The Yenta Factor

It appears that all documents requiring personal information such as address, phone number, and email also inquire about the applicant’s marital status. Why on earth is that information relevant? And the questions do not merely seek to know whether or not the applicant is married. It is deemed essential to determine how the relationship disintegrated. I call this the Yenta Factor. Merriam-Webster defines a yenta as “one that meddles.” While modern day HIPAA laws prevent gossipmongers from blabbing, non-medical forms don’t guarantee such protection.

As a rule, the applicant is required to choose from a multiple choice list:

1.  Single
2.  Married
3.  Widowed
4.  Separated
5.  Divorced
6.  Cohabiting with a significant other
6a. Is your partner the same or opposite sex?

Except where the form is completed for a therapy evaluation or taxes, one's relationship status is irrelevant to the services or products sought. Furthermore, how is sexual orientation relevant? In the event an applicant's relationship status is truly necessary in determining whether to provide services, “Single” or “In a Relationship” should suffice.

My romantic life is really none of anyone's business. If I decide to commit to someone, but not conform to the institution of marriage, does that really affect my need for allergy medication? I completely understand and agree with the need for emergency contact information, but the legalities surrounding that relationship are simply not pertinent. Forcing those of us who are miserably slogging through marital demise to define our relationships is invasive. It makes me cringe to let the DMV clerk know that I'm separated, especially since my ex-husband’s family has lived in our small town for over a century. Sometimes, I’m asked how the divorce process is going! I resent feeling pressured to discuss my personal heartbreak and anxiety with a nosy stranger. It’s quite likely the mundane errand I’m on is my only reprieve from my familial stress. Unwarranted prying has reduced me to tears in front of my children. 

What if my relationship status changes after I started that golf clinic? Am I obligated to let Bonnie the receptionist know that my boyfriend moved out, but I’m dating again? Clearly, the Yenta Factor serves no essential purpose and should be eliminated from all but the rarest of documents. Until then, I’ll just leave that section blank.

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