I come across the following question on forms all the time:
____ Single ____ Married ____ Separated ____ Divorced ____ Widowed ____ Other
And it really, really bugs me. I've always felt this question overstepped its boundaries. But since getting a divorce, it has gone from feeling like a lower grade "stranger sitting next to me on a plane sneaking peeks at my laptop screen" type of annoyance, to a "stranger asking me about my sex life" type of offense.
It's not that I'm embarrassed of my marital status, but I am averse to nosy questions. Unless I'm either signing up for a dating website or the person posing the question is considering asking me out, I can't see how my relationship status is relevant. (And if it's the latter, the fact that the person would actually ask this question on a form means I would never go out with him, anyway. So, no need to ask--there's your answer right there.)
Seriously, does the desk clerk at the gym really need to know that its newest member is separated from her husband? And does the massage therapist who's working out the tension in MeeMaw's shoulders really need to know that Pawpaw passed away?
And truthfully, even if I wanted to answer the question, I'm not sure what they're after, anyway. Am I supposed check all of the answers that apply to me? I consider myself more single than divorced; but technically, I'm both. And since I'm in a committed, long-term relationship, "other" applies, too. That means checking all six answers would be closer to accurate than checking only one.
If I am supposed to check only one, how do I choose? Is it a matter of picking the one that I feel most defines me the day I'm filling out the form? After all, if I'm hit with the question right after learning that an ex of mine is getting married, I might check "divorced." But if I'm confronted with this question the day I signed up for OkCupid, perhaps I'd check "single." Then again, if I'm answering it after my boyfriend moved in, I'd likely gravitate toward "other." Is that what they want?
People who defend this question point out that for medical professionals, marital status can be relevant when it comes to emergency situations; and for creditors, marital status is relevant because of community property laws. But if you're a lender trying to decide whether to give me a loan, you're going to order a credit report on me, anyway, and that will tell you whether I'm married or not. Asking on the form is redundant--especially considering that if there's a discrepancy between what I tell you and what my credit report says, you're going to go with what the credit report says, anyway.
Even in those rare instances where marital status is arguably relevant, the question should be limited to this:
Are you married? ____ Yes ____ No.
The five other options constitute a complete overreach.
If you're like me and you also find this question irritating, I have an idea. Rather than letting this get to us, let's have some fun, instead. When you come across a form with this question, write the following question for them in the margin:
Check which of the following applies to you:
_____ Raised poorly _____ Oversized balls _____ Socially awkward _____ Interested in asking you out _____ Lack ability to judge whether a question is appropriate or not _____ Other _____ All of the above
Then tell the receptionist that you will decide whether you'll answer the marital status question just as soon as you get an answer to why they are asking you such a nosy question to begin with. If you're short on space or don't have time for all of that, leave the marital status question blank, and write this underneath it:
Nosy question-averse? ____ Yes ____ No
Then check yes.