So I meant to write a post about my 10-Item Wardrobe experiment, but a funny thing happened last week: my ex-boyfriend got married. On April Fools’ Day.
After our breakup, we stayed friends. In fact, I had just seen him the previous week during our Massachusetts vacation, during which he drove me and my husband and kids around, introduced me to his amazing girlfriend (well, fiancee–now wife!), and gave me time with “our” cat.
But it was a little hard for me, because we didn’t break up because we didn’t love each other. We broke up because I wanted to get married and have kids, and he didn’t.Now, he still does not want kids (and frankly, if he changed his mind and did, more power to him–we broke up seven years ago, he owes me nothing). And I ended up re-meeting and marrying the love of my life, getting the best “bonus” gift in the world, his son, Sid (and Sid’s mom), and we now have an adorable six-month old daughter, Sarah. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
So I got everything I wanted, and just in the nick of time! I turned 40 three and a half months after giving birth to Sarah; picture me as Indiana Jones, just rolling under the stone wall that was slowly, yet inexorably, coming down to separate me from my fertility, forever.
But! I almost didn’t get it. I almost didn’t even try. And it’s partly because of The Myth of the Desperate Woman. You see, I didn’t want to be that woman: that poor, pitiable, desperate woman in her thirties who is “husband hungry,” “baby-crazy,” with a “ticking biological clock” and nothing to show for it. That’s what you get for not marrying your high school boyfriends, ladies!
I wasn’t a relationship novice: I was in a long-term relationship with my now ex-boyfriend, and I had even been married–briefly, long story–in my twenties. And yet I pussyfooted around having an honest conversation about what I wanted from my life–really important stuff–because I was stuck on some antiquated idea that the “right” way to get married and have a child was to be quiet and sweet, until some dude decided I was, what–good enough to be wife material? Ready for my promotion to Mommy? Looking back, it seems insane, and dangerously passive, on my part.
Ladies, we need to destroy The Myth of the Desperate Woman. Because at the end of that day, it comes down to this: what is desperate about knowing what you want from your life, and asking people for it? Can you imagine shaking your head and “tsk tsking” a 33-year-old man who proclaims that he’d like to be married with a child in five years?
It doesn’t have to be marriage and children: women are often accused of being strident, pushy, selfish, desperate, for wanting that promotion, or deciding they don’t want kids, or buying that house–alone, for themselves. Don’t you want to wait until you have a husband, honey?
But of course, the special sting of The Myth of the Desperate Woman is that women are actually defined, judged, and evaluated for just those two things: whether they are married and have kids!
So, just to recap: are you upfront about wanting to get married and have kids? Pathetic! Oh wait, are you unmarried and childless? Well, what’s wrong with you?
Fuck. That. Shit. Was that unladylike?
In my case, life circumstances finally nudged me to have that open, honest talk with the ex. It did not go well (in terms of our long-term compatibility). We stayed together for another year or so, in limbo. I was conflicted. Would I ever find someone I loved, and who would love me, and want the same things from life? Would I have time? Should I sacrifice a good thing for something that may never happen?
What I realized was, if I decided to look for what I wanted, there was no guarantee I would get it. But if I stayed where I was, there was a guarantee: that I wouldn’t get it. Unless I decided to act like a soap opera character and have an “oops” baby and trap my boyfriend into a life he never wanted. That would have been . . . awesome.
So I leapt (at the “ancient” age of 33), and it worked, and I’m grateful. But I still feel like I’m surrounded by women who are afraid to speak up for what they want, whether it’s because they don’t feel worthy, or they’re afraid of what will happen if the answer is no, or whatever. But I’m telling you. Life is short. Silence the naysayers–especially the ones in your own head. Kill that phantom, the Desperate Woman. And go get the life you want.