At my sister’s wedding when I was 20, a well-meaning friend of my mom’s insisted on knowing when I was going to get married. I was just just trying to sneak some icing off the cake, you know?
Also, and again, I was 20.
When I was about to move to Boston, I ran into one of my old teachers at Starbucks. I told her about my moving plans, and she looked concerned. She asked how long I planned to be there, and I replied that I wasn’t sure, I was just kind of going with it.
“Wouldn’t you rather get married first, before a big move like that?”
I was 22, and absolutely single.
At my alma mater’s homecoming bonfire, I hugged a friend that I hadn’t seen since at least my junior year.
“How are you?” she asked, after we’d spent a good while discussing her very pregnant belly.
So I was honest about being in a tough season. I was teaching dance, working crazy hours, and not making much money at all. I told her I was starting to get really nervous about my financial situation but didn’t have time to pick up any other work.
“Well,” she began. “How’s it going with you and ____?. Because honestly marriage takes a lot of that stress off.”
She wasn’t trying to be mean; I’m positive. But I think she meant what she said. I was 23 at the time.
And don’t even get me started on the time (very recently) when one of the guys in our friend group told another of our buds that he needed to hurry up and start dating someone, because “everyone else in the group is starting to pair off and you’re going to get left behind.”
I want to be honest about a few things here:
First of all none of these things, like, wounded me emotionally. This isn’t a post about me getting my feelings hurt.
Secondly, I also want to point that I live in the south (Oklahoma) and when I lived in Boston people thought I was insane when I told them I was going to my 23 year-old best friend’s wedding. Hardly anyone gets married that young there, so I do think that a lot of this is cultural.
Third, I have absolutely nothing against anyone who chooses to get married in their early twenties. 3 out of 5 of my dearest friends got married while we were all 23 and I was thrilled for them. That’s not what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is our culture’s obsession with couplehood, and how that affects single women like you and me.
(For reference, I mean “single” in the sense of being unmarried, not unattached.)
To be honest, you’re looking at a girl who always wanted to get married. In fact, part of the quarter-life crisis that I described here was because I’d spent most of my life assuming that I would be getting married by the time I finished college. I had to totally rethink what my twenties were going to look like, and that definitely wasn’t made any easier by people who told me how much they hoped that I would get “settled down” soon, that I would “meet someone again”, or (if you can believe it) people expressing concern that if I waited too long to get married I would be limiting the number of children that I could have.
Here’s the thing, friend. Whether you’re married or single, we have to push back against this kind of talk. We gotta help a girl out.
Because when people ask you when you’re going to get married, why you don’t have a boyfriend, or when you two are “finally” going to have that wedding, here’s what that can sound like in our heads:
I won’t be able to be financially stable on my own.
I might not be able to take care of myself.
I’m not “settled”.
Something is wrong, even when I don’t feel like anything is wrong.
I’m running out of time.
Something is wrong with me.
You and I both know that’s a load of crap, and people need to stop telling us to get married. They really, really do. Bless them, I don’t even think they realize what they’re doing, but their words can absolutely crawl their way into our hearts, and convince us that our lives aren’t enough, or that we aren’t enough, until there’s a ring on it.
I think you know this stuff already, and even if you’re in a place in life when you really do wish you were getting married, or if you’re dating someone, we need to figure out what to say to these well-meaning cherubs when they come our way. Here’s a few of my suggestions.
“It’s not something I’m thinking about right now.”
Feel free to follow that up with, “But I am really focused on _____ right now!”
“At some point.”
I like this one cause it doesn’t leave much room for discussion, and it’s to the point.
“No, I’m good right now.”
I tried this once and it WORKED.
“Eventually yes, but I’m not in a hurry.”
If it’s true, this is a good one. If it’s not true then girl, tell them no!
“I’m focusing on other goals right now. Like–“
Steer the conversation to the parts of your life that are fabulous.
Either way, these are the kinds of conversations we need to get out of quickly.
I think this goes for you married girls too, since I KNOW people are bugging you about when you’re going to have kids.
Girl, you can’t let that stuff in your life. I don’t think anyone is trying to be hateful (and you’ll know if they are) but this stuff is toxic, and disheartening, and it does nothing to celebrate where you are in your life right now, which is way more than good enough. It’s fabulous, and it’s you.
So on this, the week of Valentine’s Day, here’s my proclamation:
Please, stop telling us to get married. Stop telling us we need to start dating. Stop telling us to start having kids.
Instead, help us celebrate where are right now.