By NATALIA HAWK
Marriage is stressing me out.
And yes, I do realise how ridiculous that statement sounds, having been written by an unmarried, unengaged 20-something.
But I am prematurely worried about what I’ve deemed “the marriage gap”.
It’s that teeny-tiny period of time, determined by Society And All That, in which women are supposed to get married in order to guarantee the life that is ‘happily ever after.’
For years, we are told that we’re too young to get married. Your 20s are for having fun, considering your responsibilities are not supposed to extend beyond looking after a bottle of wine on a Saturday night. Live your life! Travel the world! Kiss some frogs on a Contiki tour!
But then suddenly… you hit 30. And all your relatives are asking about your lack of a “special someone”. And your mother is warning you about time running out.And when you go on dates, all you can see in the back of your mind is that scary fertility chart where the line DROPS after 30.
That’s how we end up with the marriage gap: the only ‘acceptable’ time to get married.
It’s between approximately 27 and 30 – and let’s face it, this is a VERY SHORT WINDOW OF TIME. And it’s been on my mind ever since I read this article from The Atlantic, called “There’s no perfect age to find a husband”:
As it stands, women in happy relationships are under pressure to exit those so as not to be 20s-something child brides, while ever-so-slightly older ones are asked to settle, chastised for having given up Mr. Almost-Right back before they got haggard.
And even if they have, by some miracle, remained attractive, it’s all a mirage, because you can’t fool nature.
The window of opportunity emerges from certain facts: Reproductive technologies have extended female fertility, but the age at which one may feel too young to settle down is increasing at least as rapidly, and with no end point.
Men and women are in school for longer, and often financially insecure. What is socially constructed is the sense of urgency. The world does not end when a woman marries too early (within reason; note the use of “woman”), too late, or not at all.
I’ve been bombarded with the marriage gap from all angles.
Think of every movie you’ve ever seen involving a wedding – Father of the Bride, Bride Wars, 27 Dresses, My Best Friend’s Wedding, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Sweet Home Alabama, The Wedding Singer – and think of the age of the bride in them. Uh-huh. Starting to see a theme emerge?
Think of the comments you’ve heard from friends and family and acquaintances over the years. I receive anti-marriage warnings all the time – pretty much every time I mention my boyfriend to someone.