I would just like say how utterly tired I am of seeing articles that say, “I did X. It worked for me, and I am happy. Therefore, X is the best/only way to do things. Everyone must do X!”
That’s nice for you. Really. But have you considered that there are other people out there who are, you know, not you?
I really do need to stop clicking on links out of morbid curiosity. This morning it was an article titled “Marry Young” over at Slate. The thing is, it would not have bothered me in the slightest to see something like, “I got married at 23, and it’s been great!” Several of my friends married younger than that, they seem happy, and that’s awesome. But saying “I got married at 23. What are the rest of you waiting for?” is just downright obnoxious.
Now, to be fair, there’s a good chance that subtitle was chosen by an editor rather than the author. I went into it hoping that was what had happened, that someone had chosen a deliberately provocative title to get more page views. It’s hard to be that optimistic, though, when you read something like this:
Sometimes people delay marriage because they are searching for the perfect soul mate. But that view has it backward. Your spouse becomes your soul mate after you’ve made those vows to each other in front of God and the people who matter to you. You don’t marry someone because he’s your soul mate; he becomes your soul mate because you married him.
Oh, I see. So the ring is more important than the person who comes with it. Well, thank you very much for enlightening your readers as to exactly what we’re all doing wrong. All this time I thought it was important to make sure you’re compatible with someone, that you have similar values and goals, that you actually want to get married, and that the person you’re dating isn’t an asshole. Nope. Want someone to be perfect for you? Well, just marry them, and presto! Instant soul mate!
The thing is, I think certain portions of the message actually could be salvageable. It is true that not all young marriages are doomed to failure – my best friend got married at 21, and she and her husband have been quite happy for the past seven years. It is also true that if you want to be married someday, you need to be realistic about your expectations. There will never be a perfect person or a perfect time. However, this author seems to suggest that since perfection is unattainable, you shouldn’t waste your time looking for anything better. “Oh, no one’s perfect? Well, I’ll just take anyone, then. And get married whenever. Is the church available this Saturday? Great. I should be able to find a bachelor somewhere by the end of the week.”
She’s not the only one with personal anecdotes, though. I also went to a Christian college, and most of the girls there were engaged by the end of their freshman year (often by the end of the first semester). On my graduation day, more people thought I ought to be consoled because I hadn’t found a husband than those who thought I should be congratulated on my degree. But by that time I was burned out on the whole dating thing. Even going to a two-hour movie with someone was more commitment than I could handle at that point. I can assure you that casually dating someone would have made me miserable.
So, was I supposed to just put all that aside? Find the nearest man who was lonely and desperate and agree to chain myself to him for a lifetime? Am I to believe that would have made me happy, even though it’s the last thing I wanted?
Yes, I was financially dependent on my parents for a little while (note to the author: I’ve seen that happen to married couples too, you know). I spent some time as a starving artist. Some nights, I even felt a little lonely. But it was what I wanted. And looking back at what I got from that experience, and how I grew as a result, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The funny thing is, I actually am marrying a man I met in college. We met during our freshman year (ten years ago this August). Theoretically, we could have gotten married back then. We’ve even had a couple of conversations about that. You know what, though? He and I are both pretty sure it wouldn’t have lasted. For one thing, we were too different back then. But for another, we both needed some time to ourselves first. Both of us have had the freedom to radically change our lives in ways that we might not have been able to had we settled down sooner. I don’t think we wasted a minute, either. I think we lived our lives.
The weirdest part of the whole article, though, is in the last paragraph. She’s been beating us over the head the whole time with how with how great young marriage is, and then she tells this:
Marriage doesn’t require a big bank account, a dazzling resumé, or a televised wedding—it requires maturity, commitment, and a desire to grow up together.
Agreed. And you can certainly have those things at 23, or even younger. But guess what: many people don’t. I sure as hell wasn’t mature enough for marriage at that age (and my fiancé will be the first to admit that he wasn’t either). I could hardly commit to weekend plans, let alone a relationship. And at the time I had no desire to grow up with anyone. Sounds to me like maybe not everyone should marry young after all. Maybe some of us really do need to do some of our growing up outside of marriage beforehand. Just maybe, dear author, not everyone on this planet is you.