The single 30+ woman is an enigma, a mystery everyone tries to explain or unravel. As soon as anyone, and I mean anyone meets a single 30+ woman, the first question that typically pops into one’s mind is – “Why is she single?” And everyone has some explanation. Everyone feels they have the ability to be able to deduce the why behind a woman’s single status – from she’s too independent, difficult, self-centered, not attractive, not ‘womanly’ enough, career focused, argumentative, hates men, can’t cook, etc. The reasons are endless!
What’s worse than everyone trying to figure out why you’re single is the ‘sympathy’ they attach to it. The second thing anyone does when they meet single 30+ women (first thing is they try and figure out why) is to feel sorry for them. It’s almost instinctive or innate. You don’t really mean to feel sorry for her, but you just do. A part of you instantly assumes that she’s miserable, or she’s missing out or that no one wants her. And even if she doesn’t ask you to, every now and then you say a prayer for her and ask God to send a man her way soon. You look at her with sad eyes, and you try to check in on her every now and then to see if she’s doing okay, and in a very soft and reassuring voice, you tell her, “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone soon.”
It’s crazy difficult to be single and 30 plus, and I am not sure which is worse, everyone’s constant sympathy and worry about your supposed lonely state, or their determination to provide reasons – which is why the first article below “Why You’re Single” got over 20,000 hits. Yup, the single 30+ woman is definitely one of the most intriguing topics in the world – 8th wonder of the world, seriously. It won’t surprise me if one day in the near future, some mad scientist abducts all single 30+ women and keeps them in laboratories to study until the code is finally cracked. Until then, people will continue to offer their interpretations of ‘why’ – like Tracy McMillan’s “Why You’re Single” article. And others will continue to counter and offer other more ‘politically correct’ reasons like Jessica Ravitz’s response to Tracy in – “Why I Am Not Married.”
I’ve recaptured both women’s very interesting articles here. You can decide for yourself who has a point. I could see some merit in both articles, but honestly, I am rather tired of this constant and never-ending need to find answers to why a woman is single. However, saying that is like saying I’m tired of war. I don’t see that disappearing from humanity anytime soon. So, let the debates continue.
You want to get married. It’s taken a while to admit it. Saying it out loud — even in your mind — feels kind of desperate, kind of unfeminist, kind of definitely not you, or at least not any you that you recognize. Because you’re hardly like those girls on TLC saying yes to the dress and you would never compete for a man like those poor actress-wannabes on The Bachelor. You’ve never dreamt of an aqua-blue ring box. Then, something happened. Another birthday, maybe. A breakup. Your brother’s wedding. His wife-elect asked you to be a bridesmaid, and suddenly there you were, wondering how in hell you came to be 36-years-old, walking down the aisle wearing something halfway decent from J. Crew that you could totally repurpose with a cute pair of boots and a jean jacket. You started to hate the bride — she was so effing happy — and for the first time ever you began to have feelings about the fact that you’re not married. You never really cared that much before. But suddenly (it was so sudden) you found yourself wondering… Deep, deep breath… Why you’re not married. Well, I know why.
How? It basically comes down to this: I’ve been married three times. Yes, three. To a very nice MBA at 19; a very nice minister’s son at 32 (and pregnant); and at 40, to a very nice liar and cheater who was just like my dad, if my dad had gone to Harvard instead of doing multiple stints in federal prison. I was, for some reason, born knowing how to get married. Growing up in foster care is a big part of it. The need for security made me look for very specific traits in the men I dated — traits it turns out lead to marriage a surprisingly high percentage of the time. Without really trying to, I’ve become a sort of jailhouse lawyer of relationships — someone who’s had to do so much work on her own case that I can now help you with yours. But I won’t lie. The problem is not men, it’s you. Sure, there are lame men out there, but they’re not really standing in your way. Because the fact is — if whatever you’re doing right now was going to get you married, you’d already have a ring on it. So without further ado, let’s look at the top six reasons why you’re not married.
1. You’re a Bitch.
Here’s what I mean by bitch. I mean you’re angry. You probably don’t think you’re angry. You think you’re super smart, or if you’ve been to a lot of therapy, that you’re setting boundaries. But the truth is you’re pissed. At your mom. At the military-industrial complex. At Sarah Palin. And it’s scaring men off. The deal is: most men just want to marry someone who is nice to them. I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy, which is like living with the single-cell protozoa version of a husband. Here’s what my son wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian. Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn’t think so. You’ve seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man’s fear and insecurity in order to get married — but actually, it’s perfect, since working around a man’s fear and insecurity is big part of what you’ll be doing as a wife.
2. You’re Shallow.
When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man’s character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you’re not married, I already know it isn’t. Because if you were looking for a man of character, you would have found one by now. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit. Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Or someone who knows what an Eames chair is. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl. And men of character do not want to marry teenaged girls. Because teenage girls are never happy. And they never feel like cooking, either.
3. You’re a Slut.
Hooking up with some guy in a hot tub on a rooftop is fine for the ladies of Jersey Shore — but they’re not trying to get married. You are. Which means, unfortunately, that if you’re having sex outside committed relationships, you will have to stop. Why? Because past a certain age, casual sex is like recreational heroin — it doesn’t stay recreational for long. That’s due in part to this thing called oxytocin — a bonding hormone that is released when a woman a) nurses her baby and b) has an orgasm — that will totally mess up your casual-sex game. It’s why you can be f**k-buddying with some dude who isn’t even all that great and the next thing you know, you’re totally strung out on him. And you have no idea how it happened. Oxytocin, that’s how it happened. And since nature can’t discriminate between marriage material and Charlie Sheen, you’re going to have to start being way more selective than you are right now.
4. You’re a Liar.
It usually goes something like this: you meet a guy who is cute and likes you, but he’s not really available for a relationship. He has some condition that absolutely precludes his availability, like he’s married, or he gets around town on a skateboard. Or maybe he just comes right out and says something cryptic and open to interpretation like, “I’m not really available for a relationship right now.” You know if you tell him the truth — that you’re ready for marriage — he will stop calling. Usually that day. And you don’t want that. So you just tell him how perfect this is because you only want to have sex for fun! You love having fun sex! And you don’t want to get in a relationship at all! You swear! About ten minutes later, the oxytocin kicks in. You start wanting more. But you don’t tell him that. That’s your secret — just between you and 22,000 of your closest girlfriends. Instead, you hang around, having sex with him, waiting for him to figure out that he can’t live without you. I have news: he will never “figure” this out. He already knows he can live without you just fine. And so do you. Or you wouldn’t be lying to him in the first place.
5. You’re Selfish.
If you’re not married, chances are you think a lot about you. You think about your thighs, your outfits, your naso-labial folds. You think about your career, or if you don’t have one, you think about doing yoga teacher training. Sometimes you think about how marrying a wealthy guy — or at least a guy with a really, really good job — would solve all your problems. However, a good wife, even a halfway decent one, does not spend most of her day thinking about herself. She has too much s**t to do, especially after having kids. This is why you see a lot of celebrity women getting husbands after they adopt. The kids put the woman on notice: Bitch, hello! It’s not all about you anymore! After a year or two of thinking about someone other than herself, suddenly, Brad Pitt or Harrison Ford comes along and decides to significantly other her. Which is also to say — if what you really want is a baby, go get you one. Your husband will be along shortly. Motherhood has a way of weeding out the lotharios.
6. You’re Not Good Enough.
Oh, I don’t think that. You do. I can tell because you’re not looking for a partner who is your equal. No, you want someone better than you are: better looking, better family, better job. Here is what you need to know: You are enough right this minute. Period. Not understanding this is a major obstacle to getting married, since women who don’t know their own worth make terrible wives. Why? You can fake it for a while, but ultimately you won’t love your spouse any better than you love yourself. Smart men know this. I see this at my son’s artsy, progressive school. Of 183 kids, maybe six have moms who are as cute as you’re trying to be. They’re attractive, sure. They’re just not objects. Their husbands (wisely) chose them for their character, not their cup size.
Alright, so that’s the bad news. The good news is that I believe every woman who wants to can find a great partner. You’re just going to need to get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won’t. Once the initial high wears off, you’ll just be you, except with twice as much laundry. Because ultimately, marriage is not about getting something — it’s about giving it. Strangely, men understand this more than we do. Probably because for them marriage involves sacrificing their most treasured possession — a free-agent penis — and for us, it’s the culmination of a princess fantasy so universal, it built Disneyland. The bottom line is that marriage is just a long-term opportunity to practice loving someone even when they don’t deserve it. Because most of the time, your messy, farting, macaroni-and-cheese eating man will not be doing what you want him to. But as you give him love anyway — because you have made up your mind to transform yourself into a person who is practicing being kind, deep, virtuous, truthful, giving, and most of all, accepting of your own dear self — you will find that you will experience the very thing you wanted all along: Love.
Tracy McMillan has gotten under my single-status skin.
I’m not sure how it took nearly a week for her Huffington Post column, “Why You’re Not Married,” to land in front of me, but it finally did. And now I’m fired up — not in an angry way but in the sort of way that made me skip to my desk, excited to type. To hear it from the thrice-divorced McMillan, I’m 41 and not married because of one (or more?) of six reasons: I’m a bitch, a slut, a liar, shallow, selfish or not good enough. Wow. Is that all? Maybe I smell, too.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got issues (c’mon, who doesn’t?), but I’m not owning these. Perhaps she was talking about why her own marriages failed or was simply setting out to get a rise, which she did brilliantly. And while I’ve been guilty of occasional transgressions that might fit in some of those unflattering boxes, McMillan doesn’t touch why I’m not married. Based on the buzz surrounding her conversation-starting piece, I’m laying down and lining up behind reason number seven: Life happens. Before reading on, know that I am not and refuse to be woe-is-me. Like Jennifer Aniston, minus the killer body and bank account, I’m happy. Really, I am. I skipped to my desk, dammit. Of course I’d love to meet and marry that one and only, but in the meantime I’m living my life, and I’m taking everything that’s been given me on the journey. Maybe, like me, that’s where you are, too. Maybe you spent your adolescence clashing with a stepfather who didn’t get you emotionally. And maybe the father who did get you had been relegated by the courts, when you were 2 and your parents divorced, to every-other-weekend access. Maybe your first love cheated on you, just around the time a second divorce rolled through your family. So maybe your faith in men and marriage was a little shaken before you teased your hair for the prom. But that’s nothing some therapy and better hair sense can’t fix, right? Maybe you’re a searcher with a healthy dose of wanderlust, someone who needed time to commit to furniture, let alone a man, because there was so much you needed to see, do and become.
Maybe you were and still are a hopeful (I refuse to say hopeless) romantic who for years held a candle for the one you thought was The One. He’d changed your life, after all, when he lured you to Israel (though it could have been Thailand, for all you cared) — allowing you to claim that Jewish side of yourself you’d never embraced before. And maybe he slipped and called you his soul mate at one point, a statement you caught and remembered. So even after you read the diary he’d left out, oops, learned about the Brazilian woman with amazing eyes, broke up and dated others, you still held out hope for him. You stupidly took the crumbs he tossed you from time to time and thought they had meaning. Finally, you got through your thick noggin that the guy just wasn’t that into you. Hell, he wasn’t even all that nice to you. You learned he wasn’t the one who got away. He was the one who got in the way. Then, maybe you met the one who was that into you. He loved and respected you like no man had before. And the dog — how could you not fall for the man and his dog? One day, while taking a break from kayaking, when you least expected it, maybe he pulled out a ring and asked you to marry him. Maybe you said yes but then freaked out. You couldn’t eat dinner, and you love dinner. Maybe you snuck out of the B&B in the middle of the night. You found a pay phone and called your father, with whom you’d grown profoundly close, sobbing. Maybe you were seized by fear. But everyone around you, including your therapist, said they expected nothing less, given your family history. They even said it would be weird if you didn’t freak out. So you were engaged to be married.
But maybe after you moved to a new state and settled into engaged life, you still worried. That fear, that inkling that something was missing or wrong, grew stronger. Maybe you became a genius at dodging wedding questions. Maybe you lost countless hours of sleep, watching him and the dog as they slept peacefully, struggling with what you felt. You didn’t want to quit the race, but at some point you knew with painful clarity there was a hurdle you two couldn’t clear. So maybe, out of your love for him and yourself, you handed back the ring and left. Maybe you wished you could share custody of the dog. Maybe, even as you licked those wounds in your pathetic little apartment, you began to appreciate your courage. You learned to trust yourself more. You realized your past didn’t define your future; you did. And then, maybe when you were finally prepared to date again, you woke up a single Jew living in Utah. But being a single Jew in Utah wouldn’t matter, because then life tossed you a doozy that put the pain of a called-off engagement to shame. Maybe you suddenly lost your father. Being emotionally available for someone else wasn’t something you could even entertain. Now you had an excuse not to date. But maybe you knew that your dad — not to mention your amazing mom and stepmom, and your now-gentler ex-stepdad — wanted nothing more than for you to love and be loved. So when you were ready, with a fresh start in a new city, you were excited to put yourself out there again. Maybe you were approaching 40 when you arrived in the South. Maybe you were slapped across the face with the reminder that most people your age are married with children. Maybe you went to a singles event and became convinced you were the oldest one there, so you ducked out early. But maybe you held onto hope and optimism. You sucked up your pride and whipped up an online dating profile. You found out that men in Belgium, as well as men with odd fetishes and offensively bad grammar and spelling, have a thing for you. You received horrifying — yet hysterical — notes from suitors that made for great Facebook status updates.
Maybe you agreed to go on dates you dreaded because you were determined to have an open mind. Maybe you learned you had good reasons to dread those dates. You wolfed down a nice piece of salmon as one man told you, within the first hour of meeting, that he cheated on his wife, still loves his ex-girlfriend and didn’t go to his own father’s funeral. Maybe you thought you should charge him for therapy. But maybe you still believe there’s someone great out there for you. You’re ready, you know you have so much to give, and you look forward to meeting him — wherever and whenever that might be. And in the meantime, you know you have a lot to be grateful for. Maybe you have a career you love, and through the stories of suffering you hear, you know that if still being single is your biggest problem, you are damn lucky. Sure, you might be a bitch, a slut, a liar, shallow, selfish or not good enough. Maybe, though, you happen to be 41 and single because life, real life with all its complications, has just worked out that way. So far.
But, hey, what do I know? Maybe that’s just me.
So that’s Tracy and Jessica – what do you think?