Do You Fear Being Single?

Are articles like these genuine cautionary tales for young women who think too highly of themselves or believe they can change time-honored rules and avoid the maybe tragic ending that comes to women who don’t just settle down, but settle too? All of the above?

Jan 23, 2013 at 4:30pm | Leave a comment

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So, last week I’m watching "Scandal" with the rest of the free world. I’ll skip a recap because you probably saw it and know exactly what I’m talking about when I ask you to recall the scene when Liv and Fitz argue the night before the big debate and she points out the difference in running like someone’s chasing him versus running like he’s going after something he wants?’ (If you didn’t see it, sigh, click here.)

OK. So something about that line that made me think of my favorite episode of Sex and the City which is “Splat!” It’s best known as the one when “Sally” from Third Rock (Kristen Johnson), playing an aging party girl, declares “I’m so bored I could die!” then promptly falls out the window. It’s also the episode when dear Carrie Bradshaw makes the decision to go to Paris with the Russian. Why she makes the (wrong) decision is why it’s my favorite.

The Russian, creator of pretentious “large-scale light installations” (wtf are those?) doesn’t get Carrie, her friends, her city or any of the basic things that make her tick. She’s in love with a fantasy life, one that she wanted with Mr. Big but couldn’t get, so she’s doing her best impression of a do-over. She knows the idea of running off is far-fetched and probably not the best idea, but she goes along with it in the end because:

1) Carrie runs into a “Sally” from Third Rock who is an aging party girl and fears that will be her trajectory if she stays in New York where she will be single again;

2) All her friends, including Samantha, are in relationships;

3) Carrie’s mentor-in-her-head, Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) turns out to have the perfect career and a non-existent love life, one in which she asks Carrie to hook her up and the best Carrie can do is the guy from the Princess Bride (Wallace Shawn), a balding cheese connoisseur. Oh and in act of desperation, Murphy Brown hits on Carrie’s man and accuses Carrie of “swimming in my pool”

That makes me think of an article I read in the Daily Mail while I was on a 24 hour trek back to the United States. The story was dramatically titled, “I left the love of my life because I thought I could do better. Now I’m childless and alone at 42.” If you can’t figure out from the (long) title, it’s about a woman who loved a man in her 20s but was basically frustrated by his lack of ambition, so she left him. She’s spent the time since in not-so-great relationships and more or less thinks she missed out on The One (and apparently Only One.)

I read her sad, sad tale, even separated the page and stuffed into my carry on for future reference, and in the cramped airplane seat next to an Indian guy with a British accent and the stale body odor of someone who has also been traveling too long, I wondered why articles like this get published. Is it to share an “It happened to me!” that other women readers will find relatable? Is it “just” a good story? Is it fear-mongering? Or is it a genuine cautionary tale for young women who think too highly of themselves or believe they can change time-honored rules and avoid the maybe tragic ending that comes to women who don’t just settle down, but settle too? All of the above?

Then I wondered, how many women, young women especially, who constantly hear how inadequate it is to be single, will internalize some outside factor like this — the same way Carrie was influenced to go to Paris with the Russian — and make a choice to proceed in an unfulfilling relationship not because they genuinely want to be there but out of fear of becoming their worst fear — an aging (and single) party girl, the single girl when everyone is committed, having it all except a partner/husband? Is it really better to have any guy to outrun single or hold out, gamble really, and go for what you think you want?

Reprinted with permission from Clutch

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