“You’re way too pretty to not be knocked up.”
This was the romantic one-liner I received on OKCupid two years ago. It was also the message that made me delete my account and swear off online dating forever.
I am no more knocked-up now, at 29, than I was then. I have a significant other, but I don’t have a ring on my hand or a spit-up towel on my shoulder. Am I unhappy or unfulfilled? Society might think so. Some of my relatives and friends might, as well. And, to be completely honest, if you catch me on a bad day, I might tell you I feel behind. I pulled up my phone’s calculator a few days ago to see how old I would be when my first-born goes off to college if I got pregnant tomorrow. The answer was 47. The answer FREAKED me out. I talked myself down by looking at my current priorities and situation in life:
Priorities: Career. Travel. Love.
Situation: Broke. In a long-distance, cross-border relationship.
My priorities are doing great, and I can’t imagine compromising them to bring a baby into the world. My situation is not-so-great, and I definitely can’t imagine bringing a baby into the world when I can barely afford my own groceries and Canadian customs doesn’t give a funk about any hypothetical American-Canadian hybrid-baby in my belly.
Despite my reasoning, the pressure to become a wife and a mother is still there, and it’s not just from my parents wanting more grandchildren or my friends wondering whether I am getting engaged. The main pressure comes from reaching my mid-twenties during a transitional time where choosing your career/single-hood/dreams over marriage and children is steadily becoming more accepted, but still isn’t fully. On one side, you have people like Susan Patton (also known as “The Princeton Mom”) who recommends investing 75% of your time into finding a spouse and notes that you will never be “as young, as beautiful, as attractive to men, or as fertile” as when you enter college. (Ugh. UGH!) On the other, you have successful women like single-mother January Jones and well-into-her-sixties Diane Keaton who reasons, “I don’t think that because I’m not married it’s made my life any less. That old-maid myth is garbage.”
Every argument has at least two sides, but what about when you’re on the not-expecting-and-not-married side of things? What do you need to expect and be prepared for as a possible never-to-be mother or bride?
“How are you single?!” and “He’ll come when you least expect it!” are no less annoying than, “When will you two start having babies?” and “I can’t wait for more grand babies!” because they all assume something on your behalf — that you’re unhappy or lacking because you’re single, or that you must want want kids or that it’s your duty to have them. Whenever they come, whomever they come from, you will need to to roll with it. You come up with your go-to reply or you don’t acknowledge the comment, period.
The older I get, the more the people around me try to guess (or tell me, in some cases) what they think I want or need. When this happens, I feel pressured to have a response or a set-in-stone stance to reply with. Sometimes, especially on a day where another one of my ex-boyfriends gets engaged or I find out a friend from high school is pregnant, I don’t have a reply. I’ve slowly learned that my life is as private as I make it and it’s perfectly fine to keep some personal choices or decisions to myself. It’s also totally OK to still not know for sure whether you want marriage and babies, even as you approach 30.
You know who has time to judge? People who are bored. And bored people are boring. At least that’s what I tell myself when I sense or hear judgment about my decisions in life and love. Get ready for judgement to arrive disguised as advice, concern, and love. If it comes from someone who really cares about you, you might listen and feel appreciative of their concern or hopes, but always remember your choices are not anyone else’s. Remember Stanford’s warning to Carrie in Sex and the City (props to the show for showing all sides of the complicated marriage/baby/career triangle)? Judgey Wudgey was a bear. I’d like to add that Judgey Wudgey is not someone you should ever listen to.
This is the stuff you’re going to want to cling to. When comments, pressure, and judgement come in whatever form they do, remember that you are the only one living in your brain and body. No matter how well someone knows you, they aren’t you 24 hours a day. They can’t fully understand your life experiences, your gut feelings, or your aspirations. Stand firm with your decision, even if it changes over time — no one wants to look back twenty years down the road and realize they made their most important decisions based on the will of others.
It’s never OK for someone to hold your body or future to to their expectations, whether it’s your mother-in-law or some creep on OKCupid. If you can expect anything when you’re not expecting, it’s to learn a heck of a lot about yourself and who loves you.