The year is 2018, but for some reason I still feel as if I’m trapped in 1918. I am a woman working three jobs and pursuing my master’s degree on a track towards my Ph.D.; and yet for my family, somehow that still isn’t good enough. When I go home I am hit with a barrage of questions:
“When are you going to stop and settle down? Men don’t like it if you are too smart, you know.”
“You are not going to be able to have children forever you know, the clock is ticking!”
“Aren’t you dating? I know some really nice boys your age who would be perfect and could take care of you.”
Regardless of intention, regardless of whether they believe these things are what is best for me, it makes it incredibly difficult to have a strong connection with my family when it feels as if they don’t understand me at all. These questions and ones like them go on and on, as if to say that the only way to be accepted as having any semblance of self worth is through finding a husband and having child and not due to my own personal successes and merits. Though this is not everyone I meet and/or know, it is getting more and more difficult as I attempt to express why marriage is not in my five or ten year plans regardless of “the age I am.”
Why the expectations hurt.
Every time I am met with someone who questions why I am choosing to put myself and happiness before getting married, I feel as if I am deflating. Like someone took all the wind out of my sails; immediately making anything that I am proud of myself for accomplishing on my own completely and utterly worthless.
Why the excuses aren’t mine
I have never once made an excuse for why I am not looking to get married anytime soon; yet those excuses still fly around my head as they are thrown by those close and far from me.
“You can’t let the fact that your parents are divorced deter you from seeking out marriage. That’s just childish”
“Everyone has trust issues, that is not a reason to be alone.”
“Please don’t tell me the reason you aren’t dating is because you aren’t straight”
“You say you are happy, but I can tell you are incredibly sad and lonely.”
All of these blatantly untrue; at least in some part. Firstly, I am worried about getting divorced myself if I do get married, but my parents’ divorce isn’t the only reason. Have y’all seen the current divorce rates - anyone would be scared by those numbers. Second, how can I say I don’t trust someone I don’t know. And if I do have that much distrust in the world, I certainly wouldn’t limit that fear down gender lines. Next, this one hurt the worst. Though I don’t choose to identify with sexuality labels, having someone yell that at me about a sexuality they aren’t aware of as an insult is one of the most painful things I have ever endured.
Finally, I am happy. Maybe not all the time, but I told myself a long time ago that until I can be happy on my own, I won’t be able to be happy with someone else. And besides, I’m just saying no to marriage, not to relationships.
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else, can I get an Amen?” Words made famous by the phenomenal RuPaul - probably the most famous drag queen on the planet - are the words I utilize anytime someone asks me about why I am currently working on myself and not on trying to find a partner.
As I wrote this piece, I spoke with friends of mind and I found that I was not the only one feeling the same kind of pressure and anger about feeling less than because I wasn’t focused solely on getting married. So now I’ve found a better way to voice what I want for my future. Yes, I want to be happy, but I also want to be fulfilled. By finishing my degree and potential doctoral work and then paving my own career path, I will be happy. And who knows, maybe I will meet someone along the way, but finding someone is not the end all be all of my finding happiness. And that is okay.