Last month, when the blog article “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23“ went viral, engaged, married, and otherwise committed individuals were quick to take offense. I don’t mean to cause any similar kind of uproar, but I do have something to say and I can only hope it won’t be taken the wrong way.
Right now, my Facebook news feed is positively flooded with enthusiastic engagement party invitations, Instagram-worthy pregnancy announcements, and dazzling wedding pictures. I’ve seen enough posts about cakes, dresses, and baby showers on Facebook to make me question whether I’ve somehow mistakenly ended up on Pinterest.
But, despite my genuine happiness and the atrocious squealing sounds that come out of my mouth with each new announcement, I suddenly feel out of place amongst all of these couples and budding families that I used to know so well as individuals.
Statistically, the fact that quite a few of my friends are getting engaged, married, and having children isn’t that unusual.
December is the most popular month for engagements, June is most popular for weddings, and August continually fluctuates between the month with the first and second highest number of births. The United States’ average age of first marriage is 29.8 for men and 26.9 for women, while the average age of women at first birth is 25. Not to mention, ages at first marriage and birth tend to be slightly lower in Southern states–I live in Texas–and my friends are the slightest bit older than myself, spanning from 21 to 30.
By the numbers at least, my attached friends are pretty average, and my unattached friends are destined to be ever-dwindling. As someone who intends to stay single and childless for some time, I’m quickly becoming the odd man out, even among people in their early twenties and, presumably, just getting started in life.
While everyone else–excuse my hyperbole–is getting married or passing on their genetic material, I’m not.
I’m a student, a dreamer, a free spirit with very few ties to keep me in a single place. I have my undergraduate degree, I’m starting my graduate degree in 5 months, and I’m not keen on making any lifelong commitments to other human beings at this point. You’d be hard pressed to even get me to commit to even being a solo puppy parent at this point. My sights are set on conquering advanced coursework, traveling the world, and figuring out what to do with the experience garnered from both. And, I honestly don’t desire a new ring or birth certificate amid all of that.
For me, marriage and my own little family will happen much, much later…if ever.
I understand that:
But, I don’t want any of that yet because my overall view is:
Or become engaged to pie, get married to pie, or give birth to pie, etc, etc, etc…
Relationships are lovely, marriage is a beautiful commitment, and I don’t know a single person who can’t appreciate tiny humans in at least a third-party way. I just personally don’t feel the need for any of it and I certainly lack the want.
So, as much as I love my friends and am happy for them, I cannot truly understand them, and that’s an easily driven wedge when you’re already being driven apart by other aspects of growing up.
I don’t feel superior for not being married or expecting. I’ll freely admit that my choices are no more or less correct/appropriate/right than my friends’ choices to get married or start families. But, our choices do place us in entirely different positions. Our launching pads for life are different from here on out.
The ties that used to bind us together, like common interests and shared responsibilities, have suddenly come loose and we’re drifting in opposite directions, whether we would like to or not.
Given that, when I read “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged You’re 23,” I could understand where Vanessa of Wander Onwards was coming from when she said that millennials deserve the opportunity to discover themselves. She’s finding herself, but at the same time she’s losing many others, and that’s a difficult position to be in.
I didn’t and still don’t agree with the 23 specific experiences that she recommended having or the way in which she entirely dismissed young couples, but I can understand her motivations. Like me, young commitment isn’t for Vanessa, but she mistakenly applied that notion to all people everywhere. In a way, she’s displaying a bit of ethnocentrism and/or collective narcissism, with uncommitted and meandering young adults as the group that she considers to be “normal” or otherwise socially superior.
The truth of the matter is that there are different strokes for different folks. What is right for me is not right for others, and we all have to trek our own path. As easy as it is to give in and sum up the natural decay of personal relationships as “others making the ‘wrong choices,'” it’s just not true. The moment we cast aside others’ choices is the very same moment that we’re making a wrong choice.
With all of that said, my dear engaged/married/expectant friends, I truly am excited for you and I wish you all the best in absolutely everything. I welcome the inundation of my news feed with your cute pictures and sappy love posts, and I will squeal over the pudgy cheeks of your children and like every photo I see of your wedding ceremony. Please don’t be dismayed by people who will dismiss your choices or lifestyle, but also respect those who make other choices and take different paths from your own.
And, just know that, if we do truly drift apart because of our diverging paths, you will be missed and I’ll always be happy for you.