can't claim a boyfriend or girlfriend. Further, if you've been married for even a month during the past year, your husband or wife can be your dependent, but you must have lived for the entire year with a domestic partner to qualify for the same deduction. Obviously, filing jointly, the biggest money saver of all, is not an option. In other words, save sex for marriage, boys and girls, or Uncle Sam will take away your pocket change.

5. While single homeowners are making gains, most houses are still the property of married couples, and those married couples get a nice little break known as the mortgage interest deduction, which means these twosomes can expect reimbursement for the interest paid on their monthly mortgages. In most states, however, renters don't get a similar deduction for the cash laid out on apartments every month. Instead, up to half the income of the single renter drains into the pockets of a wealthy landlord and is never seen again.

The above examples of flaming inequity might prompt you to ask exactly what has become of the mythical marriage penalty or if it was ever real at all. It does exist, most notably when marital partners file jointly and their total income propels them into a higher tax bracket than either would have been in if they'd filed separately. But this only occurs when the partners earn roughly equivalent incomes or when they qualified separately for the Earned Income Credit for the working poor but lose eligibility with their combined salaries. However, if husband and wife have an income disparity, their tax breaks will dwarf those of singles, and the greater the disparity, the bigger the break. Despite lip service to working families and career women, Congress still prefers the stay-at-home mom model.

Now pretend for a moment that you read about the above tax system unaware that it described the United States. What kind of country would take shape in your mind? Certainly not one in which nearly half the population is single...or one in which there are cohabiting couples, gay or lesbian pairs, low-wage earners, city dwellers, or anyone who isn't part of a traditional male breadwinner suburban society. And we haven't even scratched the surface of the injustices imposed by the estate tax, insurance benefits, and social security.

Married couples claim they're entitled to bigger breaks because they have double the expenses. But the platitude that two can live as cheaply as one rings true for rent, utilities, household purchases like TVs, computers, and furnishings, and transportation if the couple is careful. So singles are the ones who really need the relief. Furthermore, marrieds have no call to complain about getting bumped into a higher tax bracket when they're still taxed at a lower rate than singles in the same bracket.

While there's unfortunately no loophole to wiggle out of the singles tax penalty, you should be wise to the steps you can take to minimize your liability as a single filer. Tomorrow, Singletude covers some of them.

What do you think about the discrepancy between tax rates for single and married filers? Can you think of a better solution?

Fun Link of the Day

Monday, March 17, 2008

Friends With Benefits and the Lowdown on Hook Ups, Part II

Yesterday, Singletude got down and dirty with the lowdown on hook ups, friends with benefits (FWBs), and other forms of casual sex. As "Part I" explained, while casual encounters are meant to free the participants from responsibility to each other, they demand even greater responsibility to oneself to guard against STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

But whereas statistics on HIV infections and abortions are unambiguous black and white figures, there's an invisible, immeasurable fallout from casual sex that's never recorded in a health textbook. As much as we'd like to think that hook ups and FWBs can protect us from the emotional baggage that accompanies relationships, engaging in one of these no-strings arrangements is like bike riding with no hands. It feels light, free, easy...until you realize you have no control over which way the bike is going, and it's headed straight down a 50-foot embankment.

That's not to say that everyone will always lose control of the bike. Plenty of singles can breeze through hook ups like cowboys through a ghost town and not be touched by the desolation and loneliness that profoundly affect others who linger there. Some people attach little or no emotional significance to sex, and some are emotionally closed down, period.

Other singles, perhaps the majority, can healthily integrate sex and emotion but recognize that one doesn't always follow from the other. After all, seeing someone naked certainly isn't the same as seeing their naked emotions, learning the intricacies of their thought patterns, and discovering what makes them tick sufficiently to develop reciprocal affection. And let's face it--not everyone you hook up with is someone you could love, no matter how much time you spend getting to know them. Sometimes attraction is the first and last thing two people have in common, in which case both can move on from the physical encounter emotionally unscathed.

But when you do lose control of the bike, you're in for one hell of a bumpy ride. Here's why:

3. Unforeseen Emotional Attachment

Biologically, we're programmed to feel affectionate and close with our sexual partners. Some of us are less susceptible to this than others, either due to our own hard wiring or emotional barriers we've built thicker than the Great Wall of China in response to previous rejection or abandonment. But the neurochemical response to sexual activity is present in all of us to some degree, and its effects have been compared to getting hooked on cocaine. Thus, when you try not to feel anything for the person you just hooked up with, you're fighting your own biology. As we all know, biology is not easily overcome.

Furthermore, the more times you're physically intimate with someone, the more addicted you'll get. Combine this with the mere exposure effect, the psychological phenomenon that increases our affection for people with whom we've had repeat contact, and FWBs or consistent hook-up partners are at particular risk of developing unexpected and unwanted feelings.

Occasionally, those feelings are mutual, and the two singles can reinvent themselves as a couple. But more often, the partners are not on the same page. One person's attachment grows more strongly and swiftly than the other's, leaving the lover with a broken heart and the beloved with a mess to clean up. Worse still, the cocktail of addictive hormones and sexual fulfillment can create an illusion of deeper feelings between incompatible partners, who may find themselves locked into the very same miserable relationship they hoped to avoid by hooking up or being FWBs.

4. Failed Friendship

One of the primary reasons to add benefits to a friendship is that the friendship itself works. Friends who explore physical intimacy already have a degree of emotional intimacy, understand each other, enjoy each other's company, and hopefully can trust one another. The idea is that the friendship will be a safe haven in which to share sexual adventures, and when the curtain falls on the sexual dimension, the friendship will remain intact. Unfortunately, things don't always play out so smoothly.

A recent study revealed that one in four FWB relationships ends in a broken friendship, and since a little over 30% of the college co-eds studied were still in FWB situations, that number could be higher. Although the study didn't address the outcome for the third of participants who salvaged their friendship, anyone who's been sexually active knows that physical intimacy permanently alters the way two people relate to each other and can complicate future interactions with jealousy, resentment, continued sexual desire, or unresolved romantic feelings.

What the study did show was that ongoing FWB relationships are tainted by anxiety and mistrust, the same concerns singles try to alleviate by initiating FWB arrangements in the first place. However, while the ties that bind friends may not be as strong as the ties that bind couples, they're sufficiently strong to merit continuous worries that sex will disrupt the delicate balance of the friendship. Singles with FWBs reported that their friendships were now less open and communicative because they were plagued with anxiety over the development of unrequited affections.

5. Impact on Future Relationships

For some, forays into casual sex can be left behind the closed doors of the past when a single is ready to enter into a relationship with someone he or she cares about. For others, though, multiple meaningless relationships can lead to a jaded attitude toward sex that isn't readily jettisoned for a potential long-term partner. At what point, one wonders, does sex cease to hold a special or intimate connotation--after 10 partners, 20, 50, more?

Let's not forget, too, that a FWB relationship, which is essentially a dead-end relationship from the start, can distract singles from possible long-term partners right in front of them. Instead of going out with someone new on a Saturday night, FWBs are at home having passionless sex with each other.

Then there's the issue of reputation, which shouldn't be an issue anymore but is. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the double standard, still tenaciously clinging to its upper hand? If you're a woman, whether you like it or not, you'll face certain preconceptions from both men and women as your "number" rises. And while men tend to wear their "number" as a badge of honor, there are lots of women who disapprove of "man whores" and aren't eager to get involved with men who've been around the block.

Hooking up or finding an FWB can seem like the perfect solution for a sexually frustrated single, and for some people, it is. But for others, these casual relationships are like shiny new packages with time bombs inside, waiting to explode with regret, disappointment, and bitterness.

Decide now how you feel about hook ups before you're swept up in the moment with a beautiful stranger, and if you're considering taking a friendship into the bedroom, think long and hard about the repercussions. Be especially careful if you're a sensitive person who gets attached easily, if you know little about or have reason to distrust your potential partner, or if you're under the influence of alcohol. Whatever you do, always be forthcoming about where you expect the encounter to lead, whether to more uncommitted encounters, a possible commitment down the road, or nothing at all, in order to minimize misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Ultimately, for some people, at some points in life, a quick hook up or role in the hay with a friend will be nothing more than a pleasant memory. For others, it will be a wound that never heals.

What do you think about the emotional consequences of casual hook ups and friends-with-benefits relationships? Are the potential emotional complications worth it for regular sex? Have you ever been burned in a casual physical relationship or known someone who was? What other advantages or disadvantages are there to casual sex?

Fun Link of the Day

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Friends With Benefits and the Lowdown on Hook Ups, Part I

Unless you've been married for the past decade (in which case, you shouldn't be here on Singletude :P), you may have noticed that the landscape of dating has changed, especially for "kids these days," and now more closely resembles an auto body shop than a fast food joint, a movie theatre, or even a bar. Yes, I'm talking about the practice of hooking up, the flavor du jour of dating among trendy young singles, and its older, more dependable cousin, the friends with benefits (FWB) relationship, both of which are descendants of the granddaddy of casual sex, the one-night stand. One of my regular readers, Victoria Gothic, suggested that Singletude cover this topic, and I'm happy to oblige.

Let's start by defining a "hook up." Unlike a one-night stand, which implies a one-time encounter that ends in sex, a hook up can occur between two people who may or may not know each other, and it can happen more than once. A recent survey of college students indicates that hook ups are confined to foreplay about 25% of the time, proceed to intercourse in 35-40% of cases, and presumably conclude with another form of sex in the remaining 35-40% of make-out sessions. "Friends with benefits" may also hook up but are distinguished by their preexisting closeness and an ongoing commitment to the friendship, as well as by the more consistent nature of their sexual escapades.

Whatever form they take, hook ups are on the rise, with 76% of college seniors reporting at least one hook up during their college careers and nearly seven hook ups on average. In another study, 60% of students said they had had at least one friend with benefits. Considering the prevalence of these kinds of relationships, it seems wise to weigh their pros and cons before jumping into the sack with both feet only to discover that you're in over your head.

It doesn't take a Harvard graduate to calculate the advantages of a casual physical relationship. If you don't want or can't find someone to commit to, it's a way to release sexual energy with no strings attached. In the case of an FWB arrangement, it also promises consistent sex with some degree of safety; presumably, you can trust your friend to be disease-free and to have some consideration for you as a person, neither of which you could expect from a virtual stranger in a hook up.

But casual encounters have a downside, too, one that sometimes gets lost in the fast-paced, pleasure-driven hook-up culture. If you want to live life in the fast lane, here are some less than sexy outcomes you should prepare for, two today and two tomorrow:

1. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

One in five Americans has an STD, and one in four will have one at some point in their lives.1 (By some estimates, the infection rate is as high as 50%.)2 Two-thirds of STD infections occur in people under 25,1 precisely the population in which casual sex is the most prevalent. Every sexual partner you have increases your risk of contracting an STD, and you can multiply that risk by the number of partners your partner has had.3

Unfortunately, condoms aren't foolproof against infection, either. A number of STDs are passed by skin-to-skin contact rather than through bodily fluids, and thus condoms offer little to no protection. These diseases include Herpes, Syphilis, and Human Papillomavirus (HPV), strains of which can cause genital warts or cervical cancer.4 Lots of young people assume they'll be safe if they restrict their hook ups to oral sex. Not so. Some of the nastiest viruses, such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis, are contagious through oral sex as well.5

The widespread nature of STDs and the ease of transmission of some of the more threatening varieties make casual sex a risky business, even when you're careful. Of course, if you're going to hook up anyway, protection is a must, no matter what your partner tells you, as is regular STD testing. Some singles will lie through their teeth to get laid, and lots of others aren't even aware they're infected.

2. Pregnancy

Not illogically, women and adolescent girls who have multiple partners are at increased risk of pregnancy.6,7 An unwanted pregnancy is difficult enough when two people care about each other but aren't ready for parenthood. Imagine, then, what a conundrum it is for two people who don't even know each other's last names!

When used effectively, condoms are very good at protecting against pregnancy.8 But, now and then, they brake, tear, or fail for other reasons, not to mention that they aren't worn correctly about 15% of the time. In other words, every time you have sex, there's a possibility of pregnancy, no matter how safe you are. And an embryo doesn't care if its parents have slept together for years or just one time.

If you're going to have casual sex, Planned Parenthood recommends you use two methods of protection, so bring on the reinforcements.

Join Singletude next time for two more reasons to exercise caution with the casual hook up!

In your opinion, is the hook-up culture a positive development, or is it outweighed by the dangers of casual sex? In your circle of acquaintance, are most unscathed by the physical dangers of hook ups, or have you known people (no names, of course!) whose lives have been touched by unintended pregnancy or an STD?

1. Cool Nurse
2. American Social Health Association
3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
4. Talk Sex with Sue Johanson
5. San Francisco City Clinic
6. Physicians For Life
7. Alcoholism ("Multiple Sex Partners Indicates Trouble for Teens")
8. Advocates For Youth

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Singletude: A Positive Group For Singles on BlogCatalog

Come one, come all to Singletude: A Positive Group for Singles, the newest message group for the unattached, by choice or by circumstance, on BlogCatalog! Yes, that means we can all gab with each other on topics of your choice rather than just the ones I've managed to think up here.

I've started off the discussion with several threads to spark debate, but you're encouraged to add your own. You can find links to the current group topics in the sidebar of the Singletude home page.

Besides some great conversation with other singles, your participation at BlogCatalog can bring exposure and traffic to your own blog. (Yes, I am referring to shameless self-promotion!)

Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Asexuality: The Other Orientation

Once upon a time, sexual orientation was a pretty simple concept. You were either attracted to people of the opposite sex or people of the same sex. Then, it gradually became clear that some people are attracted to both sexes, though sometimes more strongly to one than the other and sometimes only in certain phases of life. In case you get cocky and think you have it all figured out, there are also men who used to be women, women who used to be men, and men and women who dress like women and men even though they don't want to be women or men.

It's no wonder that with this overwhelming array of choices, some people are opting out and saying, "To hell with sex. I think I'll pass."

That's right. There is now a fifth (sixth?) sexual orientation emerging, and it has nothing to do with sex. In fact, that's the point. It's asexual.

Asexuality is, perhaps, the most invisible orientation in our sex-drenched society. In an age in which representatives of every imaginable sexual preference have fought for and won recognition, it is still inconceivable to much of the population that there are people who don't like, want, or need sex. But there's a good chance that some of the singles you meet every day are among the approximately 3 million Americans who identify as asexual.

The definition of asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to either males or females. Asexuals may still experience and enjoy sexual arousal but not in response to other people, or they may have no interest in sexual activity whatsoever. Unlike people who have an aversion to sex due to a history of abuse or other trauma, asexuals simply don't have a desire for sex or view other people in a sexual light. Many can objectively label others as handsome or beautiful, as one would admire a painting or sculpture, but don't feel an accompanying attraction. They may wish to remain single, seek intimate relationships that don't include sex, or engage in intercourse solely to please a romantic partner.

No one knows how or why people don't develop a sexual interest in others, any more than they know how or why people become straight or gay. Many asexuals say that as far back as they can remember, they always felt uninterested in people as sexual beings, a sentiment that is echoed in the mainstream by those who relate growing up aware of their attraction to one sex or the other or both. It's possible that their genes code for lower hormonal levels or other anomalies that contribute to the absence of sexual desire, or they might have had deeply buried early childhood experiences that turned them off to sex. However, what's important is that they are the way they are, and in contrast to people who are disturbed by anxiety, repulsion, or indifference surrounding sex, asexuals are content with their lifestyles.

Asexuals come in all different physical packages, just like people of any other orientation; they have no identifying features. They are not, as one may be tempted to think, less physically attractive than others.

Millions of asexuals may feel alone or misunderstood in a world that idealizes sex as the highest form of fulfillment, essential to a happy, healthy life. But it really is only one piece of the happiness pie, and it's not in a flavor that everyone likes.

If you or someone you know is asexual, you may want to visit the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) to learn more and find support.

What do you think about asexuality and how our society relates to asexuals? If you or someone you know is asexual, can you share any stories about the experience of asexuals in a sexual world?

Other Sources
Sexless and Proud
Feature: Glad to Be Asexual
Asexuals Unite
Study: One in 100 Adults Asexual
Asexuality: Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample

Fun Link of the Day

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Why Aren't You Married Yet?"

Sooner or later, someone pops the question: "So, why aren't you married yet?" It may be your great-aunt at that family reunion. It might be a guest at your friend's wedding. Or maybe it's that well-intentioned coworker, who asks while staring at you like a wide-eyed Sally Struthers wondering why you still don't have your high school diploma.

Granted, it may not be this version of the question. Instead, you may hear:

"What's a great girl/guy like you doing single?"
"I'm surprised no one has snapped you up yet!"
"When are you going to give me some grandchildren?"

These questions are often followed by creative problem solving, such as:

"I should introduce you to my neighbor's daughter's boyfriend's cousin, who just got off parole."
"Don't be too picky."
"Go catch that bouquet! You might be next!"

No matter which unwanted questions or solutions you hear, your reaction is likely to be the same--an awkward smile and shrug while you grope for words that are confident, witty, and upbeat but not forced or desperate. Somehow, you always invent a diplomatic answer that makes you wonder why you're not Barack Obama's speechwriter, but you can't help feeling irritated that you were backed into that smooth-talking corner in the first place.

Fortunately, I've never had the displeasure to be asked this question or a variant thereof (though I have gotten the modified, somewhat more acceptable "Are you seeing anyone lately?"). Perhaps it's because most of my friends and family are understanding, respectful, and discreet people, who are more interested in being sensitive to my feelings than they are in dredging up the melodrama of my life. Or perhaps by now they're used to the fact that I only pass on the nuggets of my love life when I want to, and when I don't, I tell them I don't want to get into it right now. But nosy friends and relatives rank near the top of many singles' Worst Fears During the Holidays list. Therefore, Singletude presents an open letter to married people addressing our concerns, which you can adopt for yourself, make your own, and distribute at appropriate times:

Dear Married or Otherwise Coupled Person,

Thank you for your recent interest in my love life. I know that your curiosity is only an expression of your concern for my wellbeing and future happiness, and your input is appreciated.

However, while I am grateful for your concern, I must ask that you refrain from this line of questioning. At this time, I do not know why I am single, or, if I do know, I prefer not to hold an open discussion about this personal choice in a public forum. If you would like to register an appeal, you may provide three (3) documents certifying why you are still married, when you expect to have more children, and, if you are female, how you plan to achieve my career.

Failure to acknowledge the existence of a love life should not be interpreted as an admission that I do not have one. Due to rapid and unpredictable changes in the status of my dating relationships, I reserve the right to withhold comment in order to avoid embarrassment or pity should a full-scale merger not take place. Sometimes a prospective partner I have backed suddenly withdraws, and I do not wish to disclose, and thus relive, my hurt and disappointment, especially not when it appears that my misfortune has become a sideshow for the married and bored.

More to the point, since my solo operation continues to produce much contentment and even happiness, I am not compelled to expand it to a limited partnership. At this juncture, I believe that I am positioned well to fulfill my expectations of a meaningful life, and I do not wish to endanger that trend by incorporating with the wrong partner. Unfortunately, due to incredulous and dismissive feedback from my "supporters," I have discontinued communications regarding my bullish outlook on singlehood. This positivity will remain part of my paradigm, though it will not be on display until test groups reveal a shift in acceptance of my long-term singleness.

In lieu of questions about my marital status, it is suggested that you inquire into aspects of my life that are important to me and would demonstrate your esteem for me and the things I hold valuable. For instance, you might ask me about my work, a hobby to which I am devoted, or my family (i.e. children if I have them, parents, siblings, and extended family). You may also discuss with me all the subjects on which you would routinely converse with a married individual, including politics, economics, entertainment, and social issues. You will find that I am no less opinionated, articulate, or sociable than any member of a marital partnership. Further, longtime friends and family are encouraged to monitor complications I have brought to light, such as a job loss, impending move, or health crisis, which might burden me disproportionately as a single individual, and assist as you are able (eg., by providing counsel, job referrals, your helping hands or pickup truck for heavy lifting, etc.). The help you extend in this capacity is calculated as a greater investment in our relationship than investigations into my dating life and will appreciate for future returns.

Your compliance with the above requests is integral to the continued growth and success of our relationship. Refusal to adhere to these guidelines may result in needless aggravation, the disruption of friendly relations, and mutual alienation.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused. Please address any questions or concerns to me. You are a valuable member of my social community, and I look forward to continuing our relationship in the years to come.


A Positive Single

Are you often asked probing questions about your life including why you're still single or a similar variant? How do you respond to these questions?

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How Single Women Make Men Suffer

Today, inspired by a recent discussion thread on female players at BlogCatalog as well as by the vehement responses to "How Single Men Make Women Settle," Singletude acknowledges that turnabout is fair play and takes the single ladies to task.

Admit it, girls, sometimes you have your own commitment issues, and by the time you're ready for Mr. Right, he may be so used to being everyone else's Mr. Wrong that he's afraid to take your heart in case you want it back. In their early and even mid-twenties, a lot of women identify more with the stars of Girls Gone Wild than with June Lockhart or Florence Henderson. They bounce from one boy toy to the next, drunkenly giggling Cyndi Lauper's mantra, "girls just wanna have fun." Marriage and children are the furthest thoughts from a single girl's mind, ranking slightly above the gynecologist but well below that promotion to management, a shabby chic loft of her own in Soho, and a closet full of Steve Madden shoes.

For years, many of these young women are content to date "good for now guys," confessing to their friends that they don't see themselves with Mr. Right Now in 10 years, but he's cute and nice and will do for the time being. Needless to say, Mr. Right Now continues giving his beloved earrings on her birthday, fillet mignon on Valentine's, and roses for no reason at all, never guessing that the guillotine is poised above his head. When it finally falls close enough to shave the hairs off his neck, he vows he'll beware of the next girl who offers him the double-edged sword of love.

Other women (or perhaps the same ones in different circumstances) have a fallback guy, that hapless single friend who gets to buy her drinks and movie tickets for the pleasure of listening to her bitch and moan about the last schmuck who dumped her. Every so often, after Fallback Guy has volunteered the use of his shoulder for a long evening's cry, he will hear that she wishes she could find a guy like him or that she never noticed how cute he is when he's frowning, and his heart will zigzag with the possibility that maybe, just maybe she's realizing what a good boyfriend he would be. But inevitably, she apologizes the next day for "being silly" and calls her ex to make amends.

By the time women reach their twenties or early thirties, it hits them that all the men are gun-shy, dreading the C-word as if it were Cancer, not Commitment. They go on Oprah and write to Dr. Phil and sit down with their therapists to ask why men are so immature, oblivious to the fact that many of these same men were ready and willing to embrace the wife and the house and the minivan years ago but were ruthlessly tossed aside so they wouldn't interfere with her barhopping or her second PhD.

Lest you misread it, this isn't a criticism of ambitious, career-driven women. Female professionals are an integral part of our workforce. They can and should pursue any career path they desire and be rewarded for their achievements accordingly. Neither is this a condemnation of male-female friendships. Plenty such friendships are happily platonic, and if they are not, no one, male or female, should be obligated to date someone just because he or she is a good friend. No, this is a censure of the female player.

Most of us are familiar with the male player. He’s that guy who uses girls for sex. There are, of course, females who use men for sex, but the female player is more likely to be the girl who uses guys for attention, affection, or admiration. Although her objective is different than that of her male counterpart, just like him, the female player wants what she wants without paying the price of commitment. So she lingers in a relationship with someone she doesn't love or makes empty promises to her best guy friend until she drains him of her quota of the three A's, then leaves him high and dry. Not all women are guilty of this kind of vampirism, but many have been players at least once or twice in their lives, and it only takes one deadly blow to permanently wound a victim's heart.

Ladies, you know if you're among the guilty. Please remember that it's not right to lead someone on or string him along so you can reap the benefits of love without giving it. If you don't want to settle down, fine. If you don't have feelings for a friend, that's okay, too. But don't pretend that you do, in word or in action. That's when the damage is done. In a culture that insists males keep a tight rein on their feelings, it can be easy for a woman to dismiss men as too emotionally stunted or shallow to care what she does when, in fact, men feel as deeply as women do but may have a harder time articulating it. Just as women are hurt and offended when used by men, they hurt and offend the men they use.

Bottom line: If you don't want to be used, don't be a user. Be honest and direct about how you feel and don't let your actions contradict your words. When you're young, the page you write in someone's romantic history may not seem important to you. But one day you may meet someone you'd give up your single life for, someone you truly love. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he could love you back with an undamaged heart?

If you're a woman, are you or have you ever been a player? If you're a man (or a woman who's had a female partner), have you ever been played by a woman? If you answered yes to either of these questions, what happened, and what did you learn from the experience? What do you think are the differences between male and female players? Do you think that single women make men suffer in the way this post suggests? If so, how do you think this impacts long-term commitments from men?

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