I am twenty six years old, unmarried, and I don’t have kids. That means something different in a big city than in a small town. Or rather, it means something different in a real life small town in 2016 than it did on all the sitcoms about single gals I watched with my mom in the 90’s. Where’s my cast of best friends sipping cocktails while bemusedly shaking their heads at me and asking, “When are you going to settle down and find Mr. Right?” I, of course, would shrug adorably and continue to date around while wearing Manolo Blahniks. If the press, both online and traditional print magazines, is to be believed, we that fall in the Millenial bracket are just drowning in casual sex procured via Instagram DMs and swiping right on Tinder, and once these virtual dates are procured we retire to ‘Netflix and chill’.
I don’t have a Tinder, Netflix, or Instagram account, although I once tried Ok! Cupid and
A) Stumbled upon the profile of a high school classmate, in full Ancient Egyptian vampire goth regalia, claiming that she lived in Maryland although she still lived in the house up the street from mine, and
B) Was rejected by a guy who didn’t approve of my answer to the question, ‘Who’s your favorite character in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. I guess his is not Basil Hallward.
Anyway, where I live there is no glamorous Carrie Bradshaw scene, and of virtual hookups, as I said, I can’t say. Most people around my age are married, or living as they are, with children. I am quite the old maid around here, although I’d be a young, sexy single anywhere else. I can’t help but notice and over the years have been unable to avoid the messy dynamics between single, childless women and married mothers. I have shied away from writing about this topic because I don’t want to tar everyone with the same brush.Not everyone with children acts like this, just enough people that I have encountered to warrant classifying it a species of pet peeve. Motherhood is beautiful, and I have every hope that I will be a mother someday. It is just weird for my neighborhood that I didn’t become one at about 19 or so.
The biggest thing I have had to deal with is the condescending notion that I have nothing going on in my life since my schedule is not full of elementary school events, I am not spending my earnings on feeding and clothing a child, and I don’t have the needs and foibles of a husband to emotionally navigate. I do have a life-writing, college, yoga, my job, and being a sister, daughter, and friend take up 24 hours and then some just like anyone else’s day. I am just as busy, just with different things, and just as emotionally invested in my mother, brother, sister, and great-grandmother, my closest relatives, as anyone else would be with their child and husband. Family is family, and I don’t appreciate the implication that my love for them doesn’t compare to the love of a wife and mother. I will be both of those things one day, no doubt-and I have given and received rich love and experiences with the people and pursuits of my life that such love will make me a warm, thoughtful, and gentle mother. I look at the family you were born into as the laboratory for what kind of parent you are going to be, and I value those relationships because when I do have a child, they are going to love him/her as much as I do.
Then, there is the way some women I have known wish to revert to some kind of youthful, carefree, teenage like state when talking with a woman they know is single. They even encourage you to date and go out more, like a recovering alcoholic who abstains but likes to see their friends pop bottles, vicariously turning up. I have gotten better treatment when I have a boyfriend then when I was on my own by my co-workers, and on the other hand I have been given the cold shoulder once it is revealed that I spend most of my time reading, doing yoga, and taking long walks and therefore am no one’s font of twenty-something sexcapade stories.
There is the idea that because I don’t have anything to contribute to conversations about childrearing and kids that I am being standoffish and rejecting an olive branch of friendship somehow. Look, honey-let’s talk about “Game of Thrones”, let’s talk about fashion week, let’s talk about crystal healing or dogs or making candles out of mason jars. I can do that. But I don’t have kids-I will listen, I will laugh, and I can vividly remember my childhood and my siblings’ so I can provide a relevant story about being a kid. But I just don’t have kids to talk about. It’s not a diss, and people who take it as one should either find other moms to talk to since they take non-childcare related topics as offensive or loosen up around a woman who doesn’t have kids and talk about the Kardashians or something. Just let go! And if I bring up any of those topics, I am not talking down to anyone about books they haven’t had time to read or tv shows they haven’t had time to watch, flaunting all that free time to be spiteful. I am just talking about the things I like, because what else does anyone talk about?
Then, there are the empty nesters, who see that I am in age range of their children who are out of state at college. Just because I am young doesn’t mean I’m automatically looking for guidance from someone older. I have a mom, and I’m not looking to replace her. And anyway, what’s guidance and what’s meddling? Answering for me when someone asks me a question, nudging me and hissing at me to ask out guys I don’t find attractive, inviting me to events and getting angry when I can’t schedule the day off to make it or are not interested, and scolding me as if I am a child are not guidance. That is transference, anger at the child that has flown the coop that I am replacing for those satisfying few moments where there is someone between the ages of 18-34 to yell at. But I don’t think that’s appropriate between two adults, and not having kids or being married doesn’t make me some kind of woman-child.
I have no doubt that if I stay in the area where I am currently living, I will continue to get this infuriating treatment until the day someone sees a tell-tale bump under my maxi dress and then I will suddenly be the most interesting person alive. All my jokes will be funnier, I will suddenly be nicer, and people who used to glare at me will advise me on stretch mark creams and ask which doctor I am seeing. Or maybe not, because people who can’t respect another person’s validity and personhood because their life looks a little different than their own are not the kind of people I want to raise kids around.