BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Romantic Ideals and Fantasies

Posted by egehl on June 3, 2010

This country loves a romantic fantasy.  We hope and expect that couples will stay married forever and wonder if someone is still single later in life what’s wrong with them for never marrying. 

The separation of Al and Tipper Gore sent shock waves through the media this week.  They seemed like the perfect couple and so in love, as everyone says, so what could have gone wrong? 

Why they’ve decided to split after all this time has become a topic of national discussion, and even within their inner circle of close friends.  None of us really knows what happens behind closed doors and just because a couple seems happy to the outside world doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with challenges and changes in their private daily lives.   In my view, to say a 40 year marriage isn’t successful just because there’s a separation is silly.  We are human and no couple is immune to feeling the evolution and changes that comes with life and aging.  

In the end, it seems that two people very amicably grew apart.  And I think in many ways that touches upon the fears of many people who look toward unions like the Gores as ones to strive for and regard as invincible.  However separate lives and separate interests, which seems to be the case in this situation, can over time eventually distinguish an important energy between a couple.  

On the flip side of this romantic notion of marriage is the expectation that everyone should enter into this sacred union, especially by the time they reach a certain age.

Predictably single older women will quickly go from being regarded as single to unmarried once they surpass 40.  When President Obama announced Elena Kagan was his next Supreme Court nomination attention quickly turned to her personal life.  She’s single so speculation soared whether she is gay, and if not, why doesn’t she have a husband? 

The White House has been very eager to clarify her unmarried status and squash any guessing that Kagan was gay so instead they went for the sad, unfortunate unmarried explanation to insinuate she fit the spinster category. 

It’s a funny and ironic example that no matter how professionally successful a woman might be, and in this case possibly becoming only the third women ever to serve on the Supreme Court, above all else she will be judged and regarded based on whether there’s a ring on her finger. 

Kagan has told a friend in the West Wing that she is not gay, just lonely. And frankly I can’t say I am surprised that an extremely bright and accomplished woman has had a hard time finding a mate.  Whether she’s gay or not, it takes a lot of time and energy to get to the level Kagan has achieved and something has to go to the back seat.  And if she is gay, since roughly one in nine Americans are then it makes sense that one of the nine Supreme Court justices should be as well. 

As Maureen Dowd so aptly puts it, “Why is there this underlying assumption that Kagan has missed the boat? Why couldn’t she be eager to come to Washington to check out the Obama-era geek-chic bachelors, maybe get set up on a date by Michelle Obama, maybe host some single ladies fiestas with Sonia Sotomayor, maybe even sign up for JDate with a new and improved job status?” 

I continually think society’s take on singlehood, marriage, separation, homosexuality, infidelity and everything in between is interesting yet not surprising.  We want so badly to have this puritanical view of the whole thing and act “shocked” when human mistakes or “abnormal” decisions and outcomes are still constantly revealed. 

Everyone cannot be placed into this cookie cutter model of what’s expected in one’s personal life without room and acceptance for change or difference.   While I think it’s worthy and admirable to hope for the best and ideal in all situations, human nature will continue to challenge it.


2 Responses to “Romantic Ideals and Fantasies”

  1. Philippa said

    If Kagan was a single man, would the same questions be asked about marital status?

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BPW Foundation and Debbie Frett , Liz de Bagara. Liz de Bagara said: RT @womenmisbehavin: We are all sad @ the end of the Gore's romance. But is coupledom a requirement? Single women know the pressure http://bit.ly/99DmD7 […]

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