I read a brief essay today on Huffington Post written by Lauren Dubinsky. She echoes many of the gender role issues mentioned in my friend's letter (see yesterday's post) as well as the viewing-woman--beyond-gender theme in the writing of Ranier Maria Rilke that I mentioned a while ago (cf. this post). You can read Dubinsky here. I've coined this philosophy of going beyond gender (and its associated social baggage) "Transcendgendering".
(Come on, that's pretty good, eh?)
Marriage (& dating) is not about a woman struggling to understand a man qua his being "a man" (and therefore other); neither is it a man trying to cope with the intricacies of some fictional collective called 'women'. It is primarily about two infinite and infinitely different souls trying to live in communion with one another. And this is a calling-- this project of sharing one's life meaningfully with others--that is unqualifiedly universal.
Frankly, every time I encounter the sort of wisdom Dubinsky presents I feel immense relief. Because while gender roles/stereotypes are surely contributors to some marital strife or misunderstanding, it is far from the sole explanans for it. The same goes for the positive aspects of marriage. This means that part of what makes marriages special, intimate, outrageously hard yet wonderfully rewarding...has to do with two people learning how to do life alongside one another. And that kind of relationship is by no means restricted to and cultivated only within the marriage club.
Thus as a single woman, I am not missing out, not excluded from some super duper special class of women who really "get" men, who really understand their ways (again, referring to an idealized collective). By choosing not to date (or having that choice made for me, let's be honest) I have not cut myself off or been denied access to crucial information about the other sex that would help me find and keep my future husband (if there is such a one), or to become a paradigm of my own sex.
Nor am I missing out on a more general human experience-- the deep pain and joy of really loving someone other than myself. I too can cultivate the Wisdom of Truly Loving the Other, and the Other can be any, or many: my sister, my father, my colleague, my nieces, my God. Being single frees me to partake of a deep intimacy with whole communities of my choosing without primary obligations to a husband or children. I can, and ought to expect, to participate in the same joys and hardships of giving and receiving love whether I am married or not.