Just Say No to Societal Pressure

Just over a year ago I met Mr. Lyndsy. I was 32 and not sure it would ever happen. I had more or less accepted the possibility that I could be single forever. That sounds bleak, but I really believed that if that’s what was meant to be, my life would be full of other amazing things.

It was hard to get to that place. Something happens to single women when we turn 30. I’m not even talking about the ticking of the biological clock. You look around you and realize that the vast majority of your female friends are either engaged, married, pregnant, or have kids. Well-meaning family and friends are constantly asking when we’ll be walking down the aisle, or, if it’s my parents, “When am I going to get some grandchildren?” (Getting married or a significant other was optional as long as there were grandchildren. My mom even once told me, “Now would be a good time in my life for you to have kids.”) My poor grandmother’s face when my cousins and I are like, “Yeah not sure when or if there will be kids.” You’d think we told her we’d killed my grandfather and added his body parts to a stew we served her.

And the way my dad asked, it was like he thought I was intentionally avoiding finding someone to be with. Like I was purposefully withholding grandchildren. So I got a dog. My mother refused to be called “Grandma.” I pointed out that Buddy may be the only grandchild she got, so she should learn to love it. She wasn’t buying it though she did love the little guy quite a bit.

There is a lot of societal pressure on women to “settle down” and have populate the planet. Yes, we want to propagate the species, but the timeline we’re asked to be on these days is a little crazy. To ask us to have that going on or done by about 30 is too much. We are going to college in record numbers. There are more women in college than men these days. Being 30 and married with multiple children was a lot easier when people weren’t going to college like we do now. College is a process of exploration. By immersing yourself in it, you learn all kinds of things about yourself and it changes what you’re interested in and often what you’re looking for in a significant other. Chances are good the person you’re with then won’t be the guy you marry, especially if you go on to get another degree.

Not to mention that you just don’t have time. I wasn’t one of them, but I knew a lot of people who dedicated significant amounts of time to going to class and studying. When I went to the law school orientation they stated explicitly that if we were not in relationships we shouldn’t get in one, if we could cut ties with people in our lives it would be a good idea. At least one marriage that I know about ended during the first year of law school. Couples broke up. It’s a tough process where the professors try to strip you of your humanity and empathy. It’s probably a little like dating a serial killer. A good friend of mine wouldn’t even consider dating while he was in dental school because of the amount of work he had to do and pressure he was under. I’ve also seen the same when people go to medical school.

That’s how you end up 30 and still single. Once you get out of school at 26, 27, or 28 you get shoved into some crazy job where you work 60+ hours per week to prove yourself, maybe to yourself, almost definitely to your employers. A couple years out of law school I was working 80 hour weeks and was in grad school full-time. Dating was’t so much an option then. Grabbing a bite to eat outside of my apartment became a luxury.

So here we are, 30, single, and maybe getting a chance to start dating. Guys our age aren’t as worried as we are. After all, they can have kids in their 40s and it’s not a big deal. We’re scrambling to find a decent date; see if we can get something going. Also, it’s not like we’re going to strike gold the first time out either. “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to meet your prince.” Sad, but true.

If we’re lucky, by 32 or 33 we’re with someone who’s got long-term potential. By now we’re attending at least 2 or 3 bridal showers per year. Whether we want kids or not it’s a little like torture because everyone is asking when we’ll be popping out some spawn. We suppress the urge to suffocate everyone who asks with the toilet paper and candy bars that act as diapers and baby poop. Our significant others can’t figure out why we’re suddenly losing our shit when we get taken out for a romantic dinner and there’s no proposal. Or yet another anniversary comes and goes without a ring.

If everyone could back off with the questions we might be able to maintain some semblance of sanity. For those of us who want marriage and children, we already feel it. We get a reminder every year on our birthdays. We’re watching the clock tick down, knowing we aren’t where we want to be. The best thing anyone can do is be supportive of the choices we’ve made and when we freak out, remind us that we’re on the paths we’re meant to be on, and that we’re making a difference being who we are.