Cultural Conversations #2-Single Vs. Married

“Yeah, but is she married?”

I cannot tell you how often I have heard this question thrown around in conversations related to success, especially for women. Even in the lives of the women I respect, it almost seems their achievements are diminished because a man is not attached to them! I understand the cultural implications and expectations, yet I cannot help but think roux of these needs or necessities stems from the emphasis of wanting to be chose–above all else. I am the first one to have said, and continue to say that I am an ambitious woman. With that ambition, I have also laid to waste 2 marriages.

Yet, in the wreckage of that, I always had this thing I was pursuing. And now, with the second marriage ending, that is much more apparent. I wonder why that is. I wonder how that is. I know there are more things at play than just ‘irreconcilable differences.’ There are many a woman that I know personally, who have dealt with this! But, for the sake of argument, let’s contrast the lives of two of my personal heroes: Viola Davis and Shonda Rhimes. Gorgeous. Gifted. Talented. Black. Both mothers, yet one of them is married. In some circles, Shonda Rhimes isn’t/couldn’t be as successful as she is without having a man. Which is totally unfair, archaic and utterly false!

Upon closer inspection, it would seem that the reason for is this for the love affair with patriarchy: a woman cannot be successful–really successful–without having a husband! Which, on some end, lightly diminishes Viola’s star because she is married. The thing is–the most hurtful thing is it would seem women have to consistently choose. They must choose between to romantic relationships and their personal ambitions; there is no way to ‘have it all.’ The most common adage I have heard is, “Women can have it all–just not at the same time.” Well, that’s some Phyllis Schlafly bullshit!

Now, I GET that for virtue of time and the demands on personal responsibilities won’t allow ANYONE to do all they desire all at the same time. I GET there are people whom trade-off the things they want to do against the things that need to be done. There are people that do change careers later in life or start college after sending all their children; pursue lifelong hobbies more seriously as they age or children or grown–even having children after a certain age. These trade-offs are applicable to everyone! But, more often than not-women bare the brunt of it! Women are expected to be self-sacrificial to the point of their own self: sacrifice because that is ‘just what women do’. It is not fair to attach the success of any woman because she chooses to be married.

I have never thought that!

I have never thought that was fair!

I mean, I cackle at the word compromise in relationships! Like Eartha Kitt, I laugh when asked to compromise. I ask, “Compromise for that?!” Men aren’t told they have to compromise–men are taught to dominate and take. They are taught to be ambitious is to be successful. For a woman to be successful she needs to be married? She needs the respect of being married to validate her? Something about this makes me indignant! Being married doesn’t validate a woman. Being single doesn’t limit a woman!

Women have the right to self-determination: to build, do and achieve as they want. When these conversations arise–that angry little girl who was told “No one can feel your brain” wants to scream! They don’t have to feel my brain, they need to respect me as a whole, sentient human being–inside pretty packaging. These conversations around what a successful woman looks like has room to expand, needs to have room to expand. The woman that decided to give up her career to raise her children—and is happy to do so!–should be celebrated. Also, the woman that decides homemaking, marriage and children aren’t for her due to what she decides to do should be celebrated. Besides, isn’t making this life your own the goal?

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.