Embracing the "And"

An interesting conversation was sparked this afternoon by this article about a Newsweek magazine cover in 1986. This is the article that said that a woman over 40 was statistically more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married.

What intrigued me more than the debunked statistics were Marina Adshade’s closing remarks:

If you are a woman over 40 and single I am willing to bet you have heard the line “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” over and over again. And I wonder how many women’s lives were affected by willingness of society to accept these ridiculous predictions.

How many women, for example, rushed into bad marriages for fear of being left on the shelf? Or under-invested in education for fear that the cost of a college degree was the lost opportunity to have a family?

I find this particularly poignant, as I – who never thought I’d get married – got my email from “the Knot” today reminding me that my own wedding is just seven months away.

Was this one stupid article responsible for one of the most pervasive false dichotomies of modern American culture? Women were subconsciously signaled to believe that we could have one or the other, not both.

We could successfully (happily?) have a career or a family.

Flashback: Summer 1996

Honestly, I thought about this a heck of a lot more when I was single in college than I have in the past decade. I thought about it because so many roads were still open to me, I hadn’t graduated yet, and some of my friends were already married or engaged. I thought about it because I went to school at an all women’s college, and it was often a topic of discussion.

Sweet Briar was often accused of being a finishing school, a grounds for women to earn a MRS. degree, rather than something toward a career. There was even a tradition called the Ring Game that allowed seniors to show off their engagement rings and announce their pending nuptials. My junior year, I participated in Sweet Briar’s first Scroll Game, a play on the ring game that allowed students to show off their grad school acceptance letters. (This is a tradition, I’m proud to say, Sweet Briar still maintains). You see, there was that either/or tug, even in the games we played.

The moment that I’m flashing back to, though, is a few breaths in time the summer before my Senior year. I don’t remember all of it, but it was an argument I had with a dear friend. He probably doesn’t remember the conversation, it probably meant nothing to him, but for me it is seared indelibly in my mind. It was a crossroads. It was when I chose my path.

“You should be here where you belong,” he said to me, I remember his voice was raised.

I sat in the passenger seat of his car, gazing out the window at the passing Ohio landscape in the dark. And I thought No.

I might have said it, I might not have. I might have raised my voice in indignation at his telling me what I should do. I don’t remember that part. I just remember looking out that wide windshield and realizing that though that place would always hold a part of my heart, it was not where I belonged.

I hadn’t found that place yet.

Flashforward: Today

I don’t say it tongue in cheek when I say that I never thought I’d get married. I’ve been ill-prepared for the task of being “the bride”. That pivotal moment sixteen years ago, I chose: no kids, no husband, no picket fence. Not for me this life around.

Buddhists will laugh and say that this is a false dichotomy, a divide where there is not a divide. That I need to consider the “and” rather than the “or”.

I still don’t want kids of my own, and I think picket fences require more maintenance than I want to give them, so what the hell am I doing adding in the husband part? Well, I’m embracing the “and”.

I can have my career and a husband. I can have my dreams of being a novelist and be a stepmom. I can be a country girl and live in the city.

I’ve found where I belong, and it doesn’t matter what the statistics say.

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3 thoughts on “Embracing the "And"

  1. I learn something new about you every day. I am thankful that you chose (and continue to choose) your own path. I love you. Mom

  2. Pingback: "New York State of Mind" « A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

  3. Pingback: Honeymoon Reblog: Embracing the “And” | A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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