Friday, June 29, 2012

Perfectly Normal

I was on my Facebook page the other day, and I saw something that I see all too often: a 20-something-year-old's post about finding her Prince Charming.  This also comes in the form of comments like: I need a man, I need a date, Where is he?,  and so on.  When I was in my 20's, I'll admit I thought the same things.  It's difficult not to.  From an early age girls see images of what is "normal" in Western culture, and as we get older, the images often do not change, even though the opportunities for women certainly have.

Just a FEW of many examples:




Don't get me wrong...I love Disney and Pixar films.  I still laugh at Charlotte and watch Sex and the City reruns.  And yes, I teared up when Jerry interrupted the divorced women's group meeting.  

But here's the problem:  Women are not only taught that if we do not find our Prince Charming, the world will come to an end, and if we do, in the form of Tom Cruise, he will complete our very being...but we buy into this unattainable ideal.  This becomes the new reality.  So what happens if you don't live up to these constructed expectations? 

Here's the shocking truth...continue to breath normally and brace yourselves:

I'm fast approaching 40.  I've never been engaged or married.  I have no children.  I received my Ph.D. in 2007 and have been happily employed as an Instructor at a private university for the past five years.  I have been in public places and asked the following questions:

Are you a lesbian?
Have you given up on getting married?
A woman got her Ph.D.?
Don't you want kids?  You better hurry.

You may be surprised (or not) by some of these, but this has become a normal routine for me.  And you know what?  The only thing about it that really and truly bothers me is that this is 2012, and it is still seen as something out of the norm.  I could sit there and give my story about how when my friends were getting married, I was dealing with the death of my father.  I could say that during my late 20's and early 30's I was focusing on my career so I could support myself.  I could explain that I chose the wrong men as a result of some violent behaviors I witnessed when I was younger.  But then I'm giving excuses for something I shouldn't have to.  I'm giving in to justifying why I'm at the place that I am (and even hesitated writing those previous sentences).

So what's the point?  The point is that this place is amazing.  I have a job I love and a house in a great neighborhood near an old high school friend.  I've traveled the world, I've published a book of poems, and I've written a play (still working on getting the whole piece staged, but one thing at a time).  And in this space, I did meet someone.  But he doesn't "complete me."  He enhances the woman I've become.  He loves and respects me for who I am...and he listens to me talk about issues such as these and grins.  (And if we do tie the knot, I'll be in a much better place for that than when I was 20 years ago).

But most importantly, I've come into my own.

My reason for writing all of this is that I want younger women to know that it's okay to be single by the time you're 40.  It's okay not to have children.  Sometimes life leads us down different paths, but that does not mean that it should be seen as something "abnormal."  Will it feel like you are the only one in that position sometimes?  Sure.  But I'm here to tell you from experience that you're not.  

So, pop in your fairy tales, watch Sex and the City reruns, or curl up with Bridget Jones' Diary with some popcorn.  But when you're done, don't forget that these stories aren't the reality.  Your life is the reality.  Make the best of it.


  1. I get those same questions even as a 32-year-old guy, so I can't imagine the pressure you've faced. But yours is the healthiest outlook on both singlehood and relationships as I've ever seen.

    I wish more people understood that life is about living, not about connecting the dots and certainly not about finding someone to "complete" you. Many say the divorce rate is so high for whatever reason, be it moral collapse or generational decay - but in reality, how many couples get married due to a sense of social obligation? Because "it's what people do?" And the have kids for the same reason.

    I respect anyone who makes life decisions based on what they truly want, whether or not that means marriage and kids. Those are the most interesting people, which includes you.

  2. I'm fist-pumping the air right now. Woohoo!

  3. Ian, thank you for saying that. I certainly have my days that I struggle to hang on to the positive outlook of it all! I've just grown tired of seeing all of the negatives about getting older/being single (i.e. the old maid, the cat lady, etc.) I do know people who have gotten married and/or had kids b/c they were expected to...and it certainly is sad to see that happen. I'm glad that I learned more about life and who I am before parenting children. I wish more people did; I'll say it...I don't think everyone is cut out to parent.

    Kelli, pump away! :)