You may not remember Hephzibah Anderson, but surely you remember her name.
Hephzibah Anderson is a British journalist who found fame by swearing off sex for a year. Happily, she lived to tell the tale… in a wonderful book called Chastened. My comments here.
(Stylistic propriety dictates that I should refer to her as Anderson, as I have done in the past, but for the purposes of today’s post I will take the liberty of first-naming her. It doesn’t happen very often that you can write a name like Hephzibah, so why not seize the day.)
Several months ago, Hephzibah wrote an article for MarieClaire asking why she is still single. The article was brought to my attention by relationship columnist Neely Steinberg.
For my part I find that Hephzibah is asking a thoroughly apposite question: no woman named Hephzibah should be single.
At least, that’s my belief.
Unfortunately, reality does not always accord with my beliefs.
One day, Hephzibah was having dinner with friends when one of the men present announced that he was happy that he had found his wife when they were in college. Women today, Patrick announced, are so busy that they are “unapproachable.”
The statement was something of an epiphany for the single women who were there. All of them had overstuffed lives, lives that were so busy, so consuming, that they had nothing left to give to a relationship, to say nothing of a marriage.
When they had a free minute or two they spent it wondering why there was no man in their lives.
Ironically, in the name of women’s liberation they had sacrificed their freedom. Before the movement had a name they had voluntarily allowed themselves to be Occupied.
Their minds, their emotions and their time was so completely occupied that they did not have any free time or free space or free emotion to give to anyone else.
As psychologist Bethany Marshall says, when a woman’s life is full to bursting she might not even notice when a man is interested. Even if she does notice she is going to be telling him, whether she knows it or not, she has no room for him in her life.
Hephzibah offers us some examples of women she knows:
Take my single friend Alexia — classic multitasker. A 34-year-old television producer, she has a prestigious job at a media company, owns her apartment, takes Italian lessons, and in her "spare" time leads an art history lecture at her local community center. Oh, and she also runs marathons. Guys gutsy enough to approach her usually fall puffing by the wayside.
Or Judith Offman, 36, a research biologist who juggles work with hobbies like cooking classes, film club, and Pilates. Like many women, she embraced an after-work activity — volunteering at a Jewish festival — to meet men. She loved it so much, she now runs it herself. "But I'm so busy with the event, I'm still single three years later," she says.
And then there's journalist Anita Sethi, 29. When she's not scrambling to meet one of her many deadlines, she's writing a novel and gallivanting through South America. Yet her glittering résumé hasn't helped her love life — in fact, her last date said he prefers "homey" women.
If a woman does not have time for a date how will she ever coordinate her life with that of another human being? Very few men want to be an afterthought.
And how would she ever find the time or the energy to make a home or to raise children.
According to Marshall, women are doing as they have been told. They have been told, perhaps by magazines like Marie Claire, that being out and about is a good way to meet men. And they have been told that being busy is a good way to stave off feelings of loneliness.
And yet, living your life in a whirlwind seems also to manifest a phobia, and not just a phobia of smelling the coffee.
If the mania has been artificially manufactured, as I believe it has, it protects women from a number of artificial fears: the fear of being dependent on a man, the fear of having to share with a man, the fear of a loss of independence.
For decades now feminists have worked hard to produce these fears in women. Feminists have wanted, even demanded, that women become independent and autonomous, self-sufficient, self-absorbed, and self-involved.
Of course, feminists promised that this state of maniacal self-actualization would lead to true love. Once you don’t need a man you will find a man who does not want a needy, dependent woman.
Of course, this was a ruse, a ploy, designed to manipulate women into becoming better feminists. In the name of fulfillment, these women have been duped into signalling to men that they are unapproachable. Of course, this serves the purposes of movement feminism.
If you feel that you embody feminine perfection and if no man will go near you then that would prove that men are oppressive dogs. One more convert for the cause.
If women want more out of life than a constant whirl of activity they need to find the true freedom that comes from throwing off their feminist chains.