So my sister recently got engaged. My younger sister. According to pop culture, this means it’s time for me to panic. I’m supposed to drink wine with my girlfriends while whining “Why not meeeee” in a high pitched voice. I’m supposed to try every strategy possible to make sure I have a date for the wedding. Basically, according to the movies, I’m supposed to become an unreasonable psycho who spends all my time lamenting my single-ness rather than being psyched for my baby sister. Which I am – psyched, that is. Not psycho.
I admit, I wasn’t always so reasonable. I used to be obsessed with getting married. This was probably the result of too many Friday evenings spent at home watching Say Yes to the Dressinstead of hanging out with friends (I was 22, I had a long distance boyfriend, and in my head, pre-emptive wedding planning was a better use of my time than making connections with other human beings). I am totally embarrassed now about this attitude, but at that time in my life, marriage was a big shiny trophy, and I wanted to win it. Who wouldn’t? Getting married, to me, meant you got to dress like a princess for a day, have a giant party where everyone talked about how wonderful you were and how special your love was, and as a fun bonus you got to register for all the kitchenware you could ever dream of at Williams-Sonoma. (Before you write me off as a materialistic wannabe bridezilla, let me add the caveat that at the times in my life I have been wedding-crazy, it’s been in the context of being in a relationship with someone I really loved. In my naive 22 year old head, I also believed that being really in love was sufficient condition for spending the rest of your life with someone, and that in fact, getting married was the inevitable conclusion of feeling about someone the way that I did. Turns out, it is not.)
I would love to pretend I thought weddings were a prize in and of themselves, and that was it, but I’d be lying. I was also that young 20-something who spent a lot of time on Facebook stalking other people’s wedding photos. I’m not proud of it, but I also don’t think I’m the only person who had that secret list of ‘people I will definitely get married before.’ I’m appalled by my own horrible-ness, because this list is basically just a list of people I thought I was better/more loveable than. Having this sort of list frames marriage as a competition in which you’re trying to beat other people to the finish line that is the altar, rather than a celebration of having found someone you want to spend your life with. Needless to say, most of the people on that list are now married, and I’m still single. And I’m okay with that. I’m happy for everyone I know that’s found the person for them. It took a few years, but I know now that marriage is a matter of finding that one person that you really connect with, not some objective ranking of how good a person you are. Weddings are a chance to celebrate a wonderful relationship with the people you care most about, not a way to validate yourself.
These days, I don’t know if I’ll ever get married. I’m not saying that in a defeatist, woe-is-me sort of way, I’m just stating a fact. I’ve come to view marriage not as a competition or a check box on the to-do list of life, but as a thing some people do because they find the right person and it makes sense for them. Being married isn’t inherently better than being single; it’s just different. Both states have their pluses and minuses, and you can be incredibly happy and satisfied with your life as a single or married person, and by the same token, you can be completely miserable in both states as well. So if Mr. Has-All-The-Important-Qualities-I-Want-In-A-Life-Partner-But-Is-Also-Still-An-Imperfect-Human-Being-With-Quirks-That-Are-Tolerable comes along, great. And if he doesn’t, I’ll stick to happily and supportively bridesmaid-ing/attending/Facebook stalking the weddings of others.