This afternoon, I was at my parents’ house for a family friend get-together. I always enjoy these “parties” because they are both low-key and you are able to receive an update on the lives of people that you haven’t seen for years! But, slowly the conversation always dwindles to a certain sensitive topic, or one that I am incredibly passionate about. As a single young woman, I am also a huge feminist, and I get this certain itch in my chest when I hear statements that just don’t agree with my heart.Like today, after our wonderful BBQ, my mom began talking about a good friend of hers who just can’t seem to find herself a husband. This woman is in her late-forties, is very financially successful, opinionated, and happily single.
“I just think she might have too high of expectations, you know? I mean she is a very nice girl. There’s no other reason why she shouldn’t be dating,” my mom adds.
“Well, that’s true. I mean, a man who is just as educated and who is making that amount of money and is around the same age, is either married or chasing after a woman who is at least fifteen years younger than your friend,” is my dad’s response. But in all fairness, is that okay in our society? We in the United States pride ourselves on living in the land of opportunity and equality, but why is it that women past a certain age are still seen as just too damn old. Maybe she’ll have to lower her expectations, find a lesser educated man or a man whose income is significantly lower, but to what end? And is it not okay for her to then fight the system, find a younger man for herself?
“Oh dear. No young man will want her, honey,” is the overwhelmingly response I have gotten for speaking my mind.
To my surprise, another guest at the lunch adds her own comment into the conversation: “You know what I worry about? My daughter getting married. She’s twenty-eight years old and works as the director of distribution for a company in Orange County. But because she’s just so focused on her career, she can’t hold on to a relationship. In fact, I don’t even think she’s had the time to date in the past couple of years! Last night when she was over for dinner, she told me that I should come up and see her bachelorette pad. I laughed across the table and said, ‘You mean your Old Granny pad?’ The whole table was just bubbling with laughter … I do sincerely hope that she finds someone soon, though.”
I got a little itch. Okay, I’m lying, it was a big itch. So big that I had the impulse to start scratching my chest right there in front of the guests. And instead, I just began thinking. Not only are men and women not paid equally, but now a woman who decides to be career-minded while she is younger is also faced with the difficulty of marriage at an “acceptable” age. Men are always deemed to be the ones who work. They work so much in fact, that they rise up on the corporate ladder until they reach their forties. They have a high-paying job at a respectable company, and are then seen as an eligible bachelor. Women will always throw themselves at these men. Don’t deny it, you may have done so before. But what about a woman? What if I choose to keep working? To keep getting those promotions, to keep getting those fancy titles and the big wooden desks. What if I turn forty and I don’t have a significant other? It’s a fact that humans crave human relationships. So if I decide to be a highly educated woman with a decent job, do I automatically decrease my chance at finding a successful and long-lasting romantic relationship?
My thoughts are interrupted with a question by a male family friend: “Weddings involve so many traditions! So, when you get married, how are you going to have your ceremony done?”
“I actually never want to get married.”
“What?! Are you a lesbian?”
Laughter is underway immediately. I look around the table and my mother, my father, oh what the heck, everyone at the table is doubling over with laughter.
With a smile, I force myself to respond politely, “No. But even if I were, I could get married in some states if I wished to.”
The laughter continues. My itching has become a rash.
If I were a male and I responded with the exact same response, the reaction would be different. I’m so sure that I’m imagining what he would have said while everyone is still laughing …
“That’s so smart, my boy! I wish I would have followed that rule when I was your age …”
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