I graduated from university in 2018, which you’ll notice is in the 21st century. And yet, at every gathering of older family members and friends, the questions come up: “How is your love life?” “Have you got a boyfriend?” If I mention I’m single, they’ll immediately recommend a male for me. He’s probably called Horace, is in his mid-30s, and has a cardboard personality and a drinking problem. Still, recommending any man to me will help them sleep easier at night. They’ve done their part to make sure I don’t end up husbandless, childless or, god forbid, alone and happy. What could be so wrong in asking about my relationship status? Well, a lot, actually.
Firstly, it’s an incredibly patronizing thing to ask me about. To me, it seems that what they really want to know is: how am I able to be financially independent as a woman? When will I just give up on this whole career and job thing, and find a guy to support me? Well, it might come as a surprise to you, but my female friends and I are building our own meaningful careers. We make our own money, pay our own rent, and we probably have better financial prospects than the Joe Shmoe I’m being set up with anyway. I went to university because I enjoyed learning and studying, not to get an MRS degree. It’s time for older people to wrap their head around the fact that women in their 20s, 30s and at any age don’t exist to simply be wife material to men and mooch off of them.
Secondly, all these questions about my relationship status puts so much pressure on me. Getting asked once if I have a boyfriend is not a big deal. But when it’s every family gathering, every Christmas party, every time I bump into my mum’s old friend on the street, after a while I started to take the hint: I better find Mr. Right and have his babies. Now, on a first date, I regularly evaluate a guy on whether he’d be a good father to my future children. That is pure insanity. My female friends in their 30s have it worse: rushing to try and make it work with another dead-beat dude, just because he ticks some boxes. Society continues to tell us that we are better off having any partner than being alone. No one cares about letting us choose what’s right for us as an individual. No one will let us take our time. And no one respects our choice to be single. For some reason, our singlehood as women offends people. No matter if we’re studying for advanced degrees, working hard to get promoted, or putting ourselves first in our adult lives. Our personal life choices as women weigh on their conscience.
So, at every family and friends gathering, people are joyful and excited to be able to dump their curiosity about boyfriends and their obsession with small children onto me. Sometimes, I get the even more audacious question, “Are you considering having children?” It’s clear to me that this person hasn’t stopped for a second to consider just how inconvenient that would be for me. A child is incredibly expensive, not to mention that it would totally disrupt the next two decades of my life. What about my freedom? What about having my 30s to myself? Somehow, I’m made to feel selfish for wanting to make my own choices about my life and my body. Maybe I want to freeze my eggs and have children in my 40s. Maybe I don’t. What is that to you?
When it’s coming from a well-meaning, older family member or friend, I kind of get it. These are people who are not on our female-millennial-with-career planet. They don’t intend to treat us like naïve, brainless turkeys to be plumped up and served to men (and yet unfortunately that’s how it can come across). They want to connect with us and show that they care about us. So, instead of talking about our love lives or our fecundity, they could ask us instead:
· “How is your job going?”
· “What are you reading at the moment?”
· “What stocks have you invested in this year?”
· “What’s your opinion on [insert recent cultural, social or political event]?”
· “Do you have aspirations to travel? Where to?”
· “What activities do you enjoy doing with your friends?”
Overall, society cannot have it both ways. You can’t want young women to graduate from college, be independent and have great careers, and yet at every turn bombard us with enormous social pressure about boyfriends, marriage and babies. So, next time you’re going to ask a young woman about her relationship status, do yourself a favor and don’t ask it.