Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. So says Elizabeth Spiers in an open letter to twenty-something women.
Just because you can avoid entangling alliances—aka relationships—when you are in your twenties, doesn’t mean that you should. Young American women have universally bought the feminist line about deferring marriage and family, but just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.
Spiers was a founding editor of Gawker. She was also editor of The New York Observer, the newspaper owned by Jared Kushner, aka Donald Trump’s son-in-law. Now she has moved on to The Insurrection. She is approaching forty, is married and has a child.
She understands that young American women today always think in terms of career before marriage. Having drunk of the elixir of feminism they act as though postponing marriage and family is the right and proper thing to do. They have undoubtedly read the warnings about how pregnancy becomes more difficult as the female body ages, but they do not really believe it. They do not think that it will happen to their bodies.
Spiers is smart enough to know better than to challenge feminism. If she did so the feminist furies would rise up to smite her. So only hints at issues of fertility and the biological clock. Any woman who does not know about it now will never listen to any advice on the question.
Instead, Spiers suggest that a woman who fails to involve herself in anything resembling a sustained relationship in her twenties will be at a severe disadvantage when she tries to contract a marriage in her thirties. Relationships are something you know how to do or do not know how to do. You do not know how to do them by reading Cosmo or by studying up on the latest relationship manual. You learn how to do them by doing them. There is no substitute for experience.
If you spend all of your time and effort trying to self-actualize you will not learn how to get along with other people. Your fiercely independent spirit, accustomed to doing what it wants when it wants with whom it wants will not know how to organize its life in relation to another human being. Bad habits die hard. Dysfunctional habits die harder, especially when they are a lot of fun.
Spiers does not mention it, so I will. Building a life with someone else is far easier than merging two fully-formed lives.
Allow Spiers to describe today’s ambitious twentysomething women:
Are you in your twenties? Are you an entrepreneur? Have you been told by your friends, your advisors, and your professional peers that now is your time to build your own life and not worry about things like settling down and having children — especially if you’re a female entrepreneur?
It makes sense, right? This is the only time in your life when you have no ties, no mortgage, no kids to support. This is the only time you can really do something ambitious, if you’re being practical.
And let’s face it, you’re not ready anyway. You’re busy building your company, figuring out who you are, what you want. You get laid on a regular basis; it’s not like you don’t have a love life. A “love” life.
And everyone around you agrees. Everyone!
One does not want to be any more churlish than necessary, but why would any man be drawn to the woman Spiers describes? And, to be even more churlish, how much will said woman respect herself if she has gotten into the habit of having meaningless sexual encounters? A woman who has mastered the art of having sex like a man will probably not be very attractive to men… except to the extent that she is, allow me to say it, giving it away for free. No one doesn't like free.
I will mention the one point that no one will ever mention. If said woman, with her wealth of sexual experience, with her ability to get laid on a regular basis—or, in the immortal words of Amy Schumer, to catch some dick-- ever meets a man she wants to marry, she will also be obliged to meet his mother. And, trust me, whatever he thinks—assuming that men actually think about such things—his mother will not look kindly at a woman who has spent ten years fulfilling her career potential and getting laid.
But, Spiers presents a perfectly cogent and persuasive argument. In her words:
As with coding and management and matters of finance and marketing, relationships have a learning curve. You learn the basics of “relationshiptiva” (note to copyed: yes, I made up that word): How to deal with sexual etiquette, mundane everyday things, scheduling, and appropriate meetings with close friends, and some equitable plan for who’s supposed to pay for dinner or wash the dishes this time. These are basics. And if you’re learning them in your thirties, it’s going to be much harder.
It has to be much harder because you will already have developed a bunch of bad relationship habits… aka the ability to live and even to thrive on your own.
She adds this:
The point is that thirty (or thirty-two, or thirty-five) is not the age when you want to be practicing serious relationships for the first time. Because learning how to develop a meaningful, sustainable relationship and keep it healthy takes some extended practice. You have to get beyond the basics — the sexual negotiations and the decisions about whose clothes go where and how to talk about exes. You have to figure out how to fight well, how to negotiate major value conflicts (if you can — some are impossible), and how to deal with the inevitabilities that come your way.
But then, Spiers mentions that, like it or not—and most people do not—the human body changes. The human female body especially undergoes changes even before it reaches what is called the change. You might have mapped out your life according to the best feminist principles. How will it feel when you discover that your body has chosen not to go along for the ride? What will you think when you discover that God is sexist?
Because in a few years, however young you think yourself (how old is thirty, really?), you will be approaching midlife and you won’t be as adaptable as you once were. There are reasons for this, many of which are biological. Your body won’t respond the same way. You’ll have knee problems that didn’t exist when you were running sophomore track. You can’t stay out till 4:00 a.m. anymore, because now the same alcohol intake has somehow resulted in a hangover that’s a multiple of what it once was — and you will never ever have appreciated a nice soft pillow more. And if you think you can fend these things off with diet and exercise, you should probably buy a good solid book on the aging process or find a professional athlete over the age of thirty to talk to. They will speak of massage therapists and bone density and necessary nutritional supplements. You can mitigate these things, but you can’t entirely avoid them.
Words to the wise, indeed. We shall see whether young women take them to heart or whether they prefer to learn these lessons the hard way.