When it comes to dating, I’m at a disadvantage — I don’t want to get married or have kids. I used to wait a few dates to drop the bomb, but I don’t like to waste anyone’s time, so now I’m upfront with this admission. Like, “Hi, my name is Charyn and I don’t want to procreate or walk down the aisle. Are you cool with that?” within the first 15 minutes.
Before I was legally able to drink, I dated a now-wildly successful advertising creative director. (I turned 21 while we were together.) He was several years older than me, driven and knew what he wanted from life. I was still feeling my way out in the world but knew marriage and babies were a no-go. Sure, we were in love. We shacked up, had incredible sex and danced into the wee hours of the night every weekend at Philly’s after-hours clubs. We clicked and had fun. Still, it didn’t stop me from waking up in cold sweats one night, panicking that the relationship was headed into too-serious territory. I quickly ended things to avert having “that” conversation. A conversation that would often turn into a cut-and-run scenario.
Some boyfriends were convinced I’d fall in love with them, change my mind and we’d live happily ever after. Sure, I fell head over heels in many of those instances, but mind-blowing sex and an incredible connection was never enough to get hitched. (Though the idea of a professional quality knife set does make a wedding registry slightly appealing.)
About a decade later, I found security in the long-term history with a childhood friend, which, in retrospect, never should have taken a romantic turn. Believe me, I loved this guy deeply and pondered the prospect of a lifetime partnership at great length, but he wasn’t a perfect fit, or even an almost-perfect fit, like the half-size too-small shoe you force your foot into because it was 50 percent off at the Neiman Marcus sale. Our relationship strode along for a handful of years, because selfishly, I needed the stability.
The split was every bit as messy as I feared. I did everything in my power to sabotage our relationship and make it impossible for us to ever be friends. It worked; we haven’t spoken since. And I’m scarred with the indelible image of him crying on the staircase of our apartment complex saying, “I wanted to marry you.” It still makes my heart ache to think about that moment. See the pattern? One step toward walking down the aisle, and I take 10 steps back. I’m always the one to leave when things come within sniffing distance of wedding and babies talk.
Now, as a 40-something, baby making is less of an expectation. I’m dealing mostly with divorcees who have grown kids of their own. Marriage though is still a hot topic. Second (or third) chances at love and all of that. I totally get that my life plan doesn’t play well with (most) others. Mating and marriage aside, I’m also a writer who has freelanced the better part of the past two decades and spent much of that time traipsing around the globe. My lifestyle is not for everyone. I get it. On rare occasions, everyone’s on the same page and things proceed simpatico. I’ve been fortunate to have a few loves in my life where there’s a certain lightness in knowing that my partner isn’t going to try to change my mind. When these relationships have ended, it’s had absolutely nothing to do with kids or marriage.
Many people take issue with women who opt out of motherhood and marriage. It makes one a selfish, misguided person, doomed to a life of loneliness and regret. Or so I’ve been told. Repeatedly. If I’ve learned anything about taking this path, it is that there’s no swaying the fervent believers. No, I won’t “change my mind.” And when people pry for an answer, I tell them the truth: I love my life exactly the way it is. I have a super supportive circle of friends. My rescue dog satisfies my minimal maternal needs. I still have relationships, long and short-term. I volunteer and give back to my community. I travel every chance I get. I love what I do for a living. I may not “have it all” (who does?), but I have more than enough to be happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. I adore my nieces and nephew and many of my friends’ kids — in low-commitment, when-I-please doses. But sippy cups and baby slings terrify me; I really don’t feel the need to make slippery, raw egg white-like mucus magic in my easy bake fetus oven. It’s a responsibility that under pressure, I could probably meet and maybe even succeed at, but why mess with success?
As for relationships, I’ve managed long stretches of togetherness, which in some states would qualify as common-law marriage. I’m not afraid to couple up — I just have no interest in making it official. Perhaps it’s because religion plays no role in my life and my parents are deceased so I have zero familial pressure. Whatever the reason, I’ve never wanted someone to put a ring on it or to proclaim my love in front of the masses. Bling and broadcast just aren’t my style.
Getting married or making babies is a highly personal decision and I’ve learned through repeated first-person experience that it can be a dating deal-breaker, but it doesn’t make you damaged goods. I pinky swear promise. It’s a big world out there with lots of opportunities to meet people who are the cheddar to your grits. You may have to seek a bit more to find, but believe me, it’s worth it. We all don’t have to have the same happily ever after.
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