Four years ago, I was still in an abusive 7-year relationship that left my career, finances, self-esteem, and mental health in tatters; I was a shell of a human, riddled with anxiety and totally isolated from everybody I knew.
Four years ago,I broke free from the toxic relationship that many then called my “learning curve,” and I decided not to step straight back into dating. I wanted to stay single, spend time with my family, rebuild friendships I’d lost to my abusive ex-partner, and throw myself into the career that I had slowly let regress. Instead of searching for a man to pick me up and take care of me, I would do it myself. I’d rehabilitate, work to improve my physical and mental health, unlearn negative thought patterns, grow a thicker skin, and let my hair down. Yes, I would regret a few hangovers after celebrating my new single life, but drinking was no longer a coping mechanism. I was just having fun.
And I wasn’t trying to find myself either. I wanted to build a new, better, stronger, more resilient version of me. A me who would choose what fucks she wished to give. I had been this quiet, nervous, repressed shell of a human for so long that, when I finally found freedom, I didn’t want to give it up. I didn’t find being alone, lonely—I found it liberating.
The downside of finding independence in your late twenties is that men and women alike seem to think that your “ticking time-bomb” of a uterus is their concern.
And they really, really are concerned.
I’ve had extended family members, co-workers, shop staff, hairdressers, even taxi drivers ask me why I’m single, unmarried, and without children at 30. An Uber driver once even asked my mother how she felt about my “situation” right in front of me, as he continued to express his dislike for the strong headedness of the modern, millennial woman. It seems that every woman’s biggest fear should be marrying later in life, though personally, my biggest fears are human trafficking, nuclear war, and the effects of global warming. But to each their own.
During most of these conversations, I have been reminded that women shouldn’t have children over the age of 34, as they would be “geriatric mothers.” I’ve also been told that “It’s okay if you don’t want children, many people don’t have them”–when I’m only 29 and have never said that I don’t want kids. I just haven’t met the right person for me yet.
Society tries to pressure women into settling down with someone who isn’t right just so those women can tick the boxes of sharing a home with someone, being married, and having children the appropriate age gaps between them. Why? Surely there is more to life than caring about whether a stranger has ticked said boxes before the traditionally recognized deadline?
My decision to focus on rebuilding my life and learning to love myself after a traumatic relationship utterly broke me is a decision that should be celebrated. I’m sick of feeling judged and punished for not crawling back to a man or jumping straight into another relationship just so I can reproduce faster. And considering 6.1 million women in the U.S and 3.5 million in the U.K are unable to conceive, I do also feel it’s slightly unethical to ask women why they haven’t had children.
So if you find yourself tempted to ask questions about something as so deeply personal as this, ask yourself two things first:
1) Would you ask a single male of the same age, the same question?
And 2) is it really, truly, any of your business?
…I suspect the answer is no.