I’ve been getting some interesting feedback from readers lately and thought you guys might get a kick out of reading some of it. Here’s a letter from a woman who felt my response to “May-December,” created unnecessary anxiety.
A woman wrote in about a May-December romance and her uncertainty about the relationship given she might want to have children (while her 50-year-old partner is considering a vasectomy). This was part of your response:
But let’s say you give it a few more months, break up, and you actually have no trouble getting over him. Great. But you’re still 29 or close to it at that point and time is beginning to feel a little tighter. You still need to find someone to fall in love with. That could take years! And then you have to get pregnant and have it stick. If you’re lucky, it happens right away, but the older you get, the harder it is to get pregnant and successfully carry a healthy baby to term. What if you break up with your boyfriend when you’re 29, take a year to get over him, and then don’t meet anyone you really click with until you’re, like, 32 or 33? And then you want to date him for a couple years before you have kids, so then you’re close to 35. And you know what happens when you get pregnant at 35? You’re considered “high risk,” as in high risk for having a baby with birth defects, because you’re an “older mom.”
I am going to completely project my own anxieties and fears here, but please hear me out, as I am sure I am not the only reader you have with the same issue. I am in my mid-20s and have ended a relationship with someone with whom I had planned a future. I was completely devastated, but I am proud that I have picked up the pieces and have become much stronger because of it. In the time since the break-up, I have played these number games quite often. Okay, I hopefully meet him at 27..then we date for a few years…okay 30. Then get married and enjoy some time..okay 32..then and then and then. Women do this all the time; it’s almost natural. However, it causes great anxiety.
I know your reader needed someone to have a practical discussion with her about timing. What I feel happened in this response is you have managed to not only scare your reader (you did say you wanted to scare her a bit), but also scare other later 20-something women who read your letters. I understand this probably wasn’t intentional. But I am very upset you didn’t consider this. “You still need to find someone to fall in love with. That could take years!” How can you not think of other 29-year-old women who are telling themselves this every day and are freaking out. I believe we single women need to approach love from a place of peace and confidence. This just causes insane anxiety.
I understand you are doing this for a specific audience, particularly the letter writer. I’m sure you wouldn’t say the same thing to a 29-year-old woman freaked out she will never have time to meet someone and have babies before she is at-risk for birth defects (I know you’re a proud mama in the world of motherhood, but come on…too much on the scare tactic side). I am completely projecting here. It didn’t seem like the women commenting had any issues, but this really upset me. I know you’re a smart, level-headed woman who could read this rant.
Thank you for your time and your wonderful responses to readers. This letter was more about me than it was you, if you get what I mean.
Well, no, I don’t exactly get what you mean. I guess you needed to vent? You felt anxious and decided to unload some of that anxiety on me since I was the one who unnecessarily caused it by not considering the effect my words would have on you and other readers like you. But the things is, when writing a response to letters, I do almost nothing but consider the effect it will have on the LW and other readers. In fact, my intention in this particular response was to scare women — particularly women in their late 20s who may think they still have all the time in the world to spend hoping the guy they’re currently seeing eventually changes into the guy they want to spend their lives with. In reality, that doesn’t work. If the guy you’re dating doesn’t have what you’re looking for — including a desire to start a family — you need to MOA. Time is finite — especially the time in a woman’s life that she is most fertile. Yes, of course, women in their late 30s and early 40s can have healthy babies the old-fashioned way (I hope to be one of them!), but it is a fact that a woman’s fertility drops dramatically after the age of 35, and it would be a shame for a young woman to waste her best baby-making years on a guy who isn’t long-term partner/father material if she knows she wants to have a kid eventually. If that scares you or creates anxiety, I can’t take the blame for that anymore than I can take the blame for the cancellation of “Bored to Death,” which was an awesome show on HBO that I miss.
In short, I don’t believe the anxiety you’re feeling is “unnecessary” if it propels you to make sharper decisions and avoid wallowing in relationships or situations that don’t help you reach your goals in life.