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Just Another Middle-Aged Woman Grieving the Twenty Years She Wasted Trying to Find a Husband



And feeling grateful that I found myself, instead….CONTINUE READING

I t’s hard to look back on my twenties. What a terrible time. It was a decade when I arguably should have been delighted to explore my options, to devote time to my craft, to learn and experience so I could make good choices when the time for choosing came around.

Although I had also hoped to graduate from college, I didn’t have any firm goals aroundthataccomplishment. It didn’t matter to me if I graduated by the age of 22 or not. In fact, I had such a hard time deciding if I should major in literature or teaching, that I didn’t mind taking the long route to my degree, allowing for plenty of time to waffle.

But there most definitelywasa timeline attached to my goal of getting married. That had to happen by the time I was 24. Why? That’s when my mother had walked down the aisle. She gave birth to me just before her 25th birthday.

Is that arbitrary to have chosen that age to achieve my wifely ambitions? To have based it on the simple fact that that’s how old my mother was whenshegot married?


Or is there a more important question to ask here? Like, why the hell was I attaching a goal-oriented timeline to something as intangible and unpredictable as human love?

I t’s embarrassing, as a grown woman, to admit this, but that’s exactly how I approached the desire to get married: like a businesswoman looking to close a deal. And that’s how all my female contemporaries approached it, too.

And, in our defense, that’s what we were taught.

There was no question that getting married — to aman, I might add, because no one seemed to care this much about women marrying otherwomen— was the most significant thing I could do with my life. People rarely asked me what kind of career I wanted or if I had educational aspirations that exceeded the typical standard (which I did). But damn, observing how married and engaged women were treated…nowthatwas some catnip! These women literally had hordes of friends, sisters, and older female relatives crowding around them in celebration, validating their choices, congratulating them, and supporting them.

This was what I came to recognize as success. I can’t think of a single person who cared more about my education and career than they did about my marital status.


It became clear to me that getting married waseverything. It even defined how much of a woman I was.

To this day, I’m still mortified by a comment I made to my 50-something divorced, happily single neighbor when I was 25 complaining about yet another one of my friends who had gotten married.

“I feel like such a failure,” I told her. “I’m so behind. Almost everyone I know is married and I’m one of the last ones left. I don’t even feel like people see me as a woman, anymore.”

Oof. How insane is it that I didn’t even notice that I was completely erasing that woman and her experiences in that moment? The fact that she didn’t push me off the side of our apartment landing at that moment is a testament to her levels of maturity and self-love.

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What was I subtly, unwittingly telling her? That as a single woman in her fifties, she was a failure, too? That she wasreally“behind?” That neither I nor anyone else saw her as a woman?


Jesus. How insufferable of me.

I found myself on the other end of that a year later when my single younger sister declared she was going to be engaged by the end of the year because she was theonlywoman left in her circle who wasn’t married yet. (Apparently, she had forgotten who she was talking to…)

“I’m not going to be some loser who gets to her 30th birthday without a ring on her finger. Anyone who can’t get it together by 25 will probablyneverget it together, so it’s make-or-break time for me,” she declared, her voice rising as she got fired up.

I was 26 and single. And yeah, her speech stung. (Karma’s a bitch, huh?)

She did the whole “approach it like a business” thing. And you know what? She was married less than a year later.


During her wedding, several older relatives squeezed my arm and gave me sympathetic smiles.

“This must be a little embarrassing,” one said, referring to the fact that not one, buttwoof my younger siblings had already married before me. “But don’t worry…your time will come.”

Another said, “It can’t be long now. I’m sure he’s just around the corner.”

And yet another sympathized, “It must be hard to have to put up with people judging you because your younger siblings got married first. But keep a stiff upper lip. Your prince is coming.”

And so I clenched my jaw, stood my ground, and remained determined that I would find my future husband at any moment. And more importantly, I’d finally be free of these humiliating conversations, I’d finally have people see me as successful, andI’d finally feel like a real woman.


I want to weep for the things I put up with in my determination to get married. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me — not even a boyfriend who treated me like garbage.

I also want to weep for the amount of people in my life who encouraged me to do so. How many times did a well-meaning friend explain away irresponsibility? Disrespect? Downright abuse?Maybe he was tired. Maybe things at work were extra hard. Maybe he just needed time.
My mental health and physical wellbeing mattered less to the world and everyone around me than remaining in a committed, heterosexual relationship.

I learned this the hard way again and again, every time a boyfriend disappeared when I got sick, refused to vacuum because it was “woman’s work,” or went through my clothes to pick out things they didn’t want me to wear in public anymore. Or worse, the times they called me names, lied to me, cheated on me, or physically assaulted me.

But I look back on all those years in despair.I deserved so much more.But I stayed because I believed nothing was more important than getting married.

D id I ever actuallywantto get married? And specifically, to aman? Who can tell anymore with all the comphet, misogynistic propaganda that has women sprinting to the altar at any cost?
If this culture had valued me as a person rather than a potential wife and mother , would I have cared about those roles, at all?


And did I ever understand what marriage is? With all the myths we spin around it, all the fuss we make over it, was it ever clear to me what it was for and who it would benefit?

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It doesn’thaveto be that way, of course, but let’s be honest: few are encouraged to define marriage for themselves and make it something unique that doesn’t necessarily reinforce patriarchal power dynamics.

I didn’t know. I didn’t knowanyof it. I wasn’t given theoptionto know.

Instead, I was encouraged. I was pushed. I wastold.

At 45, I started dating a man who had two young children. I was surprised by how relieved I felt. I hadn’t given much thought to marriage in years, but suddenly, I realized thatI’d finally get the validation I’d longed for once our relationship entered “official” status.


I was going to be a girlfriend. Aman’sgirlfriend. And not just that, but a man who had pickedmeto raise his kids with.

I had waitedtwenty-five yearsand it was finally happening. All the people I knew who thought less of me because I was unmarried and childless would finally see that I wassomeone.

And then he dumped me. And I realized being part of his family had never been the plan. And I saw everyone looking at me like I was a failure for losinganotherman.

It was humiliating.

A year later, I hit what I suspect is one of the last milestones in my perimenopausal journey and suddenly, everything changed…


I don’t recognize the woman I used to be. I don’t understand her longing. I no longer share her desperation.

When friends or family members make little jabs about my status as a never-married, middle-aged single woman, I literally could not care less. Especially when most of them are legally bound to men I wouldn’t marry if youpaidme.

When men come into my comments and insult me for being single, it not only doesn’t sting even alittlebit…but a part of me laughs. Because I know something they don’t know. I know what it feels like to be free.

I know what it feels like to be whole. I know what it feels like to not need a man’s presence in my life to validate my worth or womanhood.

They don’t know what this feels like yet. I can tell because they want me to feel as ashamed as they clearly do. They want me to conform so I can reenter this system in which the presence of a man would validate my womanhood and the presence of a woman would validate their ***.


Noneof them get it, in fact. No one who sees me as someone still waiting for her “Mr. Right” understands.

They have no idea what it feels like to be free.

I’m notanti-marriage. I’m notpro-marriage. I’m not activelyrejectingpartnership. I’m not activelypursuingit.

How do I explain it? It’s not something I need to engage with. It’s something that might happen…or not.

And for the first time in my life, I truly, truly don’t care either way. Because I feel worthy all on my own….CONTINUE READING

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