This post was inspired by Spinster by Kate Bolick, who explores singledom with famous women who fashioned life on their own terms. Join From Left to Write on May 5th as we discuss Spinster. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. You can purchase your own copy of the book by clicking on the link in the post or at the beginning of this statement.
Remember that episode of Friends where Monica reveals her wedding book?
I had something like that in my 20s. Before that, though, I never put too much thought to the wedding, getting married, or anything like that. All I wanted was to live in the city, be a writer or pediatrician, and drive a minivan. As I got older, I dropped the idea of being a pediatrician, but I still longed for the city and to drive a minivan.
When I got to the east coast for college, I discovered the world of serious boyfriends and the potential of discovering a lifetime partner. Upon graduation, I felt the pressure to find a spouse and a career. I convinced myself that the next step in life was to get married and have some kids – this is where my significance would lie. All my accomplishments, achievements, career, and future would all be set in the context of being a married woman and mother.
As I was reading, Spinster by Kate Bolick, I was struck by these three quotes:
“…culture tells us that a spinster is without future – no heirs to bear, nobody to remember her when she’s gone…” (p. 33)
“More than a century has passed. Today we tell girls to grow up to be or do whatever they want. But the cultural pressure to become a mother remains very strong; rare is she who doesn’t at least occasionally succumb to the nagging fear that if she remains childless, she’ll live to regret it.” (p. 292)
“The question now is something else entirely: Are women people yet? By which I mean: Are we finally ready for a young woman to set out on the long road of her life as a human being who inhabits but isn’t limited by her gender?” (p. 293)
Kate Bolick’s words really spoke to me because I’m trying to figure out how to guide my daughter in how she sees herself, her life, and future. I have met plenty of single adults (myself included) that felt like their life wouldn’t really begin until they met “the one” and was married. I often remind my daughter and myself that being married is not an end goal in life as a woman.
I delayed much of my dreams and goals because I was so busy looking for a spouse. I also bypassed and didn’t invest the time and energy in particular friendships because I was too busy looking for a spouse. I bought into the cultural pressure of being married and becoming a mother 100%.
But is this what I want for my daughter? Yes and no. If marriage and having children is something she wants, I absolutely support it. I also would support her pursuing her dreams and delving into womanhood in her own time and terms. I don’t want her to be pulling out her wedding book with her friends, but I want her to be pulling out her dream book – a book full of all that she wants out of life and who she wants to become in her own right as a human being.
For me, though, I embrace what Kate Bolick writes here:
“For the happily coupled, particularly those balancing work and children, spinster can be code for remembering to take time out for yourself.” (p. 293)
And I am thankful for a husband who finds this to be important and a priority and friends who keep me accountable for it.