I never knew my closest girlfriends when they were single. They were all either married, or in serious, long-term relationships when our paths crossed. Here I am—the free spirited, single gal, with a slight hesitancy towards commitment and intimacy—surrounded by those who thrive in it. Although I may be the only “single friend,” I never feel excluded in that sense. With each passing week at an ever-increasing rate, a friend is either buying a house, placing a ring on her finger, or welcoming a child into the world. I cannot help but reflect upon my goals and desires for my own future as these posts continue to infiltrate my social newsfeeds.
While the majority of women whom I know have Pinterest boards devoted to the perfect diamond cut wedding rings, bridesmaid gifts, and future baby nurseries, I have none. I am singled out as one of the only women I know without a Pinterest board revolved around marital bliss. While I see these dream boards as strange and unnecessary, I am sure the majority of these women look at me in much the same way. Years ago, I identified with these women; I, too, dreamt of my wedding day. I sketched myself exchanging nuptials with my kindergarten crush on the playground, writing his last name beside my first. But this marriage fantasy faded as effortlessly as my crush.
My Catholic grade school centered the purpose of marriage and sexuality around love and familial concepts. The cliché story where Mom falls in love with Dad, they get married, and their love creates a child, you. As I grew older, I came to disagree with this perspective as a lone ideology. During my junior year of college, I accepted a new definition of marriage, courtesy of my human sexuality course. The concept? Marriage as a business deal. While most of the class struggled to dissociate the idea of marriage without romance attached, it immediately clicked with me.
Being “in love” is neither a requirement for marriage, nor should it be the sole bond you share with your partner. Marriage is budgeting. Marriage is financial survival. Marriage is time-management. Marriage is negotiation of sleeping positions because cuddling is uncomfortable. Marriage is balancing your “you” time as well as you balance your checkbook. Marriage is geared towards success, and unfortunately, success doesn’t thrive off love alone.
American society’s concept of the ideal heterosexual marriage is a fantasy, a fetish that no one is willing to label as such. Collectively, we obsess over the idea of coupling and marriage, spending the rest of our lives with someone and having their children turns us on. It is almost an expected value, that we look to our partners as the potential mothers and fathers of our offspring. Sex is an integral part of this fetish, it’s an essential piece in continuing the next generation. It’s everywhere, in advertisements, television shows, movies, media, and ourselves–we’re all sexualized. Sex is thrown at us on a daily basis through. Despite our confrontation with sex, it remains a topic that we are secretive about, so hesitant to discuss and shamed to reveal. We mask it deep beneath these things we label as love, and hope it works out. Sometimes it does, but just as often, it doesn’t. The divorce rate in America is currently at 50%. As often as our fantasy is fulfilled, it is left empty—and we were likely unsatisfied long before signing the papers.
No matter how many bouquets of red roses or boxes of chocolates we receive, or how many karats shine through our diamond rings, our love is not defined by these mere things. We subscribe to them because we feel pressure to submit. We thrive in this subset of masochism. We receive shame from family members with each passing year that we spend single, or each year that a serious relationship doesn’t evolve into an engagement, or proves childless. People begin to wonder if something is wrong with you, or maybe you just haven’t come to terms with your sexuality yet. People search for any excuse to fulfill their need as to why you still check the ‘single’ box when they think it’s time for you to check ‘married’ instead.
Despite their concern, there is a better use of time and money spent than on rings and roses. Like a down payment on a house, or an international travel excursion, an experience, something that changes you and forces you to grow, both individually and as a couple. I don’t want to settle down in accordance with society’s prescriptions—I want it on my own terms, within my own definitions. The mere expression, “settle down,” is disturbing in itself. I want to create, explore, re-invent, so many more actions than to merely settle with this person. If I happen to find someone with whom I choose to spend the supposed rest of my life with, I don’t want to settle for them, I don’t want to settle with them, I want to begin with them. Coupling off does not have to signify the end, especially in commitments that die by same fantasy they were created. I’ll remain kinky in a vanilla world.