I'm Not Married and It's All My Fault
When other women join the hate machine that tells women like me that we're unmarried because we are terrible people with broken mechanisms for maintaining relationships, my first impulse at this point is to ignore it.
So I really wanted to ignore Tracy McMillan -- married and divorced thrice -- who wants spinsters to know that we're not good enough, except when we are, and also that we're shallow and selfish bitches, sluts and liars (I am not paraphrasing). And that, friends, is why we haven't landed the amazing prize of a man we should have by now. I tried to ignore her all week, what with the Valentine's Day candy for eating and a not-insignificant amount of college basketball to watch. Clearly, I failed. One point for Tracy McMillan, who reinforces the belief that I should quit being so angry and be more like a woman whose physical ideal I'll never attain to attract the husbandly equivalent of a 13-year-old boy:
Here's what my son wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian. Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn't think so. You've seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man's fear and insecurity in order to get married -- but actually, it's perfect, since working around a man's fear and insecurity is big part of what you'll be doing as a wife.
And I guess maybe I'm supposed to read this and think "HAHA! Tracy McMillan, you've written for Mad Men and United States of Tara, you are so officially funny, your irony and hilarity should be clear," and not, "Tracy McMillan, you're out of your reductionist, misogynistic mind." I am clearly supposed to assign all manner of blame to myself for how I've failed, because it was not him, oh most certainly not, not any of those times. It was me. Because that's the message, right? Sitcom-ready failure in love with a side of irony and self-loathing is what's for three square meals a day when you haven't managed to tie the knot with a hapless, malleable man who would prefer a reality show version of a woman anyway.
What I unfortunately have come to understand is that women with counterpoint voices ignore the twisty words of women like Tracy McMillan at our peril. And as much as I'm tired of this little game, and no thank you very much I will no longer catalog everything that I have done and failed to do to snare the husband that I'm supposed to have settled for by now to satisfy anyone's curiosity or my own twitchy need for validation, I can't just hit delete.
Because I'm not a bitch (much.)
Because I'm not shallow:
When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man's character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you're not married, I already know it isn't. Because if you were looking for a man of character, you would have found one by now. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit.
(Haha. No, really. I had to share that one. It's a riot.)
Because I'm not a slut.
Because I'm not a liar.
Because I'm (mostly) not selfish.
And yes, just maybe, as the cliche goes, I am good enough.
I know this is shocking. I know it's a tough sell to believe that a woman of 40 who hasn't walked down a matrimonial aisle even once would have the revolutionary opinion that it's not just me, not all of the time anyway -- that maybe, just maybe, it was the hims who had something to do with the outcomes too, the two of us being adults with equal responsibilities in relationships and all.
And I know this is difficult, this assigning of full responsibility to men for their behavior. It's much easier to rest in eternal concepts of a world full of men who can't handle a woman's intellect or interest in her own goals, assertiveness or sex drive, and that men should be allowed to drive even when they can't find a destination literal or figurative with a top shelf GPS. And it's difficult to to deal in concepts that can often be hard to see from outside a relationship: that maybe it was the wrong time, and/or the place, the subtly abusive language, crappy attitude or the fundamentally incompatible belief systems that sent a woman with an interest in contentment beyond rings and the next right societal construct running for the door, sentencing herself to more dreaded singleness.
Tracy McMillan did not meet your husband-material friend of boundless character and smarts who didn't arouse any sense of physical attraction, making a marriage to him unfair to all concerned. She didn't know you when you spent a few years with Mr. Right who turned out to be painfully wrong, which you only figured out when you woke up and he was gone, in spite of your best efforts.
She does not know anyone's story, beyond what she has projected from her own. No one can hear all of the stories of people unmarried for one reason or a million. They don't know about all of the times when, painfully enough, it was good old fashioned heartache and another done somebody wrong song -- because sometimes we still trust in spite of ourselves and it tanks, sometimes when all else has proven flawed we still want to believe in love beyond magazine talking points. Few people are interested in thousands of stories that resulted in solo nights of Cabernet and yoga classes rather than registering at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
But this is the complicated story of failed partnership that doesn't lend itself to pithy, bullet-pointed blame-assigning essays, I know. It's way easier to lob a stream of insults at the universal "you" of unmarried women, as much as it is one of the most irresponsible and cruel things to do in 2011, even when it's a joke. It's a testament to the American Dream of irony and armchair proselytizing that a woman who has not been able to sustain a successful marriage is on Twitter -- @whyurnotmarried, naturally -- telling other people how not to be married, claiming she was born knowing how to get married, damn the outcomes:
"why you're not married: YOU HATE YOURSELF. okay, maybe you don't hate yourself. you just don't treat you very well."
I'll say it again, because it bears repeating: This is so not true. The boxes are not that tidy, the reasoning not that simple. And women especially don't need other women making egregious statements about how terrible they are, and how it's their major malfunctions that have made them inappropriate candidates for a man to shackle himself to legally. Maybe life has done a solid enough job in this area anyway, you know?
Because no matter how valid the argument for marriage-repelling flaws, no matter the backhanded message of empowerment, when it's delivered in a voice of anger, blame and retribution? That's the writer's anger, the anger that is allegedly so unbearable to a man. It's her retribution for whatever has happened to her, from the inevitable combination of her own issues and what she encountered in the faces and voices and bodies of the men she married. Maybe even all three of them.
Here is what you need to know: You are enough right this minute. Period. Not understanding this is a major obstacle to getting married, since women who don't know their own worth make terrible wives. Why? You can fake it for a while, but ultimately you won't love your spouse any better than you love yourself. Smart men know this...
Alright, so that's the bad news. The good news is that I believe every woman who wants to can find a great partner. You're just going to need to get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won't. Once the initial high wears off, you'll just be you, except with twice as much laundry.
Because ultimately, marriage is not about getting something -- it's about giving it. Strangely, men understand this more than we do. Probably because for them marriage involves sacrificing their most treasured possession -- a free-agent penis -- and for us, it's the culmination of a princess fantasy so universal, it built Disneyland.
And we wonder why more people don't sign up or get out? I'm either too much or not enough, a fool for love or a mercenary bitch that I'm not supposed to be in the first place.
What I've been is me, in all of my flawed glory. I've lived and learned, tried and failed and refused to accept broad-based descriptions of who I am as an excuse for people to tell me what I don't have. I've celebrated and shaken my head over the marriages of my friends, occasionally wondering, yes, why that was not me, and knowing in my gut full well that it just, quite simply, wasn't -- not yet, anyway.
I've made it this far completely accountable for my mistakes and good moves in relationships, and I'd bet money that there are millions more like me than there are lying trainwrecks looking for the big pay day and overlooking the perfect match in the meantime. I remain ever thankful for the bullets I've dodged because while I've never been married? I've also -- I am strangely happy to say -- never been divorced. And I'm sorry for whatever happened to the ladies who blame all of us without acknowledging the difficulties, who would have us be cautionary tales and case studies of negativity and failure rather than architects of our own lives who have succeeded and slipped just like anyone else, in love along with everything else.
The bottom line is that marriage is just a long-term opportunity to practice loving someone even when they don't deserve it...But as you give him love anyway -- because you have made up your mind to transform yourself into a person who is practicing being kind, deep, virtuous, truthful, giving, and most of all, accepting of your own dear self -- you will find that you will experience the very thing you wanted all along:
Well yeah. On that tidy summary we can agree, Tracy McMillan and me, with one critical difference: I have to do myself the same favor, and expect it in return. Because I really didn't get here by virtue of my own lying, slutty, bitchy, shallow, self-loathing behavior. I promise. I do.