The New York Times sure is pushing hard on the narrative of the middle-aged, childless, single-woman lifestyle. Why?

I have a theory about happy people. Happy people feel remarkably uncompelled to point out to other people how very happy they are. It's unnecessary. Rather, they just go about their day, you know, being happy.

With that in mind, permit me to introduce you to Glynnis MacNicol, guest Opinion Essayist for The New York Times.

In her essay, she details three things she believes it's very important for you to know:

  1. She is very very happy being single, childless, and almost 50. Really, It's like a "fantasy." She's enjoying her age, she's enjoying her choices, she's enjoying herself, she's enjoying her enjoyment and she doesn't need you to approve of it which is why she's so desperate to convince you it's true through repetition.
  2. Men are terrified of her for being happy and enjoying her fantasy life even though they don't know she exists.
  3. ‘80s sitcoms were the height of feminist triumph. Or something.

The essay begins with a recitation of sorts about how happy she is (all emphasized text mine).

[My life] definitely has the makings of a fantasy, if we allowed for fantasies starring single, childless women on the brink of turning 50.

Who doesn't "allow" that? Who's the "we?" You are here, in The New York Times of all places, the purported "paper of record" detailing that fantasy. This follows several published books, numerous other magazine pieces, and a podcast.

Some people just don't know how to take the W. They've defined themselves as a victim for so long they don't know any other way to be.

It is disconcerting to enjoy oneself so much when there is so much to assure you to expect the opposite ...

Why, she's so joyously joyful it's almost too much!

It's not just in enjoying my age that I'm defying expectations

Whose expectations? I always wonder how much of these kinds of declarations come down to daddy issues. Regardless, in a piece that later celebrates her "freedom" she still inhabits a mental prison of her own making where she conjures up expectations that she seems to feel the need to defy.

Maybe just ... live your life?

No such luck, she's not done with all her defying defiance.

… It's that I've exempted myself from the central things we're told give a woman's life meaning — partnership and parenting.

"Told?" If you truly didn't care, that is, if at some level, a part of you no longer wonders about the path not taken, why bring it up? Why obsess over it?

Oh, but obsess she does.

I've discovered that despite all the warnings, I regret none of those choices.

When you feel the need to say you don't regret something ...

Indeed, I am enjoying them immensely.

Immense enjoyment, that's like a whole other level of enjoyment. I think you get the Enchanted Sword of the Garden Wizard or something.

Instead of my prospects diminishing, as nearly every message that gets sent my way promises they will — fewer relationships, less excitement, less sex, less visibility — I find them widening. The world is more available to me than it's ever been.

Who is she trying to convince here? Us, or herself?

What she doesn't realize, doesn't have the genuine confidence to realize, is that there are avenues of life, of the world, she will never know and never understand and that may be closed off to her forever.

I know this because there was a time when I thought I'd never be a father. I'd made my peace with it, not everyone gets everything, and like many people I know, I could have lived a perfectly fine life not knowing what I was missing.

But I still knew I'd be missing something and always had the humility to understand and appreciate that.

Celebrate it? Compare raising a child and bearing witness to the miracle of life and growth up close to ... what? Being able to go to Paris in the spring whenever I wanted? Wine with friends?

Even back then, I knew that was delusional. All you need to understand that is a reasonably good relationship with your parents.

The same goes for the deep emotional fulfillment of committing yourself to a single person your entire life, to weather the good and bad together and to grow old, together, to say nothing of growing closer to God (and I do mean nothing, the concept is not raised at all).

She is here trumpeting a life without so much as a nod to the path not taken other than to, I guess, "defy" it which sounds more childish than anything else.

That is not a sign of a confident woman. It's a sign of a woman who dares not consider that path, and in fact is so terrified of it, the mere suggestion that there may be other ways for women to find fulfillment beyond serial sexual partners and Sunday brunch is a "backlash," a word that appears no fewer than three times in her piece.

In fact, we're currently experiencing the latest backlash against the meager feminist gains of the past half-century. My story — and those of the other women in similar shoes — shows that there are other, fulfilling ways to live.

I clicked through the link she included in that excerpt - the examples of "other women in similar shoes." I do this because nine times out of ten, the writer assumes her A.D.D. readers won't click through.

Those other women number exactly two, both of whom wrote books about getting divorced.

I'm not sure what lesson MacNicol was trying to convey with these examples. Even the reviewer notes both books involved some "score settling" and at least one could be considered a hit job. These were marriages doomed to fail from the start, and both parties bear responsibility (some more than others).

Woman #1:

They married after six heady months, eloping at a Las Vegas wedding chapel.

Not the most promising foundation upon which to build a life.

The marriage lasted five years, though they were in couples therapy the last four.

Yeah, someone needed to call that match early, ideally before the kids arrived.

Woman #2:

Her fiancé was, it was clear — and well before they married in 2005 — an uptight, controlling prig.

Another promising start!

… the price of marriage was the loss of her entire self, and she's decidedly bitter about the enterprise as a whole — 'a political and cultural and romantic institution that asks too much of wives and mothers and gives too little in return.'

Wow, that is one angry woman, lashing out others for her own bad choices:

But, as Lenz herself says, her husband never pretended to be anyone other than who he was: someone who wanted a tradwife. She was the one who changed.


Even the author of the piece thinks her book goes too far:

That's a fascinating story, but the book is wrongly framed, reaching too often for sweeping pronouncements about sex and gender: 'Women and their work have always been disposable'; 'We make women feel brave for sticking it out'; 'We tell ourselves that true love happens completely outside of the forces of culture and time.'

Yikes! That's a lot of cultural baggage to throw on the top of a marriage you were largely responsible for failing.

As for the reviewer, she recovers herself, of course, and gets a dig in at Trump, as per The New Republic Style Guide.

But Lenz isn't the American ex-wife. She is chronicling a highly specific milieu: white evangelical Trump country. Breaking ranks with religious traditionalism meant breaking not just with her husband, but with a tribe devoted to controlling women's bodies and, not incidentally, shoving their doctrine down the rest of America's throat.

Keep that last line in mind as we return to MacNicol and her backlashing.

I suspect that a lot of this backlash …

What backlash, you might ask? Well, to be Glynnis MacNicol, backlash is when other people are permitted to express opinions contrary to her own.

… is connected to the terror that men experienced at discovering that they are less necessary to women's fulfillment than centuries of laws and stories have allowed them to believe.

That is not what terrifies men.

What terrifies men is discovering that the latest injury suffered by their team's starting rotation is jeopardizing their chances of securing even a Wild Card spot.

Yeah, but also what MacNicol said, I guess. Something about being unnecessary? Honestly, I really wasn't paying attention, the game was on.

That terror is abundantly apparent today:

Ready to witness the terror men feel at ... whatever it was she said? (Sorry, got distracted again, was making a sandwich.)

From Harrison Butker's commencement speech suggesting that women may find more fulfillment in marriage and children than in having a career, …

Suggesting! Suggesting!!

How dare he! Why, that raises the very real possibility that different people have different goals and find fulfillment in different ways, some rooted in both biology and millennia of human experience.

And we know that cannot be permitted.

… to the Supreme Court once again debating access to abortion to the push to roll back no-fault divorce laws: …

We're talking about the idea that aborting baby girls and the dissolution of a marital contract should not be easier than cancelling a streaming service.

All are efforts to return women to a place where others can manage their access to … well, just about everything.

Ms. MacNicol, meet non sequitur, non sequitur, Ms. MacNicol. I suspect you two have a lot to talk about it.

It's in this light that my enjoyment begins to feel radical. Come fly with me. There's no fear here.

To MacNicol's obvious desperation to convince herself she is happy and hasn't missed out on anything, and her disturbing need to believe men fear her, let's add a misplaced nostalgia for '80s sitcoms.

There have been better times. In the 1980s, sitcoms were stacked with starring women for whom men were a minor-character concern — 'Designing Women,' 'Murphy Brown,' 'The Golden Girls' — all of which, if they premiered today (and that's a big if), would feel radical.

This may be her most boomer moment. Sitcoms? Really?

These things go in cycles, but sitcoms are not driving the narrative right now. Today it's dramas, movies, and streaming services, and to suggest we're in some dystopian age of men dominance of these mediums is unhinged when it seems every remake or sequel these days seem intent on removing the men (until the market tells them otherwise) from Ghostbusters to Overboard, to Ocean's 8 to Furiosa to American Pie: Girls' Rules.

(Remember that? No? That's okay, no one does.)

And that's not even getting into Disney's endless Girrrl Power entries.

And yet, as if stuck in a perpetual grievance warp set in the '50s (1850s maybe) she writes something as detached from reality as this.

These days, generally speaking, there is little in cinema or literature, let alone the online world, to suggest that when you are a woman alone (forget about a middle-aged woman), things will go your way, as I have often experienced.

I picture her in her apartment, fiddling with the rabbit ears on an old cathode ray tube television, looking in vain for Murphy Brown.

It took me a while to unwrap this one, but the more I read it the more I realized something.

If this piece were about a woman who wanted to help other single childless women approaching 50 (regardless of their reasons for being in that position) find happiness, that would be fine, helpful even. I probably wouldn't even be writing this piece. Maybe I'd even forward it to a progressive friend or two who happen to be single and childless.

But it's not about that. She isn't saying, "Hey, this path ain't so bad, I'm doing well, and here's how you can too," despite the one throwaway line about "other, fulfilling ways to live."

No, this whole piece is her evangelizing her path.

This is her elevating it above others and in so doing denigrating those other paths such as motherhood and marriage. Sneering at them, even. This is her finding the mere suggestion that happiness can be found (to co-opt the rhetoric of the Left) in adopting "traditional gender roles" to be a mortal threat.

This is something else entirely.

You see, this isn't about her choices and the resulting imaginary "shame" society heaps upon her.

What really galls her are other people's choices.

It's not the expectations she imagines they have of her.

It's the expectations she has of them.

It's not even her defiance that is the problem. Again, it's theirs.

Finding fulfillment in raising kids and a committed relationship is a threat to her entire world view and so a threat to the fragile self-centered happiness she clings to (her latest book coming out in June is titled, "I'm Just Here to Enjoy Myself"). If nothing else, it betrays her insecurities.

She says she's happy, and yet these caricatures of terrified men who live rent free in her brain suggests otherwise. She claims she does not regret her decisions and enjoys her life, and yet can't tolerate the mere suggestion that people making different decisions might enjoy theirs.

To admit that, to concede that many women find indescribable fulfillment in being mothers and wives, things MacNicol cannot understand, forces her to confront unpleasant truths.

This essay is here because it is a cruise missile of affirmation aimed straight at The New York Times readership. It is fuzzy slippers and a warm glass of milk for the harried overworked upper-income single childless urban women who find themselves increasingly questioning the things they've been instructed to believe, that true fulfillment comes from serving a corporate master, that raising a child is a burden as opposed to a joy, and that men are controlling and unnecessary.

That's the real backlash. And it's not the men leading it.

It's the women.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Not the Bee or any of its affiliates.

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