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What comes to mind when you think about discrimination? Racial issues, alternate lifestyles, male vs. female? How about single?

As an independent woman, I have solely dined at restaurants, traveled, attended shows, movies, weddings and social functions. Although some people become single through divorce or the death of a spouse, it has always been my status. Having been active and extroverted all of my life, it never bothered me until I approached my 40th birthday and became sensitive to the issue. This was when I began encountering a lack of respect from people of all backgrounds.

Hotel personnel gave me strange looks, sighed deeply and mumbled. I must have come to rendezvous with someone, was one inference. The other was, "There must be something wrong with her."

When I ran into old friends I hadn't seen for awhile, they were stunned that I was not married. Reactions ranged from an old girlfriend inspecting my left hand and saying, "You never married?" or "How come someone as bubbly and outgoing as yourself is not married?"

"Not yet," I replied. "I still could get married." There is no limit on how old people can be when they marry.

My first recollection of rude treatment was at a restaurant. When I told the host, who was also the owner, "table for one," he raised his voice and said, "One, oh one" as he motioned to the full tables. "Well, I have all these people right now." Eventually I got my dinner, but I have not returned.

Double occupancy is what hotels base their rates on. Therefore, I have to pay a penalty for being alone. Does everything in life have to be a twosome? If I had waited to take a trip or see a movie until a friend could, it never would have happened. Friends have different lifestyles and schedules and at times it can be difficult to connect.

Utility companies call and ask for Mr. or Mrs., or worse yet "Is this the Mrs.?" My answer is, "No. This is the person who has the service and pays the bills. Will I suffice?"

For my old friends who are taken aback because I don't have a husband, I ask: How many of you do anything with your husband or are still married to the same one? I have been fortunate to have loved more than one man in my lifetime and am a romanticist at heart.

I live my life for myself and not vicariously. I took up ice skating at 40. I attend school and have goals. I country-line dance and exercise regularly. These interests keep me going.

While a part of me longs to be "Sadie, a married lady," a character referred to in the movie "Funny Girl," I also have learned that obtaining a Mrs. degree, the ultimate goal that every girl is raised to seek, does not guarantee happiness, success, sex or a built-in date.

If the union ends in divorce, it becomes a business transaction. Yet society pays credence to the divorced because they attempted to conform.

There is more to life than a marriage. If I can make a connection and bond for however long it may last, then I am better off because nothing lasts forever. If it did, there would be no growth.

To all doubles going about their daily routine, remember: Singles are human beings with feelings and emotions just as you and your significant other are. We are not anomalies. We are not square pegsin round holes. We are simply another dimension of diversity.

CINDY ANN SITTERLE lives in Cheektowaga.
For writer guidelines for columns appearing in this space, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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