Writing at Slate earlier this week, Julia Shaw noted that “these days, young, married couples are an anomaly.” I think she’s right. I also think that trying to convince women to marry in their young twenties by itemizing the perks of marriage is somewhat of a pointless endeavor. That said, when I get married later this month, I’ll only be 23.
The backlash against Shaw’s article was swift and boring and predictable. The comments section was filled by people making the “let’s wait where she is in ten years and see what she has to say then” argument, stopping just short of taking bets on when she and her husband will be filing divorce papers.
Indeed, Slate writer Amanda Marcotte followed up with a rebuttal piece, slamming Shaw for supposedly “reinvigorating the old conservative hobbyhorse” of traditional marriage. She added that statistics are on her side, thank you very much: As the average age of a first marriage goes up the divorce rate goes down.
I think she’s probably right too.
But that argument strikes me as nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction that ignores the reality that some individuals know what they want at a young age, marry at a young age, and are doing just fine. Put another way: is it possible to simultaneously acknowledge that yes, a lot of young married couples end up getting divorced, and yes, a lot of young married couples also live long lives together? I think it is.
The thing that really gets me too, is that while I would never write a column trying to convince young twenty-something women I’ve never met to go ahead and get married, I also wouldn’t refer to their spouses as their “first husband.” Frankly, it’s insulting.
When I first got engaged, I was apprehensive about sharing the news with some of my peers. Washington, D.C. is very much a career-oriented city, full of single, professional women putting off marriage in pursuit of a career. I respect that decision, and once embraced it as my own. But I also knew to expect reactions to my engagement ranging from sincere congratulations, to expressed apprehension, to comments about my age, to jokes about how my life was going to end. I received all of it.
“Why are you in such a rush?” was the question I was asked the most, as if I was one of those MRS-majors who failed in college and felt an overwhelming sense of pressure to find Mr. Right.
I have a married friend who has experienced much worse. She recently told me a story about a work happy hour in which one of her coworkers discovered she married her first boyfriend when she was 21
The news traveled through the bar like wildfire and my friend, who has been married for three years now, fielded question after question about why she would get married so young, and to the first guy she ever seriously dated, no less! Then someone had the audacity to make a joke about how long her marriage would last.
Why is it that this even has to be an issue?
When I get comments about my age and marriage, it feels like my intelligence is being insulted – like I’m ignorant or blind, or both. The simple truth is that I’m getting married at 23 because I found the right person. What’s more, holding off until a progressive culture approves of my marrying age seems like a dumb reason to wait around before legally binding myself to someone else. I have been fortunate enough to be able to recognize and publicly acknowledge who I want to spend the rest of my life with. That feeling, no matter what age it arrives, comes with a tremendous amount of peace that no statistic can take away.
I think Megan McArdle summed it up best when she wrote, in her take on all this that, “The age at which the right person comes along depends on luck, not some kind of calendar.” We shouldn’t be pressuring women to get married earlier just for the sake of getting married earlier. We also shouldn’t stigmatize or mock women who choose to settle down at a younger age. It’s an individual choice and it would be nice if us women treated it as such.
At the very least, we could call a truce. You don’t take bets on how long my marriage (or Shaw’s) will last, and I won’t constantly ask you when you’re going to “settle down.” Deal?
Amanda Carey is a writer in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire