Dangerous narratives & the power of ‘if’

Good evening, women seeking romance. (You adorable unicorns of hope, you.) I have some bad news.

Just been hanging out on Pew, that ol’ factual paragon of good cheer, for work purposes and uncovered this statistic.

“Among never-married adults ages 25 to 34, the number of employed men per 100 women dropped from 139 in 1960 to 91 in 2012, despite the fact that men in this age group outnumber young women in absolute numbers. In other words, if all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9% of them would fail, simply because there are not enough men in the target group.”

And: “Our poll published last week found that half (53%) of never-married Americans would like to eventually tie the knot.”

Having fun yet?

I’ve always been uneasy about the “when I get married” narrative young people, especially heterosexual women, speak over themselves. Now there are stats to back up that gut feeling.

So, ladies: No, there isn’t necessarily a guy out there for you.

There is a very sizable possibility that you’ll never get married.

And those two facts will hopefully be less world-shattering when I’m done with this blog post.

Speculating on this percentage for a second…that means that out of 10 girlfriends of mine who want to get married in the next handful of years to a man with a job who hadn’t been married before, one won’t even get a shot. And of those lucky other 9 ladies, only around half of them will ever get married.

It also happens that most unmarried, employed men are concentrated in cities like Seattle (s/o Josh) and San Jose, where — and merely speculating here — there are a lot of laser-focused dudes out of MIT developing apps and not overly concerned with matrimony. Just watch the show Silicon Valley if you don’t believe me, because it’s funny for a reason. That’s absolutely my guess, and Josh would probably marry you so calm down, but, there it is, so don’t read that Pew article and immediately go moving to Seattle with sparkling eyes and a hearrrrrt fullll of looooove (Les Mis). And for people like me with “straight” goggles on, remember that there’s also no data on those men’s sexual orientation matching yours. Or if they are indeed also looking for a mind at work (Hamilton).

I know you’re bummed. Well, you’ll get over it. Let’s talk about what this means.

Sure, I would hypothetically like to be married to a man down the road. I’m not opposed to it and can see a lot of benefits to the idea. (Provided all those uncontrollable variables above work in my favor.) Ask me about it if you care to hear why. BUT but but but. How unfortunate to spend my valuable and precious LIFE wrapping myself around a hypothetical possibility! Am I RighT ladiez?

I’ll elaborate with metaphors for emphasis. It’s like knowing France only lets in 90% (or much less) of American tourists, but cultivating a religious board full of pictures of the Eiffel Tower for “someday”. Or making a down payment on a Midtown apartment after auditioning for a few Broadway shows. (Ha.) Hope does spring eternal. But I’m here to say that hope is dangerous when it’s rooted in a fake promise, instead of a truer truth.

For any of you who aren’t Dan Kunkel, here’s a refresher on narrative theoryNarrative theory starts from the assumption that narrative is a basic human strategy for coming to terms with fundamental elements of our experience.

Narratives, man. They can be poison. I wonder how many unmarried and unhappy women in their late 30s, who are unmarried not by choice but by bad statistical luck, would feel as negatively about their marital status if they had been given a different strategic narrative? A narrative that contained no definite promises? I wonder about this a lot. What can we begin reversing now with truth that empowers women to live fully, now, without True Love Waits-ing* around all day?

SIDE BAR Lest you think I forgot, there’s also the alternative false narrative of the balls-to-the-wall CEO lady who wear Hillary suits and makes a bajillion dollars and is also happy and well-adjusted and fulfilled and drinks green smoothies and has lots of trophies on her Shabby Chic mantel? Yeah. That’s also not a healthy narrative.

Back on the topic of promises, don’t even get me started about the whole “preparing yourself for your husband” thing that permeated Christian youth group/college culture for the better part of the past 20 years. Because personal growth isn’t for you to, you know, grow, it’s for some pretend future person. Right? Or writings on what “real women do” or “don’t” do. Those blog posts from TGC (throwing shade, don’t care) and Boundless and whatever irrelevant clickbait is coming out of Relevant lately has told you make money by affirming mainstream cultural Christianity’s ideas about gender and worth. Which some women certainly do fit, and fit well, not to their detriment. It’s also not anything necessarily true, and certainly not universally true. But they do get a lot of retweets. *Punches the nearest Christian freelancer in the face*

Really, speaking the promise of marriage over a girl friend is like handing them a beautiful cake that has at least a 9% chance of exploding in their face, if not more so. If you do that, aren’t you kind of an awful friend? Yes. Yes, you are. And what with all our bouquet-tossing at receptions, we’re really all awful. AWFUL I tell you. We’re all terrible.

The good news is, the solution is ridiculously simple. Be like Anne Pelchar. That’s generally a good solution to most things — seriously, what a great person — but from working with her as her RA, I can’t tell you how much it impacted me as a sophomore really concerned about dating and dudes to be around such a fierce and gentle leader at our conservative Christian college and never, ever hear her speak disparagingly of her marital status, or make false assumptions about how it related to her beauty or attractiveness or the future God had in store for her.

I never heard her once talk about her singleness in any positive or negative way. My guess as to why? She has stuff to do, man! She had (and still has) the ministry of loving 300 freshman girls in her dorm every.single.year, mediating awful conflicts without screaming every day like I would, caring for a nutso staff, and spending her summers off caring for burnt-out missionaries. Those 300 girls? She memorizes their names before they step onto campus. Do you want to be her yet? God, I do!

That’s the narrative I want. Assume singleness until proven otherwise, and assign that reality no positive or negative value. TRUTH: I’m freaking ALIVE. That’s its own miracle! I breathe air and see colors and have all this life bubbling in me. I am a creation of a loving God. That’s where my worth comes from! And nobody can give me that worth, period. IF I get married, nice. IF not, fine. That’s the narrative I want to live out of, and the narrative I want to speak over my lady friends.

I will admit. It’s a hard reality after watching the BEST version of Pride and Prejudice, which is the 2005 one, and swooning over Mr. Darcy (why can’t I have a cold and distant man in the 1% of the 1% suddenly declare his affection for me omggg), or discover the existence of Daveed Diggs and find out he has a girlfriend (WHY LORd WhY), or go to any wedding ever and flirt with the hotter groomsmen. YES this is not an easy thing to live in.

But I say this in all solemnity. All the single ladies, all the single ladies: if you like it, and by it meaning yourself, then you should put whatever you want on it, because statistically you are not promised a husband, but IF you get married that’s cool, so you might as well go get a milkshake and celebrate your existence. So. I’m going to go get a milkshake.

In closing. Here is my bar chart about how many women are going to be okay and have lives that are on par with many other ladies. Science.

Bar graph maker   Create a bar graph online

the end

*This is not me encouraging promiscuity=empowerment, that’s another incomplete narrative, this is just me saying I’m about to start an organization called True Love is Loving Who and Where You Are


One Comment Add yours

  1. Sally says:

    Amen, Ms. Rutter. Excellent. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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