Another week, another label to dissect and reclaim on Meghan Markle’s Archetypes podcast. Following her inaugural episode with Serena Williams on ambition and her second installment with Mariah Carey on diva-dom, this week’s guest is Mindy Kaling, and the label at hand is “spinster” — the single woman, the Old Maid, the singleton. A label that Kaling unashamedly identifies with as a single mother of two children in her 40s who’s never been married and no longer feels the societal pressure to change her marital status to qualify as “normal.” Kaling not only identifies with the label, but is reclaiming it with piercing intention.
Don’t be fooled by her ability to throw traditional marriage and family ideals out the window, though — Kaling herself admitted she hasn’t always felt so independent. Coming from a nuclear family, Kaling recalled writing in her journal as a little girl about her future. She shared her childhood dreams with Markle: “‘I’m going to be married to a guy named Josh and we’re going to have five children and I [will] start having kids when I’m 24.’ Wow. But 24 came and went. No Josh, no marriage, no kids.” Although she dated in her 20s, her life was quickly consumed by her role at The Office, and her desire to develop her career (plus her lack of a compatible partner) outweighed the societal pressure she felt to settle down and have kids for the sake of following the status quo.
Kaling mused, “Most people, especially women, I think are willing to compromise to [avoid being labeled a spinster]; I think there’s such a fear about being single.” She continued, “My life is filled with women who are [in their] late 30s, early 40s, who are so successful, and they have partners who aren’t, and I’m often amazed… I’m sitting there being like, ‘I don’t know what you see in this guy…’ I think probably a lot of women would perhaps, sadly, rather be with the person that is not right for them than be alone.”
Markle and Kaling pivot to talk about the ambition of single motherhood, and how women can display the exact same qualities as men, but men are viewed so much more positively for their directness, decisiveness, and leadership, whereas, Markle says, “In women, those qualities are so ugly to certain people.” Markle picks apart the double standard, sharing “When I started dating my husband, and we became engaged, everyone was just like, ‘Oh my God, you’re so lucky. He chose you.’ At a certain point after you hear it a million times over, you’re like, ‘I chose him, too.‘ Thankfully I have a partner who was countering that narrative for me and going, ‘They’ve got it all wrong. I’m the lucky one because you chose me,’ but it is gendered. And it’s an archetype and it’s stereotyped that ‘You’re so lucky.’ And it just feeds into this idea that you’re waiting for someone to tell you that you’re good enough, as opposed to knowing that you’re good enough on your own.”
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And that’s just it: Kaling and Markle know they’re good enough on their own, and that scares people who aren’t so comfortable with themselves.
Kaling and Markle are two exemplary instances of the modern woman. Independent, capable, successful, forging a career for themselves so as to not have to rely on a man, even, in Markle’s case, after choosing to marry and become a mother. Two women who advocate for women doing anything they set their minds to, on whatever timeline they wish. Women who, again like Markle, can marry and divorce and still have a meaningful life after a failed marriage. Women who, like Kaling, not only can have a family without a man, but actively choose to bring kids into the world and raise them as single parents.
In a world that insists a woman must have a man alongside her to achieve basically anything beyond making a good casserole and running a vacuum cleaner, Kaling and Markle are two living, breathing examples of that antiquated ideal simply not being true. You can pivot your life, do anything you set your mind to, and achieve your wildest dreams as a woman, single or married, with or without children, at any age — and own the spinster label just to rub it in a little more.
Before you go, click here to see celebrity couples where the woman has a higher net worth.