If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation. — Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season
I was one of those girls who happily completed extra homework on the weekends, who read incessantly, and who spent middle school nights studying for biology tests, instead of thinking about boys. I never dreamed of my wedding day, I never even, really, gave much serious thought to wanting to date until my last couple of college years, and I always swore I would never have children. “I want a career, first,” and “I want to find someone to not settle down with; I want adventures!” were my trained answers to the probes of high schoolers in my small hometown who were fond of planning the number and names of children they would have one day. I grew up with, and embraced, fairly feminist-leaning thought patterns before I even really knew what “feminist” meant.
(And now, though I call myself a feminist, it is always with a lowercase “f”; I use the term to denote an aspect of my beliefs, not to quickly align with all the tenets of a larger social movement. I am Hannah first, feminist later.)
And yet, here I am, newly twenty-four, about to get married (to the love of my life!), and at a bit of a crossroads with my career.
In past dreams about my future, I never imagined myself here; or, at least, never so quickly.
Yet, I am still everything I have been; and, dare I say, I am more than I have been. I am truly happy, and that has been one of my primary life goals from the beginning.
As my fiancé and I near our wedding, I’ve been thinking a lot about the possible opportunity costs of getting married (relatively) young. I have an aunt I very much respect, who has advised me to not even think about marriage until thirty. I have mentors and a past boss who, with intimated reproach, have cautioned me not to get too caught up in marriage too quickly.
And I have a small, learned voice in the back of my head telling me that marrying now, before my career is solidified, is not what I am supposed to do.
But, I have to tell you—in this case, I think that voice is completely wrong.
I am not moving away from the Hannah that I was—I am moving towards the Hannah that I am. The Hannah that is madly in love with her fiancé, who is a part of a team with him. Who knows that moving into a vocabulary of “we” is a huge bonus, not a subtraction.
To quote one of APW’s past Wedding Graduates, another Hannah, I do this “because I am brave, because I love [my fiancé], and because that is what we do. We educated women of the twenty-first century, we move, we grow, we change.”
So, when I read Hanna Rosin’s new article for The Atlantic, titled “Boys on the Side,” I felt a little upset, and a little cheated.
In her article, Ms. Rosin argues that our modern culture—what she terms a “hookup culture”—is incredibly empowering to women, that it is an “engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.” This “hookup culture,” of course, referring to the perhaps mainly college-campus-behavior of “hooking up” with various “boys,” instead of seriously dating anyone for a prolonged amount of time.
Ms. Rosin contends that women are more successful now than ever, and “what makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career.”
“To put it crudely,” she attests, “feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture.”
She also compares serious suitors of college women today to unwanted pregnancies of an earlier century, labeling their perception in today’s world as “a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.”
Though I can see and celebrate the truths and (limited) freedoms within Ms. Rosin’s argument, I keep wondering why she sells women so short. Are our lives really so defined by either avoiding or giving in to or manipulating the advances of the other sex? Why are our roads to success paved with such negative connotations about relationships, about love?
I have to tell you, we women are even more amazing than Ms. Rosin’s article argues. We educated women of the twenty-first century, we are movers, we are shakers, we are BIG—and our success is not the antithesis of healthy, loving relationships.
We are presented with a false dilemma. She essentially presents two choices of the modern woman—participate in this hookup culture to postpone or even avoid relationships and become successful, or “marry young and have babies” (as one of her interviewees contended).
I know we feminists have been taught: career first, family later.
It was a life timeline I clung to much of my life thus far.
But its not the timeline that I’m on right now.
Sometimes the timelines change.
And that’s ok.
There is certainly value to solidifying your career before getting married, and I am happy that there is a world of success out there for us women that does not expect early marriage and lots of babies for every one of us.
But it is not always career and then marriage, or even career or marriage.
I am marrying my fiancé young, but I am not trading in career success for him.
Yes, that success might look different, but it certainly isn’t worse, or less-than. I think, in fact, that it will be better; I get to pursue it with my best friend at my side.
I am entering into a support system, a team, a partnership with my fellow adventurer. It is the risk of freedom, of a love which is permanent.
It is a forever-love, within which we can propel and support each other along life’s journey.
We can do it! We have so many beautiful choices and such long lives! The world is wild, and wonderful, and full of love, and it is ours for the taking.
Photo by: Emily Takes Photos (APW Sponsor)