A Sense of Community

It’s been over a year-and-a-half since our SWaNK Meetup group in the Bay Area was created and it’s been truly wonderful to be meeting so many FANTASTIC women. The sense of community amongst us is growing as each gathering takes place (often around food : )). We are a diverse group from all walks of life, in different fields of work, with different interests, from different backgrounds, cultures and generations, yet we all have many things in common. It is that commonality that has allowed us to bond and connect with one another and allows us to feel safe when expressing our thoughts and feelings about the choices that we have made or will make in our lives.

Not all SWaNKs are similar in ways that one might think. I’ve met a few who are still not sure about whether they want children or not. They come out to meet to gain insights and perspectives from others. And there are SWaNKs who desire to be married one day, at which point they technically wouldn’t be a SWaNK anymore. However, they will ALWAYS be welcomed to our events and gatherings as honorary SWaNKs. I’ve met SWaNKs who wouldn’t mind meeting a man with kids, but don’t wish to have kids of their own and SWaNKs who are interested in possibly adopting. We are a diverse bunch. SWaNKs are straight, gay, bi-sexual, from all racial backgrounds, and from all parts of the world and we are here to support one another.

Our SWaNK Meetup in Toronto is in it’s infancy and I look forward to creating another wonderful community there. If anyone would like to be a co-organizer for the Toronto group or lead a SWaNK Meetup in your part of the world, please contact me and we can get you set up!

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It’s Tax Day and Singles Are Being Ripped Off Across the Good Ole U.S of A.

Today, April 15, is “Tax Day” in the United States and this year it is also the day that several dozen “singles bloggers” are participating in a blogfest to help get the word out about the discrimination that takes place against singles regarding taxes for the unmarried. I am honored to be invited to be a participant in this blogfest, but I have to admit a couple of things first.

#1 . I had no idea of what a blogfest was. Well, it’s pretty easy to guess what one is, but I had never been asked to participate in one before. And…

#2 . I’ve been too busy and happy being single that I’ve been completely oblivious to over 1,000 U.S. income tax laws that apparently discriminate against single people.

So, in conclusion, I’ve had my head up my butt AND I’ve been ripped off all of my life, for being single!

But instead of reacting with anger (not about having my head up my butt), mistrust and frustration, my mind quickly jumped into a different set of thoughts.

An article, “The High Price of Being Single in America” in The Atlantic, is the basis of the blogfest. To give you some idea of the contents of the article, here is a quote. “…more than 1,000 laws provide overt legal or financial benefits to married couples. Marital privileging marginalizes the 50 percent of Americans who are single. The U.S. government is the main perpetrator, but private companies follow its lead. Thus marital privilege pervades nearly every facet of our lives. Insurance policies—ranging from health, to life, to home, to car—cost more, on average, for unmarried people compared to those who are married. It is not a federal crime for landlords to discriminate against potential renters based on their marital status. And so on.”

Now, the first thing that entered my mind after reading the article was that I wondered just how many people out there are aware of these laws and actually get married for the tax breaks and money savings? Over 1,000 laws? Even a handful would make any thrifty person take marriage into consideration over remaining single. I mean, there are enough people who “marry for money” so why not “marry for savings” too? Couples move in together to save on expenses, so why not take it one step further and get married to save even more.

The second thing that entered my head was, “If this is the case, no wonder there are so many unhappy married couples out there”. The thought of marrying for financial reasons and not for love would already put divorce high on the list of probable things likely to happen to a couple who placed their individual or mutual financial interests above true, heartfelt love.

So, now I have to wonder just how many marriages are consciously or even subconsciously disguised as loving relationships when the basis of them may be about money and savings. I’m aware that many people “marry for money” or for practical reasons rather than emotional, but adding the tax breaks into the equation just makes me wonder even more. I’m not saying that all or most marriages are for financial reasons, but I’m sure that many of them are.

This leads to some other questions that are bouncing off the corners of my head. Yes I have a square head.

1. Do some (straight) alpha men take into consideration the tax breaks that they would get, and therefore save money and have more disposable income, when they decide to take on a wife? Is it a factor in deciding whether to get married or not? Is she a tax break? Are the kids a tax break and a benefit in that way too? Could marriage be just an unromantic activity that allows for more time on the golf course and more financial freedom?

2. Is the government just plain old-fashioned, holding the same traditional views of many churches and conservatives? Does government mimic the beliefs of those who hold onto the notion that all adult humans should be married, procreate, live in a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs, where the wife stays at home and cooks, cleans, and raises the children while the husband goes to work, brings home the paycheck and comes home to a nice home-cooked meal with his family? Is this the type of behavior that the laws are designed to reward?

3. Did some religions just have it wrong all of these centuries by promoting the idea that marriage is the answer to human happiness? And did the government just follow along like a sheep and jump on the bandwagon along with insurance companies and the like? Or is marrying for financial and practical reasons just better and healthier for human beings than marrying for love? That is an age-old question.

4. Does anyone ever do things for love and never money? And if they did, would they be happier?

I believe that I am totally off topic now, but that’s where my thoughts have led me at this moment in time on Tax Day regarding how singles are treated by the government when it comes to taxes. It seems to me that the government is rewarding and promoting those who choose to marry or remain married. But why? I guess that’s the big question.

It’s unjust for any type of discrimination to take place anywhere. I believe in and advocate for fairness and equality. So, if indeed, I am being discriminated against by the government because I am single, which, according to the article I am, then it’s certainly time for a change.

Happy Tax Day everyone!

A Long Way From Being Dragged By The Hair Into The Cave.

Today’s modern woman, and in particular SWaNKs, tend to be more educated than they were ten, twenty and most certainly a hundred years ago. The culture around women has evolved in ways unimaginable by the burly caveman who dragged his female counterpart by the hair into the cave for some procreating.

Even “Women’s Lib” is a term that sounds almost archaic now and feminism has taken on many other layers that go much deeper than women just having a voice in the home, workplace and in politics.

Independent, educated, career-minded women are blending in more and more as part of mainstream society, yet we really are not part of the majority. At least not yet. We walk around unnoticed in a sea of people out there in the world. At first glance one would not know whether a woman is single or whether she has children or not, unless her children are with her. However, even if she is seen with children one would not know if they were her children or not. It requires a bit of conversation to determine whether or not a woman is actually single and without children of her own. So, in that sense, we are seamlessly blending in with the “crowd”. We slither around mainstream society until people find us out by asking us those telling questions that eventually bring the truth out about our singleness and childlessness. There is nothing external that gives us away. We are all shapes and a sizes. We are all of different races, cultures and religious backgrounds. Nobody will ever know unless they ask.

But what happens when people do find out that we are single and have no kids especially when we are “older” women? What is swirling around in the heads of the curious. And curious they are. There is no doubt in my mind that questions arise in the minds of those who have been trained to believe that in order to live a full life one must get married and have children.

But, I must say that living in an urban environment like the San Francisco Bay Area, that there seems to be a lot more understanding of career-women, many of whom have chosen to be single, childfree and focused on their careers. I, for one, have enjoyed giving “birth” to so many other things that don’t require diaper changing and constant worry about how well it is doing in school, like creating my artwork, creating entrepreneurial ventures and producing a new event and even creating this seedling of a social movement. The process around creating something and nurturing something doesn’t necessarily have to include a uterus.

I am thankful that women have forged their way in industrialized societies over the centuries and look forward to the day when we can all truly be proud to be SWaNKs and confident that when others learn that we are single and without children that we are not being judged or silently criticized. My hope is that one day all lifestyles can be celebrated.

What? Me…Selfish?

How often is it suggested that SWaNKs are selfish people? My guess would be – often. I believe that those who have chosen not to have children are frequently thought of as selfish human beings for not doing so. But, selfish people exist in all of society whether they are single, married, with children or without. So why are childless people the target of such ignorant, broad labeling? Is it jealousy over the amount of freedom that we have and that others so desire? Is it because we made a choice that others felt wasn’t a choice for them?

I can think of many different and selfish reasons why people DO have children. Here are some of them.

Because I want to have grandchildren one day.

Because it would be fun or interesting to see what the child would look like when our gene pools are mixed.

Because I want to play house – for real.

Because having a child would mean that our family name would live on.

Because it would make my life more meaningful.

Because it would make me feel wanted and needed.

Because I want to have a little version of myself around.

Because someone will need to take over the family business.

Because I want to be loved unconditionally by someone.

Now, who are we calling selfish?

I have an aunt who is a SWaNK. She is one of the most thoughtful, giving and self-LESS human beings that I have ever known. Yet, I imagine that she is also looked upon as being selfish for not having kids. I know of many other childless men and women who are thoughtful and giving people and who care for other humans as much as they care for themselves. And because they have chosen not to have kids, they too are labeled as selfish.

Are we seen as selfish because we put our own needs and desires before those of an unborn child? Perhaps we’ve put more thought into the consequences of bringing a child into the world who might not receive the love or dedication that they deserve because we are aware of our own limitations and lack the commitment and interest that is required to be a good parent. In this case, we’re actually doing an unborn child a favor by recognizing that we would not be able to nurture them the way that they need to be. Personally, I know deep down inside that I make a great auntie or “big sister” to children, but that I could never be a great parent because I lack the passion for it that I feel is necessary to do it well, as well as the financial means to raise a child.

So, doesn’t it make more sense to leave the parenting role up to those who embrace it, love it, are interested in it and are able to rise to the challenge? Not everyone is good at mechanics or cooking or creating art, so who how can it be expected that every woman will be a good mother and every man will be a good father. I’m sure every single one of you knows someone who is a horrible mother or horrible father. It might even be your own. Some people just have no business having children. So, it’s better to recognize your capabilities as a parent before having a child because an unwanted or unloved child is a tragedy for them and so many other people involved in that child’s life. And that brings us to the subject of adoption, which is a whole other subject. Thank goodness for those who adopt.

Always a Bridesmaid and Never a Bride and That’s Just Fine with Me.

Happily ever after, hmmmmmmm. With the rate of divorce increasingly on the rise and hovering around the 50% mark, you have to wonder if marriage is really the answer for modern day humans in relationships.

Just for fun, I thought I’d sit back and recall the number of times “Always a bridesmaid and never a bride” applied to me. I was a bridesmaid for one girlfriend, two of my female cousin’s and a flower girl for another female cousin many, many years ago. I’ll count the flower girl gig as the first time I was a bridesmaid since the role is very similar in this context as it relates to this little story. The memories of being a bridesmaid are somewhat faded as they all happened so many years ago. However, amidst the blur, I do recall asking myself if “this was for me”. As in “Is marriage for me?” not as in, “Is dressing up in taffeta and having my hair in a BUN what I want in my life?” And I can’t recall ever thinking or feeling that it was something that I wanted to have in my own life. At least the pomp and circumstance part of “getting married”. That was never of great interest to me. I guess I’ve always been just too practical.

I’ve never really expressed my disinterest in a wedding, or marriage for that matter, to any of my extended family members.  I believe many members of my extended family might assume that I am somehow dissatisfied on some level with my life because I’m not married. Or that they feel sorry for me because I’m not married yet at the age of forty-eight. My immediate family, however is very clear that I don’t intend on marrying and since I am past the child-bearing age, the assumption that I won’t have kids is very clear in their minds.

I have considered marriage briefly in the past, but those thoughts were fairly loose and fleeting. The kind of thoughts that don’t quite take a grip on you and slither away into the ethers easily. At this point in my life, it’s about the level of commitment that two people have for one another. The marriage part is not important to me. It’s the love that is important. I don’t need a man or woman to “take care of me” financially at least, even when life throws financial challenges my way. And I don’t need a to be married to anyone to feel fulfilled or loved in relationships.

I’m just happy to have had and to have wonderful loving relationships in my life. Each relationship enriching my life and contributing to the ups and downs that life is made up of.

I am perfectly happy being a bridesmaid and never a bride. Oh, wait a minute did I just say that I’d be happy being a bridesmaid again? Oops! Well okay, as long as I don’t have to wear taffeta, high-heels, and my hair in a BUN! Now, what’s up with that? Why does wearing your hair in a bun make your hair-do more formal? See… I really have no business walking (slowly) down any aisle as a bridesmaid or a bride. Maybe running down an aisle away from everyone would be more appropriate for me?

Enjoying Other People’s Children

Yes, I like and love children! Even though I’ve chosen not to have kids of my own, I enjoy having kids in my life. My nieces and nephews, my boyfriend’s daughter, my Hawaiian “little sister”, the neighbors’ kids, my friends’ kids, and many other children are a joy to be around. I sit back and admire how some of the parent’s are able to cope with the kids and the constant energy that children seem to give off. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m happy that they do because a world without children would be a world without a future. Here’s to other people’s children.

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