single women

The New Old Maid: Satisfied Single Women

She has no regrets about remaining single because she’s gotten to have the life she dreamed about since she was a young girl.

By: Maureen Paraventi

It hardly needs to be said that women who remain single lead very different lives than their married counterparts. So why am I saying it?

Society has long focused on what single women don’t have – husbands – while ignoring what we do have: independence and autonomy. The freedom to do whatever one wants, whenever one wants to do it was a recurring theme raised by the women that I talked to.

Traditionalists may find this threatening. If women stop assuming their natural, biologically-driven role of mating and procreating, the human race could, in time, vanish! Or at the very least, mothers won’t get the chance to go wedding dress shopping with their daughters and bully them into buying a ball gown when what they really want is a fit and flare.

People who remain unmarried are not undermining the institution of marriage. In fact, the opposite is true. How many divorces occur because women and men who aren’t meant to get married take that fateful walk down the aisle simply because they feel that it’s expected of them?

But let’s get back to the benefits of being single.

Early in my career as a radio personality, when I’d worked my way up from teeny tiny markets to the small market of Champaign, Illinois, I got a job offer from a radio station in San Francisco. San Francisco! In one move, I could more than double my salary, which at that time kept me just above the poverty level. Of greater importance to me was the opportunity to work with major market personalities and reach many more listeners than I ever could in Champaign. Additionally, I could go from the Midwest to an exciting city in California.

I thought about it for a hot second, and then said “Yes!”

I didn’t have to ask a husband if he wanted to move. If he would be able to transfer or find a new job in the Bay Area. If he would be willing to leave behind friends and family, forego the recreational softball team for which he’d played third base for so many summers, abandon the garden he’d lovingly hewed out of the wilds of the backyard. If we’d had children, the decision would have been even more complicated. What about their schools? Little Susie and Bill would pout for months after we moved because they missed their friends. Grandma and Grandpa would lay the guilt trip on us for taking their grandchildren so far away from them.

I was able to make a major decision based solely on what I wanted to do, and I must be honest; it was exhilarating. With the exception of the job interview I’d flown in for, I’d never even been to San Francisco, but I was thrilled as I packed up and hit the road for a new position in an unfamiliar city.

Ironically, that job turned sour pretty quickly, for reasons that had nothing to do with its location. I stuck it out for a year because that would look better on my resume than a quick departure. Then I left for greener pastures (ok, Chicago) just as easily as I’d headed for San Francisco. And that wasn’t my last move, by the way.

Imagine if I’d uprooted a husband, convinced him to go to the Bay Area to start a whole new life there, and then turned around in a year’s time and told him that I’d changed my mind. If he had objected to moving yet again – which would have been completely reasonable on his part – I might have been stuck indefinitely in a job I hated. And I would likely have brought that bitterness home from work every day, where it would have affected my marriage.

To a large degree, my decisions to move from place to place were motivated by ambition, which is still considered by some to be an unattractive trait in a woman. I wanted to advance in my career; earn bigger salaries and add more prestigious markets to my resume. Did my goals prevent me from finding the right guy at the right time, and in the right place? It’s possible. For instance, I was dating a nice man early in my radio career, after I’d toiled away as an unpaid, overworked intern in a major market and was working full-time as a news director and anchor in a very small town. The job was a stepping stone, but it would have been a dead end if I’d chosen the man over the career since he made it clear that he intended to remain in that small town. Forever. If I’d stayed with him, I would have spent years – maybe even decades – reporting on town council meetings (“the library wants $50 to buy some new books – who wants to make a motion?”) and what passed for local crime (“vandals knocked down two more mailboxes last night”).

I also would have continued to earn a minuscule salary, become quickly bored with small-town living (I’m a “city gal,” as the people there correctly called me) and ultimately, felt trapped in a stagnant situation. Two people with opposite preferences may be attracted to each other, but will they stay together, happily, for very long? I’m too much of a pragmatist to believe that love conquers all. Sometimes love is the thing that gets conquered.

So, yes, career choices can play a significant role in the decision to not get married.

Andrea, for instance, grew up in rural Indiana and went on to spend decades as a high-level corporate executive before embarking upon her second and current career, which is in higher education administration. She worked for large firms in mergers and acquisitions, regulatory compliance and internal auditing. Her climb up the corporate ladder required her to move to various locations in the U.S. and to travel all over the world.

Andrea has had a lot of boyfriends over the years, but ironically, she found that the kind of man who would be compatible with her career would not, in fact, be compatible with her.

“I would not have been able to pick up and move every couple of years, nor would I have been able to probably get as many promotions as I’ve had or do as much travel as I needed to if I had been married to the kind of person that I’ve been attracted to over the years,” she says. “Because the type of powerful, dynamic man that I’m drawn to – the male version of myself – can’t pick up and move across the country every couple of years. A househusband who would follow me around and be supported by somebody like me, I’m not attracted to. And I would have felt very taken advantage of by someone like that.”

She has no regrets about remaining single because she’s gotten to have the life she dreamed about since she was a young girl.

“I wanted to be one of those women who wore suits and carried a briefcase and worked in a boardroom,” Andrea says. “I had absolutely no concept of that, obviously, growing up in the cornfields of central Indiana. I don’t know if I saw somebody like that on TV, or in a movie. I just got that picture in my head, and that’s what I wanted to be, and that’s what I ended up being, for 26 years. And I loved it!”

About the Author:
Maureen Paraventi is a playwright, musician, and singer who has worked as a radio personality, journalist and personal assistant to a movie star. Find out more at www.maureenparaventi.com My book, New Old Maid is available from Chatter House Press and on Amazon.