​I vowed early in life that I would never marry. Permanent singlehood seemed to be my birthright: My mother named me for two old family friends, Mary and Pauline Goldman, unmarried siblings who lived together in a big house and called each other Sister. Visiting them was a treat—they fed me delicious homemade divinity candy and let me pet their lapdog, Tiffy. Their childless, husbandless lives fascinated me. They seemed to have escaped a trap. I wanted to be like Mary and Pauline.

In my 20s, my heroes were the feminist icons Gloria Steinem and bell hooks, who defiantly lowercased her pen name to keep readers focused on her books rather than herself. Gloria advocated for serial monogamy, and bell posited that marriage was rarely a space that could “nurture and sustain a liberated woman.” Under their influence, I doubled down on my commitment to spinsterhood. I steeped myself in third-wave feminism and novel after novel; I wanted to be a writer who toiled alone. It seemed that marriage would strip away my dedication to my fiction or water down my voice. No pretty white dress would divert my creative energy into caring for a man, tending his house, aiding and abetting his career.

Following Gloria’s advice, throughout my 20s I enjoyed a series of long-term boyfriends. But as I reached my mid-30s, the rinse-and-repeat pattern—meeting a guy, dating for a few years, then splitting up—was growing tiresome. Romance began to seem like a bomb ticking down to inevitable hurt feelings. And my studio apartment was becoming more lonesome than cozy. By then I had been a writer for more than a decade. Was a happier relationship really going to shake me from my passion?

My mentor, a prolific writer, had thrived creatively in a decades-long marriage, even traveling the country alone with her German shepherds to guest-teach at various universities. My own mother painted, made collages, and created mosaics relentlessly; she flourished as an artist after marrying my stepfather. I went to see bell hooks speak, and she told the adoring audience she was looking for love—a solid but spacious love that would allow her to remain every ounce her brilliant, opinionated self. Even Gloria Steinem had married eventually, which seemed a sort of permission.

And then—perhaps you saw this coming?—I met George. I liked his quiet way, his British wit. I left my studio apartment in Austin to live near him in a California beach town. Out there, my life felt more expansive and full of possibility—not less. George encouraged me to take jobs that would leave me time and energy to write. On weekends, he’d read Scientific American or tinker on a robot he was building while I drafted my novel. I could imagine us moving wherever opportunity called us; I’d write at our kitchen table no matter where we lived. I found I wanted to be married to him, to have the solid sense that we’d make our big life choices together.

I still carve out quiet hours to write, and afternoons with girlfriends to collaborate on creative projects to help bring down the patriarchy. (Really: I’m working with one pal on a reality show about the female-centric, empowering practice of witchcraft. Stay tuned.) When I arrive home, George listens to tales of my adventures and updates me on his own endeavors. I am both a writer and a wife, and my life feels happy and full in a way it never did before—back when I defined myself by what I would never do, rather than what, in the end, I happily did.


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