So I will be turning the big 25 two weeks from tomorrow.
Doesn’t that sound so old?
I will surely get a message from my little sister (as she has every year since I turned 21) telling me that I’m old.
When I was a kid and thought about what 25 would look like when it got here, I had visions of babies, a handsome husband, a good job, perhaps a house, dog, and a couple of horses (I was WAY into horses when I was a little girl). The reality of 25 (unless anything changes in two weeks) is that I’m a single girl living in a big city in L’viv, Ukraine.
No dog, babies, husband, or horses.
The thing is, now that I’m here, I couldn’t see this mythical life for myself. At least not yet. Not because I couldn’t do it. Not because I couldn’t settle down and raise a herd of children. I’m sure I could.
I was having a conversation with a friend (we’ll call her Sarah) yesterday about a mutual friends (we’ll call them Sally and Lewis). Sarah told me that Lewis was interested in marrying Sally. He wants to settle down and have some babies. Now, Sally is a wonderful woman, and has lived on her own since I’ve known her. I asked Sarah if this was something that Sally was interested in, and she said that she didn’t know. That she thought that Sally was too independent to get married.
This comment is kind of unsettling to me.
Does marriage = dependency?
Are independent women incapable of loving another person enough to get married?
Now, I acknowledge that marriage can lead to a loss of certain kinds of freedoms, such as eating the entire carton of ice cream without judging eyes, or being able to do things without the ‘just checking in’ phone call.
I happen to consider myself a pretty independent person; reason number one why this conversation struck me. I mean I do live all by myself in a foreign country. In charge of my own finances and life. I didn’t have to ask anyone permission before I moved my life here. Now, I do still need help with certain things here in Ukraine, that make me dependent on the help of friends to get me through interesting language and cultural situations, but I’d still say I’m pretty independent.
Am I unmarryable?
I think it’s interesting to notice, that Sarah only pointed out Sally as being too independent for marriage, not Lewis. Lewis also lives all by himself, makes his own living, is even a bit of an entrepreneur, and yet this conversation wasn’t about Lewis’ independence, it was about Sally’s.
Now, maybe that’s because Sally was the one that is hesitant (we assume) about this marriage business, and so it becomes a conversation about her being too independent. But I think it’s worth pointing out that we don’t do this with men.
If men aren’t too excited to dive into marriage we say, ‘they want to sow their oats’ ‘boys will be boys’ ‘he’s just not ready to settle down yet’… It’s never a conversation about this somehow being the man’s fault that he doesn’t want to get married. But for us ladies, if we have offers that we turn down, well ‘she too strong spirited’ ‘she’s too independent’…. We are pressured into marriage, while men are encouraged to work hard AND play hard.
There could be 100 reasons why Sally doesn’t want to marry Lewis: they aren’t dating, she’s not attracted to him, she doesn’t want her babies to have his nose, he snores, he smells, he’s to tall, he’s demanding, he’s too nice, whatever it is, but this conversation wasn’t about that either. It was about HER ‘flaw’ (can we call independence a flaw?) that was keeping her from pursuing a marriage that by all accounts would be super.
Are you kidding me?
Now, I may be jumping off the deep end here, but seriously take a second to think about it. Marriage culture in the US has come a long way. It is now almost widely accepted when women don’t get married at all. Back home I am told that I have plenty of time for marriage and babies. But you know you still ask the question of beautiful, nice women, why aren’t they married? You rarely asked that same question to a bachelor, and if you do it’s because you want to date him.
And in the end, we would never accuse a man of being too independent for marriage in an accusatory way, hell we find it attractive if a man can cook and do his own laundry.
A google search today of the prompt, ‘are you too independent for marriage’, yielded 125,000,000 results, and of the top 10 results all of them were about women being too independent for marriage except one. In fact included in these results is something called, “Independent Woman Syndrome”. What is that?
The thing is (I’m going to attempt to jump down from this soapbox now), I happen to know many marriages that work BECAUSE the woman is independent, not in spite of it. I hope that as we raise our daughters, we continue to raise strong-willed, intelligent, independent women. That’s what this world needs. One day we won’t be considered ‘too independent’ or ‘too headstrong’ to chase what we want, be that marriage and a family, a career, or both.