Last year, while visiting my sister and her family in Colorado, my then three year old niece broke a glorious moment of silence at dinner with six dreadful words: “Aunt Szeli, where is your husband?”
I told her I didn’t have one, but she was not satisfied. She demanded to know why I didn’t have a husband, to which I answered that I was too young. That, too, was wrong, she said. At this point, I began to suspect that my sister had put her up to this line of questioning, but mostly I was just horrified to realize that my niece thought that all girls grew up and got husbands. Part of me felt compelled to try to explain heteronormativity to her, and the other part of me thought this might be my cue to tell her about all the really wonderful things you can do when you grow up that don’t require husbands. Like grad school, trips to Paris, all day brunches, jobs you love/hate, apartments that mean the world to you despite the fact that — or maybe in part because — everything is broken, and dating [but if she knows about marriage, then she must know about dating, right? note: clearly, I’m not a parent]. But I didn’t. Instead, I gave it to her straight: I don’t have a husband because I don’t want one.
This was by no means a revelation to my family, who thinks of me as a spinster [at the ripe old age of 27, I might add], though it might be to every man I’ve ever dated, because I tend to tell them the exact opposite thing. The reason for this is not as calculated or crazy as it might sound. Even though I’m happy with my unmarried self, that doesn’t mean I may not one day still want to get married, so I’m not afraid to say so. I’m kind of serious like that.
But the fact of the matter is that if I never get married, it wouldn’t really bother me. Or so I thought. My boyfriend recently pointed out to me that it already does. The topic of marriage almost always makes me cringe thanks to the tug of war that goes on between me and my family about it. It seems the choice has already been made, not to get married or not to get married, but to be judged by it either way. That, I fear, is the fate of all little girls who grow up to be women. And that, ironically, is why I may never get married.
Thinking back to that night with my niece, I wonder if my nephew had been old enough, whether or not he would have had anything to add to our conversation. He turned three this year, and so far, to my knowledge, he has not shown any interest in my missing husband.