Welcome, welcome! I am so glad to be writing this column again after a very long, productive summer. If you’re a returning reader, welcome back. If you’re new here, stick around. Brace yourselves for some awesome, modern feminist rants. Read. Enjoy. Smash patriarchy. Repeat. If there is one thing I have learned in my now three completed years of my liberal arts education, it’s how to think critically –about anything and everything.
So, my sophomore year, when I started delving deeper into the academic side of feminism (aka, actually thinking critically about why patriarchy was unsettling to me throughout my whole life), it was no surprise to me that even the most basic concepts of human nature came under scrutiny. If there’s one thing we feminists absolutely love to do, it is call what most people take as a natural, normal social construct, a myth. Merriam-Webster defines myth as “a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or a segment of society.”
By this definition, a myth is not inherently fictitious, but rather a seemingly logical construct that arises from observed cultural norms. We all know that cultural norms are completely subjective, that every culture has its own ideas of beauty, love, virginity and the like. The list goes on forever. Some believe that there is a moral absolute in the universe, or the way the world ought to be, that dictates or should dictate certain behaviors and attitudes. I disagree with these people.
I believe that humans construct the world as we see fit, that everything that is observable in our many cultures and social norms is so because we define what is right and what is wrong. That’s right, folks. We made it all up. Now, this is a thing that is almost impossible to come to terms with. We are all brought up with strong convictions that there are certain things that are “right” and others that are “wrong” for some inherent reason that is usually not explained to us.
Some say that the world is the way it is because God said so, or because their government says so. Whatever the reason may be, we all enter into a cultural contract that we will abide by the rules set down by our society or risk being ostracized. One of my favorite myths that we enter into in Euro American society is the Romance Myth. As it exists in the Western variety, the Romance Myth says that there is, or should be, only one lifetime lover, preferably one of the opposite gender, and that they are both simultaneously out there in some mystical realm waiting to be stumbled upon and also slipping further away with every year we age. The Romance Myth takes on two different forms for men and women. For men, there is less focus on actively finding a romantic partner and more of a “go do your thing, your princess will find you” vibe. Men are, therefore, a hot commodity.
As girls, women are taught to believe that Prince Charming is out there and one day when we are ready, we will magically find this evidently lost person and have a beautiful wedding and our lives will be complete. The entire fulfillment of one’s life, then, hinges on finding a man and finding him in a timely manner. The last part becomes more important the older women get. Example: almost everyone that I knew in my high school graduating class is married. And if they are not married, they are engaged or living with a significant other who they plan to marry one day quite soon.
So, when people started looking at me like, “come on, haven’t you met anyone yet?” or not so subtly saying things like, “Well, when you two get married” about every single person I was not even seriously dating, I was not exactly surprised. But I was annoyed. I have spent virtually my entire life in one relationship or another, bouncing from guy to guy. There are very few men that I am friends with that I haven’t dated. This is not something that I am ashamed of, but sooner rather than later, people started expecting me to settle down. I often felt uncomfortable when people would ask me when I was going to marry whatever boyfriend I had at the time because nobody seemed to consider that perhaps I did not want to marry him.
Maybe I was not planning to marry anyone, thank you very much. Every once in a while someone, usually a family member, will say something like, “Don’t worry, you’ll find him soon.” I hate to burst anyone’s bubble (actually, I love bursting bubbles) but there is no mystical him waiting out there for me. I am not some kind of product with a shelf life that is quickly running out. I will not settle for someone else’s idea of romance and happily ever after. Do not ever assume that I am unfulfilled because I am sans boyfriend. And please, refrain from asking me if I am a lesbian if choose not to date.
The Romance Myth, based as it is on scarcity, is telling both you and I that if we don’t hurry and find our life partner, we will be inevitably incomplete. I am not living a half-life because I am a single person any more than someone in a relationship has completed their life’s purpose because they are not. Do not let the Romance Myth decide your fate. In the end, we must choose our own paths.