Thursday, October 7, 2010

Preparing for Singlehood

I just finished reading Women of Faith speaker Lisa Harper’s new book, Untamed: How the Wild Side of Jesus Frees Us to Live and Love with Abandon. Although Harper briefly mentions still being single while in her forties, this isn’t a “book for singles.” Her focus is on Christ’s passionate love for His people (p. 83). But something heart-wrenching stood out to me when she talks about the lessons she learned from her stepfather (p. 90):

My final exam in gender inequity took place about ten years later when he said he wouldn’t spend one dime on my college tuition because most women who went to college just got married and had babies and never ended up using their degrees anyway…[H]e didn’t think I needed to be educated past high school.

Harper used this story to segue into a discussion about Jesus’ unconventional approach to the treatment of women, but her singleness was fresh in my mind. Here was a girl who was refused higher education because it was assumed that she’d marry immediately. Instead, she’s now remained single all these years. Now, Harper has advanced degrees and a successful career, so I’m not about to turn her into a hard-luck story. But her situation perfectly illustrates the problem of not preparing young women for singlehood.

History is littered with the lives of women who were unable to find a husband for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, today we don’t have to suffer under the same conditions or rely on the charity of others. We can support ourselves. And higher education, for all its flaws, allows many women to make a comfortable living and even support their parents when necessary. Who would not wish that sort of future for an unmarried woman?

Perhaps I’m fortunate to have a father who has always been concerned about his wife’s and daughters’ ability to fend for themselves if the need ever arose. Sure, it’s much more fun to plan a future wedding, but no one can guarantee it will ever happen. Every generation has had its spinsters. Setting a woman up for financial failure unless she snags a man is a serious risk, and many women have had to pay the cost.

I’ve known men who’ve told me with a straight face that they won’t consider a college-degreed woman as a perspective wife. They reason that she obviously wants a career instead of a family. It saddens me that these men ignore my case and the case of other women they know: all women who dreamed of being homemakers yet found themselves in the workforce, likely for life. They pass over sweet young women I believe would make them wonderful mates, evident in part by their determination to “be prepared” for the unexpected. The end result is instead something like a self-fulfilling prophecy: These women who carefully pursue an education as insurance against being poor old maids then find themselves old maids because of that education.

*This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. A review has been submitted on