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.
“Don’t settle down too soon!” “You’ve got the rest of your life to enjoy being married!” “Don’t even think about getting married young!”
Honestly, the list goes on. I now have a little disclaimer that I tack onto all conversations held about him. “Yes I love him to the moon but don’t worry about it we are many years away from even being engaged.”
But I’ve also been the receiver of many settle-and-have-babies-before-it’s-too-late warnings.
The most memorable was from my ex-doctor, who diagnosed me with a bad case of PCOS at the tender age of 17 and proceeded with a long, cheerful lecture about the risks of settling down too late, being unloved and not having anyone to pick out my nursing home. (You see why she is my ex-doctor.)
So in my mind? I’ve always imaged the whole white-dress thing happening around 27. There’s no other age which I ever thought I’d be happy with. And it’s an attitude that’s been ingrained in me, slowly and surely, through the years.
To contrast, think about men. They are not worried. Not even slightly. Because they don’t ever seem to reach the point where it’s suddenly deemed ‘too late’ for them.If they break up with someone at the age of 32, they don’t stress. Hugh Hefner decided there was to be no such thing as the male spinster, and look at him – he has a mansion with an underwater grotto.
It all just seems a tad unfair to me – especially considering that my most intelligent, independent and remarkable female friends are also the ones stressing about making sure they get married in the marriage gap.
As they say in the Atlantic article: “Let’s all become more accepting both of women settling down younger than the “right” age, and of women remaining unattached past that point. In the mean time, we as women may—and plenty have already done so—do as we please, and care less what those around us think.”
When do you think is the best age to get married? Is there a best age?