What's Wrong With Wanting To Get Married In Your Twenties?
The Debrief: Because newsflash: you can dream of a big white dress and a three-tier fruit cake and still be a feminist
Artwork by Beth Hoeckel
'Can you say for certain that you will be with him in 20 years?' grills my friend, giving her usual rant about why she's staunchly anti-marriage. 'Well, no' I admit. 'Well then why would you want to get married? And more to the point, why do you want to get married now?'
And so goes one of a regular roster of conversations I have regarding the sanctity of marriage and, in particular, my desire to get hitched in my 20s. And the day after Cheryl Cole announced that she got married three short months after meeting her now husband Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini, people may well ask, ‘what’s the hurry?’
Can you really be a feminist and get married at 27? I think you can, but plenty disagree
Getting married in your 20s used to be the norm, now it’s an aberration you need to explain away (getting married for religious reasons or unexpected pregnancy reasons is just about acceptable, but that’s it).
Some see it as unnecessary, others see it as political (can you really be a feminist and get married at 27? I think you can, but plenty disagree) – the average age of marriage is ever increasing (the mean age for marriage for women in the UK was 34 in 2011, up from 28.4 in 2001. Meanwhile, the 2011 census also revealed that a third of the adult population is now single).
It's now considered not only uncool but downright odd to admit that you want a ring on your finger. The cult of celebrity ‘nano marriages’ has put people off saying ‘I do’ – who has time to get married and divorced in the course of year? And in the advent of girl power 2.0, why would I even want to permanently attach myself to a man anyway?
I have never met anyone else who gets as upset as I do, when a celebrity relationship bites the dust.
Well, let me try and explain. Ever since I was tiny, I've been a romantic. I had some pretty shitty relationships in my teenage years and early 20s and I always preserved that image of a good guy coming along who would actually want to be with me. Not ride in on his white horse and 'save' me – I am fiercely independent – but someone who actually thought I was the best fucking thing ever. I don’t just want it for myself, either. It’s tragic to admit, but I just want everyone to have a mate. To illustrate, I have never met anyone else who gets as upset as I do, when a celebrity relationship bites the dust. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams? Floored me. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston? STILL NOT OVER IT. Even Nigella and Charles Saatchi breaking up made me really sad. And yes, I know, he's a massive dick.
People always assume that my romanticism is down to some clichéd picture-perfect family life, but it's actually the opposite. My parents married young and have been married for many decades, but that's mainly because they don't believe in divorce for religious reasons. My parents have enormous respect for one another, but I have never seen them kiss. Rather – and not at all unusually – my parents rubbed along, semi-happily, but have given me absolutely no rose-tinted illusions about what marriage means to them. Whilst it instilled a modicum of traditionalism in me, it has made me passionate about marriage because I want something more than that.
I've been with my boyfriend for four years. He’s well aware of my feelings about marriage – and although he’s less concerned with when we tie the knot than I am, he’s totally on board with the concept (which is fortunate, given my feelings on the subject.) I’m always astonished when people try to ‘hide’ what they want incase they ‘scare’ a man off (The whole premise of scaring a man off is as exhausting as it is nonsensical.) If what I want scares my boyfriend off, then frankly he can fuck off permanently. I’m not saying I arrived at our first date and screamed ‘LET’S GET MARRIED’ whilst clutching a veil in my sweaty paw, but the topic was definitely on the table from the early days and my boyfriend knows that I'd like to be married by the time I am 30.
I know how high the stats are for divorce and I also know that your 20s are your most changeable years – but I also think I know myself and my relationship pretty well.
In fact, we moved in together just a few months into our relationship and I wouldn’t have moved in with him if I didn’t see us getting married – if only because I’ve seen first hand that breaking up with someone when you live together is a huge ball ache.
I’ve never seen those normal relationship milestones as remotely scary. I was happy to say ‘I love you’ and I love living with someone else because it’s not just up to me to buy the bog roll or make the bed. I may have been a romantic all my life, but I don’t romanticise my boyfriend. I don’t just want to marry him because I think it’s ‘cute’ and I like the idea of a ‘husband’. I’m not just blindly desperate to get married with no consciousness of who my boyfriend actually is. I’ve lived with him for three years and I’ve seen him in some pretty unedifying states in that time. I know how high the stats are for divorce and I also know that your 20s are your most changeable years – but I also think I know myself and my relationship pretty well.
I’m not naïve or arrogant enough to assume that everyone who says they aren’t ready, or simply don’t care about getting married, is hiding their true feelings. But I also know that I am not alone. ‘I really want to get married’ a much younger colleague said without any embarrassment, the other day. ‘I’m so jealous’ my best friend whispers to me, every time an acquaintance gets engaged, even when it’s someone she can’t stand. I think that there are a lot of people afraid to admit it, because it’s now against the norm.
Of course, this isn't something you could admit to everyone. Perhaps your best friends; but not people you've just met, or your boyfriend's mates. It’s not really about trying to save face or wanting to seem too cool for school – mainly I just don’t want to seem smug. Even though I’m not actually getting married right this second, just stating that I would like to, that sort of ‘lining up your ducks’ can be seen as pretty self-satisfying – particularly, I imagine, for my single friends.
Wanting to get married in my 20s doesn’t make me ‘quaint’ or ‘boring’ or ‘old school’
One of the biggest misconceptions about a girl who wants to get married in her 20s, is that she’s ready to don her rubber gloves and keep the home nice like a good little housewife. Feminism is about choice, but apparently this particular choice speaks volumes about me. So, just to clear that up, wanting to get married in my 20s doesn’t make me ‘quaint’ or ‘boring’ or ‘old school’ anymore than it makes a single girl ‘louché’, ‘party loving’ and ‘promiscuous’. For me, it’s quite the opposite. I’d define myself as very ambitious. I think of all the years I wasted weeping over boys – I basically once got fired for crying so much over an ex-boyfriend – and know that I have no time for that. I want to get married and, in the nicest way possible, get it out the way so I can focus on my career.
Before I wrote this article, I asked my boyfriend if he minded. ‘Not at all!’ he replied, via email. ‘Just make me sound awesome, OK?’ This is not a love letter to him. And I’m not going to tell him he’s awesome, because he hears that from me all the time. But I’m happy to tell him that I’m ready to marry him.
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating