Those dang kids keep getting married younger and younger, I say. Actually, not really – according to the Pew Research Center, the average marrying age is 26.9 and 29.8, for women and men respectively. But “23 Things to do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23,” an article that has recently exploded across social media, would have you think otherwise.
“23 Things,” penned by blogger Vanessa Elizabeth on her website Wander Onwards, decries the “recent” trend of young adults getting engaged and boasts the writer’s decision to remain unmarried (in part because all of her married friends are going to “get knocked up and fat soon”). Elizabeth then writes a “bucket list” of sorts, giving ideas for the young and reckless to celebrate their singleness.
What’s on the list? Gems like “Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face,” “disappoint your parents,” “make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places” and “eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting.” Aside from the fact that most people I know (myself included) could check off most items on the list before the end of freshman year, this list probably isn’t the most exhaustive or well-thought-out collection of youthful shenanigans and mistakes (although eating an entire jar of Nutella is rarely ever a mistake).
But this editorial isn’t so much about the 23 things as it is about women and the way we pass judgment on one another for our life decisions.
If you choose to stay single, you’re either too ugly to score a date or “too independent,” whatever that means, or maybe you’re too “slutty” to settle down. On the flipside, tie the knot and you’re suddenly this spineless doormat of a wife who lives to serve her husband and pop out a bazillion kids and have the stereotypical white picket fence. Even if you choose to date without marriage, people will judge. Most troubling, women will judge.
Even if you believe everything is fine and dandy in modern society as far as gender equality goes (spoiler alert: it really isn’t), you have to agree that ladies have gotten the short end of the stick throughout history. At best, we’re wives and mothers but not much more and at worst, we’re practically chattel. A girl basically belongs to her father or later on, her husband. As far as lifestyle goes, we didn’t have many choices.
The awesome part is that now we do. Now we can marry the man (or in some cases, even the woman) we consider our love, best friend and partner-in-crime. We can stay single and enjoy the perks of complete independence, travelling wherever whenever and taking part in the exciting dating game. You can have a fulfilling life with kids or have a just-as-fulfilling life without them. But in every case it’s the woman’s decision, and that alone is something to be celebrated.
My mother, sister and I are the perfect example. My mother’s biggest aspiration was simply to raise children and have a family, and that is the path she has chosen. Money and power were of no value to her, and that’s okay. In contrast, my sister fought her way to the top of the corporate ladder and is now an executive at a national bank. Although she is married, she has no children and her work is one of the most rewarding aspects of her life.
As for me, I want a family one day, but I want so much more as well. I want to see every continent. I want to publish novels. I want to start a magazine and earn my doctorate degree. I could get married in two or 20 years and I’d be happy either way, because it’s what I want. And if I ever have a daughter, I’d want her to do whatever makes her happiest, in relationships and in life.
So to all the ladies out there, never feel pressured or made to feel guilty about your own idea of “happily ever after.” And when you see old high school friends gearing up for the walk down the aisle, remember that they’re off chasing their own dreams as well.
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