"Why are we shoulding all over ourselves?" ~ Carrie Sex & The City
In and amongst all of the ridiculous, farfetched, consumerist fantasy of Sex & The City, a show which I cannot help but love, despite my acceptance that it is quite often as insulting and degrading to women as it is entertaining, there are consistent golden nuggets of wisdom and truth which every woman can and should identify with.
This is one which has been on my mind lately. Following the death of Amy Winehouse which added more weight to "the 27 club" I noticed that many of my friends range from frustration to clinical depression because of the things they have not yet achieved: marriage, children, a mortgage, a career, financial security, their goal weight...
What is it about the word "should"? Where does this belief in what we should have, should do come from? Carrie suggests that it's not peer pressure, that it's coming from within and honestly I think she 's right. She also asks the question "how do we separate what we could do from what we should do?"
After all - in the current financial climate, few of us have the ability to have a mortgage or anything resembling financial freedom. The majority of our generation will spend the rest of their lives wishing they hadn't gone to university because they will struggle to ever pay off their debts, and their degree will never have any impact on their future earning potential.
And it's a lot of money to spend on having a good time for 3 years and making new friends.
The few of us who had the foresight, or luck to make smart choices, achieve a valuable degree, enter a career track but are still living at home, unable to take the next step or are literally working to pay the bills with no disposable income available and no ability to save money for a holiday, or to cushion emergencies like redundancy... let alone save for a wedding or children or a house deposit and furniture.
Those who are unemployed are sometimes better off financially than those who are employed, especially if you have a family to support and the majority of your wage goes on nursery fees.
If you're single and earning an average wage and able to support yourself financially then that's something to be highly respected, despite the hangover from the Bridget Jones generation, and despite our parents despairing of us ever getting married or giving them grandchildren.
My grandmother's generation had two choices: become a mother or become a wife. If you worked or were unmarried you were scum and their opinions shaped the next generation, our parents who are now faced with being unable to afford to retire, are mostly single or divorced and have raised a generation of children that they can't offer financial support to.
What legacy will we pass onto our children I wonder? Other than genetic anomalies from waiting until the age of 45 before having a child, or a questionable upbringing from being 14 when we had our first?
We're selfish, independent, hooked on instant-gratification, either completely overwhelmed with choices or backed into a corner with nowhere to turn and on top of that we're ruining the planet, grotesquely unhealthy and surrounded by people who think The X-Factor is quality entertainment.
It's a sorry state of affairs people, but what's the answer?
Does anyone say to the people who can't conceive "well at least you're not responsible for increasing the surplus population"? or make them adopt a child in need? or suggest that having a child is not a life goal that will leave them unfulfilled if they don't tick it off?
No, we let them spend thousands of pounds on fertility treatments and put their bodies through total hell and we view women who will be drawing a pension before their child starts school as acceptable in our society.
(and by the way I'm not knocking fertility treatments. I would be DEVASTATED to learn I couldn't be a mother and I would be grateful if treatment was a physical and financial option for me)
Does anyone say to the woman with 8 children that she cannot support without claiming benefits "do you know what Lizzie... use a f*cking condom!"? No we let her keep popping them out, we keep subsidising her lifestyle choices and WE MAKE HER A REALITY TV STAR.
We don't say these things. We don't make them feel that they have no place in our society. People have human rights, we have the autonomy to do pretty much whatever we want to do and the majority will support the minorities. That's how our ecosystem works.
We might not like it, but that's the way it is.
The trouble is that people seem to be getting increasingly more miserable and more frustrated with the things they don't have or can't have and have less and less perspective about whether these things are possible for them, or will make them happy.
I am 27 years old. I have never smoked or experimented with drugs, I don't binge drink, I am a vegetarian, as healthy as I can be with the exception of the odd cake or cheese indulgence, I have been in employment for over 10 years, got good grades during school and sixth form, have never claimed unemployment (even whilst I was briefly unemployed), have a mortgage, minimal debt, am engaged to be married and planning on having a family in the not too distant future.
I am a freak. No seriously - I might be most parents' wet dream but I am unconventional by modern standards. And I don't even want to get married, I'm only doing it because my partner wants to and I want to make him happy.
I am determined to have the most simple, cost-effective wedding in history with the least possible fuss or drama. I asked for a new bathroom instead of an engagement ring. Almost everyone I know thinks I am insane.
In comparison my friends either spent approximately £10K on their weddings and were emaciated and stressed for about 12 months, or are Charlotte York clones, desperate to get married and be a princess for a day.
I don't hear them say "I want love in my life and a fulfilling, functional relationship" I hear "I want to get MARRIED! I have planned my entire wedding in my head and picked my children's names..." it makes me wonder whether they even care about who they marry. Is this why so many marriages end in divorce these days? Is it all down to this pressure to have the things we think we should have?
Is we are satisfied with what we have and doing something which makes us proud then who cares if we're single, married, childless, a parent, wealthy, poor, a master of the universe or a bin man who works for 4 hours per day and then spends the rest of the day happily growing his own turnips?
The best I think that anyone can do is be realistic but motivated whilst being accepting and supportive of everyone else.
If you feel like you have more to give then read 50 Facts That Should Change The World.
If there was ever a celebration of "Should" then this is it!