Am I Less of a Woman If I Don't Get Married?

It's 2014, and although a lot of things may have progressed when it comes to gender roles and stereotypes, we still have a long way to go. I'm not going to lie--after my birthday last month I felt a little down. I have so many blessings in my life to be happy about, but truth be told, I had a different vision of what my life would be like at this age, and part of that picture included a husband. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely content and satisfied with where I'm at right now, and I'm not sure I could see myself being married at this stage of my life (I'm still too selfish and obviously, haven't met the right guy), but it's still something I think about.

And so, I was doing what any young woman does when she needs a pick-me-up and listened to some Beyoncé.

I was listening to "Flawless" and getting my I'm-grown-and-sexy face on while yelling I woke up like dis!, when I began to really listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie verse on the song:

"We teach girls to shrink themselves To make themselves smaller We say to girls 'You can have ambition But not too much You should aim to be successful But not too successful Otherwise you will threaten the man' Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage I am expected to make my life choices Always keeping in mind that Marriage is the most important Now marriage can be a source of Joy and love and mutual support But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage And we don't teach boys the same? We raise girls to each other as competitors Not for jobs or for accomplishments Which I think can be a good thing But for the attention of men We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings In the way that boys are Feminist: the person who believes in the social Political, and economic equality of the sexes"

The tidbit about marriage stuck with me. Are my life choices meant to made with marriage as the motivation? Is everything I've worked toward or hope to do with my life a distant second to the idea of walking down the aisle one day?

Marriage is important to me, and I truly do hope to find Mr. Right one day and create my own little family, but what if I don't? What if that's not part of my path? Am I less of a woman because of that? Will people think there's something wrong with me if I decide to go through life without getting married? Unfortunately, I feel like the answers to those questions are yes.

A number of my friends have already gotten married and more are getting married, and I celebrate their love with an open heart. But I'd be lying if sometimes, I worry about logging on to Facebook to see who else got proposed to or wedding pictures or whatever, because, as sad as this is to admit, sometimes the first thought isn't 'How wonderful!' and is 'Why isn't that me? What am I doing wrong?'

And that's not right.

I read an article that talks about women waiting longer to get married in recent years as opposed to the 1970s, when the average age to get married was 24, and the reasons why really connected with me.

Along with more women going to college than before, another big reason is being the child of divorced parents. "The fact that a lot of these kids are children of divorce makes them cautious, it makes them scared, it makes them gun-shy," says Linda Waite, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago.

"As a child of divorce, you're automatically going to have some trust issues," one woman shared. "When I make the commitment to get married, I want it to be forever."

And I couldn't agree more. Plus, it's not necessarily a bad thing. The article goes on to state that "researchers say marrying later can mean marrying wiser, with more maturity and financial security."

On another note, a recent article from The Los Angeles Times states that, "A record number of American women are 'marrying down,'" according to a new study.

Why is that, you ask? "The dynamic is due partly to the well-chronicled fact that women have surpassed men in college graduation rates in the last two decades. Among college-educated newlyweds, 39% of women pledged their undying devotion to a non-grad. Only 26% of men did the same."

(Really, fellas? Step your education game up.)

With all that said, I refuse to marry down and I refuse to get married just because society is pressuring me to. Everyone's love story is different and you can never predict what will happen.

No one has the right to place judgement on you as a woman or as a person. Your decisions are your own and only you know what's best for your life--whether that includes a big dress and diamond ring or not.