Seeking 'Happily Ever After': Why Are There More Single Women in Their 30s Than Ever Before?
If you were to believe the media (and why wouldn't you?), you might think these 30-something single women fall into 3 categories: desperados who would do anything for a ring, career-driven women who don't need a man, and Twihards (of course).
But journalist Michelle Cove wanted to dig deeper and find out what women across America really thought about their single status. Armed with a $200 video camera, she slowly pieced together the award-winning documentary "Seeking Happily Ever After".
We caught up with her to find out: Did all those Disney movies ruin our lives forever?
MyDaily: Why do you think the media portrays single women as either desperate or career-driven?
Michelle Cove: That's a very good question. I'm friends with a lot of single women around the country, and I can't name one woman who falls into either category. That's part of the reason I wanted to do this documentary.
Shortly after you finished the documentary, you wrote the self-help book "Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind." What compelled you to do that?
The movie was about asking questions, provoking audiences and starting conversations ... but not giving answers. I hate documentaries that give answers. But when it was done, as a women's advocate it didn't feel like enough.
I had gleaned so much information from my own experience, from talking to these single women, and from experts, that I thought it would be almost criminal not to put it all in a book where I answer some of the questions that were coming up regularly. And what's on the market for women are all these relationship books that say, "You could be married, but you have a major defect. That's so sad, but we can cure you." I think that's insane. This is a book about tuning into your own needs, but starting with the assumption that you're OK.
Wait. It's OK to be single?
[Laughs] Yes! About two years ago Live Science came out with a study that said that the stigma of the spinster for single women was alive and kicking, and that women still felt that stigma in their 30s if they weren't married. And that's crazy! Given the numbers of single women we're talking about, this is a growing phenomenon. And I think it's time for women to stand up, flip that stereotype and say, "That's not our experience. We're making good choices for ourselves and refusing to settle."
So what does "happily ever after" look like for this generation of women?
When I first asked single women that question, very quickly they answered one of two things, either: The prince on the horse coming to rescue the woman in distress, or married, two kids, picket fence and nice house before the age 30. But when I would dig deeper and say what does it look like to you today as a grown woman, nobody could answer.
I finally came to realize that happily ever after is so locked in place. We don't as women give ourselves permission to say maybe it looks different. It's supposed to look different. We were 8! Once I would let the conversation hang and ask them to think about it, these new definitions started popping up, whether it was paying off law school loans or admitting that they did still want to get married, but they didn't want to settle. I think it was extremely liberating for women, to pull out of that old happily ever after and see that it really is something that if you think about it you can define for yourself.
How can women begin to redefine their "happily ever after" if they've been waiting for Prince Charming since they first watched "Cinderella" when they were five?
I think there has to be intentional thought. There are all kind of people around you that are going to define for you what's right and what's going to make you happy. And until you sit and intentionally think about what is going to make you happy yourself, it's not going to happen. That should happen on a regular ongoing basis –- you should tune in and ask, am I feeling fulfilled or have my needs changed? Because they should change over the course of a life.
But what about single women who, after thinking about it, really do want a husband? What then?
It's a little pat, but instead of focusing on what's missing, figure out what makes you happy. Instead of becoming obsessed with finding a husband, find out what elements in your life bring you joy, whether it's dancing, travel, adventure, or taking a class. Really explore those and make yourself happy first.
And finally, I gotta ask -- being a happily married woman yourself, why should single women listen to your advice?
There are two reasons. One, I didn't get married until I was 32, so I absolutely understand what it's like to date when all your friends are getting married and feel all that pressure. And two, I've been on both sides. There's such an obsession in our culture with the wedding day and that it's the day when your life comes together and the day happily ever after starts.
I really enjoy being married, but it's not the day when life comes together and gets easy. I think there are ups and downs on both sides. Life is really about navigating and tuning into your own needs whether you're single or married.
Watch the Trailer for "Seeking Happily Ever After," below:
Tags: michelle cove, MichelleCove, seeking happily ever after, seeking happily ever after documentary, SeekingHappilyEverAfter, SeekingHappilyEverAfterDocumentary, single in your 30s, single women, SingleInYour30s, SingleWomen, unmarried
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