In addition to being the first woman and woman of colour elected to the United States' vice presidency, Kamala Harris bears another distinction - she was single until age 50.
You may have missed it, but Wednesday, 11/11, was Singles' Day. It was created by four male students in China as a celebration of single people. Alibaba turned it into a shopping holiday.
All those single digits (1-1-1-1) and Harris' position as someone who married later in life are reasons to reflect on what it means to have someone of the VP-elect's status as a role model.
As I was growing up in America in the 70s and 80s, my parents stressed education before marriage. But there was always an implication I would some day tie the knot.
The artificial deadline for spouse and babies loomed at around age 30. I started a career in journalism and met my husband at the TV station where we worked. Seven couples from our cohort later wed co-workers or people connected to the business. I was 29 when I married; my husband, 38.
Today, I tell my teenagers they're free to choose their own path. Have a partner. Or not. Get married. Or not. Have children. Or not. They don't have to fit anyone else's idea of success and contentment. I want them to be self-sufficient. Joyful. Mostly, to be kind.
Harris did not meet the man who would become her husband until she was 49.
Before then, she worked as a deputy district attorney, earning a reputation for toughness as she prosecuted cases of gang violence, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse.
Harris became district attorney in 2004 and, in 2010, was narrowly elected attorney general of California, becoming the first female and the first African American to hold the post of top lawyer and law enforcement official in America's most populous state.
She did this without Mrs before her name.
A societal shift has led to more of us marrying later in life, if at all. In 2018, the median age of females at their first marriage in New Zealand was 29.2 years, significantly up from 21.7 years in 1980. The median age of people getting married in this country has continued to increase in the past few decades.
Social psychologist Bella DePaulo wrote in Psychology Today that, worldwide, 4.3 per cent of women get to their late 40s without ever marrying, though differences by region are striking.
"In Australia and New Zealand, one out of every seven women in their late 40s has never been married. In Central and Southern Asia, the same is true for only about one in 100 women."
Globally, the percentage of women who have never married has increased by 1.2 percentage points, from 3.1 per cent to 4.3 per cent between 1990 and 2010. The biggest increase happened in New Zealand and Australia. Down Under, we saw an increase of 9.7 percentage points, from just 4.4 per cent in 1990, to 14.1 per cent in 2010.
Harris is a reminder we don't have to inhabit the box other people try to cram us in: the partnered box; success-ladder box; parent box; homeowner box; or any number of cultural cubicles whose sway is waning.
We're smashing the hierarchy of relationships Down Under. For many solo acts, friendships are just as important as romantic partnerships.
Staying single longer is good for men and women. It allows us to finish our education or training; climb the career ladder; support ourselves and (some day) travel where and how we like. We can master skills like home improvement and cooking instead of relying on a partner for those tasks.
Busting free from the box requires listening to your inner voice that says a first date should be the last, that you'd rather wait for someone better suited to you, that for now, you're happy on your own. Staying single longer can prevent the depression and dissatisfaction accompanying relationships that don't fit.
Many people will see themselves in America's VP-elect: single people, people of colour, anyone who has ever had to tell a man to stop interrupting. We can look to someone like Harris as an example of how to navigate life.
She's smart and dignified and is proud her two adult step-children call her Momala. She's a role model I can discuss with my children, proof they can achieve whatever they're willing to work at. They can do it on their terms, without ticking anyone else's boxes.
This evolving world is one where the answer to the question, "Are you seeing anyone?" could be, "Yes, my friends and family." Where milestones other than those involving marriage or children are celebrated. Think business showers, promotion parties, and new apartment warmings.
We can reimagine life's path. Choose our own adventure. We can look to leaders such as Harris, who help change conventions by defying them.