From Our Readers
September 07, 2013 6:00 am

I’m 24.

I’m college-educated, hold a professional job in Washington, DC, and start graduate school in the fall. I don’t have kids. I’m not married. I have never been married.

None of these characteristics make me particularly unique. I am simply a part of the super achieving, charmingly semi-narcissistic generation of female “millennials” — the generation quickly proving we’re a force to be reckoned with.

Millennial females are primed to believe, rightly so, that the sky is the limit. We’re pressured, even if just internally, to become smart, independent, charming, witty, financially stable, driven, yoga masters. We crammed for the SAT. We perfected the college application essay. We have more education, sex, and opportunity. Flattering Facebook profile picture? Yes. With a politician or influential leader? Bonus. Big city? Obviously. Multiple degrees? Um, duh.

This is not necessarily a bad thing — raising the societal bar on ourselves, much like allowing competition within a market, improves the lives of everyone involved. More opportunity leads to more prosperity. We have an unprecedented amount of personal freedoms. We create ourselves and push our limits for our own reasons—to live a full and happy life abroad, to settle down, to get our own HBO show at 25, or maybe to have a child and become CEO of Yahoo! in the same year. We have more opportunities before us than any generation of females before us. Whatever the journey, though, most of us are still getting married. And, much like that Ivy League degree, being taken off the market is a serious, serious endeavor for the female millennial. It’s become an achievement rather than a necessity—a beautiful, unique achievement — just like the thigh gap you sweated your ass off to get.

But it’s also a huge risk.

The recent infidelity uproar, starring the role models of many young women, is unsettling. Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff to Hillary Clinton, stands by her husband, dick-pic-Danger, after discovering his affinity for camera phones. Silda Wall Spitzer, Harvard JD and co-founder of the non-profit Children for Children, held a campaign for her husband after his sexcapades with a hooker. And, of course, we all remember the blue dress of the 90s; Hillary Clinton, Yale Law grad and future Secretary of State, barely batted an eye.

What are millennials taking away from this? If our future husband screws up, we can either apologize for him or reprimand him. We can stay together for the kids/vows/career advancement, or we can grab our copy of The Feminine Mystique on the way out while calling that mediator your now-divorced friend hired to communicate with the jerk during the divorce proceedings.

If, like those mentioned above, we decide to stay, we’re left with a grim set of takeaway options. In this article , S.E. Cupp suggests this is what young women are faced with:

Optimistically, I hope they learn that no one’s perfect, choosing the right mate is important, marriage is hard and fidelity is even harder. But perhaps they also learn to suppress their own needs, to accept infidelity and promiscuity as the price of marriage, and to tolerate disrespect and humiliation if it can lead to power.

That’s a tough pill to swallow. But if I can suggest one thing we’ve learned as millennials, it’s that we can reject outdated dichotomies. We live in the age of customization. The average American family is no longer the average American family.

So as a female millennial living in a time when we’re increasingly reminded of the challenges of marriage; when some are okay with finding a partner versus a soulmate; when monogamy falls in and out of style; when guys publicly diss their hot and successful ex-wives; when cheating nightmares like those of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer become the norm; and when even the tax code discourages us from tying the knot, it begs the question:

Where’s the incentive for us to say, “I do?”

We’re taught to hold off on marriage until we’re stable — financially, emotionally, and romantically. But what happens when life outside of a traditional marriage sounds more financially, emotionally and romantically stable than walking down the aisle? Don’t be surprised if we start churning out commitment-phobic women who won’t marry — not because they’re empowered — but because the prospect is too scary.

You can read more from Courtney Michaluk here and here.

Featured image via.

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