Single, Childless, Female: The Convention Speech It Feels Like We'll Never Hear

What Women Really Think
Sept. 7 2012 2:30 PM

The Convention Speech We'll Never Hear

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Can we move that way, please?

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The confetti in Charlotte has been cleared away as the political class now waits to see if the Obama campaign achieves the precious, sometimes elusive post-convention “bump.’’

Regardless, there was one bump that would not be denied at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Conventional wisdom holds that the festivities in Charlotte and Tampa were nothing but infomercials, slick marketing designed to appeal to what the parties believe we the citizens want to believe about ourselves.

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In that case, it’s clear: You ain’t a woman unless you’ve had a baby bump.

When the Democrats marched their parade of “Average Americans’’ on and off the stage, I listened in vain to hear one who sounded like me, a divorced midlife woman who, as fate would have it, isn’t a mother. I listened during Tampa too. No deal.

But if a single, childless middle-aged woman whose name isn’t Condi Rice had given one of those speeches, I’d like to think it would have gone a little something like this:

Good Evening fellow and sister Americans.

I have been asked to speak to you tonight as an average American: a single woman who doesn’t have children.

Sometimes, at the end of a long workday, I lay awake just like parents do and sigh. I sigh a little louder. And then I sigh really loudly, because I remember that, surely, tomorrow, someone at my office will have a child care crisis and I’ll have to stay late. Again.

I know that many of you don’t think that I’m average, which is funny, since almost half of all Americans are single. We, too, have gone on dates with funny, smart men who are strivers, who drive beat-up cars where you can see the road through the hole in the floor.

It’s just that we got dumped on that date. We will always hate that movie.

Perhaps some of you have missed the news that the number of childless women in America is on the rise, with 44 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 not giving birth, up 10 percent from 1990. Perhaps you assume we simply get abortions. If you are a certain kind of Republican, you are convinced we get them with a punch card that says the 10th one is free. But while the majority of Americans believe in abortion rights, single women have to be called a slut on national radio to be allowed on a national stage to talk about freedom and liberty. Or be a nun.

I love America. In the same way that I love my parents, who are elderly and whom I am moving into assisted living soon. The same way I love the kids of my friends, who I feed and cheer on at school plays. The same way I love the folks next to me at the local thrift shop where we all volunteer.

And I am looking forward to a day when American women who are moms and in political life can tell the American people about their Ivy League degrees and their career accomplishments, not just about the deep love they have for their children that only mothers can have, that narcissistic shallow single people will never, ever feel for anyone. Ever.

I’m also looking forward to a day when American women are not defined by their reproductive capabilities by either party.

Until that day, I remain what I have always been: Not Married. Not a Mom. Still American.

Katherine Lanpher is the author of the memoir Leap Daysand is a writer and broadcaster based in New York.