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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Goin' to the Ref Desk and We're Gonna Get Married

It's my guess that every unmarried woman over a certain age gets asked one or two million times in her adult life why she hasn't yet found a nice guy and settled down already. The subtext of this question is, of course, "What the hell is WRONG with you?" I've talked in previous posts about patrons being overly and inappropriately concerned with my marital status. Because I am happy with my life as it is right now, it doesn't bother me much anymore when people grill me at the reference desk on this topic. I don't get defensive, but I also don't engage (no pun intended) with the patron either. I give a humorously evasive response - "I'm saving myself for Robert Downey Jr.!" - and then I change the subject.

However, when the kids & teens talk about marriage with that incredulous, pushy, "this is the way it has to be and THAT'S THAT" attitude they all seem to have, it bothers me a bit more than when adults do it. Not that I see anything wrong with having the desire to get married, but when they view marriage as a absolute life requirement, the latent feminist in me kicks in. Haven't we moved away from the days when marriage was seen as the ultimate goal? Aren't modern females supposed to prize their independence, seek higher education, have a fulfilling career? Am I less of a woman if I don't choose to wear a white dress and walk down the aisle? Well? AM I?? (Uh oh. Sounding defensive. Better move on.)

Maybe I just watched Beetlejuice too many times as a kid.
I mean, look at the fear on her face. 
I realize that there are socioeconomic and cultural factors working behind the scenes with these girls and that a lot of them will probably relax their attitudes when they get older,  realizing that many women are unmarried by CHOICE. These young ladies will get to dodge their own bullets...I mean, have their own experiences someday. If they happen to tie the knot, that's great. If they don't, that's fine too. As a wise man once said, "Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you may not be right for some."

On good days, I am able to have poignant conversations with the girls about what they want their futures to be. This is always illuminating and interesting - they want to be teachers, doctors, designers. More often than not, however, the focus is on me and my loudly-ticking biological clock. Recently, one of the more loquacious teens was hanging out at the reference desk chatting to me about school and friends and, of course, boys. The conversation quickly spiraled into a discussion of how I am going to die old, alone, and surrounded by cats.

 A projection of what I'll look like in the year 2070. 

Teen: "Are you always going to JUST have a boyfriend?"

Me: "What do you mean?" 

Teen: "Don't you want to get married someday?"

Me: "Why do you always ask me that?"

Teen: "I just don't want you to be ninety years old with no kids. I can totally picture you as a cat lady."

Seeing as how I am allergic to cats, this prediction did not bode well for my future happiness. I talked to her about life circumstances, and how 30 really isn't THAT old, and how marriage doesn't have to be for everyone, which she didn't buy in the slightest. A bit later, she asked for a pencil and some paper and started sketching away.

Me: "What are you drawing?" 

Teen: "Your wedding dress." 

Me: "Oh BOY." 

As she drew, she described the dress to one of the part-timers, who (unfortunately for him) was standing nearby:

"Look, I'm making Rita's wedding dress. It's gonna be tight from here *guestures towards waist* and strapless." 

She said to me: "Do you want a long dress or a mini dress?"

Me (*looking down at unspectacular legs*): "A long dress." 

Teen: "Okay." She pointed to the paper. "THIS part is going to be lace. You know, the stuff with holes?"

Me: "I know what lace is, yes." 

Teen: "Just checking."

The final design. Get on it, Vera Wang!

After she finished the drawing, she returned to the topic of having children:

Teen: "How many kids DO you want?"

Me (*looking around the loud, chaotic children's floor*): "HAHAHAHA."

Teen: "Why is that funny?" 

(She's going to be working at the library next month on the children's floor. She'll learn. Oh, how she'll learn.)

Do I still love my job? I do.  


  1. hahahhaa... OMG, I'm sorry for laughing, but this was PRICELESS.

  2. That dress is destined to be a classic! Eat it, Kate Middleton.

  3. I love your blog!! Just want to remind you that RDJ is mine!!!!!
    Karen (kickboxing)

  4. Ha! Thanks, Karen! I'd fight you for him, but you'd totally win. :)

  5. I know exactly what you mean. I'm engaged now, but in my last job, I was very much single the entire time I worked there, and it was mostly little old people who got on my case about needing to get married. One old guy went so far as to ask me, "What do you do then? Sit home with your housework? You need a man to help you get that done." Others gave me advice on how to catch a man, and how to keep him once he was caught. (A schizophrenic woman assured me the solution was having a well-organized wallet.)

    I'm 28 now, and I was between 24 and 27 then, and these people acted like my entire life was over because I was still single after 25. It was ridiculous. And though I am irritated on your behalf that people are also obsessed with your personal life, it does sort of make me feel better in some ways to know that it's not just me, but young librarians everywhere! I also had a teen girl who was obsessed with drawing my wedding dress and kept offering to find me a boyfriend. It made me really uncomfortable to be honest.

    But it cracks me up that this girl felt the need to define lace for you. Kids are so funny. Nice post.

  6. This is hilarious!! I love that the girl checked to see if you knew what lace was. Your job rocks.

  7. Yeah, I'm allergic to cats too. Great post.

  8. My answer was always "And WHY would I want to do THAT"? With a shocked expression. Then I ruined it and got married. Trust me, they are in fact crazy. My quote of the week "I'll be a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy." *Sigh*

  9. Thankfully I work at a place where most people are single and I look younger than my 34 years so I don't get questioned often about my marital status. Though I did make sure I stopped at 2 cats in fear I would be the cat lady in my neighborhood.

  10. I agree 100% with Ms. Yingling - that's how I've always answered the question. As a 37-year-old single gal, I'll tell ya, the answers will fade away (at least from the adults). But yeah, kids are hilarious. My boyfriend of 1 year and I are so not ready to rush into anything and we are getting a massive amount of pressure from his 6-year-old niece. She has already declared herself flower girl (hm, if I get married, I see City Hall in my future) and asks every time she sees us, oh and also pats my belly and asks me if I have a baby in there. No kids in the future either, but many sit-ups.

  11. Your posts are ROTFLOL! I am already married but I can relate to the questions regarding..children! And I do get your point about how the teen didn't get why you didn't want children yet after working in the library :)!

  12. This is very funny and being someone who works with teens, in a library, I can see this conversation taking place. You handle it with a lot of grace, not always easy to do when working with the public.

  13. Believe it or not, even marrying young doesn't stop the nosiness. I got married at 20 (and yes, we're still married 17 years later), and everyone had to know why. Biggest guess was that I was pregnant (I wasn't). Then there were the years of wanting to know when I would have kids (never have; never will). I finally perfected the death stare, and the questions stopped. Also my siblings had kids, so my parents finally got their grandbabies.

  14. I'm loving these comments and stories! I guess it's a universal issue (although I find it interesting that no men have chimed in on this discussion). Thanks, everyone!

  15. I refuse to be the only guy to post.

  16. Yeah, it doesn't stop after you're married. Then it becomes, "Do you have kids? / When are you having kids?"

    I don't often wear my rings while working as they tend to get banged up, and the LOOKS I get from scandalized old biddies (nearly 100% female) (how could I DARE be MARRIED and not wear RINGS) are priceless in a sad sort of way. Little kids are actually pretty cool about it when they get a straight-forward explanation, but teens & the elderly are simply scandalized.

    Anyway... I like you, let's be friends! *optimistic, slightly-creepy-but-not-on-purpose smile*

  17. Well, I did chime in, but at my own place. (Link somewhere below.)

  18. Oh Rita, that was priceless....Forget the blog you have the makings of a book complete with illustrations! I loved the size of your head (and no visible hair - I take it that it is under the floor length veil.)I really think your young patron is onto something possibly a new clothing line in her future? You don't have time to be married, you are way too busy answering great questions from kids. (PS. Forget the cats...I have four and they're not all they are cracked up to be!)

  19. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  20. I always say something like, "Why would I need kids when I have you?" I want to say, "Why would I want kids when I have you?" but that seems mean.

  21. Cute (and scary) story. My fear is that these children and young adults have this impression that getting married means 'losing' your independence- that- you're all "taken care of" which is not necessarily the truth. It is still so important to maintain one's independence and 'oneness' after he/she gets married. The partner should enhance one's life of course, but not 'make' it. The individuality actually makes (or I suppose sometimes unfortunately breaks) the marriage.
    I agree with you that once they grow up, they'll see all the different opportunities and options.
    Your post is so well-written, I'm so proud of you Reets!

  22. If you look anything like that wedding dress drawing, all I want to know is when you're free for coffee.

  23. Rita,

    I'm speechless with laughter. Seriously. I want a wedding dress "with holes" -- it sounds so much more interesting than one with lace.

    What else can one say? The outrage wars with the hilarity. I wish there was a way that we could make dying alone with cats (or dogs, in my case!) equally as exciting. One can sometimes be the GREATEST number, and sometimes I just wish I could stand on a hill and proclaim it the world in a way that would make them listen!


  24. I love this article! I am in a long term relationship, and sometimes people ask me why i'm not married. well, why do people think you have to be married to love someone? we can't just prove our love by being together and loving each other?

    there is so much more to life than being married! travelling the world, a career, writing... etc. etc. i hope they realise that! I'd love to see all those girls grow up to be successful career women in whatever they do!