Questions About the Big Question
In this post I want to address something we often avoid talking about (the “m” word), and why we are so quick to cringe when we hear “marriage.” It is solely meant to spark conversation and confrontation of what people our age think of as an uncomfortable topic. Please don’t take this to mean I’m chomping at the bit to wear a big white dress…though right now I could definitely go for some cake.
If you find yourself on the outskirts of the ‘Cac status quo and have swum your way through the infamous “hook-up” culture to the shores of a more committed relationship in college, then you, like me, may be wondering, what’s next? What happens when the four years of criss-crossing between dorms, study sessions intermixed with Modern Family, and meals spent commiserating about the crap food, are over? The way I see it, there are several options: finagling jobs to live in the same city, long distance, which seems less than desirable, moving in together, depending on the couple’s religious beliefs, breaking up, or, God-forbid, marriage.
One evening this past spring, some teammates and I were joking about some of the team-cest (couples) we’ve had over the years, and we were complaining about how long we would have to wait for a team wedding. Our conversation touched upon the fact that, with our generation, it seems that getting married before twenty-five (or twenty-seven, really) is only for kids at Christian colleges, pregnant couples, or those weirdos who want to jump the gun. Unlike our parents or grandparents who didn’t seem to think much of marriage after 18 (my mom got married at 20), it seems we want to get our lives “all figured out” before making such a big commitment. We say that we want to take the time to travel the world, work our way up to a decent salary, and get that apartment we’ve always dreamed of before “tying ourselves down.”
What I’m wondering is, why is it that, in general, we view marriage as a limiting factor? Saying we’re waiting to get our life “figured out” is nonsense – we’ll always be growing, changing, moving forward, and “figuring” stuff out (it’s called living). Why can’t two people be there to grow alongside each other in the initial stages, not just after 30? What I think is another misconception is that once we’re married, we’re stuck in one place, one situation, and can’t explore or try new things. Just because a couple has promised to be faithful to one another does not mean 1) they’re going to start popping out babies and 2) can’t travel or have new experiences, either separately or together. Fidelity doesn’t have to be limited spatially.
The point I’m trying to make (and perhaps I’m not very finding much success) is not that every serious college couple should run off the graduation stage and up to the altar. It’s more that I think because our generation puts a lot of emphasis on the individual and independent groundedness, nowadays we hesitate more to make commitments to others than past generations. And even though it’s the trend, perhaps it shouldn’t be. I think of “How I Met Your Mother” (my new favorite TV show) characters Lily and Marshall, who, though fictional, serve as a good example: why did they wait five years after dating successfully all through college (at Wesleyan, in TV land!) to get married? What were they waiting for? It appeared that age (and the crossing of the median of 25 years old) was the missing factor for them. That seems fairly arbitrary to me. Instead of simply relying on what society says, I would hope every couple really examines their relationship as unique, and that they would take whatever course of action that feels right to them, be it marriage or not, no matter what everyone else thinks.