It has recently come to my attention that there are an alarming number of women in this country who pride themselves on being “independent.” According to the dictionary, independent means:
- 1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion,conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
- 2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous;free: an independent businessman.
- 3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.
- 4. not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.
- 5. not relying on another or others for aid or support.
Yet we are living in the most ostracized, lonely time ever as individuals in America. According to a research survey published in The Atlantic, the average American had 3 confidantes in 1964. In 2004, when the same survey was repeated, the average American had zero confidantes. We live in a society where one out of every seven Americans live alone (PBS.org), and greater numbers of men and women under 40 who have never been married than ever before. Independence is more than a trend, it’s an epidemic, if the amounts of depression, personal debt, and internet porn addicts in this country are any indication.
To return to a society where we embrace the idea of companionship, we don’t have to move backwards. We don’t have to subject women to misogyny, chauvinism, and condescension in order to be coupled. Anyone who’s lived through it or at least watched an episode of Mad Men knows that’s no way to conduct a society.
But raising a generation of young women who pride themselves on being “independent” isn’t working either. There is a difference between being “self-sufficient” and “independent.” Going back to the definition, there is a benefit to being self-sustaining and able to earn your own living (self-sufficient), but there is little to no benefit from being completely autonomous, not influenced by others’ thoughts or ways of being, or not relying on others at all for any kind of support (independent).
As a 28-year-old woman who is not married, I will tell you, I enjoy self-sufficiency but not total independence. I enjoy providing for myself. Yet I am smart enough to know my word is not the be all, end all, and that a husband is beneficial in proving an extra set of eyes, ears, and a fascinating brain to provide insightful inputs of his own to help as well. I don’t pride myself on being independent. I pride myself on being self-sufficient. And there is a difference.
So my point is this: We need to stop praising and singing about “independent women” and start embracing the fact that we’re human. All of us, male, female, straight, gay, bisexual, whatever. We all need somebody, and often more than one somebody in the form of friends, acquaintances, confidantes. No man is an island, and no woman is either. And I certainly know that, if I ever have a daughter, I will tell her to be able to make her own wages, but to never believe that she doesn’t need anyone else to survive. To believe so is unrealistic, and if it did happen to be true, perhaps that would be the most heart-wrenching thing of all.
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