Why Aren’t You Married?

i'm frightened mommyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What are some good responses for a single woman to use when she is constantly hassled about her non-marital status, for example, “You are so young, and beautiful, why aren’t you married?” I have found that my own personal response of “I like my independence, dammit!” has proven inadequate. Please help!

Independent and Proud of It

A Dear Independent:

I’m there with you, baby! It is hard to imagine, in this day and age, that one would have to explain to rude inquisitors why one’s life is the way it is. But sadly, single men and women are frequently forced into such a conversation.

Most of my books only discuss the normal path ~ teens start dating, and that leads to marriage. Easy as pie, right? So I don’t have an easy response for you, sweetie. But maybe these words will help you realize that you are not alone. I find the “marriage is absurd” observation quite charming.

1965: Absurdity

Marriage is a paradox second only to life itself. That at the age of twenty or so, with little knowledge of each other and a dangerous overdose of self-confidence, two human beings should undertake to commit themselves for life ~ and that church and state should receive their vows with a straight face ~ all this is absurd indeed. And it is tolerable only if it is reveled in as such. A pox on all the neat little explanations as to why it is reasonable that two teenagers should be bound to each other until death. It is not reasonable. It happens to be true to life, but it remains absurd. Down with the books that moralize reasonably on the subject of why divorce is wrong. Divorce is not a wrong; it is a metaphysical impossibility. It is an attempt to do something about life rather than with it ~ to work out the square root of –I rather than to use it.

Source: Capon, Robert Farrar. Bed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.
~ p.16 ~

1971: Why is it that some women never marry?

The answer isn’t easy. Among the sweetest words any woman ever hears are, “Will you marry me, darling?” Yet there are more than nine million American women, who have never heard these words at all ~ or if they have, weren’t listening. The vast majority of them are healthy, intelligent, attractive human beings who are directing the course of their lives stubbornly against the tide of society. To do something as drastic and as difficult as that, they must have some pretty good reasons.

Our American way of life is designed, like Noah’s Art, for those who march two-by-two. Nearly every form of entertainment from sports cars to king-sized beds is designed for the mutual enjoyment of a man and a woman. At parties, at clubs, at bars, at virtually every pleasurable activity in this land of supreme pleasures, a woman alone feels and is made to feel out of tune with the rest of the world. . . .

What effect does this have on a single woman?

In this country every woman who is not married by the age of twenty-one is treated as if she were suffering from a progressive disease that makes the bubonic plaque seem like a bad cold. Until the age of thirty, the chances of recovery are considered favorable and the victim is allowed to mingle freely with the rest of society. As the years slip by the outlook dims and the period of quarantine begins. Those of her friends who are engaged or going steady, and the natural elite who are already married, slowly withdraw to avoid becoming contaminated.

After the age of thirty she is the topic of hushed conversation. “Did you know that Ellen is thirty-one and doesn’t even have a steady boyfriend?” This is the equivalent of saying, “I just heard from Ellen’s doctor ~ the poor dear has only a few months to live!”

Souce: Reuben, David. Any Woman Can. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1971.
~ pp. 86-87 ~