I was incredibly moved to see this advert about China’s “Leftover Women”, the phrase for women over 30 (maybe even slightly younger than this!) who are not married.
It’s meant to be an empowering ad for a cosmetic company, so yes, consumerism and all that, but in a few minutes it goes to the heart of an issue that’s close to so many hearts – including mine.
I don’t feel like a “Leftover Woman” but being over 30 and unmarried has its frustrations and anxieties, particularly if you harbour hopes of having children one day.
It’s usually more about others than you, though. A single woman is sometimes perceived as a threat by attached women – no one quite knows what to do with you when it’s mostly couples socialising together.
And there are the assumptions – that you must be very picky or impossible or that you have a lot of free time and money as a result.
A while ago I would have probably written quite bitterly about the assumptions that some people make that your life is somehow less meaningful, particularly if you’re not a mother. Or about how you can be perceived as a failure.
But I’ve been on a journey. I discovered that I was becoming a bit bitter because I felt like a failure. Looking at other people’s joy (sigh, social media) began to grate. The endless Facebook posts and photos of engagements, weddings and children chafed, irritated me.
At the time I was reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, now one of my favourite books of all time. In it, she writes (about covetise or envy):
“I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offence at the beauty of it”
That really resonated with me. I prayed. I reflected. I sat for a time with my (frustrated) hopes and expectations and tried to practise more gratitude for the place I was, rather than hankering after the place I wanted to be. (Perspective: it’s not like I am singularly obsessed or anything; let’s just say that every so often -more so if I went on Facebook – this feeling of ‘failure’ rankled.)
Now, I watch that video and it resonates with me, though I am lucky not to feel pressured by my family to settle down. And I am able to share my friends’ joy.
But most of all, things feel unbelievably sweet. Perhaps because I’m happy with where I’m at* instead of focusing on the alternative.
*Incidentally, where I’m at is a busy place because I’ve barely had time to blog for myself. But I’m back!