I Am The Old Woman I Pitied


It tried to disguise itself amongst a patch of blond. But I was not fooled.

I find myself on the lookout for oldness these days, as I approach the dull thud of 31. Thirty was a big birthday. A mile marker that felt like a missed deadline given my childlessness. I don’t like that I have these self-imposed deadlines, but they stem from my upbringing.

Currently, I work with the 15-year-old girls at church. They are bright and smart and lovely, and every once in a while I wonder what they think of me, the lone childless leader. I wonder this because I remember what I thought of me when I was their age, which was, huh?

Just a total inability to comprehend how a woman got to be in my situation. It is shameful to acknowledge that what I felt for them really was pity. Theirs was a position made “bad” because of its scarcity. They were an exception to the commandment to multiply and replenish, which seemed to suggest something gone wrong in their lives.

It wasn’t that I questioned them, no, the system was to blame; how could a woman as amazing as Sister So-and-So not have the husband she wanted? The kids? I was on their side, technically. But I did not want to be them.

I feared being them. And now here I am!

And it’s strange because in general I feel great about my life. I go about my day-to-day assuming I’m still 23, but then I find a gray hair, and remember.

I think of the one Young Women’s leader I had who was single and “older” and dating. I remember when she got engaged to the guy she’d called a friend, how we squealed in excitement. We were so happy for her. We did not want her life.

I hope my Young Women don’t pity me, and not because of my own vanity, at least not entirely. I hope they don’t pity me in case one of them ends up with my life. I want to save them the unnecessary self-judgments I seem to have invented: that 30 is a deadline, or that I will now be an ‘old Mom.’

I try to teach them in my lessons that ‘every path is different!’ and that ‘what matters at church is your relationship to Christ!’ But can one person do anything against the sheer mass of evidence they see every Sunday?

Women at church have kids.