"And What About YOUR Husband?"
Hey, don't get me wrong: I really don't mind anybody asking me, "Are you married?" I'm not keeping secrets. I'm not ashamed of my divorce. (More ashamed of my marriage, to tell the truth.) But just ask me, okay?
Oh, and please, I'm beggin you with tears in my eyes, don't make assumptions about me simply because you know I'm not married. Yesterday, a very vocally devout used-book buyer was in my office when I was defending my right to sell used books. "Yes," I told a colleague, "I do that. Single mother? Child in college?" When I turned to the buyer (a Ukrainian gentleman named Yuri), he was smiling at me.
"How many children do you have?" he asked. I gave him the number and their general ages. "And no husband?" His question was just dripping with assumptions, and being a black single mother, my reception was just dripping with stereotypes. Surely, he was thinking, this is one of those welfare queens one hears about. Or, you know, not.
"Not any more," I replied. Then followed a discussion about why. I was vague, as one should be with random used-book buyers. Mostly, I said I didn't feel ready for a husband (yet). What bothered me most about this conversation wasn't the prying; as I say, my life's an open book. What bothered me was my feeling of being on the defensive. Somehow, I feel I should be married, which makes me just putty in the hands of folk who feel I should be married, whatever their reasoning behind it, which is Just Sad.
Related to this sadness is the assertion that if your marriage is failing, whatever the reason for the failure, you should work to save it. Or, as I learned recently, if you Have The Nerve to try to work through the end of your marriage by writing about it, publishing your thoughts and experiences is "a bit much."
On the other hand, I was extremely heartened by some things my pastor said during his Back-to School bible-study series. For example, he called out the young women and told them that, while he had nothing against marriage, these young women had better focus on educations and careers and not husbands. He preached independence and self-esteem. To young women and girls. And then, after bible study, he hugged those who came near him and asked them, "You hear what I said? You hear me?" I like it that my spiritual leader doesn't just assume, because a young person is female, that she should be obsessing about marriage.
If it weren't for this experience, I'd blame all men for this "Why aren't you married?" atmosphere. All out here in the twenty-first century. I guess I still could blame them. What the heck: it's men's fault. The problem is, women don't behave any better these days. Don't get me wrong. I think marriage, good marriage, is a God thing. And I do hope someday to have one. But I wish people wouldn't assume that an unmarried (or about to be unmarried) woman is a broken thing, something that needs to be fixed.
Dear Jesus, my brother, help us to make the best of the non-marriage relationships we have, especially those we have with You.