Please Stop Assuming That Because I’m “Old as Fuck” That Means Being Unmarried and Childless is a Personal Choice
Public service announcement
The holiday season can take its toll even in the best of circumstances. This year is special because after four years of adhering to the “gypsy lifestyle” — I’m finally able to enjoy the festivities with my family and for the most part it’s been great, even though I did manage to once again win the prize for the “least loved” of the bunch.
Not too long ago I was present for another combined event and ended up shockingly getting my heart broken — which was weird — when you consider the numerous times I’ve been judged for my apparently controversial status.
It happened when I found myself polishing another plate of coconut Jollof rice — that I had cooked to perfection. I was balancing my one-year-old niece while my sister-in-law was holding court with her mother and younger sister. The conversation was going along smoothly without much input from me. And then suddenly my niece became fussy and I was forced to hand her over to her mother. A comment was made and it involved my niece’s grandmother congratulating me for “dodging a bullet.”
I had wisely avoided the long-term assignment of motherhood — and my purposed freedom was enviable enough to deserve a shoutout.
I offered the smile I give when I’m desperately trying to keep my cheeks dry and then quickly excused myself from the blurry scene. I headed to the nearby bathroom that was thankfully empty. I needed to pee, but I stood in front of the mirror and allowed the tears to fall as I planned how to make my exit.
I was able to leave almost immediately after my short-lived breakdown — but the truth is that I won’t be able to escape another instance when someone who doesn’t know me — feels obliged to question or express assumptions about my societally-inspired predicament.
Actress and comedian Tracy Ellis Ross — recently described how unbearable it is to be a highly successful woman in her mid-forties who still has to contend with the “embarrassment” of not living up to the standards of life:
“It’s really interesting to be a woman and to get to 45 and not be married and not have kids.” “Especially when you have just pushed out your fifth kid on TV. You start hearing crazy shit like: ‘Oh, you just haven’t found the right guy yet,’ ‘What are you going to DO?’ ‘Oh, you poor thing,’ ‘Why is someone like you still single,’ ‘Have you ever thought of having kids?’ ‘Why don’t you just have a kid on your own.’ It’s never ending and not helpful.”
In my case — I’m not the person you would describe as “successful” if you were to honor the exact meaning of the word. I don’t own a home or even a car. I don’t have thousands or millions of followers on any of the social media platforms. And despite the immense progress I’ve made with my writing career — the mention of my name doesn’t command the level of respect that others in my field evoke.
So, unlike Ross — I can’t rely on my popularity or stellar career trajectory to swiftly polish away the dirt that surfaces when people discover the ugly truth. I’m just a woman who was once a girl that imagined the man she would marry and the two kids that would help her live up to the meaning of her name: “good mother.”
Yes, I also have the good luck of being named for something that I most likely will never be — unless the “miracle-working God” that my mother talks about comes through.
While I work through the complexities of aging — which involves the difficult task of re-adjusting to an existence that wasn’t planned or even desired — I really can’t be subjected to the assumption that because I’m “old as fuck” and still quite lovely — that must mean I spent my fertile years purposely dodging the option of creating a family of my own.
I’m old enough to look back and critically examine all the decisions I made — and I know how easy it would’ve been to submit to some of the guys that looked good on paper, but ultimately didn’t match my specific disposition. I chose not to do what so many are pressured into because I believed that if I held out — I would be rewarded with the right match.
It hasn’t happened yet and it may never happen — but I can’t deny that if I were a guy — I would be fondly labeled “a roving bachelor” who is too busy galavanting the globe to settle down.
Instead, I’m a woman — who wasted her youth and is now being punished for it. Or I’m a woman who was too selfish or lazy to consider the privilege of catering to a family that was established from the union of a man that found me worthy enough to love.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve never been proposed to or ever dated a guy that reciprocated my feelings. That means that I either loved him and he didn’t feel the same way or vice versa. I was never desperate enough to commit myself to something that wasn’t solid enough to assuage my doubts — and that temperament will never change.
What does have to change is the way women like me are treated both behind our backs and in our presence. There are women who chose not to get married or have children, and for them it’s a lifestyle they defend with passionate defiance — as they bravely fight against the status quo.
For women like me that never intended to be faced with the dilemma of rapidly fading hopes and dreams that unfortunately can’t be hidden from the glaring view of gawkers — it isn’t fair to also have to deal with the careless summation of strangers or accusations from family members who should know better.
No one chooses to go through life without a loving partner and if they do — they’re entitled to those preferences.
I’m here to state for the record that I did and still do pledge to find that person who makes me feel like no one else can. I won’t pretend that being single and childless was my choice in order to make you feel comfortable with my circumstance.
It’s my issue not yours — and out of basic respect — I need it to stay that way.