This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
From birth, we have been socialized to believe that our lives have no meaning or purpose until we share it with a romantic partner. It’s the whole Jerry Maguire “You complete me” crap and it really messes us up, subconsciously urging us to mold ourselves into the kind of girls who are starry-eyed at the prospect of finding our “one true love” while calculatedly assessing the marriage potential of every man we meet.
Which is not to say that finding that special someone cannot be a rewarding, or at the very least exciting, quest. The danger, however, is in being conditioned to think that this is the pinnacle of achievement.
Then again, I suppose in a way it could be considered so. Opting out of the dating game voluntarily because you think you’ve found “the one” for many women is akin to scaling the peak of Mount Everest, bagging an Olympic gold medal, and winning an Oscar: Thank you to all my enablers, and F you to all the losers who broke my heart. I’m getting married, I won at life!
As we all know, marriages don’t always last, and we sometimes find ourselves starting all over again, alone, in our thirties, forties, fifties, and even in our sixties. And the prospect often seems daunting, brainwashed as we are to believe that being alone is somehow a failure, that we only know how to function as one-half of a couple, however dysfunctional or unsatisfactory that union may have been.
Yet one of the most important skills we need to learn as women is to be alone, self-reliant, self-sufficient, and to luxuriate in our independence.
Curiously, however, an independent woman is regarded with suspicion by a society shaped by the patriarchy. An independent woman is grudgingly admired, but more often pitied, and consoled with words like, “Oh, you’ll meet someone soon.”
A decade ago, going through my own divorce, well-meaning friends would say things like, “I’m sure you’ll get married again,” or “Don’t worry, there’s a man out there for you.”
Seriously. As if that’s all there is to life.
Apparently, for the other women I knew who were separating or divorcing at the same time, that was still the end goal. Being back on the market so to speak, was, they hoped, only a temporary situation; the aim was to be taken out of the market as soon as possible by virtue of finding a new partner, whatever his flaws and inadequacies or psychopathic tendencies, and once again being part of a unit.
But, you know, whatever works for you.
It wasn’t as if I was so scarred by my own unhappy marriage that I could not contemplate being married again, but I certainly wasn’t going to go on the prowl to land husband numero dos. And I certainly didn’t need a man to “complete” me; I was—and still am—lucky to have a strong sense of self. I complete me. Everything else is a bonus. Including a healthy sex life.
This conviction was, funnily enough, reinforced by a self-help guru, John Demartini, whose talk I attended once with the same well-meaning friends. While I personally am not a fan of Deepak-ing my way through life, John said something at that lecture that made perfect sense to me. Basically his point was that oftentimes, we look for everything in one person—lover, best friend, protector, breadwinner, etc.—and expect that person to provide emotional, sexual, intellectual, and even financial fulfillment. This is misguided because despite what centuries of conditioning, with the help of Hollywood, have done to our hearts and minds, no one can be our everything. It’s unrealistic and impossible.
Figuring that out can actually be more ground-breaking and liberating, yet so many women are terrified at the prospect of going through the rest of their lives alone. Or childless.
I recall being out one night with friends, one of whom was a Jewish girl in her mid-30s feeling the pressure to “settle down and get married” not just to anyone, but to a man whose suitability was determined first and foremost by his Jewishness. More than desperately wanting to be married, she desperately wanted to have children of her own.
So while I was still feeling rather raw from having recently ended an intensely passionate and tumultuous, but ultimately doomed, relationship, she clucked the requisite polite phrases—“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, it’s his loss, he didn’t deserve you, what a jerk, but you’ll find someone better next time” —before adding in a tone of rebuke, “But even if you never end up with anyone it’s okay because you have your children.”
The subtext was not exactly subtle: You’ve been married, you’ve had kids, what more do you want? Now leave the field, we don’t need other women—especially women who are independent, self-assured, and intelligent—to trawl the same dwindling pool of potential marital prospects.
I believe she’s still unmarried and searching at 42. I sincerely hope she doesn’t feel that her life is incomplete just because she hasn’t found “the one.”
Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.