Amidst a culture that views dating and promiscuity as synonymous and marriage as everyone’s life goal, just how is a non-promiscuous, career and goal driven woman meant to fare?
Spinster. Old Maid. Crazy Cat Lady. The figurative female bogeyman. Every girl’s worst nightmare. Or is it?
It was according to Hart Ayrault in 1881 who said,
“Given a happy or desirable marriage is the goal of every woman’s life, if she fails in attaining it , she is looked upon, especially in the eyes of every other woman who is married, as having failed in the prime object of existence.”
Of course, we have progressed somewhat substantially since the 19th century but I still feel like this perception of unmarried single women exists in our modern world and there is this desperate hope amongst us that we won’t be the one who doesn’t find “the one”.
The atrocity that is ‘Married at first sight’ is proof of this fear.
But that’s a rant for another sleepless night…What I am hoping to eventually get to is the criticism of the heavy social expectations placed on both women and men to:
- Find someone. (“Are you seeing anyone?” “When are you going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend?” “Your clock is ticking you know!”)
- Get engaged. (“When are you going to make an honest woman of her?” “Well… you know what Beyonce said. If he liked it, he’d have put a ring on it already…” )
- Get Married. (“Have you set a date?” “Will you have babies straight away?” “Your clock is ticking you know.” )
- Have first baby. (“Will you try for another/ a girl/boy?” Aaaand all the other questions that go with pregnancy and parenting.)
- Have second baby. (See questions above.)
- Have adult children. (“When are the grandkids coming?”)
I think you get my point.
Our lifetimes are perceived by others to be on prescribed timelines etched with the same milestones. I, too, am totally guilty of asking these questions (maaaybe not the Beyonce one, tad rude, you know), despite being conscious of the socially constructed norms. It’s small talk. It’s taking an interest in someone else’s life because there are lots of amazing people who happily and genuinely believe true happiness and success is achieved through establishing a family.
My judgment lies upon the pressure created by these socially constructed norms.
I want to confidently say that while I do dream of a happy marriage and an everlasting love, they are only 2 of a plethora of life goals I have for myself. I don’t feel like I can do that with all the questions that come with Life Milestone #1 because by not finding someone within the timely manner, I’m letting *someone/something* down or I’m not “doing it right”.
Obviously, I’m also an over thinker. I constantly have too many mental tabs open. I’m learning to deal with that. Constantly, I am learning.
I have had 3 incredible long term relationships over the past decade and a bit and all of them, at the time, seemed to include the golden ticket to Marriage-ville – the ultimate life goal. Don’t stress, I’m context-building, this is not a pity party! I dated and loved 3 wonderful men however, for different and similar reasons, they were all “the wrong one”.
I have certainly learned things about myself (anybody else fixate on arrival times and feel an incessant need to be early to everything?) as well as what I want in a relationship (Me Jane, You Tarzan, I’ll clean if you mow the grass and kill all the cockroaches, ok? PS I’m a feminist so can you do your own washing and ironing? K, cool.)
I can’t help but wonder though if the goal to be married before I am considered too old A) contributed to the failure of those relationships and B) is actually something I want rather than just an overwhelming social expectation that may just not be on the cards for me.
Regardless, my lesson is that I have to put my big girl pants on and learn how to be prepared to live my life on my own, to be independent and make Destiny’s Child proud by buying my own diamonds and paying my own bills because, Ladies, it ain’t easy being independent!
In the meantime, I’ve managed to figuratively pour my thoughts onto paper and can hopefully ‘Swipe Up to close all’ (including the song which is now circling my brain!).