Yesterday, while procrastinating packing, I came across an article titled 23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23 posted by a few friends on Facebook. Despite being 22 and engaged, I clicked, curious to see how many I’d completed. The answer is 13, but that’s not why I’m writing this.
The entire article took on a pessimistic tone, not only about getting married young but also about the reasons why someone would possibly want to in the first place. I could justify my personal choice to get engaged at my age. In response to the author advising, “If your love is truly eternal, what’s the rush? If it’s real, that person will continue to be committed to you 2 months from now, 2 years from now, and 2 decades from now,“ I could tell her that I’ve personally been with my fiancé for four years, but that’s neither here nor there because a woman who has been with her fiancé for four months or even just four weeks is every bit as entitled to love and marriage as I am. I could tell her that, despite her views that “it’s insane that I have already experienced more of the world in the last 22 years than my married peers will ever experience in their life” in regards to “dating, traveling, risks, higher education, career direction, SEX, solitude, religious exploration,” I have experienced most of the above, but life exploration doesn’t grind to a halt when you get married. You aren’t dead – you just have a permanent partner to navigate those life experiences with! Even then, the author’s idea that one must be developed in their careers, well traveled, and well educated before getting married is classist at its core. People whose circumstances have prevented them from experiencing many of the above deserve marriage just as much as the people whose privilege has afforded them such opportunities.
However, this isn’t about me or a few misguided throwaway sentences. This is about the notion that getting engaged is about being scared. While it’s possible that someone out there wants to get married because “life after graduation is a tough transition,” marriage is a tough transition as well. Look, I get it. A huge portion of our generation grew up with divorced parents; we didn’t always have role models to guide us in our own search for love. In today’s world, it takes guts to get married with the constant reminder looming over us that a lifetime together isn’t guaranteed – it’s something that takes a lifetime of work and self-sacrifice. It’s not about running away from your problems; it’s about working through the differences in order to form a lasting partnership for the foundation of a home and life together.
Which brings me to the article that the author cited titled Divorce at a Young Age: The Troubled 20’s, published by The New York Times, to back up the author’s claim that the divorce rate for people who married young is more than twice the national average. First, the article doesn’t focus on getting married while under 23; it instead focuses on getting married under 30. I suspect that the author chose to pick 22 and under to target because, at 22, she gives herself an out if she meets someone and decides to get engaged next year. If anything, the article in question seeks to point out generational differences, not the explicit age gap. Secondly, the cited article blames feminism for the higher divorce rate, stating that “the relatively recent cultural dictates that women should work and men should be more emotionally supportive and share in household and child-care tasks have taken a substantial toll on many young marriages.” I have trouble taking a concern-mongering article which blames divorce on the desire for emotional support and shared household duties seriously. And, lastly, the article from The New York Times was published in 1987, which according to the author makes it old enough to get engaged.
I acknowledge that I’m extremely lucky to have met my future husband so early in life. I support all women regardless of which age is right for them to get engaged, or even to not get engaged at all. If the original article stemmed from feelings of inadequacy, I sympathize with the author – social media has made us hyperaware of what’s missing from our own lives. I, too, have found myself bitterly jealous of random status updates. If it was motivated by a desire to reach out to others in a similar predicament, it’s good to offer support in a way that is respectful towards others. You do you, girl, just let me do me.