For some reason, by the age of five, girls are already planning their weddings. The idea of the event at that age usually involves nothing more than a fluffy white dress and the presence of some faceless groom. By the age of twelve we are beginning to put a face on that groom and it is usually that of our newest, most exciting crush. By fifteen we’re probably discussing with friends our time frame for marriage and childbearing. For me, it was married by 24, first child by 26. Seeing as how my 24th birthday is a mere two months away and one of the farthest things from my mind is a committed relationship, much less marriage, I’m going to go ahead and admit that my predictions were a little inaccurate.
My predicted time frame is becoming less common as women continue to gain power positions in their chosen professions, but it still exists for many young women, or as I continue to refer to myself and those my age, girls. It didn’t occur to me however, how off I really was until I turned 22 and realized that the best part about my life was how single I was. I say it like that because there are certainly degrees of being single and I was most definitely the most single a girl could be. Doing what I wanted, when I wanted, with whom I wanted and there was no one at the other end of a text message wondering about any of those W’s. I knew I was happy to be single, but it was a temporary situation and when the right guy came along surely things would change.
It wasn’t until my next birthday that I began to have the thought that blew my mind. It blew my mind more than any thought I had had before because it wasn’t so much a realization of the world around me, as it was a realization of myself and the possible outcomes of my own life. It’s like reading a choose your own adventure book and thinking you chose exactly the right path to end up with all the gold at the end only to find as you turn the last page that you made a fatal mistake on page 9 that inevitably landed you in the tar pit. I realized that while it was possible that marriage would not occur until later in my life, it was also just as possible that marriage not occur at all. What if I never marry?
Perhaps this thought had never crossed my mind because society likes to lead us into monogamous lifelong partnership, but most likely it was due to the fact that I was the product of a highly successful marriage which resulted in a happy, functional family. A rare thing these days, admittedly, but so strong in my life that I had never imagined my own family would turn out any other way. Everyone talks about the times in their lives when they realized that they were adults and their parents were simply other adults coexisting in the adult world. For me, this was it. Yes, it was true that my parents had chosen the path of a wonderfully healthy nuclear family with a mom and a dad and two kids. But they were just people, like me. Not necessarily predictions of how my own life would turn out. And it was possible that I, as an adult, would choose my own path different from my parents’ choice.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bitter. This was not a decision that I made at 23, choosing to remain single. But the mere thought that it was a possibility turned my world upside down. All of a sudden it was as if the pressure was off. I was going to be a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding in a few short months (a cousin who had shared my marital musings as a child), a position I had been promised some time in high school when we were planning out the next ten years of our love lives. She managed to stick to her plan. I realized my need for revisions. There was something about that realization that, for the first time, was miraculously okay.
Now here I am a year later, about to turn the age at which I’m supposed to wed (according to my sophomoric self), nowhere near where I thought I’d be. But after a year of telling myself that it’s possible I won’t wed at all, the pressure’s off. And that lack of pressure seems to have led me to have one of the most enjoyable first dates I’ve ever had.
So where’s that fluffy white dress?