I never used to mind when asked my marital status.
For a while it was “single,” which was acceptable because I was younger than 23.
Then for a shorter while it was “married,” which was acceptable because I was in my early twenties.
Then things got tricky. The goddamn forms became accusatory. Or I became defensive.
Form: “Marital status?”
Me: “Who’s asking? And why do you need to know? It’s not like you’re the IRS or anything.”
Me: “It’s complicated, okay?” (invoking a popular choice on Facebook)
Form: “Invalid answer. Single, married, divorced, or widowed, please.”
Me: “I don’t fit into one of your boxes! Leave me alone!”
After several minutes of mentally shouting at a piece of paper, my pen hovering above my limited options, none of which were quite accurate, I’d mark “married,” because it was still technically true, even though I had been separated for some time and no longer wore a wedding band.
The form didn’t want to get into all that, apparently.
Now things are even more complicated. The papers are signed and filed, but nothing is final yet.
So today I had the pleasure of answering “divorced” for the first time. “Whatever,” I thought. “It’ll be that way soon enough.”
And then the doctor called me into his office and somehow felt inclined to ask the same questions as the goddamn form verbally, even though the answers were right there in front of him.
He pecked at the keys on his keyboard with three fingers and said, “Don’t make fun of my typing.” I said, “It’s okay; I’m sure there are other things you’re good at.” One would hope, anyway, since this is potentially the man who will insert a needle the size of Atlanta into my neck very near my spinal cord.
He inched his way through the questions as I sat there shaking with a sense of dread. “Height?” “5’6″.” “Weight?” “125.” “Birthdate?” “March 20, 1983.” “Medications you’re allergic to?” “Sulfa drugs.” “Marital status?”
I blushed furiously and looked at my hands, as if they would speak the answer for me like they so graciously did when the form was the one doing the asking. Couldn’t we work out some sort of sign-language system on the fly?
I always thought there was no difference between “single” and “divorced.” I mean, if the IRS doesn’t care, why would a doctor? Six of one, half a dozen of the other, right?
But now, having answered the question twice in one hour, I can say pretty confidently that there is a difference, and it’s the difference between “No one wants me” and “Someone wanted me once, but I fucked it up real good.”