I turned 26 in October, and so far the only change seems to be that this is the year people stop saying, “oh but you’re so young!” I am, of course, speaking from a woman’s perspective; for men that age is probably around 76, so . . . continue with that beer bong, sir.
I’m currently in a fairly typical situation for young urban adults, which is living in sin with my boyfriend of nearly five years. I guess it’s only natural (though, in my opinion, highly rude) for family, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers, flight attendants, waiters, shoe salesmen, musicians, coworkers, dog-walkers, snow-shovelers, politicians, and Neil Diamond to all ask “so when are you getting married?”
I used to answer this question with a sing-song, “ohhhh, I don’t know! Someday!” and the response would almost always be something like, “oh, but you’re so young, you don’t have to rush into anything!” and so I would go on, merrily skipping my child-like self through a happy, golden field of wildflowers. Now, at 26, I mostly get looks of concern, particularly from older women, who shake their heads and think, “what a poor, sad little idiot living with that man who obviously doesn’t really love her! Such a shame! But why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, hahaha, right?” and all sorts of really idiotic things that people who think they’re better than you say.
I’d be lying if I said that this doesn’t bother me. It does . . . but usually only for a minute or so. I’ll lower my head and shift in my seat and think that, ok, maybe I have been doing the wrong thing, maybe there is something wrong with our relationship, maybe we really do need to make things official. But then I remember how lucky I am to have found someone like John – my adventure partner, and how much I, we have to look forward to in life, the institution of marriage not necessarily being the most exciting of those things. In all honesty, if someone said, “you can have an all expenses paid trip to _____ OR get married”, I’d take the trip without a doubt.
I don’t think of marriage as a goal or a step; I already have a great guy, the best guy in my life and we dream about where we’ll go next, where we’ll live next, what we’ll do next, together. We’re already committed to one another and enjoy each other more than most people I know, so what does marriage mean for us? A wedding? A nice party celebrating finding each other is something I’m looking forward to, but it’s not THE thing to look forward to for us and, well, it will happen when it happens.
I like this life, and I know that I really wouldn’t want it any other way (well, except for that millionaire way, that I’d take), but that doesn’t mean that the grass doesn’t sometimes look greener on the other side. I often think about people I went to school with who are married and already have a kid or kids or one on the way. It seems so simple, like they’ve got a GPS as opposed to my directionless wandering.
There’s a song I love called “I Wanna Get Married” by Nellie McKay:
I wanna get married, yes I need a spouse I wanna “Leave it to Beaver”-ish golden retriever and a little white house. I wanna get married, I need to cook meals I wanna pack cute little lunches for my Brady Bunches then read Danielle Steele . . . . . . I’ll stay home cleaning the dishes and keeping your wishes all warm I wanna get married, that’s why I was born.
The first time I heard it I thought it was really funny satire, completely tongue-in-cheek. I later read an interview with Nellie McKay and she said that actually no, it was in earnest, that sometimes she does wish that she could go back to the days when her life could be that simple, nothing she expected of herself but to be a great wife and mother, concrete direction, no questions asked. When I listened to it with that perspective, it was sort of shocking, uncomfortable, and much more subversive than a played-out knock at housewives. Is this semblance of backlash something Betty Friedan predicted?
I guess I’m writing this because it’s a new-ish phenomenon that women my age in today’s world are facing and yet I don’t really hear many people talking about it very much. Sure, I’ve discussed it with friends, but not in necessarily a brutally honest way. When one of us talks about wanting babies or the desire to get married, we get embarrassed, like we’re ashamed of being “that girl” who wants those sappy, cliché things. Yet, these are biological (and still, to an extent, social) urges, so why should we feel any less of a smart, grounded, sophisticated woman for wanting them?
The thing is, we now have SO MANY OTHER CHOICES and SO MANY of those choices are SO tempting. You can have a fabulous career, follow your passions, travel the world, date a bunch of different men or none at all; we have the ability to do it all, but sometimes too many choices are just that: TOO MUCH. It’s like that Dr. Suess book where the cheerful Whos tell you that “you can go in any direction you choose!” No! No, god damn you! Just tell me which path to go down, you rhyming bastard! I don’t have time for these games! I have a biological clock and a face getting more lined by the day!
Or it’s like the menu at the Cheesecake Factory; you’re sitting there flipping through their 800 page menu, taking a million years deciding what you want because everything sounds SOOOO GOOOOD.
That’s the crisis today’s women are facing: Cheesecake Factory-syndrome. Obviously things could be worse, but sometimes I wish I only had to decide between grape and strawberry jelly.
There’s only one problem: I LIKE RASPBERRY!!!!!
The cycle continues.
Anyone else out there ever feel this way? Speak up, ladies!