Ridiculous cost of being single
Last week I decided to give myself a treat. I did my hair, applied my make-up, put on a cute outfit, and ventured out in to the city to have a very hot date - with myself.
My first stop was a chic restaurant, a Melbourne institution known for delicious food, hot coffee, and crisp wines. I politely requested a table for one, but the maître d' looked at me as though I'd requested space on the dining floor for my pet antelope.
"We can maybe seat you here," he said, gesturing to the far wall where an end table sat, laden with a huge vase of dried flowers. "But there'll be a wait of at least twenty minutes."
"What about one of those seats?" I asked, pointing to the numerous empty chairs lining the bar.
"Oh," he smiled apologetically. "We're saving those for groups."
I declined the offer of the end table and walked down the road, to a cute cocktail bar that had recently opened.
In the doorway, I was greeted by a staff member who saw me standing there - totally alone - and chirped, "Hello there! Just the two of you tonight?"
I stayed for one drink, but my heart wasn't in it. I made my way home and scrubbed off my make-up in front of the mirror before pouring myself a glass of wine and retreating to the couch.
I like to dine alone - I love it, in fact - but this wasn't the first time I'd been treated with confusion or disdain for daring to show up at a restaurant solo.
There was the waiter who offered to bring me a stack of magazines when I was really just trying to enjoy a seaside view, and the bartender who asked me, "Wow, are you okay?" when I said I'd be drinking alone that night.
Then there was the time a restaurant host grabbed me firmly by the shoulders and declared, "Don't worry, we'll find you someone to sit with!" when I requested a table for one. Sometimes, going out alone feels like less of a celebration of my own singledom and more an annoying reminder that I'm not just alone at the table, I'm alone in life, as well.
Later that week I met a friend for dinner. As we were a pair, we were seated immediately, but he agreed with me that times were tough for those daring to venture out on their own. "And it's not just restaurants," he noted. "It's everything - it's the Single Tax."
The Single Tax: The cost of not being in a romantic relationship.
Sometimes it's hidden and sometimes it's staring you right in the face.
Solo travellers often end up paying a "single supplement" when booking a travel package. while the trip might total $1,500 per person for a couple, a single could be expected to pay $2,000 to cover the cost of using facilities that are ordinarily designed for two.
Meal delivery services, the kind that send you perfectly-portioned ingredients accompanied by recipe cards, offer boxes designed for two or four, but rarely one.
Even cinemas and events offer "buy one, get one free" ticket deals, or cheaper family passes, which great for a couple but pointless for someone solo. The list goes on.
As a single, there's no one for me to split everyday expenses with, like rent, bills, and even good old Netflix. I'm not necessarily being charged more, but there's more money coming out of my pocket for having no-one with whom to share costs.
And in case you think that these are all millennial problems, on par with whining about the cost of my morning smashed avo, hold your horses - it gets worse.
Landlords and rental agents have been known to prefer renting to couples over singles, which may not be too big of a deal for a child-free twenty-something student, but could be disastrous for a single parent urgently looking for accommodation.
Married and de facto couples can access tax, superannuation, and health insurance benefits unavailable to singles, and if you want to get really morbid, it's often more affordable to pre-purchase a burial plot for two rather than for one.
Single and paying for it - even in the afterlife.
There are a lot of benefits to getting married or being part of a couple, and the financial factor is just a small part of it.
Finding someone you truly love and making the commitment to spend the rest of your life with them is wonderful, I'm sure, but those of us in no hurry to couple up shouldn't be penalised. Personally, I think we should be celebrated, rewarded, even.
I mean, when you think about it, I'm actually saving my friends money by being single. Every year that passes without me getting married is another year that the people close to me don't have to buy me a wedding gift, or shell out big bucks on a new outfit to wear to the ceremony.
Nobody will be getting an invite to an engagement party or a baby shower from me any time soon.
On group trips away, I can easily share a room with a couple or another single, and I'll never respond to an invitation to one with an RSVP for two.
There are also the social benefits of being single. I can do what I want, when I want, without needing to check in with my spouse beforehand.
I won't show up to a girls' night out dragging a petulant boyfriend behind me, and I'll never be one of those people trying on clothes for hours in a shop while my partner snoozes in a chair in the corner.
For all this, I think I'm entitled to a thank you from my coupled friends.
Even better, they can buy me a drink. They'll spot me easily, after all. I'll be sitting in the bar - at a table for one.
Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker. Continue the conversation @kateiselin