There are some questions that keep coming up as I think about the role of family among singles with no children. Who are the important people in the lives of those singles? Who counts as family, and does it matter what we call those people?

Wendy, an astute observer of singlism, recently sent me a significant example of a way in which these issues play out in our lives. Wendy was in a frightening accident. She called a friend (also single) before she was taken to a trauma center, and just before her cell phone stopped working. When it was time to leave the ER, she wanted to call that friend again. That’s when she was told that ER patients cannot make phone calls for rides home from the trauma center except to immediate family members. Wendy’s parents are her immediate family members, and they live thousands of miles away. So her friend, who wanted to be with her but didn’t know where to go, patiently went from hospital to hospital until she found Wendy and drove her home.

I don’t know whether this immediate-family stipulation is specific to the part of the country where Wendy lives. Does anyone else?