Over cocktails the night before my good friend’s wedding recently, a fellow rehearsal dinner guest casually asked how long I’d been dating my boyfriend, who was dutifully fetching me a glass of wine at the time.
“We met nine years ago,” I said. “And we’ve been dating seriously for six.”
Immediately, the half-drunk bro grabbed my left hand. “No ring?” he said, as if it were his place to undermine my long-term relationship with two slurred words and a pitying smirk because (OMG!) I wasn’t yet betrothed.
What a fool! his expression said. Poor girl’s being strung along by some dude who’s never going to pop the question.
For the record, my boyfriend is the opposite of the commitment phobe my naked ring finger might suggest. The man refers to me constantly as his wife—to waiters, customer service representatives, friends, and family—because the word “girlfriend” sounds ridiculously insufficient to him. Plus, he’s definitely proposed on a few occasions (when he was a tad buzzed, maybe, but also because he was maybe serious), and I’ve always politely declined.
Listen: Frances Abbott is engaged to her fiancé after knowing him for two weeks. How soon is too soon? Post continues after audio.
It’s not that I’m not madly in love with my boyfriend (I am), or that I don’t plan on spending the rest of my life with him (I do). The simple truth is, I give exactly zero fucks about the institution of marriage.
If only I’d responded to that prying guy with some smart, dignified comment that at once put him in his place and established that I don’t aspire to be married—ever.* Instead, I faltered over my next few sentences, mangling some version of the response I always give in such situations:
“He keeps proposing, and I just keep saying no…Plus, if we get married, I know someone will force me to have a wedding, and I hate being the center of attention…I’d rather keep the cash than throw a giant party I’d probably want to Houdini from around midnight anyway.”
While these statements are an accurate reflection of my feelings on the subject, my claims are never interpreted as honest, probably because I deliver them so damn sheepishly rather than in the empowered way I’d like to. I tend to come off as if I’m justifying my relationship status rather than celebrating it.Why? Maybe because I’m used to fielding the doubt that follows a no-thanks-to-marriage assertion from a 30-something woman who’s been dating the same guy for a long-ass time.