Sadly, I live in a culture where I am judged by my marital status. You may not think that’s true in modern society where lack of families is somewhat mourned, but it’s true. Yes, I’d love to have my own children and family, but things haven’t worked out that way for me. Instead, I’m single, successful in my chosen career and, as I recently realized, HAPPY. I did not reach this conclusion easily, since I’m constantly reminded that because I am not married with 3.4 kids, I have somehow failed in my life as a woman.
The event that re-enforced this happened at a housewarming party. Showing up a little late, I quickly realized that of forty or so people present, I was one of two, maybe three, guests present of legal age and single and without kids present. Oddly enough, I don’t feel out of place in these situations. I’ve been there, done that, so many times now I don’t even notice.
Throughout the evening I listened to friends talk about pregnancies, child-rearing philosophies, educational opportunities for their preschoolers and other family-related topics. I listened to others talk about their part-time working experiences while managing households, husbands and school-aged children. I held any baby near me that wanted to be held, fixed hair bows, wiped hands and faces and liberally handed pieces of fruit out to the kids. I chatted with friends’ husbands about work situations, their children and recent housing renovations since the last time I’d seen them. The conversation that stuck out the most however, was the one with a complete stranger.
At one point, I was feeding a friend’s toddler banana slices and listening to two women I didn’t know talk. One leaned over asked if the baby was mine. I said no, pointed out the nearest parent and let the toddler wander off to play with a toy. Then she asked THE QUESTION. “Are you married?”
So once again I braced myself and answer politely, “No.”
No matter how I phrase it, the response is usually along the same lines in these types of situations. I’m automatically treated differently, as if I’m less than a person. Never mind I have successfully graduated with 2 degrees and honors, reinvent my career in the last few years, am paying my own debts and I’m a tax-paying member of society. The response may vary in delivery, but the results are always the same. Sometimes I’m ignored or avoided. Or the moment is brushed under the rug and I’m told, “Don’t worry, you will one day,” and still ignored. Or there’s an awkward pause and subjects are less-than-tactfully altered or resumed. Or I’m told how wonderful their own marriage is and it’s the most amazing thing, as if I hate the concept of marriage (I don’t). Some people I know at this point just ignored my singleness and try not to bring it up altogether, so as not to offend me, I think, but that’s just as rude as the rest. I’ve ran in to so many different responses my head spins when I think about them all.
Instead, one of the women leaned closer and without genuine interest and no sarcasm/false sympathy said, “Cool! It’s so much fun to be over 30 and single, don’t you think? Such a happy time!” She just threw the subject out on the rug for all to see like a dead animal on the highway and pointed it out to the crowds.
It was the most beautiful thing EVER. Either that or an eyelash fell in my eye, because my eyes instantly watered. What followed was one of the weirdest conversations of my life regarding being single and happy- with a complete stranger. (I never did catch her name…) I’d never been treated with such respect before. Most people miss that even though I am single, I CAN be happy about my life. And I AM happy!
As I was leaving, a friend walked up and hugged me and told me thank you. She’d been listening to my conversation from another corner, she said. She’d been having her own personal problems, and was grateful to hear me talk honestly about how I approached life. My attitude, she said, was something she’d need to adopt to help her in her own problems. It doesn’t matter how people view you or your accomplishments, all that matters are that you are happy and hope that the future will bring your more happiness.
From now on, I am going to be happy no matter what happens in my personal life. Because hey, it’s MY life! And I am happy with myself and my accomplishments! And yes, I’m single AND happy!