Independent Women

Yesterday, I read a blog post on Maria Shriver’s website by Lindsay Schnaidt, who writes that women are too independent. Conveniently enough, I’d been reading a chapter in When Everything Changed, about marriage in the 1950s. It put me in an interesting position to compare the two worlds. Sixty years ago, women would not have been able in most states to own property, but now we can and without the help of men. The options sixty years ago, to stay home or work, or to remain single, were almost nonexistent.  We’ve come a long way and have no reason to say we’ve become too independent.

Yes, more women are single later in life than ever before. Schnaidt referred to the report, Unmarried in America 2010. Here are a few of the basic facts (because I love statistics): 75.4% of women under age 30, and 37.9% between age 30 and 39, have never been married. Those are huge numbers compared to what they would have been 60 years ago. Do we need to take a giant step back? No! More women are co-habitating before getting married, but the numbers still seems low: 14.9% of unmarried adults (only 12.7% of women). However, for women under the age of 30, that number jumps to nearly 17%. Not quite a quarter of us are living in sin. (Did you think that number would higher or lower?) A lot more women are putting off marriage, or saying no to it all together. Is it wrong to say we want to focus on our careers or school before getting married?

Christina Black and I were discussing yesterday how the issue of independent women came up in How I Met Your Mother (okay, half the episodes have some sort of struggle for individualism and independence, as well as career vs. romantic life). It is also a major topic in several episodes of Sex and the City, any “chick flick”, and countless books. Why is this something thrown in front of us so often? Why do single women start to stress about their singleness the closer they get to 30, and moreso the older they get?

I’d blame the biological clock, but I think it’s more.  Schnaidt mentions questions and pressure from family.  I think almost any woman single at the age of 23 has been asked by a grandparent why they aren’t married. Times have changed, but those of us in our 20’s and 30’s were still raised to think and aspire to marriage and children by the time you’re 30.  Times may have changed, and the attitudes of some may have, as well, but parents and grandparents have not.

I know this sounds off topic, but stick with me here; I’ve had The West Wing on the brain lately, and a quote from the second season keeps coming back to me. President Bartlet is talking to college students about political apathy in young voters, and asks the question, “are you failing us, or are we failing you? It’s a little of both.” The older single women get, the higher the expectations bar appears to be set, and the more the game changes.  Are we failing men or are men failing us? It’s a little of both. Are women expecting too much, or are men and women not on the same page about what is wanted out of a date or potential romance?

I admit – as one of the unmarried, cohabitating women, who has spent much of her 20’s in a relationship – I am not the best judge of this, and probably not the person single women want to hear from. But hear me out.

I think all women should embrace the independence they have available to them. It’s not, and shouldn’t be, about “too independent” or “too needy.”  The right combination of people is what makes it work.  There is no need to pretend you can’t do something to make him feel needed.  If you think there is, maybe take a longer look at the big picture.

I want to hear what men think, though. Why all the silence and mystery?  We know not all guys are like Barney, but not all guys are like Ted either.  Are men concerned with being single and 30?  Give us some clues here!

Originally appeared on Fem2.0

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