Today I am going to take a step away from literary things to comment and analyze society and it’s obsession with marriage and babies.
Back in the day, when a woman hit 30, all hope was lost. She was destined to be alone for the remainder of her days. Her womb was thought to be a veritable desert, her body devoid of estrogen and any hope of conception. She would be remembered as a spinster—nothing more or less. But still, she would be a failure at this game called life.
Even further back than that, if a woman was single past a certain age, women from other families would look down their noses at her and describe her as “queer” or “plain.” They would sympathize with her family for she was considered a “burden.” Think of Charlotte, Elizabeth Bennet’s poor friend who was 27 and unmarried. Or, to avoid being burdensome, a woman became the spinster caretaker for her beautiful and married—but quite unhappy—younger sister (Do you recognize that plot? It’s from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins).
But now, in the techno-glitzed forward-thinking 21st century, statistics say that women are getting married and having babies later. Science makes it possible for women everywhere to extend their fertile years. Thus, women have careers. They have hubbies (or partners) and babies too! And if it takes a while for her to “have it all”, that’s a-OK. Or so it seems…
I watch my friends get married and have babies. I witness their joys, their struggles and triumphs. Their lives continue to move forward and mine stays the same. I’ve been single now for almost 3 years. Of course, that’s partly due to my refusing to settle. I know that I’m happy in my life. And as I’ve said before, at this point, I am the happiest that I have ever been in my adult life. I have my freedom. I have my friends. I have my family.
“I refuse to be a woman defined
by her relationship status.”
And yet, I still find that I am haunted by this fear that I will always be alone—that I won’t find the right person and have little curly-haired blue-eyed babies. It’s a fear that sneaks up on me unexpectedly. I hate to admit that because I refuse to be a woman who is defined by her relationship status. But it’s true.
This fear is not characteristic of me. I was raised to be a strong and independent woman. Nevertheless, the fear exists. But I wonder if this fear is really my own or if it is merely inflicted by society. The world may say it’s okay to be nearing 30 and single. But society, represented by the people I seem to run across, tells me that my status is not acceptable. Many of the individuals I encounter on a daily basis don’t follow this same forward way of thinking. Society is both back-handed and confusing. But maybe it’s just a drawback to living in the Midwest.
I am suspicious that my fears are due to society because my moments of self-doubt never pop up on their own. They occur only when someone makes a remark or asks me about my lonely situation. It is then that I fret that my life is not going the “right” way.
To add another layer, I’m not sure if my fear grows from wanting to do things the “right” way or because I fear disappointing those who would judge me—I am a people pleaser at the core. And as a former target of teasing, I don’t really want to stand out in such a fashion.
Another reason my fear arises could be because I really want these things and because of the way the cliché story goes, I fear that I am nearing the end of my chance at what society, and therefore I too, must deem to be bliss. It’s a weird catch-22/rock-and-a-hard-place sort of thing. But again, this fear is incited by what society has said is good or right.
I find myself in this wedge more frequently than I would like to admit. I’m not even 30 yet (I still have a year and a half people!), but others consistently ask me if I’m in a relationship or married even though there is obviously no ring on my left hand. People tell me that they “want to play with babies” and leave that hint to waver uncomfortably in the air between us. I, of course, get flustered or angry and it goes on and on from there. On a rare occasion, a relative may say something. Those are the hardest and the ones that make me worry the most, I think.
“You don’t marry just so you can have a ring
on your finger and a baby on your hip.”
I know that these questions or remarks do not come from feelings of ill-will. But still, they have a way of finding their way through my “modern girl” exterior. Every so often I forget myself and my happiness and wonder if I’m doing something wrong or if I’m destined to be alone. It can take a while to find my stride again. Sometimes I find it on my own. At others, I need a little help balancing.
With society consistently cajoling me for my situation, it can be difficult to stay focused on what I want. I may be inching up on 29, but I refuse to settle. You don’t marry just so you can have a ring on your finger and a baby on your hip. Well, at least, I don’t. That will only foster unhappiness and divorce.
I could go on and list the qualities for which I’m looking. But, if you know me, you probably know what I want already. Sometimes people say I’m too picky. But I don’t think so. And, to be quite honest, if the person I’m looking for doesn’t exist, I think I’d rather just stay single. So, take that, society.