I recently read a blog posted by a fashion blogger asking why she, at age 25 is a “rarity” because she is now the “married friend” at such a young age. Her write-up received many types of responses; from offended singles to content, young, married, “dust-the-haters-off” married folks.
The article got me thinking about my own life as a young single woman because while it started out simply questioning why dynamic, gorgeous, educated women, who seem to have a good head on their shoulders, are not married, it slowly seeped into sounding condescending and very judgemental. It, in actuality, portrayed a rosy hue of superiority by the young marrieds over the unmarried. The question the article asked referred to why the singles have become “the blind leading the blind” when commenting on the topic of marriage; a field they know nothing about. It also said; “Maybe the single life is really that great and fun! I don’t want to believe that either. I have yet to meet anyone who wants to be alone. It’s just not natural”, topping that off with this nugget; “Look, marriage isn’t everything, but it is A LOT. And contrary to belief, as you get older (ladies), it’s much harder to come by.” Not only is a single existence sarcastically made to seem frivolous and pointless, it is also made out to be a human anomaly, which in our present-day, it is not. This last comment insinuates that if you are not married then you have LESS than the A LOT that married people have, and that if you don’t rush against the age-clock, you may never get married.
Now, just to be clear, I actually like this blogger’s blog. However, I firmly believe that while she started a topic that seemed to genuinely question why many more young people are not married and if she is a rarity, she quickly fell into a very judgmental viewpoint against single people. Being single myself, I was a little thrown and like, “What?! Now wait a minute.” The aim of this post is simply to open the floor for discussion around this topic. Is being married young (which in itself is a relative term given that many people say you are as young as you feel, but for the purposes of this post, let’s throw in an approximate 18-30 years of age perhaps) a culture specific thing? By this I mean, would being married young in Africa be viewed as a good thing and be more popular than say in Atlanta, USA where this blogger resides? I personally believe that a lot of factors do play into why people do or do not marry young. For example, religion is an integral part. At a basic human carnal level for example, certain countries and communities are less sexually liberal and do not condone sex before marriage (for example Catholic places such as Italy with its 90% plus practicing believers) and therefore marrying eliminates that problem. (I hasten to add that I realize that sex isn’t the only reason people marry, but it does play a part in the lives of young couples who are madly in love but still wish to respect their religions).
Our socialization, I believe, also affects this decision. I know that I was raised with the “good-girl” complex which had a firm grip on me well into my adult life, but which I have recently shaken off. Being reminded that “good-girls” don’t do this or that, as well as the idea that “good-girls” get married affects the way we view marriage. The blogger mentions that her mother advised that if a man hasn’t married you after 2 years together, then you should move on. I think this shows how what our parents teach us affects our decision-making and not always in a good way.Let’s consider a couple of facts that this time-restriction does not take into consideration:
1) The curiosity inherent in young adulthood can affect meeting that 2-year deadline: Many young 20-somethings are just out of college/university and still trying to explore life. They want to travel and meet people, explore the dating scene BEFORE committing seriously through the channel of marriage. So while a couple may love each other, it is not unreasonable to want to explore every avenue of their youth before deciding to make a life-long commitment. Would either party rather get married young knowing that they still wanted to date other men/women and then start that exploration within the marital institution because their partner gave them a 2-year deadline? Many young people nowadays are spoilt for choice of partner; if you live in a city like mine, where the ratio is estimated to be 8 women to 1 man it is well worth holding off until a man feels he has fully gotten his ‘sampling’ habits out of the way. As we get older, the excitement for ‘shopping around’ wanes and one feels more ready to settle into a married existence. Perhaps (only just slightly), when one hits their 30’s and is thinking about having kids, a 2-year deadline on dating someone might seem more practical. And in this case, possibly only because it is medically advised for women to healthily carry a baby before age 35 and some women want wedlock before pregnancy (* before you protest, yes, yes, taking into consideration that many prefer to have kids much older as they are more willing to face the associated risks, but I’m not talking about the Halle Berry’s right now so stay focused). However, not every woman or man is concerned about growing old unmarried. It is not a crisis to those who do not hold marriage in high esteem or are impartial to it. This does not banish these types to living alone and being LESSER beings. Simply because there is no wedding ring, one is not doomed to being alone. These types can just as easily nurture long-term, happy and healthy relationships which mirror marriage (sans wedding band/marriage certificate). * Still pessimistic? Google Stedman Graham and Oprah Winfrey who’ve been at it since 1986 *. What happened to being sensitive to each other; just because your conviction to be married is not mirrored by others, it does not make you better than them. Belief-systems differ and respecting people’s convictions and allowing them to be by “agreeing-to-disagree” not only is a mature response to the marriage debate, but also allows others their personal freedoms.
2) The 2-year deadline doesn’t consider a young man’s desire to be a good ‘provider’ for his woman (I use this term with reference to a man making sure her basic NEEDS, and ladies, NOT WANTS, are met): In an era where women are independent and are movers-and-shakers as much as men are, young men want to climb the professional ladder or develop and secure steady income streams before marrying. The logical reason being that for a man to feel like a man he needs to be able to comfortably provide for himself to a satisfactory level, as well as have the pride of being able to provide for his woman. Because the male ego plays a role in this, most young men may prefer to be financially secure before taking that next step. Nowadays, where women can do it for themselves, men feel the need to work that-little-bit-harder to be in a financial/material place where they will not feel inferior to their woman. Of course, I am no expert and this is mostly information gleaned from conversations with various male friends, but it seems reasonable. I agree because at the same token, we as women expect a man who is confident within himself, and if material security gives a man that confidence then why not support it. *This is of course, not including those women who “gold-dig” for a living; my point is, to support a man’s decision not to marry until HE feels financially in a good place, versus placing pressure on a man to be the woman’s personal bank.* I suppose it speaks to the beginning of time when men hunted and women gathered. We each have roles through which we ‘provide’/contribute to the relationship (though society and Feminism have totally bastardized the respect each gender should have of the other based on said roles). Basically, until a young man feels he can fulfill his traditional manly role, he may simply not be ready to meet that 2-year deadline which does not necessarily warrant ending the relationship, especially if there are no other significantly detrimental issues.
I agree only with one comment by the aforementioned blogger; how much harder it becomes for a woman to have a partner, but quickly add that sometimes it is circumstantial and not because of any foolishness. Apparently, the more a woman pursues a career, the more intimidating she becomes to a man. Her ability to provide for herself fully in almost all respects can be a deterrent to a man. However, no one consciously goes about life hoping to become so powerful that they scare men off. Just as men have goals and dreams, women do too, but again, in fulfillment of our gender roles, I suppose the only argument to be made here would be for the woman to avail herself (possibly put in less hours compared to her male colleagues for example). Having said that, should a woman not want to make that kind of commitment in her youth, there will always be a strong confident man who will be drawn to her because of her zeal no matter how old she gets. Her social circles might have to be different to find that caliber of confident man (business conferences, galas, benefits or whatever high-powered people do). The point is, it may be slightly challenging, but again, no one will be without a partner in life, and marriage remains possible despite age.
On the other hand in contemporary society, being found by a good man does not come easily (yes ladies, not ‘finding’, because men ‘find us’); I specific ‘man’ here because men have conventionally been the ones to propose marriage). I am unsure of other racial groups, but in black communities women always complain that there is a scarcity of educated, ‘prime’ black men to pick from for women who value education or generally a man with a good head on his shoulders. As an educated woman myself, I have expectations of being found by an educated man. The educated, successful black men are well aware of their scarcity and often exploit how sought-after they are. So one might find that a man may tick the relevant boxes on a woman’s “wish-list”, but because he recognizes his appeal and is abusing this knowledge, he may be arrogant, a womanizer, or just generally be unfavorable. The other reality is that a lot of black successful men (whether it be in sport, specialized business fields or the corporate arena) often marry outside their own race. This is no problem of course, because racial integration and unity is key to human advancement; however it does narrow the pickings further for black women seeking black men specifically, as their ideal husbands. This therefore explains, to an extent, why women, and particularly successful women, may struggle to get married and is something worth thinking about.
To address the issue of marriage being ‘A LOT!’ I quietly cackle because again, ‘A LOT’ is relative to each individual. My ‘A LOT’ may not be the same as your ‘A LOT’. So while she may cherish things like having someone to cook/clean/’live’ for on a day-to-day basis, (which is admirable), not everybody who isn’t being domesticated with their partner or in a full on live-in situation is miserable or lacking ‘A LOT’. ‘A LOT’ for single people may be their careers, their pets, family, friends, and a healthy social existence. Marriage may present the same things but in different quantities. My married friends cannot spend the whole night out on a girl’s night simply because they respect their husbands, and I respect them enough to be fine when they have to leave. However, it would be unfair of a married friend to judge me for staying out all night if I wish simply because she cannot. People need to accept that situations are different and recognize that before one gets married, one is living the single life; some unhappily, others very happily. A blanket judgement cannot be made on the happiness or lack-thereof of singles because they do not have a wedding band on their finger. Marriage is admirable and wonderful for those that can make it work. It is very much something worth aspiring to. But one should not grow a big head because the stars-aligned correctly and allowed one to meet the right partner and get married. People are unmarried for various reasons which need to be respected, and those who are married need to realize that one’s worth isn’t wholly encompassed in being married, which is to say that singles are whole and complete beings, regardless of a husband or wife.
So while we all need a partner in life, whether married or not, no one has to be alone. So in that sense, yes, being alone is as the blogger says, “not natural”. Certain people choose to remain unmarried and live happily as well as monogamously throughout their relationships. Some people date someone throughout their youth whom they thought they would marry, and suddenly wake up 8 years later, 30+ years old, and the dream has ended because things fell apart. Does that make that person less ‘noteworthy’ than their friend who was lucky enough to be married after dating their partner for 2 years? I think not. Someone may have been dating someone long-term and making plans to be married one day when tragically their lover dies. That will not only scar that person for years to come, and by the time they recover enough to date again, they may be much older and/or have decided not make any plans related to marriage ever again because of the emotional trauma it conjures. My point is that life throws us all down various paths and one never knows another’s relationship history enough to catch a superior “what’s –taking-you-so-long-to-get-married? Get-with-the-program” attitude. Being single is not a contagious disease that need cause people to be shunned and ostracized, just as marriage isn’t some trend simply to be followed because it is socially acceptable so one can fit into a certain moral framework. Marriage is about love and respect of one’s partner just as being single is about love and respect of one’s self until one finds a partner with whom they fit and can mutually share feelings.
To close this sermon of acceptance, I beg that we recognize we are all called to different fates. Let us try to embrace the various stages of life people find themselves in. The more open-minded we are about life’s ‘little’ things like marriage or choice to refuse it, the more we can grow positively, as the human race. Let’s allow both “Look, marriage isn’t everything, but it is A LOT” and “Look, non-marriage isn’t everything, but it is (also) A LOT” to happily coexist. If not, why not…right.