This will come as a surprise to exactly no one, but young women today are under far too much pressure to be perfect.
By our mid-20s, we’re facing pressure from all angles. We’re expected to have it all: a great body, perfect skin, a promising career path, and a loving relationship. We’re expected to succeed in school and work, while at the same time meeting a partner and settling down to start a family; buy a home while saving up money to travel the world, and still find the time to cook healthy meals and get to the gym. Sounds impossible, right? It is.
Studies show that young women, more so than men, feel increasing pressure to have the “perfect” life. While we’re encouraged to pursue careers and take charge of our own lives, the archaic expectations of past generations still linger. As a result, married women and single women alike struggle with shame and self-doubt, constantly feeling like they’re not doing enough.
Single women, especially, are constantly facing not-so-subtle shame from relatives and coworkers. Let’s end the ridiculous expectations. A woman should be able to live her life as perfectly or imperfectly as she damn well likes — with or without another person. To that end, here are 6 things single women don’t need to hear, ever.
1. “The right person is out there for you! You’ll find them!”
We’ve all heard it at some point in our lives, usually after a big breakup. Don’t worry, you’ll be in a relationship again.
While it’s meant to be comforting, this is an assumptive and frankly insulting statement. It’s essentially telling a woman: You’re not whole on your own, but you’ll find someone to make you whole soon! Not only does it assume that the woman is actively looking for a relationship, but that they won’t be happy or successful until they find it.
Statistically, most Millennials aren’t in a hurry to settle down with someone and get married. A committed relationship isn’t an expected part of a happy life anymore, so let’s quit talking about it like it is.
2. “Your maternal clock is ticking!”
No, no, no.
Let’s unpack this a little. First of all, and most importantly — just like you shouldn’t assume a woman is searching for a relationship, you should never assume she wants children, or that she’s hoping to get married just so she can have children.
Secondly: no, it’s not. The “maternal” or “biological clock” is a myth rooted in decades of sexism and poor fertility research. It used to be generally assumed that a woman’s fertility dramatically declines when she turns 30. That’s actually not the case — modern research shows that a healthy woman in her mid-to-late 30s should have no problem getting pregnant. Fertility does decline with age, but not as steeply as we all think.
And by the way, did you know that male fertility has declined by 50% in the last two generations? Maybe, if we took a little pressure off women to have babies at a young age, we could focus on the more serious fertility issue at hand.
3. “You just need to work on you right now.”
Much like telling a woman the right partner is out there for her, telling her to focus on herself while she’s single has some pretty nasty connotations.
Single women are constantly told to use their time to improve themselves and live their own life. Which begs the question: are we no longer “ourselves” when we’re not single? Shouldn’t we all be focusing on our individual goals and working toward becoming better people — regardless of our relationship status?
Self-development isn’t a hobby to kill time between relationships. It’s a lifelong journey, for all of us.
4. “What ever happened to ___?”
One thing no one ever needs to hear is questions about their ex. It’s just basic human decency not to bring up an old partner.
Women tend to get this annoying question more than men — often from family members. That’s because, of course, women are still expected to settle down young, while men are encouraged to date around in their college years and 20s. Those expectations are shifting, fortunately. Still, women are sick of explaining why they couldn’t “make things work” with an ex-partner. Just don’t ask!
5. “These are the best years of your life! Enjoy it while you can!”
Expressions of envy are common in conversations between married and single women; it’s something I observe all the time, and it always befuddles me. It’s like we feel the need to show jealousy just to relate to each other.
Single, married, in a relationship, whatever — these might be the best years of your life... or they might not. It’s wrong to assume that “single” necessarily means “wild and free”. Actually, the assumption that single women have more fun or are more successful can be really damaging.
Shaming goes both ways. A lot of women in their early and mid-20s actually feel shame for wanting a relationship, thanks to that assumption. The point is, happiness and success aren’t tied to relationship status. A single woman doesn’t need to be told to her enjoy her time as a single woman; she should be encouraged to enjoy her life at every stage, single or not.
6. “You’re perfect just the way you are!”
This falls in line with the previous one. Don’t tell a single woman she’s perfect how she is, or that she doesn’t need a relationship. She doesn’t need to be comforted about being single.
The truth is, none of us are perfect. Again, women are under way too much pressure to live the perfect life. We should be allowed to make our own decisions, to fail or succeed, to fall in love with others or ourselves, on our own time. Let’s normalize imperfection.