The Female Expiration Date

I have seen this video before, but when it popped back up on Facebook this morning, I decided it was time to weigh in. I highly recommend any woman who is single and over 30 watch this video. Especially if you are feeling pressured to hurry up and settle down by your family and/or friends.

I love how she points out that, unlike men, women’s freedom “has an expiration date.”

Women, unlike men, are expected to settle down and start a family. We are expected to find the one and make a life with him. We are expected to put our hopes and dreams and aspirations second and place the majority of our efforts into finding a man who will give us children. Women are expected to, especially after you reach a certain age, settle for anyone who will have them.

Well I do not accept your reality; instead, I choose to create my own!

In a little over two months (two months and four days, for anyone who’s counting), I will be turning 33. I am coming threateningly close to this imaginary expiration date that is stamped on my soul. The one that says “best if served before this date.” Then once this arbitrarily chosen date occurs, I will be considered an old maid, or  a spinster, or (since I teach) I might be a miserly old school marm.

After this date, I, supposedly, won’t be as desirable to the opposite sex because I will be past my prime “baby-making” years.

female expiration date

Those of you in more…civilized areas of the world (like the northern part of the country and some parts of Europe) will see how silly this is, but those of us deep in the heart of Texas (or whatever southern state you live in) are still subjected to this idea that women cannot be truly women until they settle down and have a child. Obviously, from the video, this idea is still held in other parts of the world as well.

So how do they (the infamous they) determine a woman’s expiration date? As recently as the 1950’s, it was the age of 21 or something as ridiculously young as that. In the middle ages, you were an old maid by 16! The younger the bride, the healthier her eggs, the more babies she could pop out. That was what mattered back then.

And through the years, and through all the progress of women’s suffrage, and the equality debates, and the burning of the bras, through all of that, women are still judged on their child-rearing ability or choice.

A woman who chooses to put her career first is considered selfish for not wanting to have children. Or she is considered confused.

A woman who is searching for her Mr. Right is considered cute and idealistic. Until she reaches a certain age, and then she’s just too picky.

A woman who doesn’t want to settle down and have kids at all is again confused. Or else she must be a lesbian, and that’s whole other set of “issues.”

But in the end, it’s kind of always the same story. Her friends and family will try to entice her to settle down, find a nice boy who will take care of her. Why should she want to work away her life? Who will take care of her when she’s older? Or, my personal favorite, can she really afford to be so choosy? All these questions thrown at her in the hopes that the logic of “making the right decision” will slip into her brain and she’ll finally settle down.

Alternatively, her boss will realize that he (because isn’t it always a man?) has a golden opportunity to utilize her youth and her time. She doesn’t have kids now, but one day she will. And I better get the most work I can out of her before I lose her to the family way…

female expiration date

Or, if she’s in a old-fashioned conservative field, like teaching, her boss may try to set her up to keep her locked into that area. (I had a principal do that once. He went out of his way to introduce me to the new guy and suggested that I show him around. I was the only single female teacher, and he was way too young for me…and too short… but that didn’t matter.)

Then, she hits that magic number… Her friends and family stop trying to set her up with nice boys. Instead they give up, and when they do introduce her to people, or tell her about someone, it’s usually someone who “will do,” because at this point, all you need is a guy with whom you can make do, right? You just need someone who will keep you from being lonely when you get home, so you don’t actually have to like him…

female expiration date

She hits that magic number, and her boss, who has been monopolizing her time anyway, realizes that now he doesn’t even have to compete with possible suitors, so might as well continue to take all her time. Her work gets more intense, until she has the workload of two or three people

I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not even saying it’s true for everyone, but I’ve seen it. Not all of it applies to me, and I haven’t hit that magical number yet. But I can feel it, lurking…

I am of the idealistic variety. Every new job, or every move has prompted my mother to tell me the same thing: “I can feel it, this time you’ll meet the man of your dreams!” Like that was a deciding factor in me changing apartments to the other side of town or something… “No available men in this apartment complex to stalk me while I wash my undies; must be time to move!”

One year, as I was packing up to move for a new job, she didn’t say it, and I asked why. Her response? “I didn’t want to jinx it again.” As if my ability to find a suitable mate was dependent on her prediction that he actually existed…

I’m beginning to doubt that I’ll ever find him.

I thought I had for a bit. Someone who was a nice mix of logic and emotions. Someone I didn’t have to play the game with. Someone who made me feel special. Made me feel wanted. Made my life a little bit brighter. And it all fell apart. Unfortunately, it all fell apart after I decided that he met all of my qualifications. Not an easy feat, let me tell you.

For what it’s worth, I’ve reached that age where I’m not idealistic anymore; I’m down right persnickety!

This guy was able to keep my attention in conversations. He made me laugh. I was comfortable being myself around him. When he touched me, it sent sparks through my body. We won’t even discuss the more intimate parts of what that implies…

And I thought he felt something for me. I thought all our arguments were helping us so that we could be clear in the future. I thought we were laying the ground work, because I saw such a beautiful future.

And I was wrong, I guess. He really just wanted to be my friend.

It’s going to take a while to get over this one, I think. I thought I was working on that, too, because I kept seeing the signs. I thought I was preparing myself for this inevitable end… Still hurts.

I figure, by the time I’m actually ok again, I’ll be past that expiration date. Suppose I might as well just give up now, huh?

female expiration date

But even if I’ve decided that it’s better to just be alone, I can still choose to be happy. That’s the goal for now. Just be happy…

God I wish I knew how to do that!

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