You’d think I’d embrace anything that tells me I’m doing all right. But after reading Penelope Trunk’s Blueprint for a Woman’s Life a few weeks ago, I’ve only felt more convinced that I’m failing at life.
Let’s backtrack a bit. Right around the time Trunk posted her Blueprint, a close friend of mine was at a personal crossroads and I was trying to help her choose her path. At some point I interrupted my advice-stream with, “but what the hell do I know? I’m 27 and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, I just know I don’t want to be the one thing I’m actually qualified to do. I’m a freaking mess.”
“Well, you’re married. You’ve got a huge part of your life pretty well sorted out.”
But being married gives me no self-satisfaction. I don’t mean my marriage isn’t satisfying. Being married to Collin is wonderful. What I mean to say is the status of being a Married Woman doesn’t boost my self-esteem. I don’t think I’ve done right by life just because I found a good man and locked him down.
Trunk’s blueprint argues that because statistics show most women derive most of their life’s joys from their families, women should approach building a family (finding a suitable partner and having children) with the same ambition they do their careers. [It also says things like "[plastic surgery] is the must-have career tool for the workforce of the new millennium,” which I brush off as Trunk being Trunk, and I realize it’s unfair that I’m giving her a pass that I wouldn’t to most writers. If you’d like to read a well-reasoned feminist response to the piece, try this on for size.]
Well, I certainly succeeded on that front. First, I admitted to myself I wanted to be loved, which was absurdly hard for me to do after many years of very happy singleness. And sure, I got lucky meeting Collin shortly after that, just like a lot of people get lucky getting their first job. And just like those people, after I got my foot in the door, I had to work my ass off to keep it there. I had to learn to trust him. I had to learn to negotiate all the differences in our schedules and social lives and libidos and standards of cleanliness. I had to get back into the fight against my depression. I had to go to couples counseling. I had to fight to keep this relationship in all the ways I never wanted to have to fight to keep a law job, and I did it without complaint because I wanted it so, so badly. I was ambitious in this love.
And as much as this metaphor makes me want to hurl, I approached our “we should get married” conversations the same way you would go about asking your boss for a promotion. And I got it. So why can’t I pat myself on the back?
Is this a knee-jerk response of some ludicrously old-fashioned feminism, worrying I’m doomed to be Betty Draper if I admit being married is a life goal? Is it a grass-is-always greener situation, is there really something to the sexist narrative that women with awesome careers but crap personal lives [read: romantic comedy protagonists] feel like they’ve got nothing without love, and I’m just in the reverse position?
And how much of it is just fear of loss? If I allow myself any credit for having sorted out my love life, if I admit how valuable that success is to me, then given my particular neuroses, I expect it to swiftly be taken from me.
But as much as I hate thinking about being divorced or widowed, I have a spark inside of myself that knows I could survive it. I hope I don’t ever have to draw on that particular strength. But maybe I can reapply it. Maybe I can start thinking about law school as a first husband and let myself move. fucking. on. to the life I really want to be having. With my actual
first husband, who is so much better in bed than being a lawyer ever was. What? I don’t know.
Married/coupled readers: do you feel proud of being married? Is your relationship one of your life’s accomplishments? Single readers: have I pissed you off too terribly by joining the unrelenting chorus of voices that you’ll never be happy and oh, by-the-by, your ovaries are pruning up more and more every second? Sorry about that.