Jennifer Aniston became my hero a couple days ago when she was interviewed by Carson Daly and she stated that she doesn’t have a checklist for her life, and she does not need to define her womanhood by marriage or procreating. The “checklist” she refers to is an idea our society invented as a list of social norms we all need to follow in order to fit in as American citizens.
America: Home of the free. We think we can do “whatever we want,” as long as we abide by the laws. Right? Wrong! Before you get your panties (or boxers) in a twist, think about this: The American Dream. The beautiful idea our founding fathers invented.
Over 200 years after our country was founded, people still blab on into eternity about this completely fabricated idea. We are taught this “dream” throughout our American education as if it were tangible (spoiler alert: it’s just a dream). And what is that dream? Originally, the dream was to have “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But over the course of history, societal norms evolved that dream into something a little more specific. Sure, we all want to be happy citizens. Yet in order to fit in with the rest of society, we are required the same things to achieve that happiness. The Checklist:
- Kids (A.K.A. “family”)
Over a hundred years ago, this list did not exist. Before the Industrial Revolution, we married and had children to survive. We were agricultural beings, needing many hands to tend to the fields. Women were second-class citizens and didn’t have the right to so much as own homes. Marriage and children did not used to be social norms; they were necessary for a woman’s survival (unfortunately).
Time travel through those decades, and women slowly became more equal citizens. The right to vote, own homes, have their own checking accounts. Today, some women believe that we have achieved that wonderful sense of equality. Sorry to burst your happy bubble, but it’s not true. Women still have a long road to travel in order to find it.
In the past, marriage and children was required of women and it necessary for survive, but today that’s not the case. If it’s not, why do we get married and have kids? There are a billion potential personal reasons people have. But the main reason? It’s on The Checklist. And the problem is that this list pertains mainly to women.
If we think our American society portrays men and women equally, we are lying to ourselves. What do we call a man who remains unmarried and childless? A bachelor. And we imagine that these men are mainly sexy, like George Clooney (even though he was briefly married from 1989-1993 and has remained a bachelor until just recently).
What do we call a woman who remains unmarried and childless? A spinster. Cat lady. We assume she’s barren.
Women like Jennifer Aniston are badgered for years when people ask, “When are you getting MARRIEEEEED??? Are you going to have BABBBBIEEEESSSS???” Sure, men are asked these questions sometimes, but not nearly as often as women.
If a man lives alone and never marries, his house or apartment is called a Bachelor Pad. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have never heard anyone call a single woman’s house or apartment a Bachelorette Pad. Why? Haven’t you heard? A man living alone is sexy, but a woman living alone is tragic! (I kid, I kid, but some people do happen to believe that crap).
Throughout history, the American Dream morphed into a list of requirements for all citizens (women, more specifically) to achieve by a reasonable age in order to fit into society. While The Checklist applies to both men and women, it appears in our society that for some reason, it’s more necessary for women to cross everything off their list than it is for men. Why? Probably because of American society’s sexist beliefs that men don’t necessarily need women, but women need men.
I am giving an internet high five to Jen Aniston for throwing The Checklist out the window. She is living proof that women can have whatever life they choose. Some may live by The Checklist, but it’s not a requirement. The American Dream should be whatever dream we want it to be. Better yet: Forget the American Dream altogether. Have your own dreams. Create your own list, or don’t write a list at all. We should be free to live the lives we want, not the lives we should.
Ending on a humorous note, here is a clip from the late and legendary George Carlin. He said the American Dream is called a dream because “you have to be asleep to believe it.”