I have caught myself doing this over and over and over and over and over and over again. I see her picture. It is usually a beautiful picture. But that isn’t what get’s me or fills me with pride. It is the caption that is underneath that holds my attention and calls out my admiration. It is extolling her virtues as a wonderful woman. A caring woman. A kind woman. A strong woman. A hardworking woman. A loving woman. A go-getter woman. An attentive woman. A supportive woman. The light of many lives. The bone of many backs. The super star in multiple galaxies. I see this caption and I feel so proud of this woman. It might be someone I know personally. It might be the friend of a friend. Or just a random person that has somehow popped up on some feed of mine. I think wow! She is so amazing. Gosh what an inspiration to me. I want her to be my big sis or small aunty. I finish gushing, then I do that thing that I catch myself doing all the time.
I quickly scan the pic, looking for the hand. I wriggle the fingers with which I hold my pen and mentally note which is my right hand so I can tell which one’s her left. And then I see it. Or rather, the absence of it. I think to myself
awwwwwww she is not married :(
And I hate that I do that. Everytime. I hate that I do it so much. If I could kick myself for doing it, I would. But I still do it. Because it happens in a flash and I can almost not help myself.
Oh! She is not married. What a shame. How sad. Oh no. May God find her …
And then at this point, the real me, the non-brainwashed me, the thoughtful and thinking me, the exposed me, the introspective me says
… and you can stop your bullshit prayer right there. What a shame that what? How sad that what? What is it about this amazing person that you have read, this woman that is living her life to the very overflowing full, that gives you the audacity to dare think what a shame?! What will a husband add to any of her achievements? How will he make her a kinder person? A more supportive person? A more hard working person? The baddest boss in the building? How will he add to who she is and all that she has accomplished – the very things you for which you admired her- what will the husband do to augment them?
And before I can even answer myself, she goes on …
…yes, he might make her happy. Yes he might be a great companion with whom she can share a beautiful life. Yes he might be someone that will satisfy her in ways that she wants to be satisfied. Yes to all these things. They are all possibilities. But how is any of that your business? Did she tell you she was missing these things? And even if she did, did she ask you to pity her? To feel sad for her? And again, I will ask you, how do any of these things add to who she is and all she has done as a living, breathing, creative, loving human being in her own right?
Just as I am about to defend myself, she cuts me off.
And the worst part of this is that, you never do this to the men! You look at a man and you see all that he has accomplished for himself and you think in your mind – well done, good for you! And that is the end. You have sent your best wishes for him into the universe and the universe in turn will ensure he receives it. You don’t pity his bachelorhood. You don’t say ‘oh no, he is not married!’ You don’t wish for him a spouse (unless you know him personally and are aware that he is on the search for one). You do none of these things. You look at him and he is whole. He is a complete and full person who has done well and for whom you feel happy. Why can you not have the same complete happiness for the woman?
Instead you come with this your pity crap, you send it out into the universe and she, not needing that negativity, not needing that pity, feels it. Yes she feels it because you add to the voice of society that ignores all that she is, all that she has built -her entire being- and reduces it to one word- spinster. You contribute to the very thought that she is not enough. Her accomplishments are not enough. Her great character is not enough. She is missing something. And that thing you feel she is missing, is a thing that you earlier did not think needed her. Yet, she somehow needs him to be whole, to be worthy of your complete admiration.
Come on girl! Come On!
At this point. I am speechless. I try to defend myself from myself saying,
but society …
She cuts me off again,
… but society what?! What is society that you have given it free reign over your mind? Your instinctive reactions? Your opinions and beliefs and natural responses to things? Who is society? Is society God?
No … but …
But what exactly? Please tell me. I am listening for you to explain to me how a fully functional and thinking human being such as the one you claim to be, can come to be led by ‘society’?
Let me even ask you this by the way, before you come with any useless explanation that will now not even make sense.
How would you feel if it was you?
Accomplished. Great character. Great person. Lover of all. Doer of true good. And people saw you, asked your age (because somehow that is another indicator of the level with which the useless, unwarranted pity is disbursed), and then after ohhing and ahhing about you, said, ‘oh what a shame, no man? Oh so sad. Don’t worry. The Lord will provide your own’.
How will that make you feel?
Let me even assume, that with this your knee jerk reaction you will say amen to such a prayer-one that was drowned in pity and submerged in the pathetic mores of the patriarchal society on whose head you blame your folly. Following your acceptance of the prayer that in a few words has diminished your entire existence to your marital status, how will you feel? Will you still feel good? Will you still feel accomplished? Will you still feel as though you are the kind and loving person everyone says you are? Will you still feel pride in yourself and the person you have freed yourself to be? Let’s be honest here. Will you?
Taking this as an opportunity to speak my peace, I say:
No … I don’t think I would. But let me explain …
And for the first time since her attack, she kept quiet to listen.
The thing is that, for some reason I have grown up to aspire to two things, well maybe three- a good career, a great marriage, and a relationship with God. In my head, my relationship with God was the means through which I got a good marriage and a good career. God was a means to an end. That is how I saw Him. He wasn’t the end. The relationship with Him wasn’t the aim. It was just the thing that needed to be so that other things could be better. I didn’t fully want this relationship for the inherent value, goodness, greatness even, of having such a relationship. I wanted it for the need I believed it fulfilled. It doesn’t feel good to say that. But it’s the truth.
I also believed that these two things were necessary and that without them, my life would be incomplete. And though I might have outwardly thought – ‘I don’t need a man to validate me’ (Or whatever it is people say these days), I inwardly recoiled from that statement, each time I would look at my life- the good and the bad, the great and the not so amazing and none of it would be enough, just because there was no man to share it with.
And so I have projected this warped self-pity unto other women. So that when I look at their lives and they are single I assume my inadequacy as theirs. In this way my empathy is inherently everything it should not be.
I know that this is not the way to go about life but before I know it, I catch myself doing it, just like I catch myself halfway through the Dulce de leche tub of ice cream and think oops! Today was supposed to be day 1 of #newMeWhoDis?
And finally, she responds with understanding …
Okay, I feel you. However we need to make the conscious effort to erase this knee jerk reaction. We can’t have you contributing to the refuse swimming in people’s minds these days, stinking up the atmosphere with the inability to appreciate and embrace a full, whole, human being who happens to be an unmarried female.
And this goes without saying but she doesn’t need to be amazing to not require your pity. This applies to every human being. See each person in and of herself and not dependent on some relationship she happens to have.
Wish everyone love for himself or herself and mind your business about their finding the love of another.
Next time you see a woman of whom you are proud. What will you say?
“I wish you all the love for yourself that your heart can muster and even more than that…”
You learn fast.
When not writing she is either working (maybe?), eating chocolate and ice cream, reading some kind of story or sleeping (in that order)