I just read an article
in which Lori Gottlieb, a woman in her 40's, argues that her expectations in her 20's and 30's were unrealistically high and she should have just married one of those guys who were good enough. I took issue with this article for a number of reasons. For one thing, people have been telling me for 10 years that my standards were too high, when really I'm just not interested in dating for the sake of dating. I'd like to get married someday but not enough to make the search a priority in my life. Plus, I'm sick of articles that assume single women are all living the Sex and the City life. I'm not dumping dozens of guys for dumb reasons! And some of the things that are important to me (would he be a good father? could we run a household together?) are the things she says we should "settle for."
At one point, she says that most of her single friends complain that they never see their spouses, so her conclusion is that we may as well just pick a guy who will help around the house, because we won't see him much anyway. If you ask me, that's more depressing than being single for the rest of my life! I know that marriage is full of stretches where it is difficult to stay connected or even spend time together, but why start out expecting that to be the norm? And what happens when you're kids are grown?
For the record, while life-long singleness is not my first choice, I really believe that I can be content if it works out that way. Now I'm sure Ms. Gottlieb would say, "You say that at 26, but wait until you're 46." And sure, what do I know? I'm in the age bracket where she was apparently throwing away scores of suitable men. But my relationship status has been set to single for the last 5 1/2 years. And when I say that I mean haven't been on a date, haven't kissed anyone, single single single. I know. Shock. But guess what... I'm still alive. (It really hasn't been that bad!) And in that time I have figured a few things out about how to be content and live the life I want. Would I like to be in a relationship at some point in the foreseeable future? Yes please. But in the meantime, I have (almost) gotten a master's degree, traveled to Africa and Europe and Asia (And Canada, Alaska and Hawaii), tried my hand at youth ministry, developed a wonderful network of friends, learned to knit, spent vacations with my extended family, discerned a clear idea of where God is leading me in life, and found a role that I love within the Pecometh community.
One of the things that annoys me about the whole idea that we should focus on getting married is this: Even if a woman does get married, she stands a good chance of being divorced or widowed. So instead, why not encourage single people to develop better support networks so that whether they are married or single, they are emotionally fulfilled? When I get home late at night and climb into bed alone, I know that I can call Pam and she'll probably understand my problems better than any guy anyway. I have great friends, lots of family nearby, and a fabulously supportive church family. I have been particularly blessed in this area, but I also intentionally started looking to my friends and family to fill some of the voids in my life.
I say all of this partly because of the many conversations I've had with my single friends about the fact that some of our friends are getting married and having kids, and I know that there are a million voices emphasizing the importance, desirability and strategy of finding a spouse. I wanted to be one more voice urging my friends to love their lives - married or not. It's not always easy, and sometimes being single is lonely. But marriage is lonely sometimes too. And I can think of several women I know who are in their 40's and 50's, and are single and content. Some of them have even have kids. There would be challenges certainly, but I could think of worse ways to live!
But anyway, with Valentine's Day looming nearer, would I like to get a non-platonic valentine for once? Well I certainly wouldn't mind it. But either way I have a fantastic date planned with two of my fabulous single friends, who I haven't seen in awhile. We are three independent, opinionated, slightly traditional but moderately feminist, intelligent, spiritual, fun-loving, occasionally artsy-fartsy, sometimes irreverent, often sarcastic but generally kind women who would make excellent wives and mothers if I do say so myself (and we are available in Catholic, Protestant and Jewish varieties). Why wouldn't men be clambering to marry us? I certainly haven't given up hope for us, and I am also very proud of the fact that we are pursuing worthy goals and making space in our lives for new opportunities and blessings (you are, M and B!). It may be a little selfish, and I may regret it someday, but right now I love the way my life is unfolding so much that I just can't be bothered to go running in all directions looking for a husband.
Labels: 20-somethings, dating