“Am I bitter?” One of my friends recently asked me over Facebook chat during our work day. “Not just about children and weddings, but in general? Have I become a bitter person?” This friend of mine is (cue the ominous music) thirty-something and single. I am also in my thirties, and horror of horrors, I am also single. In fact, I have more than a few girlfriends in my age bracket who are not only single, but who actively choose not to go out of their way to date. Somehow the general public assumes that this is not of our own choosing, but rather some pathetic failure.
I have a lot in common with my single girlfriends in addition to our lack of interest in the dating scene. We’ve all clawed our way into our current career paths, fighting tooth and nail for opportunities that were not readily available upon graduating college during one of the worst recessions our country has seen since the early 1930s. We’ve been on our own since college, and we’ve all held less than desirable jobs in order to self-sustain. We know what it feels like to fight our way through a daily schedule that makes us want to stab ourselves in the eye with our breakfast fork as an excuse to not show up for work.
Please don’t misunderstand me – there are plenty of engaged, married, mothers who have gone through the same thing. In fact, although I have no point of reference for this statement as I have no children, I think that being a mother is probably one of the hardest, most rewarding jobs there is. Similarly, there are plenty of engaged, married, mothers who work and take pride in professional careers. What bothers me is the scornful look I get from a young mother when discussing either an aspect of my career or social life. There’s a specific comment that always seems to follow, and it goes a little something like this:
“Wow. I remember when those things seemed important to me, but now that I have kids…”
Come on, now. The subject of feminism is everywhere we turn nowadays. It seems as though every young, female celebrity is being asked if she identifies as a feminist. Feminism hashtags are prevalent on social media and the most circulated women’s magazines in the country are reporting on it with headlines such as Cosmopolitan’s Why Don’t More People Call Themselves Feminists? Women’s media is no longer confined to beauty and fashion – we’re talking about politics and empowerment just as often as we’re talking about sex tips. So why are single, thirty-something women still being scorned by other women?
My single friends and I work hard for what we want, and we’re finally at a place where we’re proud of what we’ve achieved in our careers and our lives in general. We put great effort into our friendships. Our priorities may not be husbands and children, but this doesn’t mean we feel unfulfilled. We aren’t bitter about the fact that you just got engaged/married/gave birth – we’re happy for you! What we’re bitter about is being pigeonholed into an archaic societal standard that dictates we should need those things to be happy, and that there’s something wrong with us if we’re not clawing each other’s eyes out to catch the bouquet at a wedding we attended without a date.
What we are bitter about, is having to endure your pitied looks when you ask us if we have any relationship prospects, and we say no. We’re bitter about having to attend family parties in which estranged aunts basically announce our spinsterhood to the entire gathering, and we’re bitter about how many times we’ve been asked if we would ever consider online dating in order to meet people, because evidently we are incapable of doing so face to face. We’re bitter about having someone say, “Oh, don’t worry. It will happen for you.”
Excuse me, but what exactly will happen for me? That when I meet a man and fulfill my biological obligation to procreate, my life will finally begin?
I don’t want for any kind of companionship because I’ve spent the last decade taking care of my friendships. I’m lucky enough to live with someone who’s an amazing cook, because I can’t boil water, and she usually feeds me. Some nights I’m traveling, some nights I write, and some nights I’ll binge on Netflix with my roommate who also happens to be my childhood best friend. I spend my hard-earned money on anything I want, and I go on vacations whenever, and with whomever I choose.
I joked the other day about not having time for a boyfriend because my ill-behaved, high energy Australian Shepherd takes up too much of my time, and guess what? I was only half kidding. I get up in the morning and I work out, because it’s important to me. Working as a flight attendant, I can be away for up to 15 nights per month. I get paid to fly all over the country, and my flexible schedule allows me to focus on finishing my novel. Those are my priorities, and I will not apologize for them. My life is fulfilling, and I’m confused about having to explain that to people. I’m not saying that I don’t want to get married or have children someday, but I certainly don’t want that right now, and I don’t think I’m alone.
So the next time you’re tempted to ask your single girlfriend/daughter/granddaughter/niece etc. about her dating prospects, take a moment to come up with something that you know is important to her, and ask about that instead. Did she get that promotion at work? Has she written any poetry lately? Where’s the last place she traveled to? Trust me when I say that if she’s excited about a new relationship, she’ll be the one to bring it up. Until then, don’t you want to know about whatever is making her happy right now?
This post originally appeared on www.onmogul.com.