Thursday, June 7, 2012

All the Single Ladies

This isn't me.
Recently, two articles I read in Glamour and Marie Claire really caught my attention.  Both of them talked about the growing number of women choosing to remain single... only 20% of 18-to-29-year-olds are married.  Compared to the days when being single at age 30 earned you the label of spinster, that's significant.  More and more young people are starting to believe marriage is an outdated institution.  Others are declaring a cultural war on marriage, saying that single moms and unmarried heathens will destroy society as we know it.

No matter which side you're on, it's hard to understand another person's perspective until you've been in their shoes.  A lot of our generation have observed parental divorce (or visibly unhappy marriages), in much larger numbers than our grandparents' generation.  These experiences have changed our outlook on what it means to be committed, happy, and legally bound in relationships.  Some millennials choose singledom because they don't feel the need to marry; it isn't necessary for their self-sufficiency or even happiness.  Others love it, and raise traditional, happy families.  Different strokes for different folks.

But what I do love is that the value of a woman is no longer tied to her being only a wife (unless you're Rush Limbaugh or Rick Santorum).  She can have a career or be a stay-at-home mom.  She can be married, single, divorced, or just complicated.  She can choose her identity, even if she chooses her main identity to be that of a devoted spouse.  There will be some scrutiny either way, but if she sticks to her guns, let the rest of them eat cake.

I don't know if I'll ever get married again.  Never say never.  But if I don't, it won't make me sad.  It won't make me feel inadequate.  I have a full life!  I love being devoted to my career, family, friends, and interests.  I plan to be a mother someday regardless of marital status (possibly via adoption).  I'd like to be committed to a partner who views me as an equal, a decision-maker in the relationship.  I seek a partner whom I consider to be my equal, who challenges me, who supports me, who doesn't feel threatened by me.  I will never change my name again.  I will never settle.  I want to maintain my own finances.  I do not want to be subservient or dependent.  I'm willing to make sacrifices, because those are sometimes necessary in a relationship, but not to extreme extents concerning my career and happiness.  (This sounds like the eHarmony profile from hell, huh?)

I'm 27, and it's hard for people to understand that I'm happy to be in a committed, monogamous relationship with my boyfriend Duke, with no plans for marriage whatsoever.  He fits everything I seek in a partner at this point.  We're realistic.  Many people think I need to settle down before I shrivel up or something, like I'm wasting my time.  "30" is just around the corner, and someone told me that 99% of my eggs will be dead and gone soon.  But that doesn't bug me.  I like where I am, and I know where I want to be.  I don't want to divorce again, so I like that I'm not legally bound.  I feel free to love, free to have choices, free to learn who I really am after years of doing what was expected of me.

I guess to sum it all up, I like to be free.  Whoever you want to be, just own it.  Okay?

Marie Claire, June 2012, "Love and the Single Girl: The Single Girl Revolution"
Glamour, May 2012, "After All of the Celebrity Divorces, Do You Still Have Faith in Marriage?"

P.S.  I was talking to a single-in-her-30s friend the other day, and she told me she wouldn't trade her current age to be younger again for anything... "I eat girls like that for breakfast!"  Like one of my favorite scenes in Fried Green Tomatoes, "Face it girls, I'm older and I have more insurance."  Life lessons come with time.

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