Young People and the Pressure to Leave Lives of the Past
Last time I checked it was 2018. Listening to my peers you might think that we have all time traveled back to the much romanticized period of the 1950s. Friends of mine tell me their experiences of family members, friends and even strangers approaching them to discuss their marital status and reproductive choices – though more so the lack thereof. Since when did these factors become so important in today’s world? Perhaps the bigger questions are how do we respond to such attacks on personal choices and how do we move past these limiting questions?
I consider myself one of the lucky ones; growing up, my family rarely threw those questions my way. From adolescence, they told me I would get an education and I would go on to live a healthy and happy life. They never tried to define what that life might look like, but they were always there for advice. On the subject of children, they said it is a large and life changing responsibility and most importantly it was a choice rather than a foregone conclusion. To this day, I don’t feel the pressure to conform to what society would love to see me do. My family respects my life decisions and honors what I have achieved.
A male friend of mine who was married for a short while told me he gets asked all the time about whether or not he will get married again. He is adamant he’s asked these types of questions out of kindness. “My marriage was very brief, but I get asked quite frequently by friends and family when I will get married again and if I want children. I say yes I want children, but I say that I’m afraid I will not find a woman who will actually love me for me.”
Two other friends of mine, both of whom are from different cultures and both females, discussed how age played a big role on when they were questioned on their life choices. “When I was 23 my aunt told me that I was too old to get married and I would never find a husband. 23!” my Pakistani friend tells me. She is now married and discussing with her partner on whether or not they want to have children. The other friend, despite growing up in the supposedly more progressive American culture, receives similar feedback and has been told she is too old (late twenties) to get married by family. Despite the many studies that exist that point out the average age of marriage is pushed further and further back, they continue to be pressured to get married as soon as possible.
“I think people will judge and ridicule you no matter which road you take,” expressed a mother of three. She is a hard working woman who has a family and is constantly judged negatively because she married and had children. “Now I think I will tell them: ‘I’m married, I am adult, I live in a free country, I’ve done everything in a socially acceptable way- I’ll have as many kids as I want!’”
It seems that you’re judged no matter what decision or pace you make for your life, so how do we stop the bombardment? Besides ignoring these questions, I propose we start making these questions into dialogues. Start by turning the tables on them – learn why they feel the need to create pressure and educate them. Creating a safe and instructive environment to discuss your personal choices allows you the time to describe the problems with pigeon holing you into certain gender norms. I’m also a fan of this method because it takes the pressure off of you and your decisions, and places the focus on the real issue: limiting the decisions of young people into stereotypical paths only serves to impede society’s progress.