For the Right Reasons: 5 Reasons Why I’m NOT Getting Married3/11/2015
by Anonymous I am getting married soon. My fiancé and I decided to write personalized vows instead of using the traditional ones. As I...
I am getting married soon. My fiancé and I decided to write personalized vows instead of using the traditional ones. As I began writing my vows, I reflected on my journey to love and marriage. Being a first-time bride at this stage in my life (early 40’s), my motivations and hopes for marriage are quite different than they were twenty years ago when my dream was to be married by 26 and to have 2 children by 30. Back then, I was wanted all the things that society had taught me are necessary for women to be happy and complete—for me to be an acceptable woman.
Sometimes spoken, but most times implied, women are taught that a traditional marriage with a husband and wife should be among our goals in life, similar in importance to a college degree and professional career. And if we don’t achieve this goal by a certain age, we are judged with the question, “Why are you not married?” For women who do marry and don’t have children within a few years, the pressure continues, “When are you having a baby?” Both questions convey to the woman, “You alone are not enough.” In this way, marriage and family define a woman’s worth.
This indoctrination begins when we are little girls with toys that teach us our gender roles. Though toy options are expanding, for the most part, girls play with doll babies in a doll house full of domestic wares. If that’s not enough, we learn that to be “girly,” we must love make-up, clothes, and jewelry, and girls as young as three years old are presented with these accoutrements. After all, she has to beautiful so that a man will choose her. We must have our Ken!
For Black women, our pressure to marry can be traced to sexualized myths and stereotypes. Black slave women were characterized as hypersexual, promiscuous, and thus, immoral. In her 2011 book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, Melissa Harris-Perry reminds us of how nineteenth century Black women club leaders like Mary Church Terrell and Mary Jane Patterson “resisted the lie of black promiscuity by leading a movement for temperance, modesty, and respectability.” And, for the most part, this respectability meant marriage and children. Sadly, single Black women are still stigmatized as being “loose” or “whorish,” especially if she has children—the stereotypical Jezebel.
Twenty years ago, my life’s aspirations were deeply influenced by my desire to be a “normal” or “traditional” woman and to adhere to a religious moral code. But I’ve changed a lot since my 20’s.
- I am not getting married because I need to validate my womanhood. When I met my then boyfriend/now fiancé, I told him that marriage was overrated. I didn’t mean that marriage doesn’t have value. (It does.) What I meant was that women are falsely valued or devalued by their marital status. Womanhood is not defined by whether a woman has a husband and children. At this stage in my life, and after a lot of therapy, I’ve come to realize that my value is not attached to anything external. I alone am enough.
- I am not getting married out of religious compulsion. I am not getting married to escape sinful lust and fornication. My fiancé and I have lived together for almost two years, and neither of us allows religious doctrine to condemn what we choose to do in our relationship.
- I am not getting married to build a historically Eurocentric nuclear family. I do not have any biological children. I have two bonus children because of my fiancé. And he and I have chosen to not have any additional children. We have a host of nieces and nephews who comprise our family. I no longer have the desire for a husband and 2.5 biological children born to us in 4 bedroom house with a white picket fence.
- I am not getting married to have a man take care of me financially. I was watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns recently. In one particular episode, Uncle Phil was trying to ensure that Hillary would be suitable for an affluent husband who could finally support her. This is not my goal. Although my fiancé is very generous to me, I am perfectly able to support myself financially. In fact, my financial independence was one of the attributes to which he was most attracted.
- I am not getting married to please my mother and family. When I wasn’t married by 30, my mother and family started to question my sexuality. Every female friend I brought home was assumed to be my partner. “Is she or isn’t she a dyke?” My mother is now overcome with happiness about my upcoming nuptials, but I am not getting married to relieve her concerns or to bring our family to a different level of respectability.