"She's such a trailblazer on so many levels, shattering glass ceilings and glass slippers. She's just such living proof of blaze your own trail and throw all the rules out the window and 'happily ever after' can come in any way, at any age," said bestselling author Mandy Hale.
Vice President Kamala Harris made history on several counts when she was sworn in as America's second-in-command last month. While the fact that she is the first female U.S. vice president and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in that role made the most headlines, experts are now pointing to the fact that Harris also represents a growing demographic of women who marry later in life — if they marry at all. "I think this is one of the most significant demographic trends, both in the U.S. and around the world," Bella DePaulo — a California-based social scientist and the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After — told Good Morning America.
"And the demographic trends do mean that, statistically, it is increasingly likely that more women in the public eye will be people who have been unmarried their whole life," DePaulo added. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of first marriage has also been steadily on the rise with around 16 percent of Americans getting to their late 40s without having tied the knot. As per a September 2020 report by the Census Bureau, there were approximately 40 million never-married women 15 years of age and older in the U.S. last year; a significant jump from the 27 million in 2000.
Harris was unmarried both when she became the first Black woman to be elected district attorney of San Francisco and in 2011, when she became the first woman, first Black person, and first Asian American to serve as California's attorney general. It was only in 2013 that she met her now-husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, when a friend of hers set them up on a blind date. Writing about her first date with the Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer in her 2019 memoir, The Truths We Hold, Harris revealed that Emhoff sent her an email the following morning to set up future dates.
"I'm too old to play games or hide the ball... I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work," he wrote in the email, which Mandy Hale — a bestselling author and founder of the popular The Single Woman account on Instagram — said is an example of the maturity and wisdom that comes with finding love later in life. "When you're a little bit older, you've seen things and you know things and you know a prize when it’s standing right in front of you," she said. "It's another mark of something that has to come with maturity and just life experience."
"The thing that I think is great about Kamala is that regardless of whether she had met her husband or not, she still would have lived this amazing, successful, happy existence," Hale added. "I just think that she's such a trailblazer on so many levels, shattering glass ceilings and glass slippers. She's just such living proof of blaze your own trail and throw all the rules out the window and 'happily ever after' can come in any way, at any age." DePaulo echoed Hale's sentiments that one of the most important takeaways from Harris' love life is not just that she found a supportive, loving partner with Emhoff, but that she did fine without him, too.
"I hope people look at the first 49 years of her life and realize that single women can lead amazing, joyful lives of great consequence," said DePaulo. "I hope they look at all the kinds of people Harris has cared about, and who have cared about her, throughout her life — friends, relatives of all ages, chosen family members, sorority sisters, mentors, and colleagues — and realize that romantic relationship partners do not need to be valued above all of the other people in our life. We can decide for ourselves who matters, who we care about, who we love."
Harris — who does not have biological children of her own — is also one among the wave of women choosing not to have children or to have fewer children and have them later in life. She became stepmom, or "Momala," to Emhoff's two children, Cole and Ella when the couple wed in 2014. Writing about her relationship with Cole and Ella in an essay for Elle magazine in 2019, the vice president wrote: "They are my endless source of love and pure joy. I can say one thing with certainty, my heart wouldn’t be whole, nor my life full, without them." Vicki Larson, a California-based journalist, said that she is inspired by watching Harris "hitting her stride" at age 56, both personally and professionally.
"She found love at 49, got married at 50, became a stepmother, and now is Vice President of the United States," said Larson. "There are a lot of narratives about being an older woman and Kamala is definitely proving it wrong. It's really healthy for us to see women who are living great lives that don't fit the script. Younger women can look at that and say, 'I can do that too if that's what I want.'"