You never wanted to get married or have children…? The tone inevitably rises at the end of the statement, turning it surreptitiously into a question, or more specifically, into an interrogation.
As a teenager, I was an early feminist. I knew I would want a somewhat unconventional relationship. I wanted someone in my life but knew I would need my space, and independence. My parents, after all, lived in different cities for as long as I could remember and remained married. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the long distance relationship was a means of keeping the appearance of marriage alive. Born in 1929 and not well educated, my mother was far less free to be a single and independent woman than I. When I came to understand that, I vowed to never be dependent on any man.
Being the youngest of my generation of siblings and cousins, I really didn’t know much about children. Whether I wanted or didn’t want children was a moot point: I was never able to have any. I say that to state my facts, not to cop out on the issue. Whether a woman wants or does not want children is her business. Being a stay-at-home mother is a choice she makes. Being a working mother is another choice. And, never having children is also her right. Feminists fought for choice. No particular choice makes her a better woman and childbirth is no miracle. The glorification of motherhood that has characterised our post feminist era strikes me as a seemingly benevolent backlash. In the workplace, it is the single person without outside responsibilities who becomes the work horse carrying the burden for those who must pick up children and leave the office on time. The implication is that the singleton’s mating and breeding choice is less valued.
Why did I never marry?
Once, I was young and in love and I probably would have married him – but he never asked me. We broke up before the question needed to be asked. When we graduated from Uni, he got accepted to medical school far away. Being at the top of my Business and Economics class, I was head hunted and I took a job even further away.
For all my accomplishments, our breakup broke my heart. And that is probably why it took so many years to fall in love again. Was it a choice to never marry? Certainly all those years after him were my choice. But that first time? I think I might have married him, if he had asked me. And, I am sure I would be unhappy and hopefully divorced, now, had I married him. One thing is for certain: I would not like the person I would have become, as his wife.
I am a well educated and outspoken woman. I am creative, sharp witted and when overweight, I am attractive. When I have been nearer my goal weight, I have been called stunning. It would take a special man not only to posses the energy I seek but to hold my interest and to possesses the confidence to be my match.
Marriage is not a goal for me. But I do have romantic fantasy.
I still have the same romantic fantasy I had as a young woman. I dreamed of a having piece of land with a vegetable garden, near flowing water, with some chickens, a husky, a small house no bigger than I needed but complete with a writing room, and a shed or studio separate from the house. I imagined a man in that picture who spent a lot of his time out in that shed or studio doing what he enjoyed. We both liked time alone and had our own friends, but we shared interests as well. We complemented one another. I have always imagined that he would be good with his hands and could make and build things. I am not. But, I enjoy cooking. The fact that he putters and I cook is not a conformity to gender roles but simply a choice, based on what we like to do. Indeed, the man who is suitable for me is one who matches my own energetic androgyny. If we were to adopt children, he would be the kind of man that makes a better mother than I.
We would come together when we had enough solitude, not as an escape from loneliness.
And yes, I still want that.
Setting aside whether, as a feminist and the daughter of a Doukhobor, I want to have a piece of paper confirming my relationship… I want more than a marriage: I want a soulmate. And that makes me no less a woman, no less independent and no less a feminist than any implied norm would dictate.
I am grateful for all those I have dated and for the two big loves in my life. I learned a lot about relationships and about myself in relationship. I am also grateful for the dry periods in my life. If I hadn’t had those dry spells, I would not have had the chance to understand and to work on myself. I am grateful for all my guides along that journey. I am grateful for my parents’ relationship with one another. It taught me what I did not want. I am even grateful for the three people in the past week who have asked me that same intrusive and subtly oppressive question. It has made me think.
I am joyful at the thought of that man in the shed/studio. I believe he is out there. I am, at heart, a romantic. And that makes me no less of a feminist than someone who is not a romantic by nature.
I am writing this today as a service to all single women over 30 who have been asked this question. There are so many reasons a person’s life is as it is. I know women whose fiancé was killed in a car crash, and those who were married and betrayed or abused. I know women who married other women. I know single moms, married moms, lesbian moms who co-parent with another women, gay men who co-parent, women married without children and I know women who never married or had children. They are all wonderful people I am proud to call my friends.
I feel a sense of Oneness with all the single women out there. Whether I wanted to marry and didn’t or whether I never wanted to marry and succeeded is really only my business. I am grateful for the suffragettes, the WACs and all the early feminists who made my lifestyle a possibility and removed the word “spinster” from our discussions, if not from the subtext.
Until we stop questioning a woman’s marital status and asking whether she has children, simply living my life in peace will apparently be a threatening act of defiance.
For what are you grateful, today?