When I was 29, I realized I had to make a decision. Almost everyone around me was married. Was I to sail into my 30s an old maid or pick one of the two suitors available, neither of whom interested me? Despite her failed marriage, my mother wanted me to settle. She liked the young man with the beautiful teeth and thought my future children would benefit. Instead, I promised to buy her a set of dentures and embraced my 30’s as an aging spinster.
While women have yet to reach full equality in our society, thinking about my rite of passage in my 30s, I believe we have come farther than I realized. Today’s single women no longer live under an uncharitable cloud of spinsterhood. But expectations about marriage haven’t disappeared entirely. Sit down as a stranger among other women and one will inevitably ask, “Have you any children?” The presumption is a husband lurks in the shadows.
The presumption is understandable. Throughout most of human history, women have depended upon the charity of men, if not that of a husband, then of a brother or doting father. Careers for women meant raising children and, in agrarian days, to work the fields like a draft horse. By the roaring 20’s, females had a few more economic options but remaining single continued to carry a social stigma. After all, a girl claimed her place in society by snagging the right man.
To be honest, the cycle hasn’t changed much, though marriage is no longer a necessity, as Kate Betts points out in, “The It Revolution.” (Town&Country, September 2016, pg. 153.) Today’s singles are likely to be financially independent. The most successful appear in magazines — celebrities and entrepreneurs whose salaries range in six figures. Nonetheless, the stories about them often focus on the joys and heart breaks of finding a suitable partner.
Absent economic need, most women still long for the perfect mate. Pass any cosmetic department and see what’s glistening above those glass counters – Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel. Yes, girls may chose to marry as late as they like. No pressure. But most, probably, won’t wait forever.