Business travel at a fraction of the cost.
When the French boutique airline, lacompagnie.com, which operates flights between New York, London and Paris, launched, they gave you just two options to register and book on their site: Mr. or Mrs. I like to think that my much-publicized outrage was instrumental in their finally adding Ms.
As a single woman, I have always refused to tick the “Miss” box on any application form, for one simple reason: no man is ever asked to tick “Master” or “Mister” ie a man is never asked to declare whether he is married or not. While many may sneer at “Ms”, it is, to me, entirely correct. The only reason women were ever required to declare their marital status was because, as singles, they were deemed unable to have the resources to pay their bills: having a man as an appendage made a woman reliable (allegedly. They’ll learn).
I had this argument with British Telecom some years back, when they asked if I was a Miss or a Mrs. I refused to tell them and questioned whether men were required to say if they were single or married. Of course, they were not.
La Compagnie also offers special deals, yet seems to favor ones “for two”. I have no partner, I travel alone, yet always find myself excluded from the things I enjoy the most. I can’t, for example, have the Chateaubriand or the paella “for two” in a restaurant. I once ordered the latter and said I would pay the full price but was refused on the grounds that it would be “too much for one person.” No amount of my arguing that I would just leave half of it would persuade the waiter to help me part with my money. I very much doubt they would have treated a man with the same gastronomic contempt. I ended up with a pork chop. For one.
Single women are still perceived as weirdos when out alone or, at best, second class citizens. In San Francisco once, I was pointed to a really nice table in the middle of the restaurant, only to be bumped when the Maître D’ spotted a couple behind me in the queue. She then told me I could sit at the bar or outside. The bar was overcrowded; the outside seat had a great view of Alcatraz (possibly the only time anyone has wanted to escape to the prison). I left without eating and phoned to make a complaint.
“We really don’t treat women like that,” said the manager. “You just did,” I pointed out, adding that the couple who took my table probably had a green salad between them and a jug of tap water. I would have had champagne, wine, three courses, and probably still been in there when dinnertime came around, to begin the routine all over again.
It is hard enough being single in a world where travel companies continue to charge single supplements, tax breaks benefit couples, and society as a whole celebrates and fawns over marriage, without having to deal with the anti-singles frustrations socially. I happen to be a big fan of marriage: I come from a very stable background and am lucky enough to have had a loving mother and father who could not have been better parents. It just hasn’t worked out that way for me. I’m not bitter about it; I don’t really think about it, unless I am asked. I have a wonderful family, incredible friends and, for all its obstacles, a better life than most people in the world. I am truly blessed.
But I still get treated like a social leper as a single woman – and particularly as an older one. Most married couples don’t include you at their social functions unless they have a recently divorced/largely unmarketable/psycho man in their circle that they might be able to palm off on you. Then there are the practical difficulties to deal with when you are out. If you have to go to the toilet when you are in a restaurant, you have limited choices: leave your stuff at the table and return to find it removed by a waiter who thinks you have done a runner, or have it stolen by a passer-by.
The third option – asking the people at the next table to keep an eye on your things – attracts the kind of looks you might get had you handed them a rifle and asked them to commit armed robbery in your absence.
It’s not as if I haven’t tried to meet someone who will split the Chateaubriand with me, but it hasn’t gone well. I once attended a gathering of singles, where a French hobbit grappled with my friend’s right breast in what appeared to be an attempt to secure her stick-on name badge. He was 103, if he was a day. Next, a walrus appeared at my side, claiming to be a criminal psychologist. The walrus was also in the early stages of dementia, because he asked me my name five times.
There was also an attempt to entertain us by a ‘close-up magician’, who tried to hypnotize us with non-existent snake oil. We had to imagine our hands were glued together with said oil and then try to pull them apart, the premise being that we wouldn’t be able to. Er, we could.
The truth is, that if a man is single, there is something wrong with him (all the good ones really are taken); but if a woman is single, the chances are that she has had the good sense and guts to ditch the men who have that something wrong with them. That’s not to say there aren’t strange women out there (heck, I know some guys who would categorize me as that) but, for the most part, there are far more bright, sharp, funny women on the market than there are men.
If a man is free, trust me, there’s something wrong with him, and unless you act fast to secure Windows 2022 about now (you have to look out for those inevitable Christmas break-ups), you’re going to miss out on the good guys next time around, too.
So, as I sit contemplating my Chateaubriand and paella free lifestyle and dreaming about a day when travel might become the norm again, I’m going to suggest to you, Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur and enabler, that you get behind my campaign to get great deals for single women. I can’t think of anyone better to have on our side, and all it needs now is for me to sign off.
Yours, hopefully, Jaci Stephen (Ms).