03 August 2010

I Am Not Normally A Violent Person

However, I have developed a nearly-overwhelming urge to punch people in the face in the past few years. It isn't always the same people, which is good because if it were the same people repeatedly inspiring such feelings, I might end up actually doing it. And assaulting someone is never a good idea, whatever Hollywood says about such things.

But I digress. 

The rotating group of people who inspire such ire and rage are those who attempt to make me feel okay about being 31 and single. Which most of the time I am okay with, in fact most of the time I am quite okay with it, happy in fact. To quote Gwen Stefani, 'the longer I wait, the more selfish I get.' I enjoy my life and what I am doing and have done with it. Sure I wish I occasionally had a date, but that isn't the norm and it isn't what I spend my days obsessing about and it isn't why I'm angry. Rather, it is when people feel they have to reassure me that the rage sets in. Cognitively, I know they think they are being helpful, but really what they are implying is that I should feel down because I'm not married, that I should be devastated that I'm not a wife and a mother, which is why they need to reassure me. So, in offering their support and reassurances, I'm hearing nothing but pity and the endless conversations they must be having in which they talk about feeling sorry for me because I'm not a wife and mother and, therefore, must have a never-ending parade of dismal, depressing, and disconsolate days. Which I patently do not.

The worst sort of reassurance is one I term The Consolation Prize. In the LDS world, The Consolation Prize comment employs either Wendy Watson Nelson or Kristen McMain Oaks as examples. These women, single for most of their lives and living lovely, productive lives, are married to Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks (respectively), well-loved Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have to be very careful how I phrase the next bit, because I think both couples are wonderful and the women are fantastic examples of living life to the fullest even if things you hope for do not come when expected. However, people who use them in their Consolation Prize reassurances do not focus on this aspect of their lives. Instead, they point out that at the end of their prolonged singleness, they were 'rewarded' with marriages to esteemed men. All of which, to me, negates their true example. It turns something real and bittersweet, long-single women and recently widowed men finding happiness, into an unreal, fairytalesque anecdote or the plot of an LDS-oriented romantic dramedy. Which seems unfair to everyone involved. It also tends to imply that other long-single women, women who stay that way and do not end up married to a General Authority, are somehow lacking. That Sheri L. Dew or Barbara Thompson or the myriad other, unknown single sisters living quiet Gospel-oriented lives around the world who remain single are somehow doing something wrong because they are still single. Which is the worst possible thing to imply.

This is all leading to the point that I don't need reassuring, especially reassuring that makes me feel like a freak rather than just a regular statistical outlier. If someone wants to reassure a single person, they really shouldn't bring up marriage or singleness at all. Talk about what is actually going on in that person's life, their adventures, their jobs, their interests or hobbies, something that makes it seem like you actually know them as a person, rather than solely as a single person. 

I bring this up, not because of anything someone has said to me lately, but because my roommate recently ended a serious relationship and has been watching a series of romantic comedies (or dramedies as the case may be) and we have very different opinions about their endings. She wants them all to end happily ever after while I prefer the bittersweet endings that may not be the traditional happily ever after but feel real. Which got me thinking about why people feel they need to reassure me and why it makes me so irate. 

I think the reason I get so irate, especially when handed some variation of The Consolation Prize, is that real life is not easily packaged, nor does the Hollywood happily ever after have any relation to real life. Romantic comedies generally end with a kiss or a wedding. That is not the end of the story; that is the beginning of the story. When the screen goes black after the kiss or the wedding it signals that the hardships are over, that everything was blissful, that the fairytale is complete and nothing bad ever happens again. That is, possibly, the biggest falsehood embraced by society. Relationships are hard. They take work. Soulmates aren't out there just waiting to find one another; you choose your own soulmate and then you work like crazy to make sure you stay that way. It isn't easy and the problems don't just go away. It doesn't mean that relationships and marriage aren't worth it, if done right they make hardships and difficulties less hard and less difficult because you have someone to share them with, but it doesn't make them easy. 

All of which is to say, I would like to get married and have children but if it doesn't happen I'm going to be okay with that. I just wish other people would let me be okay with it.


JennVan said...

Amen sister! Very well put.

two forks said...

you said that all super well - there are so many different parts of what we all struggle with - i really dislike when people assume everything is solved with marriage, or children, or a new job, etc. life is much more complex than that!

Science Teacher Mommy said...

"Life is not easily packaged."