In December, H. and I will have been together 7 years. And we are not married, a fact that every person I know reminds me of constantly.
I’m not saying we’re never going to get married. In fact, it will probably happen sooner rather than later. But people asking me when I’m going to get married bothers me, and it isn’t because I have problems with the institution of marriage itself (although that can be pretty problematic!) or the state of my relationship with my boyfriend (which is pretty swell!). Instead, my problem with people asking “When are you getting married?” is best summed up in two questions: “How is this your business?” and “Why do I have to get married?”
Growing up, I never dreamed of getting married. I assumed I would, because I grew up in a culture with a pretty traditional view of families, but it wasn’t something I daydreamed about. I never dressed up as a bride for Halloween. I didn’t “play house” much with other kids–mostly because because I rarely played with other children and preferred to hang out by myself, reading. Instead, I daydreamed about writing my first book (dorky but true).
Then, in high school, I became convinced I’d never get married. I simply could not imagine myself being happy as a married person. Let’s be real—I didn’t have any boyfriends (not even weird ones!) in high school, so it’s not like people were lining up to propose. But when I saw girls I knew getting married, like, right out of high school, I knew I would never do that. I saw myself as an adult living alone, being vaguely “artisitic,” probably wearing several jewel-toned scarves. I saw myself with a cat I named after a feminist writer, knowing things about wine, and entertaining many, many temperamental and volatile men who would inspire me to write the tempestuous prose and poetry I’d become known for. I saw myself being weird and alone and happy.
And then I met H. when I was 19, and we’ve been together ever since. You’d think this might be cause for celebration, and it is for me! But it’s not for almost literally every person I know, including but not limited to family, friends, and complete strangers.
I get asked what I’m waiting for, why I’m not married, why H. hasn’t proposed, why I haven’t forced him to propose, when I’m going to “just do it already,” and various other things. All of these questions are based around a few assumptions:
1. I have to get married.
2. I want to get married but H. will not ask me.
3. It’s normal for one person to force the other person to marry them.
4. Marriage is a box you need to check off your list.
5. If I’m not married it means I’m afraid of something.
6. I sit around all day and wait for H. to propose to me.
7. I am sad and pathetic.
Naturally, quite a few of these assumptions offend me, as a feminist and as a human being. For one, most of them put me in a passive role. Just sittin’ around waitin’ for the proposin’ to happen! Secondly, they assume that I need to complete this task in order to graduate to the next phase of my life. Simply put, this is people foisting their life values onto me, and I don’t appreciate it. A traditional life trajectory (marriage, house, babies) means a lot to some people, but it means very, very little to me. Do I want to have a house someday? Totally, but not anytime soon. Do I want kids? Yes, my biological clock reminds me of this every damn day, but not anytime even remotely soon. And do I want to get married? Sure, but it is not the end all, be all of my existence. There are a lot of things I want out of my life, and marriage is just one of the things on a long list that includes publishing a book, visiting a Scandinavian country, and finally successfully baking bread. And that’s where the assumption that offends me the most comes in. When people ask me these questions, what I hear from them is: Your achievements don’t matter to me. Your job, your friendships, your writing, your hopes, your dreams, your life that you’ve built yourself mean nothing, because you haven’t convinced someone to buy you jewelry and then spend many thousands of dollars on an expensive ceremony.
And as much as I’d like to be a super cool lady who can shrug off the narrow-mindedness of others, I’m just not that self-assured. It does not make me feel good when, unsolicited and on a regular basis, people let me know that my life is not measuring up to a standard I don’t even subscribe to. It’s weird, it’s patriarchal, it’s sexist, it’s dumb, and it’s just plain mean.
And you know what else it is? Really, really rude. In general, I think two questions should always be off limits except between very good friends: “When are you getting married?” and “When are you two having kids?” Both of those questions have the potential to be extremely upsetting! I mean, you guys, you don’t know if the couple you’re talking to had a fight that very morning about getting married. You don’t know if the couple you’re talking to recently found out they can’t have kids. You don’t know if they recently had a miscarriage—I mean, 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, you know? These are just rude, invasive, and nosy questions we should all stop asking.
Luckily for me, my close friends totally understand all of this. They’re a mix of married, single, engaged, and divorced people (divorced people are especially cool about not pressuring others to get married) who don’t see marriage as a just another box to check off on the list of life goals. That’s because my friends are awesome.
But, unfortunately, not everyone’s as cool, so I’ll just have to keep answering “So when are you getting married?” with a mixture of flip responses (“Whenever Drake asks me!”), frustrated answers (“When I feel like it.”), vague pleasantries (“Hahaha, someday!”), and subject changes (“Tell me more about your kids!”). It turns out that lecturing people about how their question offends me is not the best tactic to take when I’m talking to someone I’m probably going to have to see on a regular basis (like my grandma).
I love love. I love romance. I love romantic comedies, even (especially) the ones starring Katherine Heigl. I love reading the 50th anniversary announcements in the newspaper. I love seeing my friends get married! And, when I get married (someday!), you’d better believe I’m going to cry uncontrollably. But there’s a lot more to my life than that. I guess the good thing is that eventually, once I do get married, people will stop asking me about this. Then they’ll move on to asking me when I’m having kids. Something to look forward to!