The other day, I was asked during a conversation if I had graduated college yet. I have, I finished classes in December 2010, and walked in June 2011. I have a BA in Anthropology hanging in my sewing room. My thesis was on the importance and role of quilting in contemporary American society. I was the first woman in my family to graduate from university, degree in hand. While jobs are scare in my chosen field of Anthropology without a PhD, I am lucky enough to be able to work in the quilting community. I get to make quilts, help people make theirs, help reach out into the community and talk quilts, and design patterns...one day I'll be designing fabric too (once Photoshop stops kicking my ass). But without hesitation, when I said yes, I had already graduated, she looked me up and down and asked, "well, when are you going to get a real job?" The look on my face must have been incredulous, considerably mild in comparison to the insult I felt. A real job. What was that supposed to mean? All I could do was tell her I DO have a real job, I have two real jobs in fact! I cited my position at a local financial planning office in addition to my place at the shop. Why was the fact that I have two part time jobs instead of one full time render what I do as being less than "real?" Why did I feel the need to justify myself? I don't know.
I am not married, nor have I ever been, and I have no kids, my don't have a conventional "career" even though I have a BA, and I'm staring down the wrong side of my 20s. Many other women are in a similar situation, so it's not all that uncommon. But there are comments that have started becoming more frequent, and I know other women hear it too: Shouldn't you at least be married by now? You're not getting any younger, when are you having kids? Why don't you have a real job? I of course get frustrated by it, but what can I say? It's part of adulthood, and in the economical environment of the past 15 years it's not surprising, or at least it shouldn't be. So I don't say much...what is there to say?
Today my friend Laura posted the following article on Facebook, and finally someone put into words what so many of us twenty-something women feel when these things get pointed out. If you're a twenty-something in a similar position in your life, it's worth a read, and even if you're not, it's still a good article that speaks to the perceptions of what is expected of women at any age. I know for me, it gave me a different perspective.
My favorite part of it was where she asks about whether the her plans for her life are okay. It drove home to me the fact that how we always seem to look to other for a measuring stick for where our lives should be - if it's "okay" to have goals, plans and desires that differ from what women are still expected to do in their lives as women - and we ask for that approval:
"What if my ultimate goal has nothing to do with marriage or kids or a
career? What if my aim was to love people well, and to fully embrace the
gifts I’ve been given? Would that be enough? What if my life goal was
to simply run the race, to be called a good and faithful servant at the
end of it all? Maybe that would mean marriage and children and a
thriving career, but maybe it wouldn’t. Is it ok if it doesn’t?"
We've all asked those questions of ourselves and of
others, but should we have to? That answer is up to you. For me, this
was really good (and needed) food for thought.
Read on below:
26, Unmarried and Childless