If you're a woman of a certain age and you're single and don't have children, you're probably used to fielding comments about your life choices, which are, frankly, no one's business but your own.
No matter that you're successful in your career, or are a fantastic aunt, or a world traveller — according to North American society, if you aren't married and/or don't have kids, then at best, you're a failure, and at worst, a freak.
"Black-ish" actress Tracee Ellis Ross can relate. Despite being a Golden Globe winner, a fashion designer, and a respected actress, Ross, 45, knows what it's like to have her accomplishments belittled just because she's not married and doesn't have children.
"It's really interesting to be a woman, and to get to 45, and to not be married, and to not have kids," Ross said at Glamour's 2017 Women of the Year Summit on Monday. "Especially when you've pushed out five kids on TV."
According to Ross, the "interesting" part is all the questions she gets about when she'll finally "settle down" and have kids. But the NAACP Image Awards winner is over our society's old-fashioned expectations of women.
"You start hearing crazy shit like, 'Oh, you just haven't found the right guy yet,' 'What are you going to DO?' 'Oh, you poor thing,' 'Why is someone like you still single?' 'Have you ever thought of having kids?' 'Why don't you just have a kid on your own?' It's never ending and not helpful," she said, further explaining that although she grew up "planning a wedding," she also wanted to win an Oscar, appear on the cover of magazines, and "[make] a difference in the world, helping women find our voices.
"And from that dreaming, I have built an incredible life. I have become a woman that I am proud to be."
In her speech, Ross explained that it was four simple words that helped her live her life the way she wanted to, without regret.
"My life is mine. Those words stopped me in my tracks," Ross said, "and honestly brought so many tears to my eyes. Seems so obvious, but obviously it wasn't. Because I have NOT been living my life as if it was my own... I have to really live it for myself. I have to put myself first and not be looking for permission to do so."
But Ross explained that it takes a lot of courage to choose to live your life the way you choose to without giving into pressures and expectations.
"It means risking being misunderstood, perceived as alone and broken, having no one to focus on, fall into or hide behind, having to be my own support and having to stretch and find family love and connection outside of the traditional places," she said. "But, I want to do it. I want to be the Brave Me, the real me, the one whose life is my own.
"Well, listen here ladies, I'm tearing it up. It's going bye-bye and I'm drawing up a new one and my terms are this: I am going to own my experiences. I'm going to pay attention to the reality of my life and the audacity of my dreams instead of the expectation I was raised with. I'm going to make space for the good and the bad of it, even the yucky scary fear-inducing parts, and embrace all the bits and all the questions."
Well, listen here ladies, I'm tearing it up. It's going bye-bye and I'm drawing up a new one and my terms are this: I am going to own my experiences. I'm going to pay attention to the reality of my life and the audacity of my dreams instead of the expectation I was raised with.
So far, Ross' experiences and accomplishments have included (but are not limited to), her just-launched JC Penney line, a long career in showbiz (who could forget "Girlfriends"?), being a role model for women and girls, an advocate for women of colour, an ambassador for cancer research, and an award nominee and winner.
Clearly, Ross is living her best life on her own terms.
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