“I may never get married,” I said. At 22, what seemed like a statement of fact to me brought a look of horror to the face of my friend’s mother.
“Don’t say that!” she said. From the alarm in her voice, it was clear she felt that I’d put a curse on my soul and announced to the room that I didn’t love myself. She reassured me that, yes, marriage was possible for me.
That conversation taught me that there are some topics you can’t discuss with everyone. As a woman, you’re supposed to want marriage and kids. And if you don’t, people are prone to try to convince you that you’ll change your mind or that you’re just saying what you’re saying because you’re single; once you meet the right person, you’ll get out the bridal magazines and get ready for those babies.
But almost a decade later, I’m still making the same statement I made to my friend’s mother at 22. It’s not that I’m anti-marriage; but on my long list of life goals, it’s not even on the list. If it happens, I’ll be happy. But if I never make it to the altar, I won’t shed any tears.
During my early 20, I had a very close relationship with one of my college professors. Her romantic life was my inspiration for love—this was long before the hashtag #RelationshipGoals became a thing.
My professor had been with her partner for over a decade, owned her home and was working on getting her Ph.D. People were always asking her why she wouldn’t just marry her boyfriend already. “I would’ve been a terrible wife if I’d married him earlier,” she said. “And I want to wait until I’m ready.”
Well, doesn’t that sound reasonable, I thought. I decided that I, too, would wait until I’d gotten my life together before getting married. Almost a decade later, I still haven’t gotten my life together—but I’m confident that it’ll happen someday.
A few years passed, and my professor got her Ph.D., married her boo and had a baby. I confided in her that I admired her relationship trajectory and told her I was also going to wait until later in life to get married. She was aghast.
“Oh, no, don’t follow what I did!” she said. “Do what’s right for you.”
She tried to reject being my #RelationshipGoals, but it was too late. She’d already inspired me. (You can’t reject my admiration!)
When I turned 30, my thoughts on marriage didn’t change, but it suddenly seemed like everyone my age was getting married and having kids. My Facebook feed morphed from posts about general shenanigans to posts about engagements, anniversaries and babies. Was this something I was supposed to be doing? Was I failing at life? Had I missed the boat?
I mean, I suppose I could’ve just found some random guy and gotten married the next day. But do you know what’s way worse than being single? Being in a horrible marriage with someone you hate, and having to see that person every day for the rest of your life. Who wants that kind of negativity? Not me.
Witnessing the dissolution of my parents’ relationship stripped away any idealization of marriage for me. Marriage is hard. Really hard. Divorce is even harder. And I’m too lazy to be spending energy on a marriage with someone I’m only with because society says I need to be married to have a purpose in life.
There are other reasons marriage may not be in the cards for me: I like to move. A lot. I may move tomorrow. Who knows? Marriage would be the death of all that. I also love living alone. I don’t ever want to shack up with a boyfriend—but I’m sure that any potential husband would likely want us to move in together. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the whole marriage deal.
Sometimes—OK, all the time—I’m envious of couples with the double-income life. I look at my financial struggles and fantasize that if I were married, there would be someone to help shoulder the costs of the bills, plan trips, run errands and take care of things if I got sick—or, God forbid, broke a hip.
But then I remember what I’d be giving up for all of that. I wouldn’t be able to live alone. I wouldn’t be able to move whenever I got the urge. I couldn’t make a midnight run to the grocery store for a pint of ice cream. OK, I could probably still do that, but I’d have to tell the hubby I was leaving and wait to see if he wanted to come along. Who has time for all that when you’re jonesing for an ice cream fix?
In her speech at Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year Summit, actress Tracee Ellis Ross talked about being 45 and single without kids. She said:
My worth gets diminished as I am reminded that I have “failed” on the marriage and carriage counts. … Those two #goals: being chosen and having kids, are what makes you worthy. … I am trying to gather all this energy around me, step into it, and match it with my realization that my life is mine. … It means risking being misunderstood, perceived as alone and broken, having no one to focus on, fall into or hide behind, having to be my own support and having to stretch and find family love and connection outside of the traditional places. But I want to do it. I want to be the brave me, the real me, the one whose life is my own.
Hearing Ross speak so frankly about being single was refreshing. So often—too often—people don’t talk publicly about being single. Singlehood is something you’re supposed to be ashamed about; something you’re supposed to be trying your hardest to fix. And if you’re a woman, no one believes you if you say you’re happy without a husband or kids. It seems everyone is convinced that you’re crying yourself to sleep at night, waiting for your real life to begin.
If the right person comes along, I’ll be more than happy to tie the knot. But that being said, I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well over the years. I may never get married. But if I do, it won’t be until I meet someone who voluntarily comes over to pressure-wash my house.*
*I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford a house, so this scenario may not actually be feasible. However, if any potential boo came over and detailed my car without my having to ask, I’d be just as happy.