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(Some time after the breakup, when Carrie ran into Aidan on the street, he was carrying his infant in a Baby Björn. Madame Bovary might not see it that way, but if she’d remained single, I’ll bet she would have been even more depressed than she was while living with her tedious but caring husband.What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content.It’s not only politically incorrect to get behind settling, it’s downright un-American.
Whenever I make the case for settling, people look at me with creased brows of disapproval or frowns of disappointment, the way a child might look at an older sibling who just informed her that Jerry’s Kids aren’t going to walk, even if you send them money.In some ways, I meant it: we’d both dreamed of motherhood, and here we were, picnicking in the park with our children. The dream, like that of our mothers and their mothers from time immemorial, was to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.Of course, we’d be loath to admit it in this day and age, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment.Even situation comedies, starting in the 1970s with The Mary Tyler Moore Show and going all the way to Friends, feature endearing single women in the dating trenches, and there’s supposed to be something romantic and even heroic about their search for true love.Of course, the crucial difference is that, whereas the earlier series begins after Mary has been jilted by her fiancé, the more modern-day Friends opens as Rachel Green leaves her nice-guy orthodontist fiancé at the altar simply because she isn’t feeling it.
And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! Oh, I know—I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to the editor to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about.