There is a new book out (which I haven’t yet read) by Kate Bolick called “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own”. The author’s background is impressive. She is a contributing editor to The Atlantic, a freelance writer for Elle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. Also, she is single.
I read an article about the book in The Washington Post and a couple others as well. What I found so interesting is that this woman who is clearly very successful and quite attractive has found it very difficult to make a choice to be single. I completely understand this, as it is a topic I indirectly deal with in my book, “Sizzle”. I believe that our culture, even in 2015, still puts heavy pressure on women to grow up, find a man and marry, and then to have children.
While this is a perfectly acceptable route to take if it is what one wants, my experience as a psychotherapist has taught me that many women, if not most have never really chosen this. They followed the path shown to them by family, friends, Church or Synagogue, and society at large. Few women I have come across at any age have really examined their own lives and feelings to determine what they felt was best for them. Many marry and then a few years later, or in some cases, many years later, come to me saying they feel empty and unhappy and not in control of their own destinies. They look back to the time they married, and feel they had no choice. They would have been looked down on, ostracized, for picking a future as a single woman. They cite fear of a future by themselves and pressure as the reasons they married.
Many women have told me they fell in love with their husbands, but now realize that they could have lived together for a while and then gone their separate ways. They did not have to make a lifelong commitment and end up angry and unfulfilled. They say that they wanted to travel, see the world, and explore different parts of themselves that the boundaries of married life and children did not allow.
Ms. Bolick tells us about five women from literary history that were her inspiration. Each took her life into her own hands and pursued her own dreams. She discusses how single women have changed their role in society’s order, and how much this role is determined by political, economic and cultural conditions in the society at any given time.
I am not seeing enough independence of thought and decision among women today and it bothers me. While they have made great strides in the workplace, expectations for them by men and our culture seem to be stuck where they were a hundred years ago. There is clearly still a stigma to being an unmarried woman into your thirties and beyond. People try to “find someone for you” and encourage you “not to give up” as though your singleness is an illness or a blot on your desirability.
People seem unwilling or unable to recognize that this might be a choice a woman has made because she wants the freedom of this kind of lifestyle. They also don’t seem to understand that choice is a fluid thing, not stagnant. You can choose one thing at one point in your life then choose the opposite later. There are also many choices in between. A woman can be married, single, live with someone else, live alone but be in a relationship, or she can have an affair. I am not making any judgments about these choices, merely stating that they exist in the real world. They are options apart from marriage.
The choice (or lack of it) about marriage is closely connected to choices about sexuality. Women have allowed themselves to be put in structured roles as to their sexuality. As a result, I see many very confused women who are embarrassed, ashamed or angry with who they are sexually.
We are sexual beings. It is a major part of our identity. If we are taught to deny it, how can we feel like complete human beings? How can we have the confidence to give ourselves to someone else physically? How can we feel really free?
Finally, it’s not about being a single woman or a married woman. It’s about having the freedom and strength of character to make your own choice.