Column One:
Eye on Unmarried America

September 19, 2005


A week for singles but greeting cards can't be found

by Thomas F. Coleman
The United States Census Bureau issued a press release last week to remind the nation that September 18-24 is Unmarried and Single Americans Week.  According to the release, this is an opportunity to "celebrate single life and recognize singles and their contributions to society."

Throughout the year, the Census Bureau issues "facts for features" information on popular commemorative occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Grandparent's Day.  Some segments of the population get an entire week, such as Administrative Professionals Week (formerly known as National Secretaries Week) and National Nurses Week.

For the past three years, the Census Bureau has chosen to bring Singles Week, as some call it, to the attention of the American public.  In 2003 the Bureau released an audio announcement to radio stations nationwide.  Last year and this year it issued a press release.

With 87 million unmarried and single Americans now heading up half of the nation's households, it makes sense that our lives and our contributions to society should be acknowledged in some official way.  After all, African Americans have Black History Month, women have Women's History Month, and parents and grandparents have their day in the spotlight.  So why should single people be ignored?

Although Singles Week has been around for a long time -- having been created by a group in Ohio in 1982 -- it only started to gain visibility when the American Association for Single People began to promote it in 2001.  Then, when that group changed its name to Unmarried America the following year, the name of the occasion was changed to Unmarried and Single Americans Week to make it more inclusive.  Many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word "single" because they have long-term partners or are attached to another person in a romantic relationship.

Over the past few years, Unmarried America was successful in getting elected officials to issue proclamations declaring the third week of September as Unmarried and Single Americans Week in their jurisdictions.  Such proclamations have been issued by mayors, city councils, and governors in some 33 states.

But the real test of whether a commemorative occasion is going mainstream is not whether a governor recognizes the occasion with a proclamation, but whether people can buy a greeting card on a store shelf, or perhaps in the era of the Internet whether one can send an e-greeting appropriate to the situation.

Using this practical method of measurement for success, we can safely conclude that Singles Week has not caught on, at least not yet. 

Hallmark proclaims that people "who care enough to send the very best" should use their products.  Well, I wanted to give dozens of unmarried people a greeting card this year but could not find a Singles Week card on store shelves anywhere, Hallmark brand or otherwise.

So I had to design and produce my own greeting cards.  Although it was an interesting project, it was also very time consuming. 

Listen up Hallmark (and American Greetings too), you need to make this easier for folks like me who want to recognize this large population of 87 million single people by sending some of them a professionally designed card. Greeting card companies, florists, and restaurants have cashed in on occasions such as Secretaries Week, so why would they want to miss the boat on Singles Week?

There are a few companies providing online e-greetings for this commemorative week, but the pickings are rather slim for people looking for something appropriate.  It's obvious from just looking at the nature of these greetings that many would be better placed among romantic cards for Valentine's Day.

The e-card designers and Internet marketing professionals don't seem to understand that the purpose of these greetings should be relevant to the purpose of the occasion, namely, to "celebrate single life and recognize singles and their contributions to society."  So why create or market a greeting card as a Singles Week greeting when all it says is "Hey Baby, wanna date?"

In any event, I put 50 cards in the mail last Thursday, hoping that my single friends and acquaintances around the country would be pleasantly surprised by starting off the week with special recognition. 

I like the cards I designed this year and had fun doing it, but next year I'm hoping that Hallmark will do everyone a favor by creating a special line of cards for the third week of September.  After all, single people deserve "the very best" too.


Unmarried America 2005

Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.  Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried America. E-mail: Unmarried America is a nonprofit information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and voters.