Yesterday, Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston published a fantastically-written piece in the Huffington Post titled ‘For The Record’, in which she discussed the immense pressure put on her by both the media and society, to conform to the ideals that women are somehow incomplete unless they’re ‘spoken for’ or bearing children. Jennifer, who’s now 47, has been a subject of great scrutiny in the media for a number of years, simply due to the fact that she is yet to have a child, regardless of whether she actually wants to become a mother or not.
In the article she mentions that “we are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child” and that “we get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’.”, two statements that I couldn’t agree with more. The article itself and the message behind it really got me thinking about a topic I’ve been wanting to discuss for quite a while. I feel the subject in question is something women of all ages can relate to in some way, whether you’re my age and beginning to feel the pressures even at the very start of adulthood, or you’re a more mature woman, who has gone through such scrutiny and even given into these expectations of society at various points in your life.
From birth, little girls are fed fairytale after fairytale where the ‘happily ever after’ always consists of the brave prince rescuing the helpless princess from a high tower or a dungeon, giving off a message from such an early age, that women are reliant on the strength and actions of men in order to attain happiness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, children really are like sponges in that they absorb everything they are told in one way or another and what may seem like an innocent bedtime story could very easily form a presumption in these young girls’ minds, that they need to be in a relationship in order to feel complete, and on no level whatsoever is that okay.
I’m now 18 years old and there are women in my family that have been married since that age, with a handful of children in tow within a few years of that. Certain patterns of society may have changed in recent decades (no. of children per family, age at marriage, etc.), but there are still many unrealistic expectations placed upon women even today. It makes me quite sad to think that many women, just 30-40 years ago, were stripped of the opportunity to travel or better themselves through education, in order to settle down and start a family, at as early an age as 18 or 19. It may seem like the distant past to us now, in 2016, but truth be told, it’s a far too recent fact to simply forget.
It actually angers me, that in this day and age, women as young as 28, 29 and 30 are being scrutinised for not feeling the urge to settle down and start a family just yet, or quite frankly, ever. Many of these women are incredibly successful in their work lives, gradually climbing each rung of the career ladder, attaining promotion after promotion, while others are becoming wealthier by the minute, through their never ending travels and all the life-changing experiences that come with conquering the world and its many wonders.
Why should these ambitious, driven women, clearly the biggest ‘lovers of life’ there are, be regarded as any less admirable or complete simply because they haven’t gotten engaged, walked down the isle and beared three children by the age of 29? As cliche and cheesy as this way sound, a measure of a woman’s happiness or success should not be determined by her urge to hold down a long term relationship or her want to reproduce, but purely by the smile upon her face and the joy in her heart.
At my age, some people may presume that I couldn’t possibly know anything about such matters but I like to think that in my 18 years, I’ve made it through some eye-opening and nurturing experiences of my own. I spent a number of my teenage years in a serious relationship and the most important thing I learned from that experience is that you really are only young once and those years should be made the most of. That statement has no negative reflection on me or the person I was in the relationship with, it simply highlights that committing to something so serious at such a young age often isn’t the best idea when you’re still learning and growing as a person.
Currently, I’m not involved, romantically or otherwise, with anyone and I have to say that mentally, I’m in a pretty damn good state, in comparison to how I was feeling in the first half of this year. I don’t feel the need to get involved with someone, purely for the sake of it, that isn’t the right mentality to have when it comes to relationships whatsoever. One weakness I’ve only recently identified about myself is that in many ways, I’m ‘in love with the idea of being in love’. I guess that makes me a hopeless romantic, which in ways isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when it results in me getting involved with someone half halfheartedly, purely out of wanting to feel those wretched butterflies, it definitely isn’t going to do me, or anyone else for that matter, any favours.
Right now, I don’t think about what age I’ll be if or when I get married, if or when I have children. What I do think about is traveling America next summer, Asia the year after, graduating from college and befriending endless amounts of wonderful people who will hopefully add to my life in many different ways. I don’t feel the need to put a timer of 5, 10 or 15 years on how long I have before I need to conform to society’s wishes and settle down to start a family. I’m more than happy being me, dancing to the beat of my own drum and living life each day as it comes, and I’ll continue to do so when I’m 21 and 41 and 65.
I guess my aim in penning this post was to emphasis how a woman’s worth should never be determined based on her relationship status or whether or not she desires to become a mother. We live in an age now where opportunities have never been so plentiful, and as this generation’s ‘achievers’, the world really is our oyster. So to all women, whether you’re 18 or 68, never let your success be measured by anything other than what YOU desire to achieve, and to put it simply, fuck society. Educate our young girls, never let them feel that their goal in life should be to find a knight in shining armour – be your own hero.