The husband box

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is certainly true for the ways the world likes to diminish girls and women. Sometimes this diminishment occurs on a large scale that is hard to ignore. At others, it occurs in subtle, niggling little ways that slowly irritate and eat away at you.

The other day I had a rather curt reaction to someone who was asking me questions about my move to England. These are questions I’m getting a lot lately (thankfully, not from my parents and friends, but seemingly from everyone else). They’re not questions about my new job, what city I’ll be living in, how I feel about the move – all questions I’d be happy to answer. No, they’re questions along the lines of: “Now that you have a proper job, are you going to finally get a husband?” Right, must tick that off my list along with sorting out my work visa. Important admin, this husband business.

What irritates me about these questions are the many assumptions behind them: that a single woman is somehow ‘deficient’, lacking in something until she finds a partner; that she is often an object of pity and disdain if she’s single (what single woman hasn’t received those pitying looks when asked if she’s seeing someone and says ‘no’); that despite my education, my hard work, my years of struggling in a profession to finally achieve something that is quite rare within this profession, instead of wishing me good luck or saying congratulations, it seems perfectly logical to some to tell me that I’m not really a complete person until I tick off the husband box.

Let’s be real here, men don’t get the same level of pity thrown their way when they are single. We may think things have changed, but somehow, these old-fashioned stereotypes of the sad spinster and the fun-loving bachelor still dominate in our collective consciousness. And really, can I just say, enough with the pity. Stop pitying me strangers, acquaintances, everyone else. I think I’m doing pretty great in life – I think I’m a pretty damn fine and responsible person, thanks. I am complete, in myself. I am not relying on someone walking into my life and magically fixing my fears, making me feel whole, providing financial security for me, or stabilising my life. I’m on my way to doing that on my own. I’m pretty happy being single now, your pity is insulting. When, and if, I ever decide to get married, it will be an addition to my life, it will not be its making.

There’s another side to this though – one to which I’m sympathetic, but still suspicious of. It’s the glorifying of single life in the same way as married life is often glorified as an achievement of adulthood that you must perform. I understand the impulse to heighten what’s great about being single in the face of overt judgement from strangers and people you know. Still, glorifying being single is just as silly as thinking that being married is something everyone has to be.

I get lonely sometimes. Some days I think it would be nice to have someone to go see a movie with who isn’t just a friend, or share a meal in a restaurant. It would be nice to have that constant companionship. This loneliness, however, is not the sole domain of single people. I’ve talked to married friends who complained about feeling lonely in their marriages, surrounded by a husband and kids. Loneliness, like sadness and happiness, come in many variations. They are human conditions, felt by us all. I don’t think it’s absolutely wonderful being single 100% of the time, but I bet my married friends don’t think being married is fantastic 100% of the time either.

I don’t expect people to congratulate me for my personal life choices. But, maybe it’s time to stop with the needless pity, because it’s diminishing; it says, ‘you are not enough on your own, as you are’. My brain is my achievement, not my love life.


CW said...

You have addressed this issue with beauty and balance.
I feel just the same, but I don't think I could have expressed myself quite as well as you have here.
For a period of years, I fell into the trap of thinking I couldn't really be a whole person without a husband. I almost got married, twice. I am glad that I didn't go through with it while I was under such absurd and insidious illusions. It took me quite a long while and a lot of work to gain the wisdom you clearly already possess.
At any rate, and for what it's worth, I stand in solidarity with you, and I wish you the best of luck in your new endeavors.

Rambling Tart said...

I'm sorry people are being so insensitive and foolish in their questions. My question these days, from total strangers to people I haven't seen in twenty years is, "Are you married yet?" Nothing about the important things in my life, just the question that is a thinly veiled, "Are you in the box that we can accept? Are you not 'living in sin' anymore?" etc. It really boils down to people thinking they have the right to decide what is best for us. So arrogant and offensive. Wishing you massive amounts of happiness in your new job, new life, new adventures doing whatever the hell you want. :-)

rooth said...

Completely and wholly agree with everything you've said. I get those pitying comments thrown my direction and then nonchalantly throw it back at them. I know people care (well, some people are just nosy) but I think I've got this handled. On my own. Yep, being a capable woman, I know it's unbelievable. :)

Bethany said...

I may be married, but I can relate, Hila. Even once you get married, the questions don't stop. When I was single, the question was "why aren't you dating anyone?", when I started dating someone it was "when are you getting engaged?" when we got engaged it was "when are you getting married?" and now that we're married, the question is "why haven't you had kids yet?" The judgment never stops. The entire underlying message is "your life is not your own." My husband and are planning to move to Nashville, Tennessee this summer, and rather than being excited for us to move and find better jobs that fit our strengths and interests, people keep expressing concern that we're not settling down and procreating. It's frustrating, but you just have to be like, "to hell with them!" and live as you please. Best of luck with your move and transition to a new chapter of your life! Looking forward to your updates about settling into your new place. :)

Hila said...

CW: Thank you! I can only really think of one reason to marry someone, and that would be love.

Krista: Thanks Krista - the "are you in a box we can accept" mentality is a bit irritating sometimes, I don't react well to it.

Rooth: Yep, we've got this handled, thanks :) The pity drives me nuts, it's one of those things that just really gets on my nerves.

Bethany: Thanks :) I'm sure I would still get similar questions even if I were married - there's always something you 'should' be doing according to others.

Sylvia Veronica said...

Excelllent, excellent!!!

Hila said...