201891I owe Joan Rivers a debt of gratitude. And if you’re in possession of a vagina, you owe her one, too. Because she’s done more for women—not just women in comedy, but women in general—than most will realize, or even care to admit.

Maybe you didn’t like her—the brassy, in-your-face manner, the brand of humor, or the strange ways in which her face morphed over the past few decades. Personally, I don’t care what work she had done. Because she endured more than most of us will, bravely and without apology, and transformed all of that pain and anger into comedy gold.

You may not realize, or even believe, that this loud-mouthed comedian has anything to do with you or your life. But she has. She’s been a pop culture figure for as long as anyone can remember, and you’re used to having her around, which is why it is so odd that she’s gone. But beyond that, she set the bar high—because the reason you and I feel we can say whatever the fuck we want, whenever we want, on social media, on our blogs, or to whomever, is because women like her did it first.

Sure, it’s easy to think that women are all that, now that we’re living in the golden age of female comics. It’s easy to think that we always had Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Chelsea Handler and Whitney Cummings and all the other brave, funny, irreverent women to look up to—except we didn’t. At one point, all anyone had was Joan Rivers, and by the way, they weren’t all fawning over her from the start. Joan said things that people (read: women) shouldn’t say—back when it wasn’t cute.

If you’ve read even a little about Joan Rivers’ life, you know that she started her career at 24, hoping to be an actress, and made her success by swashbuckling her way into a male-dominated business. She had a failed marriage behind her, and just when things were ramping up for her, Carson blacklisted her, her show was canceled, and her second husband committed suicide. She’s been fired, she’s been criticized, dismissed, and shamed. And when she was pushed, she pushed back. Hard.

OK, so you’re not a comic, a writer or anything having to do with the entertainment industry, so you say, well, what does this have to do with me? A lot. Because women in show biz don’t just matter to women in show biz. They matter to us all. Every time they speak up, every time they face off with critics, hecklers, and haters, they do in public what we hope to do in our own lives: Stand up for ourselves and be who we are, no matter what anyone says. They set an expectation and an example. Like them or not, you learn a lot by watching. Everyone does. Women like that don’t just clear a path; they change the landscape.

If there’s one thing I am most grateful to Joan Rivers for is that she did not apologize—not for her thoughts, her talent, her strengths, or her jokes, no matter how much someone objected to them. And where would she be if she had? Exactly. We won’t get anywhere, individually or as a group, if we aren’t willing to do things unapologetically, and to stand behind what we say, regardless of what other people think.

Because fact is, for all our F-bombs, we still feel the pressure to apologize to everyone for everything—our choices, our thoughts, our ideas, our efforts to make ourselves heard. Shit, how many times have you apologized to a chair for bumping into it. Which is why we will always need women like Joan, not that there ever will be another.

One of my very favorite clips of hers is the night she took down a heckler in Wisconsin (“Don’t you tell me what’s funny, you stupid sonofabitch!”). Goddamn! The woman was a fury, a force, and not to be fucked with, period. We would all do well to learn from her example. And in many ways, I’m betting you already have.

 

 

 

 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis, ultricies nec, pellentesque eu, pretium quis, sem.

Nulla consequat massa quis enim. Donec pede justo, fringilla vel, aliquet nec, vulputate eget, arcu. In enim justo, rhoncus ut, imperdiet a, venenatis vitae, justo. Nullam dictum felis eu pede mollis pretium. Integer tincidunt. Cras dapibus. Vivamus elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae, eleifend ac, enim.

Read more

Intelligent-Safe-Braking-Systems-680x1024

I get the most feedback on hitting the brakes on the relationship talk.

The one post I get more feedback on than almost any other is this one: hitting the brakes on the relationship talk. Because we’ve all had to check ourselves on this, since we all have the urge to just “know” what’s going on—often, far too early in a relationship. And the problem is that when you endeavor to have The Talk really early, you’re trying to classify a thing as you create it in a way that sometimes limits its growth and exploratory nature (which is what dating is for, after all).

It’s the same reason why it would not help for an editor to stand over my shoulder while I write this draft. Because you have to let yourself get into the flow of a thing before you can start fixing and affixing (names, titles, etc).

Women are often seen as the needier sex, but this isn’t just a lady problem. Yet, often men jump the gun too, to their detriment.

Now, true bad story of the week, told by reader Elizabeth, about how a guy she genuinely liked turned around and ruined everything. I highlighted the best parts.

Letter from Elizabeth:

“…I just left a short-lived relationship after 4 months. I hesitate to say 4 months, because about 1 month in, The Talk happened–that the guy initiated. And yes, I had been counting my time with the hapless fellow since that point.

The Talk happened one night when he was drunk and accused me of not liking him and much as he liked me. It floored me. I thought things were going great. Apparently in this month he felt that I was not acting like a good enough girlfriend: my texts were not frequent enough, not affectionate enough (I’m not a texter), and he wanted to see me more (I go to school and work full time).

I was angry, and turned off as this drunk, whiny, needy guy was telling me apparently how awful I could be to someone in 1 month–despite the amazing chemistry, despite MY initiation of dates, my creativity, and all the effort I made to be real, and treat him with respect. He needed to know I missed him, more. I couldn’t be MIA on him for 6 hours–I had to let him know he mattered by doing everything possible to contact him in those long stretches of time.

I let him know that he might be expecting me to act like another person/old gf, and that I felt things were moving too fast… I spent time letting him know what he wanted was fine, but he might need to find that with someone else, not me. He insisted “no guy will ask for anything different,” and that if I didn’t want to try, I must not want a relationship.

The Talk lasted the next 3 days…Every sentence coming out of his mouth was “a relationship is, it isn’t, in a relationship you should, you shouldn’t.”  I didn’t apologize for his perception of how I wasn’t living up to his ideals. The Talk didn’t things better, or reassure him, or solidify my feelings for him. It actually served to make things less clear with where we stood with one another. He was passive aggressive, pushy, intense, and needy. He amped it up, telling me he loved me multiple times, expecting a reply. I clearly did not say it back. He insisted I was a coward when it came to love and tried, when we were intimate, to get me to say I loved him. Creepy!

The more he pushed me, the less I liked him or “what we had,” which was apparently something really special that I was throwing away. He told me people who love each other can only think about each other, were each other’s best friend, and constantly missed each other. Okay, buddy, maybe that’s your ideal of love. I made excuses to not see him. It took me three tries to break up with him, but eventually he accepted this and broke up with me (try number 4) and proceeded to send me a facebook message about how I “failed” and was a “coward when it comes to love.”

 

WOWZERS

Well, as you can see, this guy f’d things up pretty badly. And fact is, if he’d been willing to release his white-knuckled grip on his “rules” about relationship and stopped trying to correct her “performance” as a girlfriend…he might have kept a girlfriend! But it’s easy to see this guy was threatened by the fact that she wasn’t needy enough. This man experienced what you have and I have—the need to feel needed. Now, they may just straight-up not be a match (you think?) but even through this brief aperture, you can see what made this go very, very wrong.

(Tip: Don’t initiate The Talk while intoxicated.)

When the time is right, two people interested in being in a committed relationship must absolutely talk about it. But if you’re correcting, berating, and complaining within a month, you’re essentially strangling your relationship to death. The only mistake this woman made was not getting out earlier.

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.46.11 PM

The WaPo headline telling you to get married.

Yup, it’s all your fault.

So said that Washington Post headline that grabbed eyeballs and imploded brains nationwide when it stated that women would be a whole hell of a lot safer if they’d stop being hussies and settle down.

I’ll tell you what: You’re safer single.

Why? Because you’re more likely to be assaulted, raped, or flat-out murdered by your spouse.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in a 2009 report called, “Female Victims of Violence,

–in 64% of female homicide cases in 2007, women were killed by a family member or intimate partner.  24% of those homicide victims were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse.

–Only 10% of female murder victims were killed by a stranger.

—In 2008, 57% of rape and sexual assaults on women were committed by someone they knew, with 1 in 5 committed by an intimate partner.
Aw, Remember Old Timey Marriage?

With all the fuss and expense of modern-day marriage, saying yes to the dress and all that, it’s easy to forget that for most of recorded history, marriage was little more than institutionalized rape.

The whole point of it, in fact, was to trade assets for power, property, or security. You being the asset. Or the favor. Depending on the sitch. So, no. It wasn’t anywhere near what it looks like now: the joining of two upper-crusty, college-educated 30-year-olds throwing a $50,000 party on the Cape.

In other words, you didn’t have a choice then; you got married because it was in the best interests of everyone else involved. Your duty was to be his wife and bear his children and give him (ideally) sons to carry on his name and fortune. Oh, and yes—you have to have sex with this man, whenever he wants, like it or not, even when you really, really don’t want to.

So pardon me if I laugh my head off at the idea of marriage as a rape cure. Please. If rape means being pressured and coerced into having sex with someone you don’t want to, then married women get raped all the time.

You might not be sold to your husband for a shilling and forced to bear kids annually, but if you have to have sex against your will, then it is what it is.

Sure lots of people love their spouses and anticipate long, candle-lit evenings of mutually pleasurable lovemaking. But not all. Plenty are pretty much over having sex with their spouses. I was talking to a (fairly conservative) friend the other day about the joys of sleeping naked (something I happen to love). My friend was scandalized. “I could never sleep naked! Jim would be all over me. No, no, I like to wear lots of layers.” Subtext: I don’t want him touching me.

A letter to the Dear Prudence column on Salon came from a woman who didn’t know how to tell her husband she just didn’t want to sleep with him anymore, that she hated and loathed it.

And what was Prudie’s advice, and the advice of every magazine and relationship expert out there? Do it anyway. Get help if you must. Have sex even if you don’t feel like it. It’s important to him. It won’t take long. Promise.

This is the message you get as a married woman: That you owe it to your husband, your family, your marriage. So don’t tell me wives are safe from unwanted sex.

 

Marriage Can’t Fix Anything (Including Itself)Wedding

The authors of that WaPo piece (one of whom is founder of the National Marriage Foundation, in case you were wondering) talk about marriage as if it’s some kind of grass-roots rehabilitation program:

They argue that “…marriage also seems to cause men to behave better. That’s because men tend to settle down after they marry, to be more attentive to the expectations of friends and kin, to be more faithful, and to be more committed to their partners—factors that minimize the risk of violence.”

You know. Because marriage is always the answer and fixes everything. Please. Marriage as an institution practically spearheaded the women-as-chattel movement.

There’s more: “…women who are married are more likely to live in safer neighborhoods, to have a partner who is watching out for their physical safety, and—for obvious reasons—to spend less time in settings that increase their risk of rape, robbery, and assaults.”

The fact that this whole misconstrued idea is being touted by people whose job it is to promote marriage should come as no surprise. Marriage rates have been dropping, both here and abroad. The huge industry of marriage (weddings, all of it) is doing all it can to stay relevant, but pretending that women need it is a new low.

(Check out: How the WaPo authors got it wrong.)

Because women are recognizing that unless they really, really want it, they don’t, in fact, need it.

And as Erin Gloria Ryan points out in Jezebel’s predictably furious and snarky response to the WaPo piece, it’s wealth, not marriage, that gives women the opportunity to be stronger. You want to end violence? Educate and empower women to take care of themselves and others. Shift the blame from the victims of violence and assault to the perpetrators, and create real consequences for those who commit those crimes.

Rather than tell women they better marry or else, give women the resources to confidently pursue what’s right for them, be it careers or travel or parenthood, if they so choose. Let us decide what kinds of relationships we have, whether it’s a string of fulfilling and happy lovers to long-term commitment–but above all, to choose men because we want them, not because we are dependent on them.

And stop looking to outdated institutions to save us, especially the ones that can’t save themselves.

 

 

 

girl_daydreaming_imageYour thoughts are powerful things—they influence your behavior, your mood, your decisions. They determine what risks you take and which ones you don’t. But there’s one thing your thoughts cannot do: Manifest a perfect partner out of thin air.

Intellectually, you know this. But a smaller part than you care to admit remains under the sway of magical thinking. If you just had the right thoughts, the right circumstances would happen, and the right people would appear. I can see how you’d be tempted to think that way. But I beg you to stop.

Let’s all admit we read “The Secret”

Yup. I totally did. In the seven years since The Secret was published, featured on Oprah twice, and sold almost 20 million copies (yes, in that order), the popularization of the central core of the book, the Law of Attraction, still holds many under its Vulcan mind-meld grip (despite the take-downs, harsh criticism, and parodies). (Also, please watch this interview with Barbara Ehrenreich on The Daily Show—so worth it.)

I can see why: Who wouldn’t want to believe that all you have to do is think the right thoughts and the love (or car, or job, or money) of your dreams will find you?

Written by Donna Byrne and published in 2006, The Secret featured a cadre of “new thought” leaders (including James Ray, who not long after The Secret was published, was found guilty of negligent homicide in the deaths of three people who participated in his insane sweat lodge exercise). Citing quantum physics and the ubiquitous Law of Attraction, these experts tell us that like attracts like, and that your thoughts function as cosmic magnets that draw toward you what you project. Think good thoughts, get good things. Think bad thoughts, get what you deserve.

3 Crazy Ass Ideas, and How to Break “The Law”

Let’s take a look at how key premises of the Law of Attraction can do you more harm than good in the search for love and partnership.

1. If you want to meet a man, make room for his imaginary car in your garage.

A woman in The Secret swears that the reason she hadn’t met someone special yet was because she was taking up all the room in the garage and sleeping in the middle of the bed. Once she cleared up the garage and made room for her fantasy man’s imaginary Honda Prius, and started staying on her side of the bed, thank you very much, what do you know! He appeared!

Look. You can put a Gillette Mach 3 on your sink, but when you wake up there will not be a man shaving with it. And if there is, call the police.

Correction: Make room in your LIFE for someone special.

Look, if you like sleeping in the middle of your bed, by all means. My god. It’s your bed. Sleep the way you want. Two-car garage notwithstanding, it is a good idea to make room in your life for another person—and while that may mean doing a huge clutter clearing, or just purging your ex’s stuff.

But you should also clear room in your schedule—to go on dates, to go out with friends, to accept invites to dinners rather than justifying another night in. If you’re too busy to meet someone, you’re too busy to spend time with one.

 

2. You make bad things happen by thinking them.

Donna Byrne says that your thoughts don’t just control your life, but the world around you. You create the world with your thoughts.

…Did you catch that? You can control the universe with your mind! This is also widely  known as delusion.

And this is also where The Secret and I part ways. This is the ultimate sucker punch of the Law of Attraction—because it essentially shifts the blame of misfortune to you. Car accident? Your fault. Cancer? You manifested it, whether you like it or not. I’m sure there are more than a few nutjobs out there who truly believe that the people of the Philippines must have manifested that typhoon based on their sense of lack.

According to the Law of Attraction, you are a powerful transmission tower, emitting frequencies out into the universe more powerfully than any manmade machine. It’s as if every fearful or worried thought was a draft of an email in your mind that you never intended for anyone to see, but—surprise!—the Law of Attraction hit “Send” and now it’s out there!

Correction: Stop writing bad endings for yourself.

You don’t control the world with your thoughts—but you do control your actions with them. And if you think, and thus act, as if nothing and no one good is coming your way, it can be hard to stay open to possibility. I don’t think you’re magically manifesting lousy boyfriends, but you may be saying yes to men with the expectation that they will suck, because you already know they do. And voila! You aren’t psychic. But you are right.

Changing the way you approach people, situations, and pretty much every interaction you have with another human can and will affect the outcome. You don’t have to avoid all negative thoughts (good luck with that), but you must look at them with curiosity and compassion so that you can begin to shift your behavior in the world—and the way people respond to you.

 

3. You’re not manifesting hard enough.

Some women believe they’re just 10 pounds shy of being able to meet the right guy. If I were just thinner, taller, smarter, funnier, they think, love would be mine. Of course, you and I know love is not a beauty pageant or a talent contest.

(Read: Why you shouldn’t wait til you lose weight to date.)

But even if you have come to terms with who you are and how you look (no small feat, to be sure), you can start to wonder, Well, if nothing’s ‘wrong’ with me, then why aren’t I in love/coupled/married by now? That’s when it’s easy to fall prey to the lure of magical thinking—essentially, that it’s your fault for not thinking hard enough or wanting it bad enough.

Wrong.

Let’s get one thing straight: You are not alone/uncoupled/sans husband because you didn’t visualize correctly or acted as if you’ve already received the thing you want (another “rule” of the Law of Attraction, and which will definitely make you look and feel insane).

Blaming yourself for not thinking the right thoughts compounds stress and self doubt, and is no better than castigating yourself for not being the right weight.

Correction: Thoughts are nothing without action.

I knew a woman years ago who wanted a partner desperately. She spent a good chunk of time visualizing him: what he would look like, sound like, be like. She had a version of this perfect partner fully crafted in her mind, down to the fact that he loved eggs benedict, owned a cat, and subscribed to Rolling Stone.

Then one day, she met him. Or, someone very similar (turns out he’s allergic to eggs and subscribes to the New Yorker, but close enough). She fell instantly in love. She believes, in some ways, that those focused hours of thought created a psychic current that drew him directly to her.

It also helped that she put a profile on J Date.

 

No More Magical Thinking

It isn’t about what the Universe wants. It’s too busy expanding. It’s about what you want. And those who claim the world works by remote control are at least to some degree superstitious, lazy, and risk averse. (Read my rant on how fate is not your friend.)

Here’s where motivation guru Lisa Nichols makes good sense: “Your ability to generate feelings of love is unlimited…love everything you can. Love everyone you can. Focus only on things you love, feel love, and you will experience that love and joy coming back to you.”

You must love to be loved. And love isn’t a happy thought; it’s an action, an effort. If you dream of love but act out of fear, you’re not going to find what you want.

Except you don’t need a quantum physicist to tell you that.

A version of this story appeared on yourtango.com

I suffered dual blows recently: a minor physical injury, and major blow to my self esteem. And for a while, I wasn’t sure which was worse.

I pulled a tendon in my foot. Sure, it hurt like a railroad spike to the sole for a few days. I hobbled and mooned about, feeling sorry for myself. But the fact is, the body is magically self healing; self esteem is not. I don’t question the value of my foot because of this minor slip-up. The other, however, throws everything into question.

What Happened

rejected red square  stamp

Take more risks, and you’ll have more failures, it’s good for you!

On Monday, I got a letter from the theater where I’ve been taking class for over a year. I’d applied for consideration to a higher-level class, which requires approval, as opposed to just a credit card. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I’d get in, but I felt pretty good about it, since the group of friends I met in Level 1 had been taking class, moving up through the levels together, having a great time. I had improved significantly, and had performed well in my last few shows. My two friends and I submitted our names and hoped for the best.

Instead, I got a letter of decline. I was told there were too many applicants, not enough spots. Which I believe, by the way. But what hurt was that my two friends had been accepted. Do I believe I’m so unspeakably bad and untalented I couldn’t get in? No. But still, someone had looked at the list of names and when they got to me, thought, “She can wait.”

No matter how you slice it, it hurts. What also didn’t help matters was that my blood sugar was dropping rapidly, and I was 15 minutes from being straight-up hangry. And in that moment, I turned to glass. I felt myself go rigid and sharp, dangerously fragile, as if, at any moment, I could shatter. Tears started in the corners of my eyes, like tiny shards.

So I was feeling particularly vulnerable as I walked into Home Depot moments later, but held it together long enough to weigh the pros and cons of 12v vs. 18v power drill. I went with the Milwaukee 12-Volt with two lithium batteries and a built-in light, in case I ever have to assemble IKEA furniture in the middle of a blackout.

Then I cried the whole way home. This wasn’t the first time I’d lost it on the streets and subways of Manhattan. But if you’re going to have a breakdown, this is the city to do it in: People don’t freak out or whisper or stare. They look at you, nod and give you your privacy. They’ve been there.

I knew this, too, was a minor letdown in the grand scheme, not a failure with a capital F. I had risked nothing (it’s not like I had publicly embarrassed myself), and lost nothing; I could and would try again. But this was fucking with my belief system.

Imposter Syndrome: Worst Fear Made Real

Like many women, I suffer from Imposter Syndrome, a lifelong condition in which you attribute any modicum of success to the fact that you’ve done a great job of fooling people.

And any failure, even the most small and insignificant can cause an IS flare-up, wherein this inner fiction becomes real: It’s true; I’m not good enough. I’ve been found out. The toxic power of even a smallish failure can call into question every compliment or encouraging word, questioning its authenticity and intent. I haven’t been lying to everyone else; they’ve been lying to me. 

This is the danger of seeing yourself as an on/off switch: You’re either good or bad, a success or a failure; you either have potential, or you’re a joke. It’s a lose/lose.

Will I get over it? Of course. I only have to look back to my freshman year, when I auditioned for the Boston College Dance Ensemble with a friend who was literally a prima ballerina (tip: Don’t stand next to a prima ballerina at a dance audition). She got in (duh); I didn’t. I cried for days, questioned whether I should dance at all.

Then, I got my ass into dance classes, re-auditioned, got accepted, and by senior year, I was the fucking director.

Years later, in my first year as an editor, I attended this big health expo, where you go and schmooze with the ad sales team and their clients. But word got back to me that the ad reps weren’t all too psyched to bring me around, and many didn’t. They weren’t sure how great of an asset I would be. I was mortified—and angry. I remember roaming the expo floor, nibbling samples of organic chocolate as I cried to my boyfriend on the phone. “One day they’ll beg me to go with them!” I swore.

And within a few short years, they were. I became an ad sales favorite. I was that good. Sometimes I turned them down.

Yeah, so, now what?

So here I am again: A newbie in another environment, where I have zero cred or experience. I chided myself at my response to this: Who did I think I was, waltzing in the door, assuming everything should come easy? 

I have a choice: Walk away, miffed and indignant, or I can keep learning, and taking the risk of doing a thing I don’t know if I’m any good at. Part of me thinks, maybe it’s a sign that this isn’t for me, that I should be doing something else. But that’s a loser mentality if you ask me, because it ascribes all responsibility for what I pursue to external forces. Not a fan of that.

The irony of all of this is that not a few hours before the letter came, I had been talking to a client of mine, women-in-business expert Bethany Williams, author of CEO of You, about failure, of all things. She was saying that it’s not whether you fail, but when. Failure is that path you take to get to where you want to be. No one who succeeds at anything ever got there by sidestepping failure. Those losses are a badge of honor.

“I don’t think I’ve had enough failures,” I said. Shit. I couldn’t win at losing, it seemed—I didn’t have enough badges yet.

“I’m going to guess that it’s because you haven’t taken enough risks,” said Bethany.

Maybe she’s right. If so, I have no other option in the face of failure, but to risk again. And again. And neither do you. Playing small doesn’t hurt less—and it gets us nowhere. So I might as well risk bigger. That’s what I’m going to do. And so should you.

(Read why you should get rejected more.)

When Mika Brzezinski told the audience at Arianna Huffington’s Thrive event last spring about the day she was fired from CBS, she described it as devastating. As she packed up her things and walked out, she said to herself, “Damn! I’m so glad I didn’t forget to get married and have kids.”

Mother's loveThe message is clear: No matter how much you love your job, or how ambitious you are, being a wife and mother is the most important and only “real” job for women. It’s the only one that counts.

I was appalled by this (and other decidedly unfunny things the Morning Joe cohost-slash-foil said that day). But remember: This was a crowd of 99% women in the middle of Manhattan, many of whom I’m willing to bet, are not wives or mothers. But that’s not the point.

The point is that this runs counter to what Arianna’s Thrive movement purports to be about: to redefine success beyond the two-legged stool of money and power by introducing a third metric, one that encompasses wellness, wisdom, and giving.

The message is: Don’t let work define you. If you’re a slave to your job, you put yourself at risk of stress-induced illness and burnout. That, I get. But when it comes to aligning with “what matters,” the only thing anyone could think of was being a wife and a mother.

Will All the Real Women Please Stand Up

There will never be a shortage of women who yearn for a traditional life (declining marriage statistics aside). But I saw precious few other examples on that stage of any woman whose success was defined outside of those traditional roles, regardless of their own obvious achievements (rock star, A-list actress, best-selling author).

Because the message is that none of that stuff really matters. (Despite her admirable big screen success, Julianne Moore talked more about how proud she was of teaching herself to make lasagna, as excruciating as she says it was). And while there was some time dedicated to the importance of having female supports in place (Girls Night!), it still felt auxiliary, as something “else” you might want, you know, when you’re not tending to your homestead.

What’s the Point of a Single Woman?

Yet, scores of women in this country choose not to marry or have children. They’re passionate contributors to their communities with lives bursting with activity and connection. As Tara Parker-Pope pointed out in 2011 (“In a Married World, Singles Struggle for Attention”), nearly half the U.S. population is single (around 100 million Americans, according to the Census Bureau).

And they’re hardly just getting their nails done: While 68 percent of married women offer support to aging parents, that role more often falls to the unmarried children (about 84 percent, according to the Council on Contemporary Families).

Bella DePaulo, PhD, arguably one of the fiercest advocates of single living, cites some statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in a recent post which showed that single people in fact spend more time than married people on educational activities, socializing, and staying in touch with family and friends (and less time shopping).

But even Katie Couric, who was there to promote Fed Up, a film that sheds light on the troubling trends promoted by the food industry, told us we need to be concerned as “wives, mothers, professionals.” That’s right: If you don’t have a husband or a brood, you’re just a worker.

Melanie Notkin, the author of the new book Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, said to me once over a glass of malbec (and many times before and since): “Ever notice there are no career men? Just career women.” Because men are just men—who might also happen to be husbands and fathers, or, if they’re single, “eligible” (as opposed to “damaged goods”).

So…This Is It, Then?

Is this the next wave of feminism? Canonizing the people who attempt to have it all (which it’s pretty clear no one has)? And cooing over driven women who “push themselves too hard?” I sincerely hope not.

Not too long ago, women fought tooth and nail to get into the work world. There’s still far too few women in leadership roles in this country. We have not closed that gap. So while we don’t have to work ourselves to death, we shouldn’t have to be afraid to define ourselves by the very work we’ve fought so hard to do.

A friend of mine in her 40s (who’s often mistaken for 29) has big dreams—none of which involve raising children. She struck up a conversation with another woman at the Thrive event. “Do you have children?” the woman asked expectantly. “No,” my friend said. “Don’t worry,” the woman reassured her. “You still have time.”

I commend Arianna’s efforts to champion the third metric and start the movement toward more sane, meaningful lives and work. But while everyone can sleep 30 minutes longer or log off once in a while, until we can define ourselves as women first, not just as the roles we play, we’re going to be stuck right where we are.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis, ultricies nec, pellentesque eu, pretium quis, sem.

Nulla consequat massa quis enim. Donec pede justo, fringilla vel, aliquet nec, vulputate eget, arcu. In enim justo, rhoncus ut, imperdiet a, venenatis vitae, justo. Nullam dictum felis eu pede mollis pretium. Integer.

  • Donec posuere vulputate arcu.
  • Phasellus accumsan cursus velit.
  • Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae;
  • Sed aliquam, nisi quis porttitor congue

Read more

If you’re dating and dating and you hate it and wish you could just get married already, well, maybe you should do that. Exactly that: Get married NOW, and date that person later.

I got this nutty idea from Hellen Chen, who has given herself the moniker “matchmarker of the century,” thinks dating for years on end is a big mistake. It’s a recipe for heartbreak. And she may be right on the money.

There’s no security in dating. And she’s right about that. Though I’ll also add that there’s no security in anything, really—not marriage, not employment. But dating is the very definition of “I’m not sure about you but am finding out.” What you need to be truly happy and free, says Chen, is a spouse (I’m not 100% on board with this, by the by, but you’re the one who wants to get married). When you have someone and something to come home to, she says, you can experience freedom like you’ve never had. In her world, the barrier that separates two single people poses the problem; if you just get rid of that and get married, well, problem solved.

The Case For Settling

This is bound to strike singles as odd advice, if not out-and-out preposterous. After all, how do you find the person you want to marry if you don’t date first? This is Chen’s wheelhouse, of course. And while I haven’t experienced her matchmaking style directly, I’m guessing she’s going to match you with someone right quick and not entertain your concerns that he doesn’t share your passion for the Hunger Games or House of Cards.

Her message is clear: Stop nitpicking every date to death and finding reasons not to commit to someone. Stop wasting years and years in relationship limbo, cohabiting with someone you’re not sure about, knowing the writing’s on the wall. Stop all this nonsense and get married already. That’s what’s she believes.

It’s not too far off from what Lori Gottlieb told us years ago in Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough—when she warned us that we’d regret the day we let that nice guy with the receding hairline or questionable spelling get snapped up by the woman willing to overlook male pattern baldness. The risk being, of course, that if you find something wrong with everyone, you’ll end up past your prime with fewer prospects and fewer men to choose from.

I’m not a fan of this argument, due to its scarcity-minded approach, but there is some truth to it, especially as the biological window closes. Regardless, she made her point, and perhaps humbled more than a few women into solid marriages they might have missed. (Did Gottlieb herself ever settle? Word on the street, says Melanie Notkin in her book Otherhood, is that she has not.)

Marriage requires compromise

Fact is, anyone who wants a specific thing must make some compromises to get it—be it a Manhattan apartment or a spouse. And this isn’t even just about marriage: If you want sex without relationship, you can have it, but you risk not having a supportive bond. If you want kids but not marriage, you can pursue ways to make that happen. And if you want marriage, and to be married, more than anything else, then you can do that, too, provided you’re willing to do away with the impossible standards and pages-long dealbreaker list for Mr. Perfect.

In other words, if what you want above all is marriage, you must have to be willing to commit first and love second. After all, it’s only (fairly) recently that we demanded the whole package: true love, intellectual match, best friend forever. As Stephanie Coontz taught us in Marriage: A History, for most of recorded history, love was considered a pretty fickle reason to get married, and not enough reason to stay—which maybe why today, with so many marrying for love alone, so many leave in droves.

DIY Arranged Marriage

99204-284x425-Arranged_marriageYou know where this is going right? It’s estimated that 55 percent of the world’s marriages are arranged—90 percent of which happen in India. The divorce rate, as you know, is roughly 50 percent in this country.

Guess how many divorces result from arranged marriages? Four percent.

That’s not because people are happier elsewhere as a rule, or don’t suffer the same emotions or experiences that all couples go through. They do go in, however, with different expectations. They go in knowing they will make the best of it, and in many cases over the course of history, the bond forms overtime, and love happens—not in all cases, certainly, but a lot more than you realize. Full lives, children, a summer home perhaps—that can be yours, too.

Do the countries where arranged marriages happen have a history of being oppressive towards women? Yes. Do I like the idea of women not being able to choose? Of course not. But you can choose. You just…aren’t.

You’re not willing to work for it.

You, like all of us, fell under this spell, from a fairly young age, that you should just be able to have something magical–true, everlasting love. That it’s your God-given right, and it “should” happen.

But let me ask you: Where else in your life would you expect something like that? You don’t assume you just “deserve” a CEO position if you’ve never held another office job, and wait around for someone to hand it to you, right? You don’t walk into a company who’s looking to hire a project manager and say, “Nope. I’ll take THAT job, up there in the corner office.” If they said, “Sorry, that job’s not available,” would you stomp out in a huff and complain there are no jobs out there? Of course not. But that’s what women (and lots of men) do when it comes to relationships. Fact is, if you want to be employed, you find a job that’s available and you make it work so that you can have the lifestyle you want.

Now I realize corporate hierarchy is a limping analogy. But, in essence, you do want the job, so to speak. And if you want to be married and have a married life, then you have to start with what’s available and commit to making your life what you want it to be.

And even though I’ve never felt the compulsion to get married in the traditional sense, I’ll admit, the idea of dating the person you marry is appealing. It’s enough to make me wonder if we waste all the good stuff while we’re dating and then bore ourselves to tears after vows are exchanged.

Chen may be onto something: Imagine if the good stuff wasn’t the appetizer, but the main meal. Think of how differently your romantic life would be if you could enjoy all the sexy fun of dating without wondering “where this is going”—because you’re already there.

 

A previous version of this story originally appeared on yourtango.com