True story, y’all.
A few weeks ago I stopped by the drug store to pick up a few things on my way home. I ran into one of my middle school teachers [for her sake, we’ll call her Mrs. Teacher] in line picking up a prescription.
Two things you need to know here. First: I was the teenage equivalent of a sea lion in middle school. People liked me because I was nice, cute, and harmless, but I was pretty thick around the middle and if you only caught a glimpse in your periphery, you might mistake me for a thumb. [It’s okay, really, I figured out makeup and clothes in my late twenties and I haven’t needed therapy yet.] Second: Mrs. Teacher was known for being hard and kinda mean, but even though she scared me, I always liked her because she was smart and didn’t put up with crap. Long after I graduated, I found out she went on to become principal of a high school in town.
Mrs. Teacher and I did a few double-takes before we spoke. I was giving myself time to decide if I actually wanted to speak, she was probably trying to figure out if she actually knew me. Luckily for her, I happened to be sporting my name tag from work [which is super awesome fun on a Friday night when you’re at the grocery store buying cat litter and boxed wine] and as soon as she realized who I was, as everyone does, she asked about my brother. As soon as I finished the standard “he’s a successful engineer, married to a successful professor, living in a big house in Birmingham with their two perfect kids” speech [I love him, I really do], she tilted her head…
omg yes, the head tilt. [refer to previous blog post for reference]
I thought she was going to say something about my dad [Tuscaloosa is pretty small and I also happened to attend church with Mrs. Teacher when I was younger], but instead she flicked my name tag and said, “…same last name? So you’re not married?”
“Well, no ma’am…”
Her head tilted further! Like an owl studying something it was about to eat! With a confused and slightly accusatory tone she exclaimed, “…but you’re so pretty?!”
I, of course, got defensive and every fiber of my being was yelling to wave my feminist flag in her face with a nice long rant, but instead, I replied with a trite “…then I guess I’m just too smart to get married.” So take. that. Hmph.
Her face twisted up like I had insulted her, the baby Jesus (whom I love, to be clear), the constitution, and her dog in one fell swoop. The conversation ended quickly and we parted ways.
I can still hear those words, “…but you’re so pretty” reverberating in my head. This is the woman who, considering she is/was a high school principal, has at least one advanced degree. She’s spent decades teaching young adults scholarly and life lessons and she still made a comment that implies pretty women should be married women. Please let that sink in, because I can’t stop thinking about it. I realize that society, blah blah blah, imparts on us its ideals that women should be married and popping out kids by a certain age and sometimes it’s hard to believe that you aren’t a failure if you haven’t checked those boxes.
I don’t want this blog post to be about how times are a-changing. You can read plenty of scholarly or pop culture articles about that on your own. What I do want is for each of you to be mindful and responsible for the messages you send to your friends, your daughters, your blog followers, your sisters. There is no certain age by which you have to be married to be considered a success. [Please don’t rush into marriage, you have a lifetime ahead of you. There are far worse things in life than being single; being in an unnecessary, unhappy marriage is certainly one of them.] You are no less of a woman if you never have a child. Your contribution to society is not measured by your outward appearance. You absolutely can be a whole and happy person in whatever circumstances you find yourself a part of – because you find happiness. You choose it. You make it work.
Last but not least, someone important [I don’t know who said it and I don’t trust google so just go with it] said “comparison is the thief of all joy.” I personally think that the thing that makes life most difficult, is using other people’s lives as a measuring stick for our own. Sure, it’s impossible not to look at someone else and think “what if” but if you’re only using that comparison to wish away your life rather than to set [attainable] goals for yourself, you’re wasting valuable time. Don’t think that what someone else has or does will make you happy, find your own happiness!
Do not make me tilt my head at you!