I find myself on yet another day when I feel the need to write about marriage. I’m not really sure if it’s because I’m reading an amazing Elizabeth Gilbert about marriage called “Commitment” or if it’s because I keep meeting kick-ass people in kick-ass marriages, or if it’s because it seems like there’s an engagement every week on my Facebook feed. But whatever the reason, it is a tide that cannot be stopped.
I’ve been working really hard to not be hard about myself about things I can’t control, but every time I find myself cooing awestruck at someone’s engagement ring, stalking my wedding photographer cousin’s website, subtly grilling happily married couples for love advice, I kind of want to punch myself in the face. I am a strong, independent woman who is, for the first time, experiencing the joys of supporting oneself. I want to have a fulfilling day job and play lots of music and get published and stay in excellent shape. I want to travel and read and learn and own a home and give to charity. I want to make my own decisions and make my own mistakes. But also, for some reason I also want to get married. Like, not right now. Probably not really before I’m 30. Probably not even within the next decade. I mean look at me. I am not the type of woman who gets married before the age of 30.
So why am I at the stupidly young age of 24 unable to take my eyes off of my friends’ and acquaintances shiny rocks, exclaiming out loud in coffee shops when I find out good friends are getting married, and writing so many damn blog posts about marriage? I mean, for Pete’s sake, I’ve already got my wedding party picked out. What the hell Janney?
It’s probably because I can’t wait to become sexually active.
All jokes aside, I’m pretty freaked out about these feelings. Because when I think about actually being committed to one other person for the rest of my life, making compromises and sacrifices for another person, merging property, finances, spare time, etc. etc., I totally don’t see the big deal. I’m like “yeah, all sounds good if you don’t have kids.” And I know it’s actually really fucking serious, kids or no. I mean, I’d love to have a non-feline creature to share a life with, go on adventures with, base some of my decisions around and weather the storms of life with. But I don’t have the proper schema for understanding what these things actually mean, because I’m 24 and I haven’t been anywhere close to that point with anybody. It’s like trying to explain the situation in Israel and Palestine to a 3 year old, or possibly harder. What I see is pooling wealth and resources to have a nicer home, having a big ole party with all of the people I love, wearing a pretty dress and getting nice tupperware. I also see a reprieve from dating and heartbreak, although I realize that is can never be permanent (as Dan Savage points out: eventually you or your partner will die, and you will be alone again). Like I said, I’m like the 3 year old. I don’t have enough experience in the world to comprehend marriage.
So basically, my pragmatic views about relationships and romance, formed by years of Oberlin, self-education and getting burned, are getting assaulted on all sides by visions of walking down the aisle in my grandmother, mother and aunt’s wedding dress then getting really drunk off of a moonshine keg with my best friends. And then writing tons of thank you notes, but maybe having a sweet blender out of the deal.
I know that what I really want is a big fabulous party where I get to wear a pretty dress, be surrounded by loved ones and be the center of attention. Which is probably actually best accomplished outside of the legally binding, sticky ties of marriage.
I am like a baby in so many ways. I’ve spent so much of my twenties pretending to be older than I actually am, not always consciously, but by stretching out the days and months into imaginary years of experience and maturity. And I’ve had a lot of life experiences that other 24 year-olds haven’t. But I know nothing about being in a successful, healthy, multi-year relationship. I know nothing about marriage or divorce or really anything for that matter. What I do know is that with my tunnel-vision views of marriage, it’s probably a good idea that I’m not engaged.
So I’m going to continue having my adventures and crying when I’m looking at strangers’ wedding photos and being a feminist who still someday really wants to have her version of a fairytale wedding (which is really just a big ole party where I wear an ancient dress and possibly sing Meat Loaf karaoke). Honestly, when I don’t worry about dying homeless and alone because I messed up something with my job and alienated all of my friends and family members, I have a pretty great time. I’m going to let myself do 24 my way and let my engaged friends keep on trucking. I’m going to even try to give myself a break when I catch myself wanting to write about weddings. But also, next time I’m at my grandmother’s house, I’m going to try to find her wedding dress. I’m really worried it’s going to get moldy or moth-eaten. And someday I’m going to wear it. It may be to a book-signing or a cat funeral, but dammit, it is my genetic destiny to “Say yes to the dress” and wear it on one occasion.
But it probably won’t be an occasion any time soon. And the world should be grateful.