At 22 I was fascinated with a woman, a filmmaker, who was about five years older than me. She seemed to have a delightfully bohemian life, rooming in a ramshackle house with several other aspiring artists, throwing parties in which she would toss back her head and laugh, her long, golden hair shaking and her cheeks blooming.
We crossed paths seven years later, and I recall thinking that she had lost her spark, with her newly serious demeanor matching her colorless face, heavier physique, and dark, severe hairstyle. I may have also been unconsciously judging her for being older and unmarried, although she seemed beyond all that to me. I heard she moved to New York City a couple of years later, and I once saw her name in the credits of a documentary I enjoyed.
I found her profile on Facebook recently. Her hair is now long and soft brown, her clothing is casually hip, and she wears a pleasant, satisfied expression on her face. She is childless and appears to be unmarried but with a new boyfriend by her side. Her profile is filled with artfully composed photos and snapshots of a diverse batch of friends. She’s directed her own documentary and has been interviewed about it in a number of sources.
Whether due to biological or social forces, most of us expect to pattern our lives around marriage and children. With seven billion people on the planet, however, humanity may be forced to rethink those patterns. Those of us who have remained childless, however inadvertently, have actually done the world a favor. There’s never been so many of us; we are on the frontlines of creating a public image of women who remain childless/childfree. Like it or not, our narratives continue on without motherhood to guide them, and it’s up to us to prove that older women remain persons of interest outside of the roles of “mother” and even “wife.”
Perhaps the first step is finding a good example of a childfree woman who remains of interest to you.