Friday, October 27, 2017

The Case of the Woman Left Behind

All of her friends are getting married or getting pregnant or both and “Same As Always” finds herself left out, shunted aside. She has known these girls for quite some time and considers them to be good friends. And yet, she is neither married nor attached nor pregnant. She does not understand why her friends are not including her, and are moving away from her.

Before any further ado and before looking at whatever Ask Polly was able to conjure up, examine the letter:

I’m 32, and at this point, all but three of my friends have either gotten married or engaged, and six of my friends are now pregnant. I’ve been single most of my adult life, and while it really bugs me sometimes, most of the time I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished on my own, the things I’ve learned, and the life I’ve built for myself. I may not have had sex in two years, but I created a life of my own in a big city, I’ve traveled, I’ve met a hundred men through online dating or setups, I have a condo, a career, and great friends.

But as more of those friends get attached or preggo, I feel like I’m missing out on those big life milestones that everyone else is reaching. I feel left behind, like things are changing in big ways for my friends and I’m just standing here, single as always. They’ll have less and less time for me, which is natural — they have other things to worry about now! — but I’ll have the same amount of time for them. They don’t often ask me about dating anymore; I don’t get plus-one invitations to weddings; it’s as if they’ve given up on me, and I’m here, stagnant, in the same place I’ve always been for the past decade.

How can I not feel left behind when everyone around me is moving forward?

Same As Always

Naturally, you are not worrying so much about SAA’s friends as you are about SAA. She travels; she dates; she owns her own condo; she has met a multitude of men… and she is alone, friendless and, by the by, sexless. She has not had sex in two years. One would like to think that she is waiting for a good marriage prospect, but clearly she has never gotten very close to any of the men she has met.

We do not know whether she is too involved in her work, is decidedly unattractive, or simply does not like men. Her scene, such as it is, is a mating and dating scene. One suspects that these friends have husbands and friends. Normally, they would attempt to fix her up. If they have not or if they have stopped trying, then clearly she has a problem.The veil she has thrown over this aspect of her life leads us to believe that the explanation is easy and not very flattering.

Again, we do not know what her problem is, but clearly she has not been working on finding a man as much as she has building her career, having an independent life. Which is a life choice among others. And yet, didn’t her Women’s Studies professor teach her that people, even women, tend to share their time with others with whom they have more in common. Being an independent, autonomous, self-involved career woman does not attract very many men. We all knew that. But, it also causes her to be shunted to the side by friends who took a different life path.

Now, you are probably dreading the moment when I share what Polly offers as a response. You are right to do so. Here is a snippet. Thank me for sparing you the bulk of it:

And speaking of using reductive, oversimplified language that doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the situation: You say that your friends are moving forward without you. But this isn’t a board game. They haven’t moved ahead several spaces just by getting married or having kids. The fact that so many people believe that procreating is like landing on a space with a magic gumdrop that sends you closer to the finish line reflects just how deeply fucking juvenile and asinine our culture can be.

So don’t demean yourself by using the wrong language or telling the wrong story about your life. Women do this so often because our culture always tells inaccurate, reductive stories about us. 

Yes, indeed, Polly recommends what many therapists would recommend: namely, that SAA start telling herself a different story, that she change her vocabulary. Yes, indeed. Because Polly thinks, as does just about everyone else, that life is just a story and that our culture promotes narratives in which women are infantilized.

So SAA should tell herself that she is strong and empowered and independent and autonomous… which is exactly what the feminist matriarchs have been pounding into her head. And, that has alienated her from her friends.

Polly notwithstanding, there is nothing juvenile or asinine in getting married and having children. The statement is stupid, even by Polly standards. In fact, telling women that they must be self-involved and self-sufficient and self-absorbed is, if not juvenile, at least counterproductive when it comes to the mating game. Is that the hidden secret, here?

One suspects that SAA has gotten herself in this predicament by reading people like Polly. Her first resolution should be to stop taking bad advice. 


Jack Fisher said...

Two people in this story need to get laid.

Shaun F said...

I immediately saw envy in this woman. Maybe that's the opportunity cost of her choices. I guess she didn't take economics.

Jim Sweeney said...

Little is more boring than your constant Polly type articles save, perhaps, your psychiatric ones.

Sam L. said...

I'd add "too much COSMO" to "too much Polly". I think it may be the first is more at fault; haven't seen one in years, but what I recall is it's all about the single lifestyle and having fun and not about getting married and having kids. Her fertility is gradually diminishing, though my mother had her last child at 40 years and 11 months.